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 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinNovember 7, 2003 Issue 

We, the faithful, are the temples of God

Like the walls of Saint John Lateran, God dwells within each one of us

November 9, 2003 -- The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

By Bishop Robert Morneau

photo of Bishop Robert Morneau
Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. In what ways can we foster a sense of God's indwelling presence?

2. What is your favorite church structure? Why?

3. What degree of zeal do you have for the house of God?

When St. Paul wrote to the people of Corinth some two thousand years ago he raised a question that is startling in its implications and consoling in its truth: "Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" Although we may be ignorant of the fact, the reality is that God has taken up residence within each one of us.

This weekend we recall the dedication of the oldest cathedral in the diocese of Rome, Saint John Lateran. This principal cathedral has been visited by millions of people over the years. More importantly, within its walls, the Mass has been celebrated, inviting people ever more deeply into the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. God dwells within this cathedral through word and sacrament; God dwells within each of us through the waters of baptism and the gift of the Spirit.

A special preface is used for this feast of the Dedication of Saint John Lateran. Here are four lines from the preface for our prayerful reflection:

"Your house is a house of prayer, and your presence makes it a place of blessing." Gracious God, may we always reverence our parish church for in it you are present with your love and mercy. No wonder Jesus was so upset when people turned the temple area into a marketplace. His zeal for you moved him deeply and he drove out the moneychangers. May we have zeal for your house; may we recommit ourselves to your abiding presence within us.

"You give us grace upon grace to build the temple of your Spirit, creating its beauty from the holiness of our lives." Loving God, you call each of us to holiness, to the perfection of love that is at the heart of discipleship. We cannot respond to this call without your help, without your grace. Through your Holy Spirit we are empowered to become agents of beauty, building up your dwelling through the good deeds of our lives. Pour out upon us your grace, your light and love and life. Only then will we be a fitting dwelling for your presence.

"Your house of prayer is also the promise of the Church in heaven." Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who sent your prophets into the world to share with us your vision. Ezekiel was one of them and he spoke eloquently of your temple as a source of fresh water, a living water that brings life. When we drink of your life and love then we shall bear abundantly fruit, fruit that will last into eternal life. Grant us the grace of prayer so that even now we might experience the promise of your Kingdom.

"Here your love is always at work, preparing the Church on earth for its heavenly glory as the sinless bride of Christ, the joyful mother of a great company of saints." Lord Jesus Christ, the temple of your body could not be destroyed. Through the mystery of the resurrection your love is at work and leading us to the glory of God. You have given us the Church, the great people of God, those who hear and live your word. Draw each of us more deeply into the mystery of pilgrim people so that one day we too might share in the life of the great company of saints. Through the Eucharist you promise us communion, this great unity and union with God and one another. For this we give you thanks.

Every five years I have the opportunity of visiting the cathedral of St. John Lateran. On each of those visits I have felt the power of the Church, not just an ancient building, but our two thousand-year history of people who have sought to follow the way of Jesus. The opening prayer for our feast says it well: "God our Father, from living stones, your chosen people, you built an eternal temple to your glory. Increase the spiritual gifts you have given to your Church, so that your faithful people may continue to grow into the new and eternal Jerusalem."

(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay.)

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