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.”

Wednesday, 29 July 2020 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martha (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church celebrates the feast of one of the more renowned saints as she was mentioned in several occasions in the Gospels. St. Martha was the sister of Mary and Lazarus and featured prominently during the time when the Lord visited her household and also when Lazarus died and was resurrected by the Lord. They were considered as the close friends and disciples of the Lord.

St. Martha was remembered most for the moment when the Lord came to visit her house, and she was very busy preparing everything to serve the Lord and to show Him the best hospitality that she could offer. However, in doing so, she had in fact forgotten that she spent most of her time being busy in preparing all the hospitality and service rather than attending to the Lord and listening to Him, as Mary her sister had done.

Initially St. Martha was angry and unhappy that her sister had left her to do all the preparations, and she even told the Lord of her issues and asked Him to tell her sister to help her in her work and preparation. But the Lord kindly reminded St. Martha and told her that she had not done what she should have done, and that in fact her sister had chosen the right course of action. In her preoccupation with preparing for the Lord’s coming, St. Martha had been distracted and forgot that first and foremost, she had to be there for the Lord.

Instead, she allowed herself to be sucked into the procedures and details, into the things that she thought would impress the Lord as a good hostess and friend, not realising that she had spent the precious time she should have spent with the Lord away from Him, in the kitchen or elsewhere in the house. That is also why the Lord reminded her that her sister Mary had done the right thing, by doing what mattered the most, that is to be with the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in our own lives, we are perhaps often like St. Martha, in how we have lived our lives. We may have been so busy with our lives and been so preoccupied with the many things and concerns we have in life that all of us have often forgotten about God and put Him aside for those other concerns and things we desire in life. We are often too busy to even notice how He has always cared for us and provided for us, even when we have been wayward and delinquent with our lives so far.

St. Martha reminded us all that even sometimes we can be busy and preoccupied to a fault, being particular and detailed to a fault but we forget the most important aspect of life itself and that is to focus ourselves and our attention on God. It is very easy otherwise for us to lose our focus and be distracted as St. Martha herself has experienced. But now that we know and have been reminded of this, it is then up to us how we want to proceed forward in life from now on.

Are we able and willing to detach ourselves from the attachment to our busy life schedules, especially to our work and profession, as well as our attachments to other pursuits in life? It is not that we cannot have job or be busy, but rather, we need to ask ourselves, what is truly, our priority in life? There are people who genuinely work hard because they need to earn to support their families and loved ones, but many among us seek for many unhealthy pursuits and addictions in life.

Instead of being tempted and swayed by the pursuits of power, glory, material wealth and fame, pleasures of the body and mind, among many others, all of which are distractions and are in fact leading us away from God, let us rather redirect our lives and our emphasis and focus, that like Mary, the sister of St. Martha, we find the true treasure and focus of our lives, that is God, knowing that in Him alone we can find true happiness, joy and satisfaction.

There are many things we desire in life, and we certainly know it. And we also know how all these desires cannot be fully satisfied one, as when we have what we want, we have the tendency to crave and desire even more, and that is why we fall into the trap of our routines, our busy activities and being distracted in life, and forget about God. Let us all therefore rediscover our love for God, and reorientate our lives once again towards Him from now on.

May the Lord help us in our journey and may He strengthen each and every one of us in our faith, that we may find our true focus in God, and that we may seek for what we will never lose, that is the love of God and to focus ourselves on Him, rather than on the mundane and repetitive schedules and preoccupations in life, to focus on God’s love rather than on our own desires, our own greed and wants, our own pursuits for the fleeting and temporary pleasures of the world. May the Lord bless us all and may St. Martha intercede for us sinners always. Amen.

Wednesday, 29 July 2020 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martha (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 11 : 19-27

At that time, many Jews had come to Martha and Mary, after the death of their brother, to comfort them. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him, while Mary remained sitting in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “If You had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You.” Jesus said, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha replied, “I know that He will rise in the resurrection, at the last day.” But Jesus said to her, “I am the Resurrection. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, shall live. Whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Martha then answered, “Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, He Who is coming into the world.”

Alternative reading

Luke 10 : 38-42

At that time, as Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He entered a village, and a woman called Martha welcomed Him to her house. She had a sister named Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet to listen to His words. Martha, meanwhile, was busy with all the serving, and finally she said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the work? Tell her to help me!”

But the Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you worry and are troubled about many things, whereas only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Wednesday, 29 July 2020 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martha (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 33 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9, 10-11

I will praise YHVH all my days; His praise will be ever on my lips. My soul makes its boast in YHVH; let the lowly hear and rejoice.

Oh, let us magnify YHVH; together, let us glorify His Name! I sought YHVH, and He answered me; from all my fears He delivered me.

They who look to Him are radiant with joy, their faces never clouded with shame. When the poor cry out, YHVH hears and saves them from distress.

YHVH’s Angel encamps and patrols, to keep safe those who fear Him. Oh, see and taste the goodness of YHVH! Blessed is the one who finds shelter in Him!

Revere YHVH, all you, His saints, for those who fear Him do not live in want. The mighty may be hungry and in need; but those who seek YHVH lack nothing.

Wednesday, 29 July 2020 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Martha (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 4 : 7-16

My dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves, is born of God and knows God. Those who do not love have not known God, for God is love. How did the love of God appear among us? God sent His only Son into this world, that we might have life, through Him.

This is love : not that we loved God, but that, He first loved us and sent His Son, as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, if such has been the love of God, we, too, must love one another. No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us, and His love comes to its perfection in us.

How may we know that we live in God and He in us? Because God has given us His Spirit. We ourselves have seen, and declare, that the Father sent His Son to save the world. Those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in them, and they in God. We have known the love of God and have believed in it. God is love. The one who lives in love, lives in God, and God in him.

Wednesday, 22 July 2020 : Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, Apostle of the Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us celebrate the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, one of the most prominent follower of the Lord and considered as an equal of the Twelve Apostles. Ever since the Year of Our Lord 2016, this celebration which was initially a Memorial in the General Roman Calendar had been elevated to the rank of Feast, and acknowledgement of St. Mary Magdalene as a very important figure in the Church as the Apostle of the Apostles.

This brings us to the question, ‘What is an Apostle?’ The word Apostle itself came from the Greek word ‘Apostolos’ or ‘one that is sent off’ with the emphasis on the action of being sent off for a particular purpose and mission. Therefore, an Apostle is someone who had been called and entrusted with important assignment, and has also therefore been sent forth to fulfil that assignment. This is opposed to the term ‘disciple’ which has the connotation and meaning of a follower, that may or may not have that specific mission of being sent off to fulfil the mission of God.

And this is significant because as we know and which our Gospel passage reminded us today, it was St. Mary Magdalene who first saw the Lord after His Resurrection, and she initially grieved over the fact that the Body of the Lord had disappeared, thinking that the Body had been stolen and not realising that He had risen from the dead. And when the Lord appeared before her, she believed in Him and she did what the Lord said to her, ‘Go to My brothers and say to them, I am ascending to My Father, Who is your Father, to My God, Who is your God.’

That was how St. Mary Magdalene then went to the Twelve Apostles and the other disciples, delivering to them the news of the Lord’s Resurrection, how everything He had said would happen came true. This is why St. Mary Magdalene is the Apostle of the Apostles, as she was the one who delivered the truth and the Good News to the Apostles. She was the one sent off by the Lord to be the first to bear the Good News to others. Through her, the Apostles came to know of the Lord’s resurrection.

This is why St. Mary Magdalene is such an important person and a significant influence in the history of the Church. But this is not just because she had been the first to see the Risen Lord and brought this news to the Apostles, but even more significantly, if we had seen how she had been transformed from someone whom no one would have thought to be worth saving or even worth a look. By Church and Apostolic traditions, St. Mary Magdalene was often associated with the woman from whom the Lord had cast out seven demons, and others also associated her to the repentant prostitute.

Regardless, Church traditions and history agreed that St. Mary Magdalene had been greatly transformed by her faith in the Lord and her life was changed after she followed the Lord and abandoned her past life of sin. Here was a great sinner whom the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law would have been very quick in condemning as those who were unworthy and sinful before God. Yet, as we know, she did not just have great transformation in life, but was entrusted to be the first to know the truth of the Lord’s Resurrection.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to the words of the Scripture today and remember the life and contributions of St. Mary Magdalene, we are brought to attention to the important fact that each and every one of us also have the potential and opportunity to be like her, to follow her example and her conviction and desire in serving the Lord. We are also sinners just like her, and regardless whether our sins are great or small, sin is still sin and sin is a stumbling block in our path towards eternal life and true joy in Christ.

But as St. Mary Magdalene showed us, that there is indeed no saint without a past, and no sinner without a future. Saints like St. Mary Magdalene were also sinners just like us, and they were also human and erred just as we have also erred and made mistakes in life. What is important and what truly mattered was that they listened to the Lord and embraced His love and mercy when He called on them, and they turned their back to sin and lived a virtuous and just life from then on.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are therefore called to look through our lives and see how we can follow in the footsteps of St. Mary Magdalene, turn ourselves towards God and sin no more. We are called to be inspired by her faith and love for God, also showed by the other holy men and women of God, the saints and martyrs. Let us strive to commit ourselves to a new life and existence, one that is no longer controlled by sin. And let us also proclaim the love and truth of God by our lives, that more and more people will come to believe in God, just as St. Mary Magdalene helped to inspire faith in the Apostles.

May the Lord be with us and may He help us to get out of the temptation of sin, just as He had once showed mercy and love for St. Mary Magdalene. May He strengthen each and every one of us that we may be able to live in a renewed existence with ever greater faith. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 22 July 2020 : Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, Apostle of the Apostles (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 20 : 1-2, 11-18

Now, on the first day after the Sabbath, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark, and she saw that the stone blocking the tomb had been moved away. She ran to Peter, and the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and she said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have laid Him.”

Mary stood weeping outside the tomb; and as she wept, she bent down to look inside. She saw two Angels in white, sitting where the Body of Jesus had been, one at the head, and the other at the feet. They said, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

She answered, “Because they have taken my Lord and I do not know where they have put Him.” As she said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not recognise Him. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?”

She thought it was the gardener and answered Him, “Lord, if You have taken Him away, tell me where You have put Him, and I will go and remove Him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned, and said to Him, “Rabboni!” – which means Master. Jesus said to her, “Do not touch Me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to My brothers and say to them : I am ascending to My Father, Who is your Father, to My God, Who is your God.”

So Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord, and this is what He said to me.”