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.”

Thursday, 5 August 2021 : 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 94 : 1-2, 6-7, 8-9

Come, let us sing to the Lord, let us make a joyful sound to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before Him giving thanks, with music and songs of praise.

Come and worship; let us bow down, kneel before the Lord, our Maker. He is our God, and we His people; the flock He leads and pastures. Would that today you heard His voice!

Do not be stubborn, as at Meribah, in the desert, on that day at Massah, when your ancestors challenged Me, and they put Me to the test.

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.

Thursday, 5 August 2021 : 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 20 : 1-13

The whole congregation of Israel came to the wilderness of Zin in the first month and the people stayed in Kadesh. Miriam died and was buried there.

Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered together against Moses and Aaron. They disputed with Moses saying, “Would that we had perished with our kinsmen in the presence of YHVH! Why have you led YHVH’s community to this desert to die here with our cattle? And why did you bring us out of Egypt to this wretched place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates and there is not even water for drinking.”

Moses and Aaron fled from the assembly to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting and fell on their faces. Then the glory of YHVH appeared and YHVH spoke to Moses, “Take your rod and assemble the community, you and Aaron, your brother. In their presence command the rock to give forth water and you will make water gush from the rock for the community and their livestock to drink.”

So Moses took the rod from before YHVH as he had been ordered. Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly in front of the rock and said to them, “Listen, you rebels. Shall we bring water for you from this rock?” Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod. And then water in abundance gushed out for the community and their livestock to drink.

But YHVH said to Moses and Aaron, “You did not trust Me nor treat Me as the Holy One in the sight of the Israelites; because of that you shall not lead this community into the land that I am giving you.” It was at the waters of Meribah that the sons of Israel quarrelled with YHVH and where He showed His holiness to them.

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.”

Wednesday, 5 August 2020 : 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 as we listened to the words of the Scripture we rejoice in the remembrance of the historic event of the Dedication or Consecration of the Papal Basilica St. Mary Major, also known well by its Italian name, Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore. This is one of the four great Papal Major Basilicas, and it is also the most important of churches and basilicas dedicated to the Blessed Mother of God.

The Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major is a great Marian shrine, most well-known for its holy icon of the ‘Maria Salus Populi Romani’ or the Protectress of the Roman people. This icon is a Byzantine style icon that dated from the fifth or century after the birth of Christ, and therefore had been around in Rome for a very long time, and was well-known and had great following both in Rome and beyond. In recent years, our Supreme Pontiff, Pope Francis had been visiting the icon before and after his foreign trips and thus made the icon even more popular.

The icon of ‘Salus Populi Romani’ further highlighted the Marian character of this great church and Basilica, but how did this Basilica came up to be in the first place? It was one of the oldest churches in Rome, lasting from the late era of the Roman Empire, from a time not long after Christianity was tolerated and eventually became the official faith of the entire Empire. This Basilica was also often known as the Basilica of Our Lady of Snows for the well-known miraculous occurrence that led to the foundation of the Basilica.

It was told in the Church history and tradition that a Roman patrician named John and his wife made a vow to donate their personal land and wealth as they had no son and heir to continue their family and inherit their legacy. They made the vow to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and they prayed asking for guidance and help in finding the proper site to build a church dedicated to God and to His blessed Mother.

And in the most wonderful and miraculous way, on the fifth day of August, on one of the hills of Rome, the Esquiline Hill on which the Basilica of St. Mary Major now stands, during the very height of the hot Roman summer, snow falls on the hill and covered the very spot that Mary had marked for this great shrine and church. And that was how this great Basilica dedicated to Our Lady of Snows, the Blessed Virgin Mary, came to be.

Ever since then, the Basilica had stood for many centuries as the symbol of the faith that all of us mankind has in the Lord through His mother Mary, and it has become a strong rallying point and place for devotees and the faithful, inspiring many to return to the faith. And this homage to the Blessed Mother of God was also part of the affirmation that came with the official recognition of Mary as the Mother of God at the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, which took place around the time the Basilica was built and dedicated.

Why is it that we have such great dedication and devotion to Mary? That is because we honour her first and foremost as the Mother of God, by virtue of her being the mother of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, Who is both God and Man, and because Mary is the Mother of Him Who is God Incarnate, that is why she is also the Mother of God. And throughout history the mother of an important persona, such as rulers and kings have always had great honour applied to them.

And even more so than just this, Mary is so honoured because of her exemplary faith and dedication, her righteousness and piety, her love for her Son, all the virtues she has possessed that are great examples and inspiration for each and every one of us. Indeed, if the Lord were to point out for someone or an example for us to follow, first and foremost, He is likely to say, “There is My mother, follow her and her examples, devote yourself to her, and you will find the straightest path to heaven.”

That is why, as we celebrate the Dedication of this church and House of God, we recall Mary, the mother of God, and her brilliant examples in faith. Let us all follow her and be inspired by her and love God wholeheartedly as Mary had once done. Let us all look towards the Lord with faith, and commit ourselves anew to Him, with His mother Mary by our side, guiding us on the path forward that we will always do what the Lord has taught us to do, that indeed, we will be blessed because we obey God’s will and does what He wants us to do as said in our Gospel passage today.

O Holy Mother of God, Mary, Our Lady of Snows, most virtuous and wonderful of all the children of man, pray for us and intercede for our sake always, before your Son in heaven. Pray for all of us sinners now, and at the hour death, and lead us all into your Son, that He may show us mercy and forgive us our sins. Amen.

Wednesday, 5 August 2020 : 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 15 : 21-28

At that time, leaving that area, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from the area, came and cried out, “Lord, Son of David, have pity on me! My daughter is tormented by a demon.”

But Jesus did not answer her, not even a word. So His disciples approached Him and said, “Send her away! See how she is shouting after us.” Then Jesus said to her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the nation of Israel.”

But the woman was already kneeling before Jesus, and said, “Sir, help me!” Jesus answered, “It is not right to take the bread from the children and throw it to puppies.”

The woman replied, “That is true, Sir, but even puppies eat the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said, “Woman, how great is your faith! Let it be as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

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.”

Wednesday, 5 August 2020 : 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)

Jeremiah 31 : 10, 11-12ab, 13

Hear the word of YHVH, o nations, proclaim it on distant coastlands : He Who scattered Israel will gather them and guard them as a shepherd guard his flock.

For YHVH has ransomed Jacob and redeemed him from the hand of his conqueror. They shall come shouting for joy, while ascending Zion; they will come streaming to YHVH’s blessings.

Maidens will make merry and dance, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness, I will give them comfort and joy for sorrow.

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.

Wednesday, 5 August 2020 : 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)

Jeremiah 31 : 1-7

YHVH declares that when that time comes He will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be His people. Thus says YHVH : The people who survived the sword have found grace in the desert. As Israel was seeking for his rest YHVH appeared from afar saying, I have loved you with a love everlasting, so I have kept for you My mercy. I will restore you again, and you shall be rebuilt, o virgin Israel!”

“You will take up your tambourines and go out dancing joyfully. You will plant vineyards again on the hills of Samaria, and the farmers who plant them will enjoy their fruit. There shall be a day when watchmen will call out on the hills of Ephraim, “Come, let us go to Zion, to YHVH our God!”

For YHVH says this, “Shout with joy for Jacob; rejoice for the greatest of nations. Proclaim your praise and say : ‘YHVH has saved His people, the remnant of Israel!’”

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.