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."

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

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

Psalm 66 : 2-3, 5, 7-8

May God be gracious and bless us; may He let His face shine upon us; that Your way be known on earth and Your salvation, among the nations.

May the countries be glad and sing for joy, for You rule the peoples with justice; and guide the nations of the world.

The land has given its harvest; God, our God, has blessed us. May God bless us and be revered, to the very ends of the earth.

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.

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

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

Leviticus 25 : 1, 8-17

YHVH spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai : "When seven Sabbaths of years have passed, that is, seven times seven years, there shall be the time of the seven weeks of years, that is forty-nine years. Then on the tenth day of the seventh month sound the trumpet loudly. On this Day of Atonement sound the trumpet all through the land."

"Keep holy the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom for all the inhabitants of the land. It shall be a jubilation year for you when each one shall recover his property and go back to his family. In this fiftieth year, your year of Jubilee, you shall neither sow nor reap the aftergrowth, nor gather the grapes from the uncultivated vines. This Jubilee year shall be holy for you, and you shall eat what the field yields of itself without cultivation."

"In this year of Jubilee each of you shall recover his own property. When you sell something to your neighbour or buy something from him, do not wrong one another. According to the number of years after the Jubilee, you shall buy it from your neighbour and according to the number of years left for harvesting crops he shall sell to you."

"When the years are many the price shall be greater and when the years are few the price shall be less, for it is the number of crops that he is selling to you. So you shall not wrong one another but you shall fear your God, for I am YHVH, your God."

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."

Friday, 4 August 2017 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest, Patron of All Priests (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard first of all the reading from the Book of Leviticus, in which God dictated to His people the important dates and feast throughout the entire year, a constant reminder that God is always with His people, and we who have been loved by God and blessed by His graces, must also love Him and dedicate ourselves, our efforts and indeed, our entire beings to Him.

Yet, many of us tend to forget these obligations that we have to Him. We do not recognise the work of God among us, and His presence among us. In the Gospel today, all of us have heard how the people of Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus rejected Him, just because they thought that He was a fraud and a trickster, Who because of His humble family origin as the Son of a carpenter, Joseph, His foster father, then He could not have done all the wondrous things which He had done.

That was despite all the miracles and wonders He had performed among them in the neighbouring areas of Capernaum and Bethsaida. But the people of Nazareth preferred to give in to their human pride and ego, to their human intellect and wisdom, and to their limited understanding of the divine truth. They refused to accept the fact that One Who have walked among them and One Whom they had seen growing up from a mere Child, could be the Messiah and Saviour of the whole world, and less still, God Himself, Divine Incarnate.

They have hardened their hearts against God and forgot their obligation to Him. Yet, He still wanted to absolve them their sins, and therefore, He showed forth His mercy and love through Christ, by His merciful and loving works among us, and by His ultimate loving sacrifice on the cross, through which He opened wide for us all, the path to eternal life and glory, if we are to be reconciled with Him and be faithful in Him, walking in His path.

That is why, He, as our Good Shepherd, wants us all His sheep to be reunited with Him, and He therefore awakened in many of His followers, the desire and the calling to follow in His footsteps as shepherds to His flock, to help and guide those sheep on their way to their one and only True Master, Jesus Christ our Lord. They are the successors of the first shepherds, the Apostles and disciples of the Lord, whom God had appointed to be His holy priests.

Today, all of us celebrate together the feast day of the patron of all the holy priests of God. He is St. John Maria Vianney, also known by his nickname, the Cure of Ars. St. John Vianney was known far and wide, even until today, as a holy and devoted priest, who was pious in all of his deeds, and utterly dedicated to the Lord and to His people, among whom he had performed many wonders and miracles, tending to the poor and the sick, both those who are physically and spiritually afflicted.

It was told that thousands upon thousands came to see St. John Vianney, to confess their multitudes of sins, to confide themselves to his care and love, and to seek to be forgiven from their trespasses and wickedness. Many were healed of their afflictions and even had the evil spirits cast out from them. He encountered many difficulties throughout his mission in the parish church of Ars, where he was assigned to, and from which he gained his fame as the Cure of Ars, the caretaker and guide of the people entrusted to him.

Many people came to him seeking God's love and mercy, and St. John Vianney faithfully and patiently fulfilled his duties and obligations, as part of his vocation of priesthood. He showed all of us the exemplary role of a priest, whom God had called and chosen from among His followers and disciples, to be His representatives in this world, as our priests have been ordained and given the same power that God had given to His disciples, to forgive sins and to bring His blessings upon the people.

And they are the links that God had established between Himself and us. The holy and devout priests are those who have shown the concrete love and presence of God among us, through their tireless dedication, commitment and piety, by which they imitated the High Priest of all, Jesus Christ. For Christ Himself had served His people, loving them and caring for them even when those same people rejected Him, ridiculed Him and refused to allow Him to love them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on this, on the life and commitment of St. John Vianney as I have just mentioned, and the love of Christ our Lord for us. Let us then strive to be ever more committed and faithful Christians, no longer lukewarm in our faith, or acting as the people of Nazareth had done, in turning away from the Lord and trusting more in their own human wisdom and power. Let us all walk ever more faithfully in God's path, following the footsteps of the holy saints and guided by our holy priests.

And for those of us whom God had called to be His priests, let us all discern well and carefully in our hearts, that we may be able to make a carefully thought and planned choice, that there will be many among us who will walk in the footsteps of St. John Vianney, holy priest and Patron saint of all priests. Let us all learn from his examples, and make ourselves ever more devoted and committed servants and followers of our God. St. John Vianney, pray for us all, God's beloved people. Amen.

Friday, 4 August 2017 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest, Patron of All Priests (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 13 : 54-58

At that time, Jesus went to His hometown and taught the people in their synagogue. They were amazed and said, "Where did He get this wisdom and these special powers? Is He not the carpenter's Son? Is Mary not His mother and are James, Joseph, Simon and Judas not His brothers? Are not all His sisters living here? Where did He get all these things?" And so they took offence at Him.

Jesus said to them, "The only place where prophets are not welcome is his hometown and in his own family." And He did not perform many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

Friday, 4 August 2017 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest, Patron of All Priests (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 80 : 3-4, 5-6ab, 10-11ab

Start the music, strike the timbrel, play melodies on the harp and lyre. Sound the trumpet at the new moon, on our feast day, when the new moon is full.

This is a decree for Israel, an ordinance of the God of Jacob, a statute He wrote for Joseph when he went out of Egypt.

There shall be no strange god among you, you shall not worship any alien god, for I, YHVH, am your God.

Friday, 4 August 2017 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Vianney, Priest, Patron of All Priests (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Leviticus 23 : 1, 4-11, 15-16, 27, 34b-37

YHVH spoke to Moses, "Then there are appointed feasts of YHVH at the times fixed for them, when you are to proclaim holy assemblies. At twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month is YHVH's Passover. And on the fifteenth day of this month it is YHVH's feast of Unleavened Bread."

For seven days you shall eat bread without leaven. On the first day there will be a sacred assembly and no work of a worker shall be done. For seven days you shall present an offering by fire to YHVH and on the seventh day you shall hold a sacred assembly and do no work of a worker."

YHVH spoke to Moses and said, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them : When you enter the land that I will give you and you reap its harvest, you will bring to the priest a sheaf, the first fruits of your harvest and he shall wave the sheaf before YHVH for you to be accepted; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it."

"From the day after the Sabbath, on which you bring the sheaf of offering, you are to count seven full weeks. The day after the seventh Sabbath will be the fiftieth day and then you are to offer YHVH a new offering. The tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. You are to hold a sacred assembly. You must fast, and you must offer a burnt offering to YHVH."

"The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of Tents for YHVH, lasting seven days. The first day you shall hold an assembly; you must do no work of a worker. For seven days you must offer a burnt offering to YHVH. On the eighth day you are to hold a sacred assembly and you must offer a burnt offering to YHVH. It is a day of solemn assembly in which you shall do no work of a worker."

"These are the appointed feasts of YHVH in which you are to proclaim holy assemblies for the purpose of offering offerings by fire, burnt offerings, grain offerings and drink offerings to YHVH, according to the ritual of each day."

Thursday, 3 August 2017 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded of God's love for us, beginning from what we have heard in the first reading, taken from the Book of Exodus, in which we heard about how Moses commissioned and dedicated the Holy Tent of Meeting, which would become the centre and focus of the community of Israel as they journeyed through the desert for forty years, and also later on once they were in the Promised Land.

For the Holy Tent of Meeting was the house of God Himself, Who have willingly come down to dwell among His people, through the Covenant He had established with them, and through the Law which He had passed onto them through Moses. He had become their God, and they had become His people. It was God's love for them which allowed this to happen, and therefore, all of us who have received such a great honour and grace should be happy and be joyful.

And yet, at the same time, we are also reminded through the Gospel passage today, that God's love for us also require us to love Him in the same manner. He has unconditionally given us all His love, by reaching out to us even when we are still sinners and unworthy of Him. He gave us the opportunities in order to redeem ourselves, and to turn away from our wickedness and rebellious ways. But, if we ourselves refuse to turn away from those sins, and close our hearts against Him, then what the Lord Jesus spoke of in the Gospel passage today will come true.

The Lord spoke of the kingdom of heaven in a parable, comparing it to a huge fishing net, gathering many fishes of all types and kinds, of all sizes and shapes. This corresponds to how the Lord wants to gather all the people, of all races and from all the nations, to come to Him and to be reconciled with Him. This is why He sent forth His Apostles and disciples with the command, 'Go and make disciples of all the nations, and baptise them in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!'.

However, many of us do not remain true and faithful to our faith, and we often failed to obey the commandments of God. We put the priority to our own selfish desires and succumbing to our greed, and thus ignoring what we should have done in life, that is to be committed and dedicated to God in all of our words, actions and deeds. Instead, we let our desires to take control over us, dictating our actions, causing conflict, pain and suffering on others at times just so that we may satisfy our own needs.

As a result, we have become the bad fishes, which in accordance to the Gospel passage, will be disposed of at the time when the Lord came to judge all of us. The Angels of God would be the ones to sort out the good from the bad, and while the good ones will end up being chosen as they are considered worthy, the bad ones will be discarded and destroyed.

In the same way therefore, unless we change our way of life, that we obey the Lord and His laws, we will end up leading ourselves down the way towards eternal damnation and suffering in hell, where there will be no escape or hope for salvation. The Lord might have indeed shown us all His love and mercy, unconditional and generous, but if we have closed the doors of our hearts to these, then the Lord Himself will also reject us at the time of reckoning.

What is it then, that we all as Christians need to do? All of us must be faithful to the Covenant which God had made with us all. Just as He made the Covenant with Israel with the help of Moses, He had made another, everlasting and true Covenant through none other than the loving sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. And a Covenant is a pact made between two parties, that requires both of them to be faithful to the Covenant.

Therefore, as the Lord our God is always faithful to His Covenant with us, for He cannot possibly lie or be untruthful about what He has promised us all, now it falls unto us His people, that we should do our part to fulfil the part we have in our Covenant with God. And how do we do that, brothers and sisters? It is by our showing of love to one another, by being merciful to our fellow men, forgiving one another our faults, and by showing tender care and compassion to the poor and to the sick.

Let us all not be deterred by the amount of hard work that we need to put in, in order for us to be worthy of God. For it is indeed going to be quite challenging for us to lead a life that is dedicated to God, and is considered righteous before God. Yet, if we make the effort to do so, and consciously begin to do what the Lord had taught us to do, even in small and simple things, slowly all of us will put ourselves firmly on the path towards God's salvation and grace.

May the Lord be with us always and may He continue to guide us through this journey we have in life, that we may always strive to be faithful to the Covenant which He had established with us, and so that we will be found worthy of the kingdom of heaven, and the eternal life and glory God had prepared for all those who are faithful to Him. Let us all be truly faithful, not just in mere words, but also through all of our deeds and actions in life. Amen.

Thursday, 3 August 2017 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 13 : 47-53

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a big fishing net, let down into the sea, in which every kind of fish has been caught. When the net is full, it is dragged ashore. Then they sit down and gather the good fish into buckets, but throw the bad away. That is how it will be at the end of time; the Angels will go out to separate the wicked from the just, and to throw the wicked into the blazing furnace, where they will weep and gnash their teeth."

Jesus asked, "Have you understood all these things?" "Yes," they answered. So He said to them, "Therefore, every teacher of the Law who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven, is like a householder, who can produce from his store things both new and old."

When Jesus had finished these parables, He left that place.