November 9, 2008


Take these out of here, & stop making my Father’s house a marketplace. – John 2: 16

What we observe today is not the dedication of a particular building that happened long ago & far away, but what that building symbolizes. St. John Lateran is the Pope’s Cathedral. In the ancient world, there were no school buildings. Teachers were itinerant, & when they went into a new town, they set up shop by putting a chair in a public square. The children would sit on the ground in a circle around the teacher. The Greek word for chair is
“cathedra,” & this word became associated with teachers & the teaching office.

A cathedral is any building that contains the bishop’s chair, so St. Peter’s in Rome is not a cathedral but a basilica. In a sense, St. John Lateran represents the life, nourishment & healing that flow from our Mother the Church. Also, history is replete with examples of what happens when those blessings become obscured by preoccupation with money & the material fabric of our churches. Financial considerations are necessary & inevitable, but they must never be allowed to usurp the Gospel values exhibited by our Lord.

Two business competitors were arguing about certain shady business practices. Finally, one said to the other, “There are lots of ways to make money, but there is only one honest way.” “What way is that?” asked the second man. “Just as I suspected,” said the first man, “You don’t know!”

Jesus came down hard on the money-grubbers of his time, but he became upset to the point of violence when he saw how the commercial mentality had invaded the religious institutions of his day. Jesus said to the power brokers of his time, “No servant can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one & love the other, or he will be devoted to the one & despise the other. You cannot serve God & money!” Luke tells us that the Pharisees heard this & scoffed at Jesus. As the people of a generation that transformed greed fm vice into virtue, are WE scoffing at Jesus’ warning?

Being human, even those who have devoted their lives to serving God are not exempt from falling into this trap. In their zeal, it is possible to get one’s priorities confused. Jesus tells us that the MOST important thing in life is to be open to the movement of God’s Spirit within us. It is more important than our health, our job, our family relationships or any other relationships. Indeed, the very quality of our family relationships & all other relationships depend upon it. Moreover, our peace of mind, our peace of soul, the quality of our entire life depends upon it. The very health of the Church & those who lead it depends upon it.

Several years ago, a national magazine published a kind of “open letter” from a mother to her daughter. It struck me that this could have been written to us by our Lord whenever individuals in Holy Mother Church are NOT getting in the way of His message. It reads, in part,

“My child, what can I give you? I give you my personal presence so you will have the security needed during childhood. I give you my ears, in the sense that I will never be too busy to listen to you. I give you my consolation when you have failed or feel discouraged. I give you my unconditional love, which means that I accept you without reservation. These things I give you with all my love.”

Isn’t it amazing what money can’t buy? Let us pray that OUR confused priorities are not getting in the way of God’s love for us & those around us. AMEN!