On January 9,324 something remarkable happened. The Pope dedicated a church to both St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist on the Lateran Hill on property given by the Emperor Constantine. It was the first cathedral in history: Christianity had only been legalized 11 years before, and now for the first time it had a permanent home. St. John Lateran is the mother church of Christianity.
The readings for today are quite striking and speak to an essential part of our faith: Hope. Ezekiel was a special prophet: it was believed God would only send prophets to the land of Israel, and the word of God came to Ezekiel in Babylon during the Exile. At the time, the Temple and City were in ruins. This vision of a new Temple with a stream flowing down was remarkable, and that stream goes all the way down the hills to the Dead Sea, one of the saltiest bodies of water on Earth, which it makes fresh. It’s a vision of restoration and transformation.
It’s interesting the Gospel reading is of Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple from John. Unlike the Synoptic Gospels, this happens toward the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. It’s a reminder we need to keep the temples of our own hearts clean. A great Martyr of the 20th century said that in the struggle against Evil we have to examine our consciences more rigorously than ever. We do not overcome Anger with Anger, Outrage with Outrage, Selfishness with Selfishness; we must be different, we must be like the transforming water of the Temple in Ezekiel’s vision. We especially need the virtue of Charity, particularly when it would not be returned.
We are the living stones of the Church. We are citizens, first and foremost, of the new Jerusalem. That is our Hope and our challenge to move forward. Some of us will feel that we don’t belong here: that’s a consequence of faith in Christ. Being citizens of the new Jerusalem calls us to be different, calls us to be a current of healing and transformation, calls us to be the Presence of Christ.