As stated a few weeks ago, only very few feast days take precedence over the set schedule of the Sunday cycle of the liturgy. So, this week we find the liturgy for Sunday 32, Year A being replaced with the texts for the anniversary of dedication of the Cathedral church of the Bishop of Rome – the basilica of John Lateran. {remember that St Peter’s Basilica is not the Cathedral church of Rome!}

Today It would be appropriate for us to make heartfelt prayer for the ministry of Pope Francis – and the universal Church. In some strange but real way, Francis’ Cathedral is our own. It is no secret that power and pressure groups exist in the Church, and work hard to undermine the present ministry of the Bishop of Rome.

SHAME ON THEM! A great pity such folk ignore Francis’ message at his Mass a few days ago …. “the varied gifts in the Church should not bring divisions.”

So we all need to heed the message of Saint Paul in

TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT EXTRACT [1 CORINTHIANS 3: 9c – 11. 16 – 17]. Like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds … for no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

Read and reflect on these verses against the background of Pope Francis’ admonition about varied gifts not bringing divisions. Paul has no problems about another man building on what he has contributed – provided the other “takes care how he builds.” We all need to apply this to ourselves. Each one is expected to build. It is very easy to be destructive in little ways. There is a tendency for some to be more than indiscreet in what they say about the Church and its leadership. Constructive criticism is helpful provided it is contributed as part of efforts to build – not tear down. This approach, naturally, would involve me actually being involved in the construction work which means that armchair critics are decidedly unhelpful. Take care how he builds, and notice Paul reminding us that temple you are. In other words it is very easy for us to self-destruct.

My faith in Jesus Christ and his Church does not depend on Pope Francis – and neither did it depend on Benedict, John Paul, Paul, John or Pius. Each one of these Bishops of Rome built on the foundation of Jesus Christ, and did it carefully to the best of their abilities. Perhaps many Catholics need to recall what Paul stated in the first chapter { vv 12 & 13} of the same Letter: each of you is saying ‘I am Paul’s man’, or ‘I am for Apollos’; ‘I follow Cephas’ … surely Christ has not been divided among you!Do not overlook a small but important play on words that Paul introduces in today’s reading. He says he laid a foundation. Then, he states “no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” The one and only foundation of the Church has already been laid. This truth cannot be undone. What Paul laid and what I contribute to the construction must be firmly built on what already exists.

Now, if we go back to THIS SUNDAY’S OLD TESTAMENT READING [EZEKIEL 47: 1 – 2. 8 – 9. 12] we should discover why divisions in the Church wreck havoc. THERE IS NO ROOM FOR MISCHIEF MAKERS. Perhaps a good analogy to mischief makers would be polluters or litterbugs. Ezekiel draws our attention to the fact that the temple had different gates and from each flowed the same water. It did not matter from what vantage point the flowing water was experienced – it formed one stream and flowed in one direction. But “when it enters the stagnant waters … the water becomes fresh …. wherever the river goes … everything will live where the river goes.” Now, “that temple you are” …. so be careful that the life-giving waters are not polluted at the source. Am I a builder or a litterbug? In scriptural terms the question is posed by Ezekiel another way: is our fruit for food and our leaves for healing?

TODAY’S PSALM [46 or 45]

that “the waters of (the) river give joy to God’s city”, and “God is for us a refuge and strength, and ever-present help in time of distress.” Does this description fit my contribution to the work of the temple? I strongly suspect that Pope Francis is contributing a good deal of joy around the Church, strengthening the weak, and projecting an image of Church which is a help in time of distress.

TODAY’S GOSPEL EXTRACT [JOHN 2: 13 – 22]

records an incident at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry while other evangelists place it towards the end. John wishes to emphasise that at the start Jesus clears THE TEMPLE of mischief makers and litterbugs. If they remain, his introduction of a fresh, joyful and life-giving approach will be jeopardised. Our Gospel extract includes the fact “he spoke of the temple as his body.” A new approach, no matter how long the previous modus operandi has existed, will bring joy and healing. “His disciples remembered that he had said this.”

We need to be reminded.