Thursday, November 6, 2014

Homily at Holy Spirit Catholic Community, Dedication of Saint John Lateran, November 9, 2014 by Rev. Beverly Bingle, RCWP

Today we interrupt the regular flow of our liturgical year
for the feast of the Dedication of Saint John Lateran,
the oldest of Rome’s four great basilicas.
From 311, when Constantine
gave the building and land to the Catholic Church,
it’s been considered the cathedral of Rome
and the mother church of Christendom.
Through the centuries, the Lateran has suffered earthquakes,
attacks by Vandals and Saracens, and destruction by fire.
It was rebuilt each time.
But is that building the Church?
Pope Gregory IX started the Inquisition in the early 1200s
to fight heresy by torturing people
until they changed their mind about what they believed,
or it killed them.
In 1310, for example, Marguerite Porete was burned at the stake for
refusing to take back her writings about God’s love.
The effort against heresy continues today
in Vatican offices known as the Curia and the CDF—
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith—
which orders theologians and teachers and priests
and ordinary people who speak truth to power
to deny their consciences and be silent.
Popes and bishops no longer have the civil authority
to burn people at the stake for their beliefs,
but in recent years that CDF has attempted to silence,
among others, priests like Helmut Schüller, Tony Flannery,
Roy Bourgeois, and John Dear;
the Leadership Conference of Women Religious;
and 200 Roman Catholic priests who happen to be women.
Is that the Church?
From the time I entered first grade at Fremont Saint Ann’s
until I graduated from the seminary,
4,392 U.S. priests were accused of abusing 10,667 people.
Those abusers were protected,
and their victims re-victimized
by an institutional structure that covered up their abuse.
Is that the Church?
No—that is not the Church.
The Church is not the building in Rome known as St. John Lateran.
It’s not the Inquisition or the Curia or the CDF.
It is not an oppressive hierarchy that protects abusers.
We know what the Church is.
The Church is us.
Paul told the Corinthians that God’s Spirit within them
made them a holy place, a temple of God.
They were God’s building, founded on Jesus.
They themselves were the Church.
The Jewish people went to Jerusalem to visit the Temple,
there to encounter God in the holy place.
But, as John’s Gospel tells us,
those who had authority in the Temple
were using their power to oppress God’s people.
Jesus criticized them for their misuse of power.
We, if we are to be followers of Jesus’ Way,
must imitate him.
When people are oppressed,
we are the ones who must speak truth to power.
We are called to make Ezekiel’s vision live:
abundant water flowing out of the temple of God,
those in whom the Spirit of God dwells,
the holy ones—us.
Every couple of weeks or so I receive an e-mail
asking about Holy Spirit.
What kind of community are we?
How do we worship?
What’s our Mass like?
Where is our Church?
I have two answers:
we meet at 3535 Executive Parkway these days,
and wherever we gather is where our Church is,
because we are the Church.
Sure, we meet here in this chapel,
a physical building made of bricks and stones.
It’s like the dining room table at Thanksgiving Dinner.
The location may move from place to place over the years,
depending on how old we are or what we do for a living
or any of a seemingly unlimited number of other life changes.
Still, no matter where we are, the people we are with are our family,
by biology or by marriage or by adoption or by companionship.
It’s the same way with Church.
Wherever we are, we gather around the altar—
this Thanksgiving table—
each of us a temple of the Holy Spirit,
a living stone,
a member of the People of God.
The Spirit is alive and among us.
We are Church.
In today’s first reading
Ezekiel gives us a beautiful image of God’s temple,
a way to recognize when we, the People of God,
are doing what we should be doing.
He describes the temple and the living water that flows from it.
He says a river of life flows out from it, and
“Wherever the river flows,
every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live,
and there shall be abundant fish,
for wherever this water comes
the sea shall be made fresh.

Along both banks of the river,
fruit trees of every kind shall grow;
their leaves shall not fade,
nor their fruit fail.

Every month they shall bear fresh fruit,
for they shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary.
Their fruit shall serve for food,
and their leaves for medicine.”

God’s temple is known by its effects:
living waters,
food for life,
medicine for the sick,
goodness and kindness and mercy flooding the land.
We met again this past week
to continue our work to make living water flow out from us—
from these temples that we are,
this Church that we are.
We’ll spend the winter months ahead
planning ways to refresh the waters
of the Maumee River and Lake Erie,
to replenish the dome of leaves that protects our land,
to encourage the produce that feeds us and keeps us healthy.
We will collaborate with government agencies
and corporate entities
and community foundations,
and while we’re encouraging them and expecting them to act,
we ourselves will also act in every way we can.
As Pope Francis puts it,
Nurturing and cherishing creation
is a command God gives to each of us.
It means transforming the world
so that it may be a garden,
a habitable place for everyone.
We will work
to make real our vision
for the kin-dom of God
here in northwest Ohio.
The Spirit of God is upon us,
and we will renew the face of the earth.
We are the Church.

Holy Spirit Catholic Community
at 3535 Executive Parkway (Unity of Toledo)
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m.
Sundays at 5:30 p.m.

Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor

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