Saturday, 10 December 2022 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Loreto, which marks the popular devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Holy House of Loreto where in that place of Loreto in Italy, the very House that the Holy Family lived in during their time in Nazareth, can actually be found. The story of the miraculous translation of the Holy House of Loreto had a long tradition in the Church, and it was believed that the very same House of Loreto was translated from the site of Nazareth itself, where both St. Joseph and Mary originated from, and after a few occasions and movements, was finally settled in its current place and shrine in Loreto, where many people flocked throughout the year in pilgrimages, seeking the intercession of the Blessed Mother of God, Our Lady of Loreto, and the Holy Family.

The current shrine to Our Lady of Loreto located at the shores of the Adriatic Sea is among the largest Marian shrines in the world, and is the third largest in Europe after the famous shrines at Fatima and Lourdes. The tradition described as such that the very House where Our Lord and Saviour once lived with His family, with St. Joseph, His foster father and with Mary, His mother. It was told that after the Lord’s Ascension and at the very early days of the Church, the Holy House became a place of worship by the Apostles, who celebrated the Eucharist on its very table and place, and an Altar was built in the House. This House thus eventually became a church and place of Divine worship, being so connected to the story of Our Saviour and His life and ministry, and was brought away from the Holy Land at the end of the Crusades, to avoid destruction and harm at the hands of those who sought to destroy and desecrate the sacred places connected to the Lord’s life and ministry.

According to the same tradition, the Holy House was brought by the Angels miraculously from Nazareth first to the region of Dalmatia in what is today Croatia where pilgrims went to visit just as how it was when it was still in its original place in the Holy Land. And then later on, as the pilgrims were beset by bandits and brigands, it was told that the Holy House was brought miraculously once again by the Angels before it finally settled down in Loreto, in its current place, where it had remained ever since. Ever since then, pilgrimages had come every year and at every moment, of people seeking for the intercession of the Blessed Madonna or Lady of Loreto, and the healing power from her Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as shown in the famous icon and statue of Our Lady of Loreto, the Madonna and Child enshrined within the Holy House, that remains accessible to this day.

While people have debated the authenticity and the accuracy of the accounts surrounding the translation of the Holy House from Nazareth to its current shrine at Loreto, and whether the Holy House is indeed the same House that Our Lord and Saviour had once lived in, what is important is that, given the many evidences and studies that had supported the authenticity of the Holy House, countless people throughout the years, decades and centuries had come to the Lord through His blessed and loving Mother, Our Lady of Loreto, seeking healing, consolation and help, and many became believers and were converted through their experiences and through the prayers and intercessions of our most loving and blessed mother, who extended her love and care to us just as she had loved her Son very dearly and tenderly.

As we reflect on today’s occasion of the Feast of Our Lady of Loreto, the loving Mother of God and the patroness of the miraculous Holy House of Loreto, all of us are reminded that in this season of Advent, which we have now reached approximately the halfway point, we ought to spend the time and effort to deepen our connection and relationship with God. This season of Advent is a time for us to rediscover our love and faith in God, and for us to redirect our attention and attune ourselves anew to the Lord once again. It is a time when we should embrace the Lord wholeheartedly and turn our hearts and minds to Him, to welcome Him into them and to allow Him to change our lives for the better that we may become better Christians, better followers and disciples of Our Lord and Saviour.

Let us ask ourselves whether we are truly ready to welcome the Lord into our midst, or whether we have squandered the time and opportunities given to us by the Lord, especially during this time of Advent, in focusing our attention on worldly matters and pleasures rather than on God, on His truth and love. Let us ask ourselves if we as Christians have spent more time in thinking of all of our worldly concerns and ambitions, our preoccupations with all sorts of things that distract us from the path of following God and His righteousness. And not only that, but if we have been preparing ourselves in the wrong way during this time and season of Advent, we should rectify it by realigning our actions and directions in life so that we may no longer walk in the wrong path, but may finally make good use of this time to prepare ourselves to welcome the Lord with all sincerity.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all use this time of Advent to reorientate our lives and focus, and move away from the materialistic focus that many of us often have, not just in our upcoming Christmas celebrations but also in our lives in general. Let us not allow materialism and hedonistic behaviours to sway and lead us down the wrong path, and instead, let us all remember once again the love by which God has constantly shown us, in patiently leading and guiding us towards Himself and His salvation and grace, and in welcoming all of us back to His loving embrace despite of all of our constant stubbornness and rebelliousness. Not only that but He also entrusted us all to the care of His own beloved mother, whom He entrusted to be our own mother, and she, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Loreto, as per her many other apparitions and works, has lead us ever closer to her Son, by her fervent love for us and her intercessions for our sake.

May all of us continue to walk down the path of righteousness and grace, as shown by our Lord Himself, and follow Him wholeheartedly from now on if we have not yet done so. Let us all be inspired by the faith, love and commitment which His Mother, Our Lady of Loreto, has shown us, in how she dedicated herself and obeyed perfectly, as the handmaid of the Lord, in doing God’s will and in living a life of grace and virtue, at all times. Let us all be inspired to show the same faith and love as well, in our own lives and actions, in our every interactions with one another. May God bless us always in our every endeavours and good efforts, now and forevermore. Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Loreto, pray for us sinners. Amen.

Saturday, 10 December 2022 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White

Matthew 17 : 10-13

At that time, the disciples of Jesus asked Him, “Why do the teachers of the Law say that Elijah must come first?”

Jesus answered, “So it is : first comes Elijah; and he will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come; and they did not recognise him; and they treated him as they pleased. And they will also make the Son of Man suffer.”

Then the disciples understood that Jesus was referring to John the Baptist.

Alternative reading (Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto)

Luke 1 : 26-38

In the sixth month, the Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent to a young virgin, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

The Angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But the Angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call Him Jesus. He will be great, and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the kingdom of David, His ancestor; He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and His reign shall have no end.”

Then Mary said to the Angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the Angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the Holy Child to be born of you shall be called Son of God. Even your relative Elizabeth is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child; and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible.”

Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the Angel left her.

Saturday, 10 December 2022 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White

Psalm 79 : 2ac and 3bc, 15-16, 18-19

Listen, o Shepherd of Israel, You, Who sit enthroned between the Cherubim. Stir up Your might and come to save us.

Turn again, o YHVH of hosts, look down from heaven and see; care for this vine, and protect the stock Your hand has planted.

But lay Your hand on Your instrument, on the Son of Man, Whom You make strong for Yourself. Then, we will never turn away from You; give us life, and we will call on Your Name.

Alternative Psalm (Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto)

Luke 1 : 46-47, 48-49, 50-51, 52-53, 54-55

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God, my Saviour!

He has looked upon His servant, in her lowliness, and people, forever, will call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, Holy is His Name!

From age to age, His mercy extends to those who live in His presence. He has acted with power and done wonders, and scattered the proud with their plans.

He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up those who are downtrodden. He has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty.

He held out His hand to Israel, His servant, for He remembered His mercy, even as He promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.

Saturday, 10 December 2022 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White

Sirach 48 : 1-4, 9-11

Then came the prophet Elijah, like a fire, his words a burning torch. He brought a famine on the people and in his zealous love had them reduced in number. Speaking in the Name of the Lord he closed down the heavens, and on three occasions called down fire.

How marvellous you were, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds! Who could ever boast of being your equal? You were taken up by a whirlwind of flames in a chariot drawn by fiery horses. It was written that you should be the one to calm God’s anger in the future, before it broke out in fury, to turn the hearts of fathers to their sons and to restore the tribes of Jacob.

Happy are those who will see you and those who die in love, for we too shall live.

Alternative reading (Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto)

Isaiah 7 : 10-14 and Isaiah 8 : 10

Once again YHVH addressed Ahaz, “Ask for a sign from YHVH your God, let it come either from the deepest depths or from the heights of heaven.”

But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask, I will not put YHVH to the test.” Then Isaiah said, “Now listen, descendants of David. Have you not been satisfied trying the patience of people, that you also try the patience of my God? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign : The Virgin is with Child and bears a Son and calls His Name Immanuel.”

“Devise a plan and it will be thwarted, make a resolve and it will not stand, for God-is-with-us.”