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.”

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."