Wednesday, August 5 ~ Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Dedication of Saint Mary Major
Holy Gospel: Luke 11:27-28 As Jesus said this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!” But He said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
Meditation: 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” or “happiness”) 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 or happiness – 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.
Prayer: 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.
Contemplation: Our ultimate goal in life, the very reason we were created in the first place, is not to attend a certain university, have a particular job, live at a certain address with a particular car parked in the driveway. No, our ultimate goal is to get to heaven where we may experience complete union with God. We were made for God and our hearts are restless until they rest in him. Saint Lucian of Antioch, an early Christian theologian and martyr, once said that “a Christian’s only relatives are the saints.” Those who follow Jesus Christ and who seek the will of God enter into a new family, a family of “saints” here on earth and in heaven. Jesus changes the order of relationships and shows that true kinship is not just a matter of flesh and blood. Our adoption as sons and daughters of God transforms all our relationships and requires a new order of loyalty to God and his kingdom. As in “those who hear the word of God and keep it” (Luke 11:28) and those who are “doers of the word, not hearers only” (James 1:22). Think about it!
The Importance of Saint Mary Major: 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., Saint John Lateran, Saint Peter Basilica, Saint Paul Outside the Walls, and Saint 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. St. Mary Major is important to Christendom for three reasons: (a) It stands as a venerable monument to the Council of Ephesus (431), at which the dogma of Mary’s divine Motherhood was solemnly defined; the definition of the Council occasioned a most notable increase in the veneration paid to Mary. (b) The basilica is Rome’s “church of the crib,” a kind of Bethlehem within the Eternal City; it also is a celebrated station church, serving, for instance, as the center for Rome’s liturgy for the first Mass on Christmas. In some measure every picture of Mary with the divine Child is traceable to this church. (c) Saint Mary Major is Christendom’s first Marian shrine for pilgrims. It set the precedent for the countless shrines where pilgrims gather to honor our Blessed Mother throughout the world.