What Kind of Places Are You Making

Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran

Ez 47:1-2, 8-9, 12 / 1 Cor 3:9c-11, 16-17 / Jn 2:13-22

On a February morning in the year 1513, 25 cardinals gathered in Rome and elected a new pope, a 32-year old layman, a playboy, Giovanni de’Medici, Leo X. As fast as he could get himself ordained, consecrated and crowned, Leo gathered his relatives to celebrate and spoke his famous, cynical words, “The papacy is ours. Let us enjoy it!” And enjoy it he did, so much so that he was dead in eight years at the age of 40!

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The event we’re celebrating, the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome, occurred 1200 years before Leo’s election, and unlike that later disastrous event, it was real cause for rejoicing for the whole church and not just one decadent family. For three centuries Christians had been outcasts, aliens on the fringes of society. And then suddenly, with the stroke of Constantine’s pen they were legal and the emperor himself built their very first church, the Lateran Basilica. Finally, a place of their own! So they moved into their new home and celebrated: November 9, 324 A.D.

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Whether we notice it or not, every day each of us is busy making places for people to be, though not usually with hammers and saws. The woman who lays out the breakfast table makes a place for her family. The family that sits at that table helps make that place too. What they say, how they look at one another, what they don’t say, make it a good or a bad place for their little while together.

And so it goes all day, at the office, the school or church, or on the golf course. Wherever we go, we’re constantly making places, if only for a moment; we’re constantly changing the living space of those around us. Most of the time, we do it without even noticing. And that spells trouble, because too often what we’re doing isn’t adding to that place; it’s taking away, taking something that doesn’t belong to us. And you know what that’s called? Stealing! Stealing the joy or quiet, the hopefulness or contentment, or whatever, that belongs to somebody else.

The grouch at the breakfast table is stealing joy from his own family. The sour pessimist is stealing other peoples’ hopes. The gardener with the blower is stealing someone’s peace and quiet. The driver who throws the beer cans out the window is stealing a tiny bit of the beauty of someone’s neighborhood. The person who doesn’t look for a chance to say “Attaboy, good job!” is stealing life from someone else’s spirit. All this stealing by good people like us who don’t notice what they’re doing. We mustn’t let this go on!

As we mark this 168st anniversary of our ancestors moving into their first church-home, God is calling us to open our eyes and see what kinds of places we’re making for one another. Are we good builders or just robbers?

God has blessed us with so many gifts, everything from the capacity for great insights to a special knack for giving simple pats on the back — so many things that people need, so many things that we can use to make better moments and better places.

And so we pray: May this day and every day be fuller and richer because we were here. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.