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.

Monday, 5 August 2019 : 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 80 : 12-13, 14-15, 16-17

But My people did not listen; Israel did not obey. So I gave them over to their stubbornness and they followed their own counsels.

If only My people would listen, if only Israel would walk in My ways, I would quickly subdue their adversaries and turn My hand against their enemies.

Those who hate YHVH would cringe before Him, and their panic would last forever. I would feed you with the finest wheat and satisfy you with honey from the rock.

Monday, 5 August 2019 : 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 11 : 4b-15

The Israelites wept and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish we ate without cost in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and garlic. Now our appetite is gone; there is nothing to look at, nothing but manna.”

Now the manna was like coriander seed and had the appearance of bedellium. The people went about gathering it up and then ground it between millstones or pounded it in a mortar. They boiled it in a pot and made cakes with it which tasted like cakes made with oil. As soon as dew fell at night in the camp, the manna came with it.

Moses heard the people crying, family by family at the entrance to their tent and YHVH became very angry. This displeased Moses. Then Moses said to YHVH, “Why have You treated Your servant so badly? Is it because You do not love me that You burdened me with this people? Did I conceive all these people and did I give them birth?”

“And now You want me to carry them in my bosom as a nurse carries an infant, to the land You promised on oath to their fathers? Where would I get meat for all these people, when they cry to me saying :’Give us meat that we may eat?'”

“I cannot, myself alone, carry all these people; the burden is too heavy for me. Kill me rather than treat me like this, I beg of You, if You look kindly on me, and let me not see Your anger.”

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."