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."

Thursday, 6 August 2015 : Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate a great feast of the Church, where we celebrate the great event on the mountain on that day, when Jesus was glorified and revealed the fullness of truth about Himself to the three of His Apostles, Peter, James and John. This is the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, when Jesus revealed His divinity to His people for the first time.

On this feast, there are several things we all ought to take note of. First of all, the symbolism shown in this event of the Transfiguration truly revealed to us the great truth about Jesus our Lord, who He is, what His mission was, and what He would do in order to achieve that mission. Then we should indeed begin to understand them one by one.

On that mountain, Jesus was transfigured, and two figures from the Old Testament came, appeared and spoke to Him. They were Moses and Elijah, the greatest of God’s servants, and who symbolised the works which Jesus was to accomplish in this world as part of His messianic ministry. Moses represented the Law which God had revealed to the people through Him, while Elijah represented the Prophets through whom God had made His will known to the people.

This represented the role of Jesus who came to fulfil and complete the Law in its perfection, and He would reveal to all mankind the true meaning and purpose of the Law which God had revealed to them, but which they had often misunderstood in the practice and in its purpose. And then, Jesus also was a Prophet, the One who made clear God’s words and intentions to men. It was through His words, His teachings and parables that He called upon many people to return to the Lord.

In Jesus the role of Priest, Prophet and King was united as one, for He is indeed the High Priest of all, by His role in delivering all of us through the sacrifice which He had offered for the sake of our sins and unworthiness, that is His own Body and Blood which He offered up from the Altar of Calvary from the cross. And as Prophet, He revealed to us all the truth about God, and taught us the Law.

And we know that He is King of all kings, and Lord of all lords, and the Good Shepherd of us all, who leads us from the darkness of this world, gathered from all over the world, once scattered now brought together as one people into the unity of His Church, that He may bring us to the salvation which He has promised those who are faithful to Him.

In this we see how the Transfiguration of our Lord had revealed to the disciples, and also to all of us, who Jesus is, that is none other than God Himself, who had been willing to descend upon us and assume our humble human form, to be born in the flesh, and to later suffer for our sake, bearing our sins and punishments for those sins as He made His way to Calvary and as He hung between the heavens and the earth on the cross. He died for us, so that we all may live.

But in this, we also should realise that the Transfiguration itself also revealed to us, what we are to become, when we remain faithful to the end, and at the end, receive the just reward for our faith and devotion from the Lord. Just as Jesus revealed His true self to His disciples, then all of us should also reveal who we truly are to one another, and discard all the falsehoods and the lies with which we have covered ourselves and hid our true selves with thus far.

Why is this so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because God had created all of us good and perfect, just as He is good and perfect. But it was because of sin and disobedience which since the days of the first mankind had entered into our hearts and beings, we have been made imperfect and tainted, and our true selves had been hidden under layers of guilt, disobedience, and all other sorts of wickedness that prevent our true selves from being revealed.

For we are the children of God, who is Love, who is Light and goodness. If we are therefore His children, then certainly all of us should have imitated Him in how we behave and act in this life. It was our sins and our disobedience, and our human weaknesses and tendencies to sin that have made us such beings that had strayed far away from where we were and what we were intended to be.

Therefore, on this day, we have to heed what the Lord had shown us, and we all have to also listen to the Lord’s word, that we indeed have to listen to Jesus, the Word of God, through whom God made clear all of His will and desire for us. What then He had said to His Apostles Peter, Janes and John should be a good lesson for all of us.

For the Apostles must have been so awed and mesmerised by the glory and the greatness, and the great joy that they ought to have felt to be in the presence of God on that mountain. And they wanted to make three tents for Jesus, Moses and Elijah, so that they could stay there and not to leave that state of joy. But Jesus reminded them that, in order for them to move on, they must also at one point go down the mountain and face the challenges of the world.

Jesus Himself, even though He was glorified and honoured in today’s commemoration of the Transfiguration, but He knew that He had to forgo all of the glory and even empty Himself, descending down the mountain of glory, to come towards the ultimate test and challenge He would face, that is to be rejected and humiliated by the very people whom He had been sent to, to be saved.

In the same way therefore, all of us should shake ourselves from our comfort zones, that we may be able to realise that we have been too long and too deep in our slumber, where our true selves of love and righteousness had been buried deep within the layers of our laziness, our indifference, our apathy and our inability to see the opportunity for us to rise up and to give glory to God through our actions.

May our Transfigured Lord, our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all from now on, that in all things that we do, we may also do things to aspire for that same goal, that our old selves and the veils of our own sinfulness and evils may be replaced by the true beauty of our inner selves, the beauty of the love and faith which our Lord had given us by His Spirit. God be with us all. Amen.

Thursday, 6 August 2015 : Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 9 : 2-10

At that time, six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain. There His appearance was changed before their eyes. Even His clothes shone, becoming as white as no bleach of this world could make them. Elijah and Moses appeared to them; the two were talking with Jesus.

Then Peter spoke and said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say : they were overcome with awe. But a cloud formed, covering them in a shadow, and from the cloud came a voice, “This is My Son, the Beloved; listen to Him.”

And suddenly, as they looked around, they no longer saw anyone except Jesus with them. As they came down the mountain, He ordered them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept this to themselves, although they discussed with one another what ‘to rise from the dead’ could mean.

Thursday, 6 August 2015 : Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 96 : 1-2, 5-6, 9

The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the distant islands be glad. Cloud and darkness surround Him; justice and right are His throne.

The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim His justice, all peoples see His glory.

For You are the Master of the universe, exalted far above all gods.