"Jesus was speaking about the temple of his body" (John 2:21).
Tourism thrives on the preservation of old buildings. History comes alive in these ancient shrines to the faith and ingenuity of past generations. The best way to preserve an institution and the ideas and beliefs it espoused was to erect a large, solid structure, a temple to the past as worthy of extending its influence into the future.
The early church found a second cradle in the city of Rome after the destruction of Jerusalem. The Emperor Constantine donated many large basilicas, government buildings, for repurposing as major churches. The wealthy Lateran family gave its property and large palace to the church for one of its earliest and largest cathedrals, the location where the seat, or cathedra, of Peter, was housed. Today's feast honorig this impressive building is a reminder of how old and well-established is the Catholic Church's claim to be the earliest representation of the faith community going back to Jesus and the Apostles.
Yet there is a reminder within the reminder, also going back to Jesus himself, of just how emphemeral even stone is in history. He foresaw the destruction of the magnificent and presumably indestructibe Second Temple in Jerusalem. John's Gospel uses that catastrophic event to emphasize that the mystery Jesus established in this world was more personal and more enduring than any building. The foundation of the church was not stone, but the very body of Christ, crucifed on the cross, then raised to glory in the resurrection. It's full stature is a work in progress, humanity itself being gathered into the living church, the body of Christ, present and active in history, the sacrament and promise of the New Humanity and the New Creation revealed in Christ.
We are living stones in that mystery, for our bodies are members of the Mystical Body of Christ. Incorporated into the crucified and risen Christ at baptism, we are nourished by the Eucharist each time we gather as church to celebrate Mass. We take his body and blood into the world when we imitate his acts of compassion and love in our communities, helping to build up the body of Christ as the extension of God's redemptive plan in the world. Wherever we take love, we establish the church by becoming the church, individual temples of the Holy Spirit, small, personal cathedrals where the Gospel is taught and lived. If every church building were bandoned and empty, the church would live in us, as it has down through history in times of persecution and anonymity, quiet witness to the power of faith, even where only a single candle was kindled in the darkness.
We celebrate today's feast by rededicating and consecrating our bodies to be dwelling places of the Trinity, houses of hospitality where all are welcome, especially those most in need of shelter and love-- the poor, refugees and immigrants, outcasts and those discriminated against in any way. This is how the church lives on and makes believable the mystery of Christ, who is our founder, our brother and our beloved friend.