Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of the Dedication of one of the four Major Papal Basilicas in Rome, namely that of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, or Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, the principal Marian shrine and church in the whole Christendom, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Protector of Rome, in the icon Salus Populi Romani venerated by many of the faithful.
The icon of Our Blessed Mother and the related celebration of Our Lady of the Snows have long history since the early days of Christendom, as the current Basilica of St. Mary Major is one of the oldest extant churches in the world, being established and built just right after the end of Christian persecutions of its early centuries, by the support of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great and his successors.
It was told that a Roman patrician or noble named John and his wife asked for the intercession of the Blessed Mother Mary, as they were without child and wanted to make a donation of their resources and properties to the Church. They wanted to donate their properties in her honour and build a church dedicated to her, the Mother of God. And therefore, it was told that at the height of summer, which is on this date, the fifth of August, snow miraculously fell on the site on which now the Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major now stands.
Ever since then, this great Basilica, the House of God and shrine to His Mother Mary has become a great place of refuge and as a focus of pilgrimage and devotions attracting the faithful from all over Christendom, far and beyond. And on this day, through the Scripture passages, all of us are also called to reflect on the love which God has often shown His people, and which He has shown us especially through the same love His mother Mary has for us, her beloved children.
In our first reading today, we heard of the account from the Book of Numbers telling us of the great complaints of the Israelites who grumbled against God and against His servant Moses, as they craved the food and things they used to eat and have in the land of Egypt, even as slaves to the Egyptians and their Pharaoh. And even though God has given them the miraculous manna, the bread from heaven itself to eat, they complained and grumbled on the ‘tastelessness’ of the manna.
What we have heard in that passage essentially told us of the greed and wicked desires, the cravings in mankind’s hearts, which made them to be so ungrateful and so lacking of gratitude for God’s generosity and love for each and every one of them. God has loved His people so generously and faithfully that He not only freed them from the hands of the Egyptians and crushed the armies of the Pharaoh sent to chase after them, but He also performed many miracles and fed them through the dry and lifeless desert for so many years without cease.
In the Gospel today, we heard a similar story of God feeding His people with love, and this time, it is the famous feeding of the five thousand men and countless other women and children by the Lord Jesus, Who miraculously turned five loaves of bread and two fishes into the amount of food sufficient to feed the entirety of the people until they were all satisfied and with twelve baskets of leftovers in the end.
In all of these, we see how God so loved His people that He cared for them, had pity on them when they were hungry and suffering, and not just in one occasion, but many occasions throughout history. And He was ever patient despite of our own impatience and rebelliousness. Even despite all that the Israelites complained against Him and all of their wickedness, God still fed them with manna and also large birds and crystal clear water throughout their forty years of journey in the desert.
And God gave us all the most wonderful gift in His Son, Jesus Christ, His own Begotten Son, by Whom all of us have been brought into reconciliation with Him and salvation through His suffering and death on the Cross. And Christ has also given us His love through His own mother Mary, whom He has entrusted to us as our own mother, and all of us have also been entrusted to her as her own children.
Therefore today, as we rejoice in the anniversary of the Dedication of the great Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome, let us all recall the wonderful love that God has given us, through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ and also through His mother Mary, our greatest intercessor and protector. Let us all ask Mary for her intercession before the throne of her beloved Son in heaven, that we may be forgiven our sins and be brought ever closer to salvation in Him.
May the Lord continue to bless us and guide our path in this journey of life, and may He strengthen our courage and resolve to live ever more faithfully in His presence, day after day, from now on, to glorify God at all times by our words, actions and deeds. Amen.