In the year 313 the Emperor Constantine declared that Christianity would no longer be persecuted. He would become a Christian himself. Now, Constantine and his mother lived in a palace in Rome that had been owned by the Laterani family. Constantine turned a wing of that palace over to the Church. This was the first Christian Church in Rome. It was dedicated to Our Lord the Redeemer and to St. John the Baptist. Therefore it is known as the Basilica of St. John Lateran.
From the pope of that time, Melichiades, on to the present, St. John Lateran has been the Cathedral Church of Rome. The popes themselves lived there until they moved to the Vatican Hill in the late middle ages. The Cardinal that administers Rome for the pope continues to do so from St. John Lateran.
Today’s celebration is not really about a place, after all. It is about us. We are the Church. Together we are a place of refuge from the terrors of the world. Together, united with Christ, we are a people of love in a world of hatred.
Sometimes you just want to run to a Church to get away from it all. And we do. We run to the Church as our one refuge of sanity. The Church we run to is not just a building, it is the people. United with Christ, we the Church, have the courage to oppose the senselessness and failures of our society.
The people who first walked into St. John Lateran were elated to have their own building, but they knew that they already had their own Church. They had the courage to remain faithful to Christ throughout the persecution of the Romans and the mockery of their world.
We who walk into St. Matthew today and every Sunday are excited to have this building, jubilant to call this God’s house, but we know that we, not the building are the Church.
Like our spiritual ancestors we pray for the courage to remain faithful to Christ. Faithful to Christ through the persecution, and we will remain faithful. We are as strong as the people who first worshiped at St. John Lateran. We are the Church ■
 Sunday 9th November, 2008, SUN 9TH. Dedication of the Lateran Basilica. Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12. The waters of the river gladden the city of God—Ps 45(46):2-3, 5-6, 8-9. 1 Corinthians 3:9-11, 16-17. John 2:13-22.