Tuesday, August 5 ~ Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Dedication of Saint Mary Major
Holy Gospel: Luke 11:27-28
While Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”
When an admirer wished to compliment Jesus by praising his mother, Jesus did not deny the truth of the blessing she pronounced. Her “beatitude” (which means “blessedness”) recalls Mary’s canticle: “All generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48). Jesus adds to her words by pointing to the source of all true blessedness – union with God in heart, mind, and will. Mary humbly submitted herself to the miraculous plan of God for the incarnation of His only begotten Son – the Word of God made flesh in her womb, by declaring: “I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Mary heard the word spoken to her by the angel and she believed it.
Pardon the faults of your servants, we pray, O Lord, that we, who cannot please you by our own deeds, may be saved through the intercession of the Mother of your Son and our Lord. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
It is one thing to “hear” the word of God. But what happens next is entirely up to us. Do we then find ourselves opening our minds and hearts to let the word of God inspire us to change our way of life? To align our minds and our hearts more closely to that of Jesus Christ? To enlighten us about the path that we are to take so that God’s plan unfolds in our lives? To teach us right living from sinful ways? To humbly submit to doing the will of God? Or do we “hear” the word of God and find ourselves doing little or nothing about it – in one ear and out the other, perhaps. As St. James reminds us, we are to “Become doers of the word and not hearers only.” By hearing the word of God, and observing it – putting the word of God and the teachings of Christ into action – we become blessed in the eyes of the Lord.
About today’s feast
We celebrate today the dedication of one of the four most illustrious churches of Rome. While each diocese and parish keeps its own dedication anniversary, the Church universal commemorates the consecration of the four great Roman basilicas, the mother churches, we may call them, of Christendom, viz., St. John Lateran, St. Peter, St. Paul Outside the Walls, and St. Mary Major. By means of these feasts the Church seeks to link all Christians with the Holy See. This feast commemorates the miracle of the snowfall that occurred during the night of August 4-5 in the year 358 on the site where the basilica now stands. According to tradition, the Virgin Mary appeared in a dream to two faithful Roman Christians, the patrician John and his wife, as well as to Pope Liberius (352-366), asking that a church be built in her honor on the site where snow would fall on the night of August 4-5. Pope Liberius traced the outlines of the church in the snow and the first basilica was built on that site. It was completed about a century later by Pope Sixtus III (432-440), after the Council of Ephesus in 431 during which Mary was declared to be the Mother of God.