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A Place to Call Home: Homily Notes for the Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran (A) (Remembrance Day 2008)

Posted by frmac on October 31, 2008

Today we celebrate a feast celebrating the dedication of a basilica. Seems kind of strange doesn’t it? Why would we have a feast day for a building and it’s dedication?

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The Basilica of St. John Lateran is the Cathedral of the Church of Rome and the official ecclesiastical seat of the Bishop of Rome, who is the Pope. In a way it represents all Cathedrals and Parish Churches of the Catholic Church. It is the Pope’s home church, and represents the home Cathedral and Parish Church of each of us.

Just like we need our own personal/family home, we need a spiritual/family home. Think back to when you were a child and how important home was for you. Remember how you felt when you left home. Remember how you felt when you started your own home?

Our Parish Church is our spiritual family/home. Today, in our very mobile society, our children often neglect to set up a parish home. That is probably why some new parents often want to return to their parent’s parish to have their children baptized. They return to the parent’s home and parish because they have not established a new spiritual Christian community home for themselves.

Today’s feast is more about celebrating our Christian spiritual home than about a dedication to a building. It represents the universal need in all of us to have a home, and a community.

Because it is Remembrance Day Weekend I would like to share with you a poem by Norman MacDonald (D. M. Seon, 7th Canadian Infantry Battalion, France). It speaks of the horrors of war, remembering,(home and family), and inspiration.

Thoughts of the Battlefield

When in mud you’re wading knee deep,

Cursing, crying, seeing red,

Listening to the screams of dying,

Stumbling o’er the corpses dead.

 

Shells are bursting, cannons roaring,

Whizbangs sizzling in the air,

Slush and blood damned Fritzes,

Just like maggots everywhere.

 

Stinking stenches, blown-up trenches,

Funk holes crammed with human scraps,

Arms and legs and battered faces,

Bodies caught in wire traps.

 

Every dream of hell is pictured

In a sordid, gruesome light,

Devils prod you onward shrieking,

Fight you poor weak mortal – fight!

 

God! ’tis then like lightning flashes,

In the mind, your whole life’s trail,

Seems but yesterday you started

On this road a child so frail.

 

Years leap by with years in sequence,

Things forgotten crowd your brain,

Every thought so loved seems tenfold

Treasured, wrought in memory’s chain.

 

Every deed is resurrected

From a grave of by-gone years;

You lose sight of your objective,

For your eyes are blind with tears.

 

Home and mother, sister, brother

Father, loved ones – all are there;

And you laugh and stagger forward,

For you know no word as fear.

 

And tis they that spurn you onward,

for in you they have their pride,

And they know whatever happens

Tis for them you will have died.

As the People of God we are called to bring the light of Christ into the world, and to give hope in the midst of war. We are the bearers of a light that brings hope, love, peace, and comfort to the world’s darkest corners. As a people, however, we often find ourselves surrounded by the darkness of war, greed, oppression, intolerance, hatred, and all those horrible things that bring pain and human suffering. Just like those that fight in war our hearts can despair. But, when we remember why we fight and struggle, we find the motivation to go on.

Remembrance Day is a reminder to us of why we gather in a home church. Today, we God’s People, gather to pray for all our soldiers who have died in war, and for the young men and women of our Country who are fighting in Afghanistan. Our soldiers also help us appreciate how in the midst of battle we seek sanctuary with fellow Christians in a sacred space – a church – our home.

Like our soldiers, we know what it is like to grow weary. We know suffering and pain in our battle to bring light into the darkness. Sometimes we need the encouragement of others, the inspiration of music, the beauty of sacred art, the proclamation of the word, the celebration of Eucharist, or just a quiet moment with the Lord.

This feast day in honor of the Basilica of St. John Lateran is a reminder of how important it is that all God’s people have a place of sanctuary – a spiritual family and home; a place to worship, a place to pray, a place to inspire, a place to be inspired, a place to call home. As we celebrate Eucharist this Sunday, let us give thanks for our beautiful church, as we pray for all those ravished by war, especially our soldiers both living and dead.

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