Each of the churches in Rome, especially the major basilicas have unique atmospheres.
When we arrived at the Arch Basilica of St. John Lateran we entered through a side door close to the sanctuary. And as I was walking towards the front of the church I had this very humbling, almost fearful feeling the further I walked – and I know exactly why.
You see, the nave of the basilica is dominated by giant statues on pedestals of the twelve apostles (six on each side) – these great figures were staring down at me. I had a feeling that they were looking deep into my heart and telling me that it was my turn and asking me what I had done for our Lord. I have to say that the statues looked mad! From the far recesses of history, those who laid the foundation of our faith were looking to me. Add to that that there are at least 20 popes buried there, and that tradition holds that the skulls of St. Peter and St. Paul are in a reliquary above the high altar and you can understand somewhat the feeling of history bearing down upon me.
What am I doing for Christ’s church? How dedicated am I to our Lord and Savior? Am I a strong stone in His church or a weak one? All of these questions were bearing down on me as I walked down the nave – and all were demanding a reply. But as if in answer to these questions I noticed in the side naves many confessionals – each one with two languages listed Italian-German, English-Italian and so forth.
The Apostles, who at first were looking down at me accusingly, now seem to be saying they understand. It doesn’t matter how strong of a stone I am now – God will make me stronger! Take advantage of the His love, use these confessionals, strengthen yourself; help build that strong temple that we started!
Brothers and sisters, as the readings today highlight the church is always building, always in transition. The Church will never be complete until its foundation, Jesus Christ comes back to claim her. We can’t rest on our successes and we can’t stop because we know we failed and fear that we will fail again; He requires our constant participation. God gives us His strength through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation to heal and grow stronger. Let’s take advantage of this gifts and in doing so strengthen our part of the temple. I bet that this will make those statues at St. John Lateran smile.