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.”

Thursday, 18 November 2021 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter and the Basilica of St. Paul (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter and the Basilica of St. Paul)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Feast of the Dedication of not just one but two of the four great Major Papal Basilicas in Rome, namely the Papal Basilica of St. Peter in Vatican as well as the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. These two great Basilica are among the most prominent churches in Christendom, just below in prestige and honour to the Papal Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome and the Pope, which Dedication we just celebrated earlier this month.

These two great Papal Basilicas were also appropriately named and consecrated in the name of the two great Apostles of the Lord, the patrons and protectors of the city of Rome and the Universal Church, for St. Peter the Apostle, the Prince of the Apostles and the first Vicar of Christ, and St. Paul the Apostle, the Apostle to the Gentiles, were both martyred in Rome after many long years of ministering to the Church of God and the faithful.

The Papal Basilica of St. Peter, probably the most famous of all the churches in the world is where the Pope currently celebrates most of his liturgical celebrations, as the largest church in all Christendom and also as it is adjacent to his residence in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican City. It also stands atop the site where St. Peter was likely martyred during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero in the first great persecution of Christians, with the tomb of St. Peter located just below the great Altar of the Basilica.

Meanwhile, the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls as its name suggests, was located outside the old boundaries of the ancient city of Rome, at the exact site mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles as the place in which St. Paul resided during his time in Rome. He had relatively a lot of freedom in Rome and went about quite freely among the people, both the Jewish diaspora in Rome and among the Gentiles alike, ministering to the faithful and proclaiming the truth and the Good News of God.

As we recall today the moment when these two great Houses of God, the worthy places and Temples of His Holy Presence, were consecrated to God and dedicated to Him, we are therefore called and reminded that we are all also God’s Holy Temples, the Temples of His Holy Presence, the Temples of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul himself in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth spoke of this, comparing each and every one of us to the Temple of the Holy Spirit, exactly because God Himself has dwelled in us, by the Holy Spirit He has sent down to us, as well as through our partaking of the Eucharist, Our Lord’s own Most Precious Body and Blood.

As such, we are all reminded through the examples set by the two great Apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul, whose names adorn those two great Basilicas, that we all have to be faithful to the Lord in the same manner as St. Peter and St. Paul had been faithful and committed to God in all things. And if we think that we are unworthy or that it is impossible for us to be faithful to God as they had been faithful, then we have to remember that those two great Apostles were themselves once also ordinary, sinful men.

St. Peter was an uneducated and illiterate fisherman, whom the Lord called to follow Him at the shore of Lake Galilee. This same St. Peter was the one who denied knowing the Lord three times at the moment of His arrest and suffering during His Passion, and denied Him publicly before all, even after he declared that he would die for the sake of the Lord just earlier on the same night. It is the same St. Peter whose faith was wavering as we heard in our Gospel passage today, when the Lord asked him to come towards Him in the middle of the storm, walking on the water.

Then for St. Paul the Apostle, he was once a great enemy of the Church and all the faithful, being a young zealot among the Pharisees named Saul who was dead set on destroying the Church and persecuting all the faithful, all who proclaimed the Name of Jesus and His teachings. St. Paul as Saul persecuted thousands across Judea and beyond, and was feared by many of the faithful, who went into hiding in fear of the retribution and the actions of that young zealot and others who persecuted them.

As you can see, both Apostles were once great sinners and flawed, that many would not have imagined how these two could have become great Apostles, as the greatest of the Lord’s champions and defenders in the end. Yet, that was what had exactly happened. God did not choose the holy and worthy, the powerful, intelligent or mighty to be His disciples, but rather, He empower those whom He had called and chosen, who responded to His call and committed themselves to Him, to be holy and worthy, as St. Peter and St. Paul had done.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? Are we willing to respond to God’s call as well? Through baptism, all of us have responded to God’s call, but many of us are still not yet truly committed to Him. Many of us still keep on holding to our past, sinful practices and way of life, and many still have placed the Lord as secondary in importance in their lives. Are we then able and willing to embrace the Lord and His calling for us, to accept the mission entrusted to us and to live our lives worthily as holy and devout Christians from now on?

Let us discern these carefully today as we remember our great rejoicing on this Feast of the Dedication of the Papal Basilicas of St. Peter in Vatican and St. Paul Outside the Walls. May all of us, God’s living Holy Temples, the Temples of His Holy Presence continue to strive to keep ourselves holy and worthy, that in our every words, actions and deeds, we will always be exemplary in our Christian living and conduct, and do our best to proclaim the truth of God in all things, following the courageous examples of St. Peter and St. Paul, Holy Apostles of God. Amen.

Thursday, 18 November 2021 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter and the Basilica of St. Paul (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter and the Basilica of St. Paul)

Luke 19 : 41-44

At that time, when Jesus had come in sight of the city, He wept over it, and said, “If only today you knew the ways of peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Yet days will come upon you, when your enemies will surround you with barricades, and shut you in, and press on you from every side.”

“And they will dash you to the ground and your children with you, and not leave stone upon stone within you, for you did not recognise the time and the visitation of your God.”

Alternative reading (Mass for the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter and the Basilica of St. Paul)

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!”

Thursday, 18 November 2021 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter and the Basilica of St. Paul (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter and the Basilica of St. Paul)

Psalm 49 : 1-2, 5-6, 14-15

The God of gods, YHVH has spoken; He summons the earth, from the rising of the sun to its setting. God has shone from Zion, perfect in beauty.

Gather before Me, My faithful ones, who made a Covenant with Me by sacrifice. The heavens will proclaim His sentence, for God Himself is the Judge.

Yet, offer to God a sacrifice of thanks, and fulfil your vows to the Most High. Call on Me in time of calamity; I will deliver you, and you will glorify Me.

Alternative reading (Mass for the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter and the Basilica of St. Paul)

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!

Thursday, 18 November 2021 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter and the Basilica of St. Paul (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter and the Basilica of St. Paul)

1 Maccabees 2 : 15-29

In the meantime, the king’s representatives, who were forcing the Jews to give up their religion came to Modein to organise a sacred gathering. While many Israelites went to them, Mattathias and his sons drew apart.

The representatives of the king addressed Mattathias, and said to him : “You are one of the leaders of this city, an important and well-known man, and your many children and relatives follow you. Come now, and be the first to fulfil the king’s order, as the men of Judah have already done, and the survivors in Jerusalem as well. You and your sons will be named friends of the king and the king will send you gold, silver and many other gifts.”

But Mattathias answered in a loud voice : “Even if all the nations included in the kingdom should abandon the religion of their ancestors and submit to the order of king Antiochus, I, my sons and my family will remain faithful to the Covenant of our ancestors. May God preserve us from abandoning the Law and its precepts. We will not obey the orders of the king nor turn aside from our religion either to the right or to the left.”

When he finished speaking these words, a Jew came forward, in the sight of everyone, to offer incense on the altar that was built in Modein, according to the king’s decree. When Mattathias saw him, he was fired with zeal. His heart was stirred; and giving vent to his righteous anger, he threw himself on the Jew and cut the man’s throat on the altar. At the same time, he killed the king’s representative who was forcing the people to offer sacrifice; and then tore down the altar. In doing this, he showed his zeal for the Law, as Phinehas had done with Zimri, son of Salu.

Mattathias then began to proclaim loudly in the city : “Everyone who is zealous for the Law and supports the Covenant, come out and follow me!” Immediately, he and his sons fled to the mountains and left behind all they had in the city. Many Jews who looked for justice and wanted to be faithful to the Law went into the desert.

Alternative reading (Mass for the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter and the Basilica of St. Paul)

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.

Thursday, 5 August 2021 : 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 all celebrate the great feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, also known as Santa Maria Maggiore, one of the four great Major Basilicas of the Church, and the principal Marian shrine of the whole world. We celebrate the moment of its dedication, honouring its dedication to the Holy Mother of God, historically known as Our Lady of the Snows, and also more popularly as the Protectress of the Roman people, the guardian of the Holy City of Rome, Salus Populi Romani. Our current Pope, Pope Francis often visited the famous icon of the Salus Populi Romani at the Basilica of St. Mary Major before and after his Apostolic Journeys around the world.

This great Basilica is one of the oldest churches in Rome, dating from the earliest times that churches could be openly built throughout Rome and the Roman Empire. It was built on a place donated by an elderly noble Roman family, who according to the Church history and tradition, wished to give and contribute to the Church, and prayed that they could be given a hint of what they ought to do. The Lord gave them a vision, pointing to a miracle that would happen in the midst of summer back then, when snow fell heavily on a spot, where today the great Basilica now stands.

Therefore, according to tradition, the land was donated by the family to the Church, which then built a great church building dedicated to Our Lady of the Snows, as it was told that by Mary, the Mother of God’s intercession and apparition to the elderly couple, that the building and the miracle came to be. That occurrence impressed a lot of people as snow fell in the midst of high summer in August, an occurrence that was truly miraculous.

As we celebrate the memory of the Consecration and Dedication of this Basilica to the Holy Mother of God, our loving mother and intercessor, the greatest of all saints, we are first and foremost reminded of the special role that Mary has always had in our salvation and our lives. Mary is our role model, showing us what it means for us to be committed and faithful disciples of the Lord, as she lived her whole life in total obedience to the will of God.

At the same time, Mary is also our greatest ally in the struggle we encounter daily through sin and its many temptations. She has always watched over us and interceded for us, all the more important for us because she is ever the closest to the Lord, her own beloved Son, in heaven. Who can better champion for our cause other than the Mother of God herself? And this is part of the reason for the strong Marian devotion that is anchored in the popular Salus Populi Romani in the Basilica of St. Mary Major.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we are reminded of Mary’s example of faith and dedication to God, and as rejoice in the anniversary of the Dedication of the great Basilica of St. Mary Major, we are all called to remember that we are all also the living Church, consecrated and dedicated to God through baptism and the rest of the Sacraments of Initiation. We are all the Holy Temples of God’s Presence, as we have shared in His own Body and Blood in the Eucharist, His Real Presence, and the Holy Spirit sent down to us, dwelling within us.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all remind ourselves that we have to strive to lead a holy life, a life dedicated to God and committed to righteousness and goodness in God. Unless we commit ourselves in this manner, we will not be able to come closer to the Lord, and through sin and evil, we may even be led further and further away from Him. And if we defile the sanctity of these Temples, that are our bodies, our hearts and minds, and our souls, then the sins and the wickedness we have done will weigh heavily upon us.

Let us all therefore do whatever we can in order to seek the Lord with a new spirit and commitment, and do whatever we can to glorify Him through our daily actions and deeds, so that in everything we do, we shall always follow Him and the examples set by His mother Mary, and all the multitudes of the holy saints and martyrs, all the blesseds and holy men and women who had gone before us to the Lord, those who were judged to be worthy of God by their virtuous life.

May God be with us always, and may He strengthen each and every one of us with the resolve and courage to live our lives ever more faithfully with each and every passing moments. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 5 August 2021 : 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 : 13-23

At that time, Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They said, “For some of them, You are John the Baptist; for others Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “It is well for you, Simon Barjona, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you, but My Father in heaven.”

“And now I say to you : You are Peter; and on this Rock I will build My Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven : whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.”

Then He ordered His disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Christ. From that day, Jesus began to make it clear to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem; that He would suffer many things from the Jewish authorities, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law; and that He would be killed and be raised on the third day.

Then Peter took Him aside and began to reproach Him, “Never, Lord! No, this must never happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an obstacle in My path. You are thinking not as God does, but as people do.”

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.”