Today we celebrate the dedication of St. John Lateran. Now unlike St. John the Baptist, and unlike St. John the Evangelist, St. John Lateran is not a person. No, St. John Lateran is a church. In fact, it’s a basilica – the first and greatest basilica in the world. Dedicated in Rome 1,690 years ago, St. John Lateran is the pope’s own cathedral – the place where the chair symbolizing his teaching authority rests.
In our first reading, the prophet Ezekiel has a vision. He sees a great stream of fresh water flooding out the doors of the temple, and flowing down to the sea. For us, that river of life-giving water calls to mind God’s Holy Spirit pouring out into the world. If we were to follow that stream of grace back to its source, there is a sense in which we might trace it back to St. John Lateran, which has long been proclaimed the “mother and head of all the churches of Rome and the world.” And that is why we celebrate this feast as we do.
But our second reading raises another possibility. It suggests that if we were to trace that stream of the Holy Spirit back to its source, we would find that it leads right back to us. For St. Paul writes that we are “God’s building” — we are “the temple of God” and that the temple of God is holy. This means that God’s life-giving Spirit should flow freely out of us, as individuals and as a people, for the good of all Creation.
Rev. Charles B. Gordon, C.S.C., is co-director of the Garaventa Center for Catholic Intellectual Life and American Culture at the University of Portland. He writes and records a regular blog called “Fractio Verbi.”