Monday, 18 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the memory of the anniversary of the Dedication of two of the great Papal Major Basilicas of Rome, namely the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican, the largest of all the churches in the entire world and the primary place for the Papal ceremonies and liturgical celebrations while not being the Cathedral of Rome, and also the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

On this day we therefore remember the memory of the Dedication of two of the four greatest churches in all Christendom, dedicated to none other than the two patron saints of Rome and the Universal Church, namely St. Peter the Apostle, the Prince of the Apostles and the Vicar of Christ and first Pope, to whom all of our Popes are successors of, and also St. Paul the Apostle, the Apostle to the Gentiles whose works among the pagans and the Gentiles were crucial to the establishment and growth of the Church in its earliest days.

And today’s Scripture readings cannot have been more apt, including even the first reading from the regular weekday readings if the special readings for the Dedication of the two Basilicas are not used. That passage was taken from the first Book of the Maccabees relating to us the beginning of the Maccabean Revolt when the Greek Seleucid Empire under King Antiochus IV began to persecute the Jews in his kingdom because he wanted to enforce all the peoples in his Empire to embrace the Greek customs and practices.

At that time, many among the Jewish populations refused to follow the king’s commands just as there were sizeable numbers of the community who acceded to the king’s demands. The king used force to occupy the city of Jerusalem and built a great fortress there, and also desecrated the Temple of God in the city, the Second Temple of Jerusalem which became a pagan temple, its altar desecrated with idols and pagan worship and offerings.

It is significant that this passage is a reminder of the great sorrow which the people of Israel then suffered because their House of God had been defiled and they were made to bow low and humiliated as a people. And yet, that was the beginning of the Maccabean Revolt, in which by God’s grace and guidance, strength and power, eventually the Seleucids were driven out, the city of Jerusalem retaken and the Temple of God purified and cleansed from all of the defilements and corruptions.

And then through the special readings dedicated to the Dedication of the two Basilicas today, we heard of both the labours of St. Paul the Apostle, as he embarked on his last journey and ministry in Rome, preaching and witnessing for Christ among the Christian and Jewish populations, as well as the Gentiles in Rome alike, establishing firm foundation of the Church in Rome together with St. Peter, who is the first Bishop of Rome.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord Jesus walking miraculously on the water in a terrible and great storm, that famous miracle which most of us should have been familiar with. The disciples were all scared and fearful, thinking that they had seen a ghost because they could not truly believe that it was the Lord Jesus Whom they had seen. St. Peter tried to walk towards Him, but overcame by fear, he began to sink in the waves.

The Lord helped St. Peter up and rebuked him for his little faith. He then calmed the whole storm and made everything calm again. And through all these, we can see how the Lord reminded His disciples and all of us that truly, He is the Head and the true Foundation of the Church, the sole focus and reason of our existence, the power and the strength behind His Church today, as it had always been since when He founded it.

But at the same time, He built that Church based on the strong foundation of His Apostles, who are the pillars and the support of the Church, under the leadership of none other than St. Peter, whom He appointed as His Vicar, the Vicar of the true Head of the Church. Yet, we saw how weak and feeble the faith the disciples of the Lord had, and this is an important reminder for us that even once, those Apostles were just like us, weak in faith and sinful men. But God strengthened them and gave them the authority, wisdom and power.

That was how St. Peter and St. Paul eventually performed many wonderful works, as were the other Apostles and the many disciples, holy saints and martyrs of the Church. St. Peter and St. Paul both had to suffer in many occasions, and were martyred for the sake of the Lord and their faith in Him in Rome. St. Peter was crucified upside down at the place where the great Basilica of St. Peter on Vatican hills is now at, while St. Paul was beheaded and buried at the place where the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls was built.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the significance of our celebration of the Dedication of these two great Basilicas cannot therefore be underrated, for we celebrate and remember nothing less than the memory of our great predecessors in faith and the struggles that the Church had to go through in standing up for the truth of God. And even more importantly, all of us must then realise that we are all part of the Church of God.

Going back to the reading from the first Book of the Maccabees, we are reminded of what had happened as the Temple of God was defiled. We are all also Temples of God’s Holy Presence, for in us, the Lord Himself is truly present, we who have partaken His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, and who have received the Holy Spirit of God, poured to us by the grace of our Baptism and reaffirmed in the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Therefore, on this day, it is important for us all to discern on our lives and our actions carefully. Have we treated our bodies, our minds, our hearts and our whole beings in the way and manner that is worthy of God’s House and Temple, we the faithful and the living Church of God? Or have we instead defiled ourselves and God’s Temples by our sins and by our disobedience against Him? Let us all think carefully of how we can move forward from now on.

If we have sinned by our disobedience against Him, then let us all remember that God is ever merciful and willing to forgive us our sins, if we are truly repentant and willing to return to Him with faith. Let us all be righteous and follow the Lord with a renewed faith and love for Him from now on then, following in the footsteps of the great Saints, St. Peter and St. Paul, holy Apostles of the Lord. May the Lord be our guide and be our strength in life, always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 18 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)

Luke 18 : 35-43

At that time, when Jesus drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the road, begging. As he heard the crowd passing by, he inquired what was happening, and they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was going by. Then he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

The people in front of him scolded him, “Be quiet!” they said, but he cried out all the more, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped, and ordered the blind man to be brought to Him; and when he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And the man said, “Lord, that I may see!”

Jesus said, “Receive your sight, your faith has saved you.” At once the blind man was able to see, and he followed Jesus, giving praise to God. And all the people who were there also praised God.

Alternative reading (Mass for Dedication of the Basilicas)

Matthew 14 : 22-33

At that time, immediately, Jesus obliged His disciples to get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowd away. And having sent the people away, He went up the mountain by Himself, to pray. At nightfall, He was there alone. Meanwhile, the boat was very far from land, dangerously rocked by the waves, for the wind was against it.

At daybreak, Jesus came to them, walking on the sea. When they saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, thinking that it was a ghost. And they cried out in fear. But at once, Jesus said to them, “Courage! Do not be afraid. It is Me!” Peter answered, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”

Jesus said to him, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water to go to Jesus. But seeing the strong wind, he was afraid, and began to sink; and he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately stretched out His hand and took hold of him, saying, “Man of little faith, why did you doubt?”

As they got into the boat, the wind dropped. Then those in the boat bowed down before Jesus, saying, “Truly, You are the Son of God!”

Monday, 18 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)

Psalm 118 : 53, 61, 134, 150, 155, 158

I feel indignant at the wicked who have forsaken Your law.

The wicked have me trapped in their snares, but I have not forgotten Your laws.

Rescue me from human oppression, and help me keep Your precepts.

My persecutors close in with evil intent; they are far from Your law.

Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek Your statutes.

I look upon the faithless with loathing, because they do not obey Your ruling.

Alternative reading (Mass for Dedication of the Basilicas)

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 5-6

Sing to YHVH a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

YHVH has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love, nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you, lands, make a joyful noise to YHVH, break into song and sing praise.

With melody of the lyre and with music of the harp. With trumpet blast and sound of the horn, rejoice before the King, YHVH!

Monday, 18 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of a Basilica)

1 Maccabees 1 : 10-15, 41-43, 54-57, 62-64

From their descendants there came a godless offshoot, Antiochus Epiphanes, son of king Antiochus, who had been held as hostage in Rome. He became king in the one hundred and thirty-seventh year of the Greek era, in the year 175 B.C..

It was then that some rebels emerged from Israel, who succeeded in winning over many people. They said, “Let us renew contact with the people around us for we had endured many misfortunes since we separated from them.”

This proposal was well-received and some eagerly went to the king. The king authorised them to adopt the customs of the pagan nations. With his permission, they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem in the pagan style. And as they wanted to be like the pagans in everything, they made artificial foreskins for themselves and abandoned the Holy Covenant, sinning as they pleased.

Antiochus issued a decree to his whole kingdom. All the people of his empire had to renounce their particular customs and become one people. All the pagan nations obeyed and respected the king’s decree, and, even in Israel, many accepted the imposed cult. They offered sacrifices to idols and no longer respected the Sabbath.

On the fifteenth day of the month of Chislev, in the year one hundred and forty-five, in the year 167 B.C., Antiochus erected the “abominable idol of the invaders” on the altar of the Temple. Pagan altars were built throughout the whole land of Judea; incense was offered at the doors of their houses and in the squares.

There wicked men tore up the books of the Law they found and burnt them. They killed anyone they caught in possession of the book of the Covenant and who fulfilled the precepts of the Law, as the royal decree had ordered. But in spite of all this, many Israelites still remained firm and determined not to eat unclean food. They preferred to die rather than to make themselves unclean with those foods prohibited by the Law that violated the Holy Covenant. And Israel suffered a very great trial.

Alternative reading (Mass for Dedication of the Basilicas)

Acts 28 : 11-16, 30-31

After three months, we boarded a ship that had spent the winter at the island. It belonged to an Alexandrian company, and carried the figurehead of Castor and Pollux as insignia. We sailed for Syracuse, staying there for three days; and, after circling the coast, we arrived at Rhegium.

On the following day, a south wind began to blow, and, at the end of two days, we arrived at Puteoli, where we found some of our brothers, who invited us to stay with them for a week. And that was how we came to Rome. There, the brothers and sisters had been informed of our arrival, and came out to meet us as far as the Appian Forum and the Three Taverns.

When Paul saw them, he gave thanks to God and took courage. Upon our arrival in Rome, the captain turned the prisoners over to the military governor, but permitted Paul to lodge in a private house, with the soldier who guarded him.

Paul stayed for two whole years, in a house he, himself, rented, where he received, without any hindrance, all those who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God, and taught the truth about Jesus Christ, the Lord, quite openly and without any hindrance.