A Homily for The Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica – 9th November 2008

‘Yes we can’ was the mantra that developed during Barack Obama’s acceptance speech after he was elected the next President of the United States early on Wednesday morning. Yes we can. He said it and then the people repeated it and then the people started to say it naturally. Yes we can. It was a night of tremendous optimism. People saw a change that many never thought was possible. A black man has become the President of America. It is only a couple of years ago that Rosa Parkes died. She was the woman who sat at the front of the bus and started so much of the civil rights campaign in America. Yes we can. Self belief and optimism overcame all obstacles and now the holder of the highest office in the land is a descendant of people who were denied basic right not fifty years ago. Yes we can.

Today we celebrate the feast of the dedication of the Lateran Basilica. This is the Pope’s Cathedral in Rome. This Cathedral was built in the fourth century. It was built in a time when the Christian people’s mantra was – Yes we can. It was a time of great optimism and confidence in the Church. No obstacle was too high. No problem was unsolvable. Yes we can. It was that optimism and confidence in the Church and in Jesus that enabled the Christian faith to spread to the ends of the earth. It is that optimism and confidence in our own country that enabled some of our most beautiful Cathedrals and Churches to be built during and immediately after the famine. Their mantra must also have been – Yes we can. They believed that they could do it and they did it.

In our own day we need to think what our mantra is. What is our attitude? We are a Church that is blessed now with many beautiful places for worship and prayer. However when we talk about these beautiful places most often today we talk about the number of empty seats in them. Often our talk is not positive but at best nostalgic. So what is our mantra? What is our attitude? Is it yes we can or maybe we wish we could. You see we live in a society where too often the mantra is no you won’t or even worse yes you won’t. Too often there is a negative air where optimism is seen at best as naivety.

In the Church we can have a defeatist attitude too. Perhaps we have lost sight of the life giving power the presence of the Church can have in our lives and on our society. That life giving power is so beautifully described in the first reading today from the book of the prophet Ezekiel. He describes the presence of the temple as like a river flowing – a river that gives abundant life and growth. Can we believe that the Church can be like this in society? I think yes we can.

Maybe the gospel reveals to us why and how we can. Jesus was angry in the gospel. The purpose of the temple – the focus of the temple – was being abused. It was turned into a market. Maybe we need to think about our focus again too. When we do that our mantra might change. Perhaps our primary focus should not be trying to fill beautiful buildings or indeed depression because our beautiful places of worship are not being filled. Perhaps our focus needs to be more on the foundation of all our buildings and indeed the foundation of all our lives. That foundation St Paul in his letter to the Corinthians declares very clearly is Jesus Christ.

It is when Jesus and his Good News and his radical message of life becomes our primary and sole focus that our mantra naturally will change from we wish we could to yes we can. Yes we can announce Jesus in the world today. Yes we can witness to his life. Yes we can be his presence in our society. Yes we can be his voice. Then our places of worship will begin to fill again because then it will not be people coming to the Church building but the Church coming together in the building. When we focus on the foundation which is Jesus then in our day too we can be optimistic people, not naïve people, who can confidently declare, yes we can!

31st July 2019 The Guest House
21st June 2019 The Glorious Abundance of the Almighty
25th March 2019 Shrinking
15th January 2019 Balance is All
19th November 2018 The human hunger for beauty
9th October 2018 Shifting Perspectives
19th June 2018 Thank God I was wrong
16th May 2018 "Today is a new dawn, new, clean and fresh - and so are you, my dear! Don't worry. All is well."
26th March 2018 The Long Winter
7th March 2018 The Gift of Tears
19th January 2018 An Understanding of Kindness
14th December 2017 Do You See This Woman?
17th October 2017 We Are All One with You
7th September 2017 Gaps
20th June 2017 "Love is not loved."
25th April 2017 I Hope You Dance
21st March 2017 From Darkness to Dawn
27th October 2016 The Bright Field
27th June 2016 The Enemy Within
31st May 2016 The Little Way to The Almighty
25th January 2016 Love Immeasurable
11th November 2015 Letting Go
21st May 2015 The Gift of Loss
6th May 2015 Walls
24th November 2014 Leaning into Winter
24th October 2014 Crossing the Road
25th June 2014 Fetters of the Soul
30th April 2014 The Power of Gratitude
10th March 2014 The Darkling Thrush
11th February 2014 Spring
10th February 2014 Masks
3rd February 2014 Dancing in the Wind
21st January 2014 Chains of nostalgia
13th January 2014 Forgiving wrongs darker than death or night
7th January 2014 Singing out Loud
17th December 2013 CHRISTMAS FOUND
9th December 2013 Withering into the Truth
2nd December 2013 The Celtic Prayer Garden
25th November 2013 Missing Dates
18th November 2013 NEARER GOD’S HEART
12th November 2013 Night
27th April 2010 Healing God
25th November 2009 Our Poverty
1st September 2009 Which of the two tigers will win the fight?
1st June 2009 Be your own role model
25th May 2009 The Feast of the Ascension of the Lord
18th May 2009 Power of the real presence
7th May 2009 "Lessons I did not learn in School" - by Bill Gates
30th March 2009 The Long Walk to Freedom
23rd March 2009 Become a Friend
16th March 2009 Ireland in Identity Crisis?
9th March 2009 Love to Pray
2nd March 2009 Life - Giving Words
16th February 2009 Exclusion Policy
9th February 2009 Somewhere the Child
2nd February 2009 The Conversion of St Paul
12th January 2009 Thomas Merton, "Thoughts in Solitude"
22nd December 2008 A Christmas Parable by Louis Cassels
15th December 2008 Work – from In the heart of the Temple by Sr Joan Chittister
8th December 2008 Am I at home when the doorbell rings?
1st December 2008 Street Corner Christ
17th November 2008 How Did I Get This Busy?
10th November 2008 A Homily for The Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica – 9th November 2008
3rd November 2008 John O’Donohue taken from “Benedictus - A Book of Blessings”
27th October 2008 Charles Peguy 1873-1914, French poet and politician
20th October 2008 The following is an extract from a talk given by Bishop George Lungu of Chipata in Zambia in Africa, to the synod of Bishops being held in Rome this month.
13th October 2008 Excerpt from ‘A Door of Hope’ by Jean Vanier
6th October 2008 A Reflection on Matthew's Gospel 21:28-32
29th September 2008 The Daily Decalogue of Pope John XXIII