Making houses into homes

Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica
Ezekiel 47:1-2,8-9,12; Psalm 45; 1 Corinthians 3:9-11,16-17; John 2:13-22
We often hear the idioms “home is where the heart is” and “there’s no place like home”. And I tend to agree with them. Don’t we often look forward to going home, especially after spending a long time away? Even if the trip was great and we enjoyed every minute of being out, we still appreciate the safety and comfort that is home. A home is often a place of comfort, rest and contentment. What we also realise is that a home is not necessarily equivalent to a house or a physical building. A home is more than that. This leads one to two questions – how important is the house and how does a house become a home?

The beauty of the Lateran Basilica, now just add people in prayer!

First a little history behind the feast that we celebrate today. We celebrate the dedication of the Lateran Basilica, the Papal Archbasilica of St John in the Lateran in full. This is the official church of the Bishop of Rome, otherwise known as our Pope and it’s the first among the 5 papal basilicas found in Rome. Its name in Latin literally means ‘Mother of All Churches’. We celebrate it as the Mother Church of the Pope and therefore of the world but also as a focal point of worship in our church, an important physical building that helps in our worship. However, it seems somewhat ironic that we celebrate a building at the same time where we acknowledge that churches are more than just buildings.
If that sounds a little confusing then perhaps a little more history is in order. If we go back to the early church, there were no physical buildings. The early Christians met to break the Word and to break bread in each others houses. There was probably great intimacy and comfort there but as the church grew, we needed more space. We grew into and alongside the Roman empire and became institutionalised, requiring more space and formal places of worship. Seems good but with that also means bureaucracy, inflexibility and corruption as explained in today’s gospel. The Lord was upset at his Father’s house becoming just a building where people trade in and not a place where we come to be with God. The temple, with all its market stalls and traders became an empty shell, a mere building that’s not quite a home for us.
This being said, we also realise that houses are important. They are focal points for the family to come home to rest. Churches and temples are focal points of worship. We all know the power of beautiful churches – I’m continually overawed at the architecture of the many beautiful churches I’ve been to and many of them truly invite us to pray. But that alone is not enough. It has to be nurtured into a home and allowed to flourish and not come into disrepair. The prophet Ezekiel’s experience was that of a temple that was life giving, a place of worship that was not just about prayer but about giving life beyond the building. Remember how the water that flows from the temple gave life to the rivers and plants along it. All this happens when the house becomes a home.
How does that work? The Spirit of God that is in us makes us temples of God – the Lord said so as well in the gospel Our very persons, filled with the spirit, are truly the elements that make up a church. The buildings are there to house, to organise and to focus but it’s the people who make up the church, not the other way around. A house becomes a home when it’s made up of such people who are willing to love and to serve in all ways possible. Home is thus truly where the heart is as the people, inflamed with the love of God and each other, create a community that brings rest and comfort to all around. Not just that, to bring the love and comfort to those around, just as Ezekiel described.
Just as an empty house is not a home, an empty or unloving church is not a church. The most run-down of chapels can be truly homes where God dwells joyfully whereas the most beautiful and imposing of churches can be mere empty houses if there’s nobody to love and to give love. The Church is where God is so let’s help bring more people back to our churches and to create the loving communities that would truly change our houses into homes.
We end with a prayer for all of us,
Lord, you called us to be your church. Dwell in us as we dwell in you that we may make your house into our home of comfort and rest so that we may continue to give you greater glory in all we do. Amen.

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about the brushhead

had a head like a brush (it's more like an egg now). seeks to sweep through thought and faith with that brush. tries to wax philosophical but often forgets to wax off. trying to be good brush to all, while discerning what kind of brush he's meant to be.

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