Saturday, 5 August 2017 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the memorial day and feast of the dedication of one of the Papal Major Basilicas in Rome, namely the Basilica of St. Mary Major, or known also as Santa Maria Maggiore. This is one of the four most important churches in Christendom, and the only one named in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary among the four.

The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore was built on a site which was donated to the Church in the early days of the emancipation and liberation of Christian worship and faith among the faithful, at the time following the toleration of Christianity by the Roman Emperor Constantine. It was told that the site where the Basilica now stands was indicated to the nobleman who owned the land, who vowed to donate his possessions, as he was without a child and heir, to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

And miraculously, at the height of summer in Rome, told be this very date, the fifth day of August, snows fell on the site atop a hill on which the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore or St. Mary Major now stands. Thereafter, the land was dedicated to the Church, and a great church and Basilica was built there. The Church was named as such because it was the largest of all the churches and parishes in Rome that was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Now, why is it that we place so much honour and glory upon Mary? There are indeed many of those who would slander the Church and attack our beliefs just because they thought that we are idolising Mary and making her as if she is a goddess and a deity equivalent to God. But all of these in fact came about because of a gross misunderstanding of what it is that all of us Christian believe about Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ and thus the Mother of God.

We honour Mary because she is the mother of our God, since we believe that Jesus, her Son, is the Word of God and Son of God, Divine Incarnate Who assumed the flesh of Man through His mother Mary who gave Him His humanity as He was conceived in her womb and grew in her for the nine months of His presence before He was born into the world.

Mary is therefore the Ark of the New Covenant, for she carried within her the New Covenant which God established with us all His people, through Christ, Whose death on the cross and the shedding of His Blood, as the Lamb of Sacrifice, offered to God a perfect offering for the absolution of our sins, and seal the Covenant which He established anew with all of us, one that will last for eternity.

Just as the original Ark of the Covenant contained within it the sacred Commandments and Laws of God, the sign of His Covenant with Israel, Mary as the New Ark is far more precious, for unlike the original Ark made from wood, gold and other precious materials, made by the hands of men, Mary was created by God Himself, and as our Christian faith explained, she was was created and conceived without any taints of original sin.

But that is not just the only reason why we honour Mary above any other human beings, as the greatest among the ones whom God had created, above all saints and other holy men and women. We do not honour Mary just because she was made special and conceived immaculate without sin, but because throughout her life, she has also continued to keep her life pure and worthy of God, devoting herself completely to the Lord.

Mary is our role model in life, because she has been faithful and true all her life, true to her devotion and commitment to her Son, that she followed Him through, from the moment He was conceived in her womb, to His birth, and then through His growing years and childhood, showing as great love and care as a mother can possibly give to her child. She followed through, even through difficult moments, and walked with her Son to the cross at Calvary.

The faith and dedication which Mary had is truly exemplary for all of us, and we should all follow in her footsteps. As the Lord Jesus Himself mentioned in the Gospel today, that all those who have kept the word of God and practiced the word of God in their lives will truly be blessed, therefore, Mary who showed us all the way to the Lord, had been obedient and committed to the Lord all her life.

She placed her full and complete trust in God, and obeyed all of His words and commandments, placing herself in His hands, entrusting all that He had planned to do for all mankind through her. How many of us are able to achieve this total surrender of oneself as Mary, the mother of our Lord has done? How many of us are able to answer the Lord as firmly and faithfully as Mary had answered the revelation of the Archangel Gabriel? To have the Lord's will be done upon us?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, as we all rejoice together in the memory of the dedication of the great Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major, Santa Maria Maggiore, let us all renew our commitment to the Lord, by looking at the examples shown through the faith of Mary, the mother of God. Let us all walk in her footsteps and learn to persevere in our faith, just as she had persevered to walk through the agonising journey of accompanying her Son in His great Passion and suffering.

Let us all seek to be closer to God, through Mary, for it is indeed through Mary, that we will be able to find the surest and the best way to reach out to the Lord, His salvation and the eternal glory He has promised all those who believed in Him. May Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, pray for us and intercede for us always at the presence of her Son in heaven. Pray for us, o Holy Mother of God. Amen.

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