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Dedication of St. John Lateran, November 9, annually
Lectionary index # 671

Twenty-second digests for the congregation: Arrange with your liturgy committee to have these brief historical introductions read to the assembly before you do each reading.
Dedication of St. John Lateran, November 9, annually
Before the first reading:

For a people mourning the destruction of their temple, a prophet describes its coming restoration. The new temple will be a source of life near and far.
After the psalm, before the second reading:

Saint Paul uses images from the building trade to describe his relationship with other church leaders. He uses the metaphor of a temple to describe God's holy people.
Before the gospel acclamation:

In today's gospel, Jesus asserts his authority over the most revered place of Jewish worship, and predicts its replacement by his own body.

Our Liturgical Setting: A reason we might want to celebrate the dedication of a distant church: "This feast became a universal celebration in honor of the basilica called 'the mother and mistress of all churches of Rome and the world' as a sign of love for and union with the See of Peter." That's the conclusion of the introduction to the feast at the website of Saint Charles Borremeo Catholic Church, Picayune, Mississippi, USA.

First reading, Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Historical Situation: In 597 BCE, an enemy army uprooted many of God's people and dragged them into slavery in Babylon, some 750 miles from their homeland. Thus began the period known as the Babylonian Captivity, or simply the Exile. The exiles' experience was painful, but Ezekiel's compatriots had been saying, "It's going to get better soon. We'll get to go home. This will all be over shortly." Ezekiel had to warn them that things were going to get much worse before they got better, that, due to their unfaithfulness, they had a fuller measure of suffering to endure. This came to pass when Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, destroyed Jerusalem, the object of the exiles' hopes, in 587. Their dreams died.

The Literary Setting: All that said, the end of the long book of Ezekiel turns to the restoration of the Temple, spiritual and cultural center of the longed-for Jerusalem. For nine chapters, the prophet describes a detailed vision of the site, the buildings, the rituals, the personnel, the furnishings and numerous other aspects of the renewed Temple in a renewed city in a renewed nation.

This paragraph describes the Temple as a source of life-giving water for a broad sweep of land that will be the marvelously fertile home of the restored tribes. (This makes more sense if you read the whole chapter. Do that to get the sense of awe that the prophet wanted to inspire.)

Proclaiming It: In the first sentence, put the accent on water flowing, so your listeners know immediately what the rest is about. This is both a prophetic vision and a description of something wonderful, so it calls for an awe-filled, wonder-struck tone of voice. The abundance of fish and fruit and medicinal leaves due to this water is meant to sound amazing. Be sure you know how to pronounce façade and Arabah.

Second Reading, 1 Corinthians 3:9c-11, 16-17 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Historical and Theological Background: Corinth was a busy, cosmopolitan, pagan city, a Greek seaport with all the vices seaports are wont to have, and all the intellectual currents and ferment that a Greek city of the time could have. The young Christian community there was not immune to these influences. Of particular concern to Saint Paul was the unity of that church. He strove to unify factions that centered around allegiance either to Paul or to another Christian teacher named Apollos, or to one named Kephas.

In this chapter Paul's metaphor for unity is a building, specified as a temple. In other chapters of the same letter, for similar reasons, he introduces the image of the human body as a sign of unity. Christ is the foundation of the building and the head of the body.

Proclaiming It: Paul is being strict, direct and blunt here. About the unity of the church there can be no compromising. So speak with authority. Pronounce the sentences at a measured pace. Make the imperatives sound like firm orders.

Hearing These Scriptures As a Community

(We do a good job encouraging each other to apply God's Word to our personal efforts to live a good life. Here we address how the Word challenges the community to be a corporate witness in its various relationships.)

For a desert people with no temple at all, Ezekiel describes a future temple that will, incongruously, be a source of refreshing water and fertility outside itself, far and wide. For a congregation having a worship space, or planning to build one, this raises questions like what will people experience when they visit this space. What does the architecture itself say about us and them?

Apart from its real estate, what kind of desert does your temple occupy? A desert of unemployment, poverty, poor educational opportunities? A cold war zone of ethnic rivalries and mutual suspicion? Are you looking for ways to refresh and fertilize what is arid in your community? In the politics of your community (not just the partisan politics), is your congregation a player? Do you support your members who are in public service, expecting them to serve the common good?

Our second reading is an excerpt from Saint Paul's dissertation on the variety of ministries in the church in Corinth. Reading it might make your community's leaders ask if they're cooperating as well as they can, and subordinating their individual ambitions to the good of the whole.

One of the reasons the Jerusalem Temple seemed like a marketplace to Jesus was the traffic in animals for ritual sacrifice. These could only be purchased with certain coins, not the common coins bearing pagan and imperial images. That's why there were money-changers in the picture. By some readings of the history, the whole culture of the Temple had become hopelessly complicated and corrupt. It offended Jesus so much that he knowlingly put his life in danger by his dramatic attack. The requirement that a worshipper exchange Roman denarii for some kosher coins is like requiring one to rearrange the deck chairs on a moral Tianic. Two questions for your community emerge from this reflection:

Several other commentaries on these passages. All are thoughtful, all quite readable, from the scholarly to the popular.
Links may be incomplete more than a few weeks before the "due date."
Bible Study pages of Saint Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Picayune, Mississippi. (Link corrected, 2014)
Gives a detailed history of the solemnity and treats 2 Chronicles 5:6-10, 13-6:2 as first reading.
Saint Louis University's excellent Sunday liturgy site only takes up this feast if it falls on a Sunday.

(Caveat lector. As of October 6, 2014, Lector's Notes' author is speculating about the exact URL of SLU's offering, since it's not yet posted. If you get a 404 Not Found, try here).

Father Roger Karban's 2003 column on these readings.

Karban's 1999 column on these readings.

Archived weekly column of the late Father Francis X. Cleary, S.J. (Log in using 0026437 and 63137.) From the site of the Saint Louis Review.

The Lectionary selections in the frame at the left, if any, are there for your convenience. The publishers of the page in that frame have no connection, except for membership in the one Body of Christ, with the publisher of this page. Likewise the publishers of the pages on the links above.

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Last modified: November 9, 2014