Today the Church celebrates the fairly unusual feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, which as the Pope’s cathedral is known as the “mother church” of not only the Diocese of Rome but of the whole world.
One line from the Gospel for today’s feast really struck me: “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” (Jn. 2:20).
Of course the Jews were talking about the Jerusalem temple, and Jesus was talking about the temple of His Body, but there’s much more going on here than a simple equivocation on the word “temple.”
I began to wonder, what “temples” do we have? Well, we have our own cathedrals and parish churches, all constructed or renovated–or possibly (and tragically) “wreckovated”–over the course of many years.
We have our beloved Church, the destoyed and raised Body of Christ spread through space and time. Nearly two millennia later, this “temple” is still being built and rebuilt, as she weathers our sins and scandals from within and the buffets and travails from without.
And then we have temple of our own bodies (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Like the Jerusalem temple mentioned in our verse, I’ve been under construction for 46 years (close enough, with a standard deviation of plus or minus three years!). And yet, several decades after becoming a temple of the Holy Spirit in baptism, I am still very much a work in progress.
Our Lord says that in three days He can rebuild a destroyed temple. He can accomplish–and has accomplished–much more in three days (and He really doesn’t ”need” any time at all) than we can ever hope to accomplish on our own. He acts quickly and decisively in providing good things for us. What an amazing consolation and source of hope!
Today we celebrate the dedication of a building. But even more than that, we celebrate what the building represents: God’s gift of His Church as our Mother and Teacher, through with we receive the very life of God.
Maybe our parish church has been bulldozed and surely the temples of our bodies have seen better days, but the temple–the Body of Christ–has been built to last, and indeed the powers of death shall not prevail against it.