As was pointed out in the beginning of our ceremony today, we are celebrating a special feast in the church. It’s the feast of the dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome, and this is a very important feast day in the church because that particular church is known as the mother church of all the churches in the world. It’s the church that is the cathedral church for the bishop of Rome. And as we reflect on our lessons today, it probably is important to put into some context the history of this particular church.
It was in the early fourth century that for the first time, the Christians, the disciples of Jesus, were able to begin to offer worship in a public way. They had been suppressed over the first three centuries of the beginnings of the church. But in the early part of the fourth century, Constantine, the emperor, underwent a conversion, and he offered to the Christians the opportunity to worship publicly, to be acknowledged as a public religion. And he gave to the church of Rome the land on the Lateran hill, where this Basilica of St. John Lateran is built, and that has become the mother church….