Friday, 5 August 2022 : 18th 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 the Basilica of St. Mary Major)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate as the Universal Church, the feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, also more commonly known in Italian as Santa Maria Maggiore. This is one of the four great Papal Major Basilicas, and the greatest of all the Marian churches and basilicas dedicated to Mary, the Blessed Mother of God. This great celebration of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major should serve as a moment for us all to recall the role of the Blessed Mother of God, Mary, in the history of our salvation. Through her, we have received the Saviour of the world, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The story of the Basilica began over seventeen centuries ago, at the time when persecutions against the Christian faith were just ended thanks to the Edict of Milan by Roman Emperors Constantine the Great and Licinius, marking the end of the era of persecutions and the beginning of era of rapid growth of the Christian faith. It was then that the first great Basilicas of Rome were built, including that of the old St. Peter’s Basilica, the Lateran Basilica which is the Cathedral of the Pope, and then finally this great Basilica of St. Mary Major dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God.

This Basilica was built from the miraculous occasion known as the Miracle of the Snows, in which snow fell on the height of summer in early August, on this date which became the time of its dedication all those centuries ago. The history went as follows, because a devout and elderly Christian noble couple wanted to donate and offer their properties to the Church back then and offered them to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, but they did not know what to do and where to offer it, they asked her to help them to find a way to properly make their offerings in her honour.

As the sign of her help, snow fell atop the Esquiline hill on the fifth day of August, at the height of the Roman summer as mentioned earlier. That became the site where this great Basilica dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God was built, and over the subsequent centuries, many people came to this great House of God, seeking the Lord and also asking for the intercession of His Blessed Mother Mary on their behalf. In the Basilica there also exists the very popular icon of Salus Populi Romani, an icon of the Blessed Mother of God as the Protectress of the Roman people and the city of Rome, to which our current Pope Francis always paid a visit before and after each one of his Apostolic Journeys.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice and celebrate in memory of the Dedication of this great Marian Basilica, let us all focus on the role of Mary in the story of our salvation. Mary as the Mother of God has always been full of love, nurturing care and attention to her Son Jesus, and in the same way, as each and every one of us have been entrusted by the Lord to His own mother, that she may also be our mother, hence naturally she also shows us the same love and attention, the same caring nature of a mother for her children. For all these years, Mary has always shown her care for us, appearing from time to time to her children, to remind all of us to be faithful to her Son and to turn away from our sins.

Mary has shown us what it means to be a true, genuine and virtuous Christian, and she showed us the most direct way to her Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Through her and by following her examples in faith and life, all of us can and will get ever closer to God and His salvation. On this day as we rejoice and celebrate in the memory of the Dedication of a great House of God dedicated to the Mother of God, all of us are called to put ourselves under the protection of our beloved Mother as well, constantly asking for her intercessions and prayers on our behalf, for us sinners who are in need of God’s mercy and healing.

Today, our world and societies need to grow deeper in faith, as many of us Christians had become lapsed and lukewarm in how we live our faith. We no longer commit ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord, and we become ignorant and closed against God’s calling in our lives. And even when His Mother Mary called on us, we often closed off our hearts and minds as well. We spent much more time, effort, focus and attention in trying to seek other pleasures and satisfactions in life, our many desires and pursuits rather than to follow the Lord our God faithfully as we should have done.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today let us all remind ourselves and each other that we are all God’s children, and His mother is also our mother. All of us should follow the examples that our Lord Himself and His blessed Mother have shown us, and refrain ourselves from continuing to live in the state of sin and disobedience against God. The Lord and His mother Mary have called us all to leave behind our past wickedness and sins, and come once again into the loving embrace and His saving grace, and through Mary’s help we truly can make this a reality.

May the Lord our God continue to love us and bless us each day, and may through the intercessions of His mother Mary, we may all be strengthened and encouraged to live our lives with ever greater faith from now on. Holy Mary, Holy Mother of God, pray for us your children, we who are sinners and unworthy, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 5 August 2022 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major)

Matthew 16 : 24-28

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “If you want to follow Me, deny yourself. Take up your cross and follow Me. For whoever chooses to save his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life, for My sake, will find it. What will one gain by winning the whole world, if he destroys his soul? Or what can a person give, in exchange for his life?”

“Know, that the Son of Man will come, in the glory of His Father with the holy Angels, and He will reward each one according to his deeds. Truly, I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death, before they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

Alternative reading (Mass for the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major)

Luke 11 : 27-28

At that time, as Jesus was speaking, a woman spoke from the crowd and said to Him, “Blessed is the one who gave You birth and nursed You!”

Jesus replied, “Truly blessed are those who hear the word of God, and keep it as well.”

Friday, 5 August 2022 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major)

Deuteronomy 32 : 35cd-36ab, 39abcd, 41

Their day of calamity is at hand, and swiftly their doom will come. The Lord will give justice to His people and have mercy on His servants.

Learn this now – that I alone am He; there is no god besides Me. It is I Who give both death and life; it is I Who wound and heal as well and out of My hand no one can deliver.

When I sharpen My glittering sword and My hand takes hold of judgment, I will deal out vengeance upon My foes and retribution upon those who hate Me.

Alternative reading (Mass for the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major)

Judith 13 : 18bcde, 19

My daughter, may the Most High God bless you more than all women on earth. And blessed be the Lord God, the Creator of heaven and earth, Who has led you to behead the leader of our enemies.

Never will people forget the confidence you have shown; they will always remember the power of God.

Friday, 5 August 2022 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major)

Nahum 2 : 1, 3 and Nahum 3 : 1-3, 6-7

See, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings Good News, one who proclaims peace. Judah, celebrate your feasts and carry out your vows. For the wicked have been destroyed, they will not attack you any more. YHVH will now restore Jacob’s magnificence, like Israel’s splendour. For they had been plundered, laid waste as a ravaged vineyard.

Woe to the bloody city, city of lies and booty, o city of unending plunder! But what! Crack of whips, rumble of wheels and clatter of hoofs! See the frenzied chargers, the flashing swords and glittering spears, the heaps of the wounded, the dead and dying – we trip over corpses!

I will pelt you with filth, I will treat you with contempt and make of you a shameful show, so that all who look on you will turn their backs in disgust and say : Nineveh – a city of lust – is in ruins. Who will mourn for her? Where can we find one to comfort her?

Alternative reading (Mass for the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major)

Revelations 21 : 1-5a

Then, I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and no longer was there any sea. I saw the new Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down from God, out of heaven, adorned as a bride prepared for her husband.

A loud voice came from the throne, “Here is the dwelling of God among mortals : He will pitch His tent among them, and they will be His people; He will be God-with-them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There shall be no more death or mourning, crying out or pain, for the world that was, has passed away.”

The One seated on the throne said, “See, I make all things new.”

Monday, 5 August 2019 : 18th 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 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.

Monday, 5 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major)

Matthew 14 : 13-21

At that time, when Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, He set out by boat for a secluded place, to be alone. But the people heard of it, and they followed Him on foot from their towns. When Jesus went ashore, He saw the crowd gathered there, and He had compassion on them. And He healed their sick.

Late in the afternoon, His disciples came to Him and said, “We are in a lonely place and it is now late. You should send these people away, so that they can go to the villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” But Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat.” They answered, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fishes.” Jesus said to them, “Bring them here to Me.”

Then He made everyone sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves and the two fishes, raised His eyes to heaven, pronounced the blessing, broke the loaves, and handed them to the disciples to distribute to the people. And they all ate, and everyone had enough; then the disciples gathered up the leftovers, filling twelve baskets. About five thousand men had eaten there, besides women and children.

Alternative reading

Matthew 14 : 22-36

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!”

They came ashore at Gennesaret. The local people recognised Jesus and spread the news throughout the region. So they brought to Him all the sick people, begging Him to let them touch just the hem of His cloak. All who touched it became perfectly well.

Monday, 5 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major)

Psalm 80 : 12-13, 14-15, 16-17

But My people did not listen; Israel did not obey. So I gave them over to their stubbornness and they followed their own counsels.

If only My people would listen, if only Israel would walk in My ways, I would quickly subdue their adversaries and turn My hand against their enemies.

Those who hate YHVH would cringe before Him, and their panic would last forever. I would feed you with the finest wheat and satisfy you with honey from the rock.

Monday, 5 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major)

Numbers 11 : 4b-15

The Israelites wept and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish we ate without cost in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and garlic. Now our appetite is gone; there is nothing to look at, nothing but manna.”

Now the manna was like coriander seed and had the appearance of bedellium. The people went about gathering it up and then ground it between millstones or pounded it in a mortar. They boiled it in a pot and made cakes with it which tasted like cakes made with oil. As soon as dew fell at night in the camp, the manna came with it.

Moses heard the people crying, family by family at the entrance to their tent and YHVH became very angry. This displeased Moses. Then Moses said to YHVH, “Why have You treated Your servant so badly? Is it because You do not love me that You burdened me with this people? Did I conceive all these people and did I give them birth?”

“And now You want me to carry them in my bosom as a nurse carries an infant, to the land You promised on oath to their fathers? Where would I get meat for all these people, when they cry to me saying :’Give us meat that we may eat?'”

“I cannot, myself alone, carry all these people; the burden is too heavy for me. Kill me rather than treat me like this, I beg of You, if You look kindly on me, and let me not see Your anger.”

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.

Saturday, 5 August 2017 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major (Gospel Reading)

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

Matthew 14 : 1-12

At that time, the reports about Jesus reached king Herod. And he said to his servants, "This Man is John the Baptist. John has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in John."

Herod had, in fact, ordered that John be arrested, bound in chains and put in prison, because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had said to Herod, "It is not right for you to have her as your wife." Herod wanted to kill him but he did not dare, because he feared the people, who regarded John as a prophet.

On Herod's birthday the daughter of Herodias danced among the guests; she so delighted Herod that he promised under oath to give her anything she asked for. The girl, following the advice of her mother, said, "Give me the head of John the Baptist, here, on a dish."

The king was very displeased, but because he had made his promise under oath, in the presence of his guests, he ordered it to be given to her. So he had John beheaded in prison, and his head brought on a dish and given to the girl. The girl then took it to her mother.

Then John's disciple came, took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.

Alternative reading (Mass for the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major)

Luke 11 : 27-28

At that time, as Jesus was speaking, a woman spoke from the crowd and said to Him, "Blessed is the one who gave You birth and nursed You!"

Jesus replied, "Truly blessed are those who hear the word of God, and keep it as well."