Why is this such an important feast that it takes precedence over the 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time?
1) We celebrate with Our Holy Mother Church as the family of Christ.
Today we celebrate Sancta Mater Ecclesia, or Holy Mother Church. Christ founded the visible Church, and she is the Bride of Christ. The Church acts as a mother, taking care of her flock with tender, loving, maternal care. The Supreme Pontiff is the bishop or shepherd of the whole universal church with St. John Lateran is his cathedra, or throne seat. The physical church is a symbol of the relationship of Christ and our connection with the Mystical Body. We turn to the pope as our Holy Father, and celebrate this closeness of the family of Christ, united by our baptism. How awesome to think that though we are so diverse and widespread, we are also closely connected spiritually through Holy Mother Church. The physical figurehead of the pope and his cathedral reminds us of the care and protection of the Church and our intimate family connection in Christ.
2) We celebrate the birthday of a church.
Every diocese has a cathedral or “mother church” and St. John Lateran is the cathedral or physical “mother church” of all Christians. It is our universal cathedral, so to speak. St. John Lateran is “the mother and mistress of all churches of Rome and the world.” We celebrate the birth or nameday of this church, recalling the dedication and consecration to God. The ceremony of the dedication of a church is very beautiful and rich. This readings today recall theliturgy of the consecration.
3) We see the the significance of our parish, diocese and bishop
This feast we see the larger picture of the pope and his cathedra (seat), but we can also see how this applies to us in our local level. Canon Law is one of the Church documents that explains the structure and laws concerning the hierarchy of the Church, such as dioceses, bishops, pastors and parishes. Canon Law also shows the rights and obligations as lay faithful to pastors, such as:
Can. 212 §1. Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church.
4) We connect with the history of the Church.
There was no “St. John Lateran”; this basilica has been dedicated to both St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist.
The history of this physical church reflects so much of the history of the entire Church. From its foundations by Constantine we can follow the rises and falls, the highs and lows, the sinners and saints throughout the history of this basilica.