So first the history. Roman Empire, early 300s. Christianity is has been illegal, but growing. The emperor Diocletian is convinced that Christians are the source of all his troubles, so he makes it his stated goal to eradicate Christianity from the face of the earth. Things are not good for the Church. But Diocletian gets sick, retires, and eventually passes away. Constantine, one of his closest aids, becomes emperor. Constantine makes Christianity legal, and gives the Lateran Palace to the Bishop of Rome. Constantine's got lots of palaces, so he's not hurting because of this gift. The bishop converts the main meeting hall of this palace into a huge church, and this church came to be known as the Lateran Basilica. This basilica and palace were then the home of the pope, the bishop of Rome, for a thousand years.
|The nave of the Basilica|
St. Paul in our second reading was talking about the importance of unity. His words are just as relevant two thousand years ago as they are today. He wrote to the Corinthians "You are God's building," and then he goes on to say "According to the grace of God given to me, like a wise master builder I laid the foundation and another is building upon it." Paul's basic work in his various journeys was to establish a church, these communities of Christians, but then he only hung around long enough to make sure it was firmly established, then he entrusted it to other leaders. That's why he said "I laid the foundation but someone else is building upon it." Paul wants us to recognize that we did not establish this Church. Lots of people made huge sacrifices to build this church building, but even they did not build the Church. Jesus Christ himself established this Church.
|The apse of the Basilica|
Paul gives a stern warning to those who would destroy God's holy people by causing disunity, and it's phrased in the negative. But if we only focus on the mean old Paul who says God will destroy so-and-so, or if we we only focus on the mean old Jesus who was so intolerant of the money changers, then we've missed the point. The positive side of the coin is that God values the integrity of his Church, he values our unity. God knows that we need this community to walk with him. We need to be surrounded by our fellow Christians in union with our bishop and our pope if we want the Holy Spirit to dwell with us. God loves unity, and so Paul gives a warning to those who would threaten it. Today as we honor the head church of all Christendom, we pray for the gift of unity both in our own parish and in the Universal Church.