Saturday, November 10, 2012



Interior of Lateran Basilica
 Yesterday, Friday, the Church celebrated the dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome. The Pope’s cathedral Church as Bishop of Rome, this ancient building is venerated as “mother-church” of all Christendom, and thus the big feast. The gospel for the mass was the story of Jesus’ cleansing the temple (Jn 2:30 ff), demanding that his “Father’s house” be treated with respect as a house of prayer. Does this mean that God has this need for a “home,” that the Almighty has a sense of place?

I think of it this way: God is everywhere, which is fine for God but not so good for us humans who are bound and bounded by place. Since God wanted to work with us and deal with us space-bound creatures, the Lord entered into history at specific times in specific places, revealing himself to us by intervening in history. Egypt, the Red Sea, Canaan, Jerusalem were places where God entered into time and space to act. The Lord gave the chosen people a very special place where the divine presence was to be felt and celebrated: the temple in Jerusalem. This wasn’t because God needed it but because we humans did.

Sure, it’s true that God is boundless, present everywhere in the universe, but for our sake the Almighty focuses the divine presence in certain special places such as churches and shrines. But let’s not forget the sacred encounters that we experience in our homes – they are places of divine epiphany too.

Hearing about and even seeing on TV the hundreds of houses that were destroyed by the superstorm Sandy has made me many of us appreciate our homes, those physical places in which we are grounded, to which we retreat for respite from our job, and where we share meals and moments of relaxation with our families. When we hear of folks who have “lost their home” something inside of us cringes, because we are creatures of place, born with “a sense of place.”


The second reading at yesterday’s mass was from Ephesians. “You are the dwelling place of God.” The American way of hearing this is to think of the “you” as singular: Each one of us is a unique and separate place where God dwells. While that may be true, it’s not what this passage says – the “you” is plural! “You together make up God’s dwelling place, you (plural) are where the divine presence comes to earth and dwells with human beings.” Didn’t we see this in the aftermath of the recent storm? People’s hearts were moved to (sometimes literally) reach out in love to others who had been victimized by the wind, the waves, and the storm surge. God was certainly present, almost palpable, dwelling among us in those people.

What about the gas station dealer who raised his price 85% for a gallon of gas because he knew his neighbors and loyal customers were in dire straits? Or the hotel manager who quadrupled the price of a room because he knew that a lot of people had lost their houses and had nowhere to turn for help? I’m afraid that we were all somehow made less by these brothers and sisters, and that God’s presence was made a little more distant and difficult to perceive.

May the hardships and catastrophes caused by this storm help us not only to appreciate our homes, but encourage us to become a fit dwelling place for God.
Seaside, NJ - Home Sweet Home

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