Friday, 5 August 2022 : 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 celebrate as the Universal Church, the feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major, also more commonly known in Italian as Santa Maria Maggiore. This is one of the four great Papal Major Basilicas, and the greatest of all the Marian churches and basilicas dedicated to Mary, the Blessed Mother of God. This great celebration of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major should serve as a moment for us all to recall the role of the Blessed Mother of God, Mary, in the history of our salvation. Through her, we have received the Saviour of the world, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The story of the Basilica began over seventeen centuries ago, at the time when persecutions against the Christian faith were just ended thanks to the Edict of Milan by Roman Emperors Constantine the Great and Licinius, marking the end of the era of persecutions and the beginning of era of rapid growth of the Christian faith. It was then that the first great Basilicas of Rome were built, including that of the old St. Peter’s Basilica, the Lateran Basilica which is the Cathedral of the Pope, and then finally this great Basilica of St. Mary Major dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God.

This Basilica was built from the miraculous occasion known as the Miracle of the Snows, in which snow fell on the height of summer in early August, on this date which became the time of its dedication all those centuries ago. The history went as follows, because a devout and elderly Christian noble couple wanted to donate and offer their properties to the Church back then and offered them to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, but they did not know what to do and where to offer it, they asked her to help them to find a way to properly make their offerings in her honour.

As the sign of her help, snow fell atop the Esquiline hill on the fifth day of August, at the height of the Roman summer as mentioned earlier. That became the site where this great Basilica dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God was built, and over the subsequent centuries, many people came to this great House of God, seeking the Lord and also asking for the intercession of His Blessed Mother Mary on their behalf. In the Basilica there also exists the very popular icon of Salus Populi Romani, an icon of the Blessed Mother of God as the Protectress of the Roman people and the city of Rome, to which our current Pope Francis always paid a visit before and after each one of his Apostolic Journeys.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice and celebrate in memory of the Dedication of this great Marian Basilica, let us all focus on the role of Mary in the story of our salvation. Mary as the Mother of God has always been full of love, nurturing care and attention to her Son Jesus, and in the same way, as each and every one of us have been entrusted by the Lord to His own mother, that she may also be our mother, hence naturally she also shows us the same love and attention, the same caring nature of a mother for her children. For all these years, Mary has always shown her care for us, appearing from time to time to her children, to remind all of us to be faithful to her Son and to turn away from our sins.

Mary has shown us what it means to be a true, genuine and virtuous Christian, and she showed us the most direct way to her Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Through her and by following her examples in faith and life, all of us can and will get ever closer to God and His salvation. On this day as we rejoice and celebrate in the memory of the Dedication of a great House of God dedicated to the Mother of God, all of us are called to put ourselves under the protection of our beloved Mother as well, constantly asking for her intercessions and prayers on our behalf, for us sinners who are in need of God’s mercy and healing.

Today, our world and societies need to grow deeper in faith, as many of us Christians had become lapsed and lukewarm in how we live our faith. We no longer commit ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord, and we become ignorant and closed against God’s calling in our lives. And even when His Mother Mary called on us, we often closed off our hearts and minds as well. We spent much more time, effort, focus and attention in trying to seek other pleasures and satisfactions in life, our many desires and pursuits rather than to follow the Lord our God faithfully as we should have done.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today let us all remind ourselves and each other that we are all God’s children, and His mother is also our mother. All of us should follow the examples that our Lord Himself and His blessed Mother have shown us, and refrain ourselves from continuing to live in the state of sin and disobedience against God. The Lord and His mother Mary have called us all to leave behind our past wickedness and sins, and come once again into the loving embrace and His saving grace, and through Mary’s help we truly can make this a reality.

May the Lord our God continue to love us and bless us each day, and may through the intercessions of His mother Mary, we may all be strengthened and encouraged to live our lives with ever greater faith from now on. Holy Mary, Holy Mother of God, pray for us your children, we who are sinners and unworthy, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 5 August 2022 : 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 : 24-28

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “If you want to follow Me, deny yourself. Take up your cross and follow Me. For whoever chooses to save his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life, for My sake, will find it. What will one gain by winning the whole world, if he destroys his soul? Or what can a person give, in exchange for his life?”

“Know, that the Son of Man will come, in the glory of His Father with the holy Angels, and He will reward each one according to his deeds. Truly, I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death, before they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

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.”

Friday, 5 August 2022 : 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)

Deuteronomy 32 : 35cd-36ab, 39abcd, 41

Their day of calamity is at hand, and swiftly their doom will come. The Lord will give justice to His people and have mercy on His servants.

Learn this now – that I alone am He; there is no god besides Me. It is I Who give both death and life; it is I Who wound and heal as well and out of My hand no one can deliver.

When I sharpen My glittering sword and My hand takes hold of judgment, I will deal out vengeance upon My foes and retribution upon those who hate Me.

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.

Friday, 5 August 2022 : 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)

Nahum 2 : 1, 3 and Nahum 3 : 1-3, 6-7

See, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings Good News, one who proclaims peace. Judah, celebrate your feasts and carry out your vows. For the wicked have been destroyed, they will not attack you any more. YHVH will now restore Jacob’s magnificence, like Israel’s splendour. For they had been plundered, laid waste as a ravaged vineyard.

Woe to the bloody city, city of lies and booty, o city of unending plunder! But what! Crack of whips, rumble of wheels and clatter of hoofs! See the frenzied chargers, the flashing swords and glittering spears, the heaps of the wounded, the dead and dying – we trip over corpses!

I will pelt you with filth, I will treat you with contempt and make of you a shameful show, so that all who look on you will turn their backs in disgust and say : Nineveh – a city of lust – is in ruins. Who will mourn for her? Where can we find one to comfort her?

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.”

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.”