Aug 5 – Memorial for Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome
First raised at the order of Pope Liberius in the mid-fourth century, the Liberian Basilica was rebuilt by Pope Sixtus III shortly after the Council of Ephesus affirmed Mary’s title as Mother of God in 431. Re-dedicated at that time to the Mother of God, St. Mary Major is the largest church in the world honouring God through Mary.
St. Mary Major is one of the four Roman basilicas known as patriarchal cathedrals in memory of the first centres of the Church. This basilica represents the See of Antioch, where Mary is supposed to have spent most of her life.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.
Oh, to be able to think as God does… what infinite wisdom we would have! And yet, armed even with the wisdom of God, it leaves to be seen just exactly whether one would listen and follow through in faith?
I have often prayed for the gift of wisdom in my discernment. I have often sought to know what counts as the right thing to do – in God’s eyes. Have I always acted immediately and courageously on this knowledge? It has not always been so. In fact, as much as spiritual clarity may dawn upon me, I can be clouded by the chatter of people and opinions around me. Illumination and action are sometimes separated by a chasm deep and wide — and this abyss contains a multitude of insecurity, fear, despair, and general unbelief!
I believe Moses, Aaron, and Peter all suffered the same weakness. I am not unlike them. I am also not unlike the disgruntled Israelites and Jews who were blinded by the crowd they were swarming in. In that sense, don’t we all cave in to our basal survival instincts and fears? Sometimes we may retract from the leap of faith in a a bid for self-protection, however misguided that might be. After all, if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
The Israelites chanted “Why? Why? Why?” probably a thousand times over, as countless as the tiresome steps they took to trudge through aimless desert landscapes… They were understandably exhausted. So was Moses and Aaron. They too were overwhelmed to retort wisely and with authority — and so they hurried away to pray to God in seclusion. Likewise, Peter was fearful too: a nervous wreck who was probably too traumatised by Jesus’ capture that he could not help his knee-jerk reaction of denial and betrayal.
Our initial judgement of their responses (bad leadership, traitor, liar) might reveal a harshness towards our own failures and weaknesses. When we look to these biblical mentors, perhaps it would be an act of kindness to them — and by extension, ourselves — to ponder the fundamental truth that God understands our weaknesses even more than we recognise it in ourselves. God revealed His mercy and sanctity to all these doubting peoples, not because they deserved it, but because His infinite love has found them deserving of it.
That is, God has deemed me worthy of a second, third, even fourth chance! At trying again, at beginning again. We are in the process of growing and building up our armour, our capacity for great faith. Let it be that you and I not squander these mercies! Even if I may fear that my chance has been dashed, or that I have been passed over for a dream, a plan, a different future I hope for…
Indeed, God punished Moses and Aaron by denying them leadership of the community into the Promised Land “You did not trust in me.” (Numbers 20:12) . Moses’ leadership faltered in the crucial moment when he stopped trusting God and decided to act on his own impulses and fears.
Even still, God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Although Moses did not enter the Promised Land, the New Testament declares him “faithful in all God’s house”. By God’s grace, even failures like Moses’ at Meribah, with disastrous consequences in this life, do not separate us from the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promises. God still brought the Israelites into the Promised Land.
God still turned Peter’s (Petra) weakness around and he became the foundation for the early Church. “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church.” (Matthew 16:18:). With the fulfillment of God’s plan through Christ’s sacrifice, we are assured the confidence that all in God’s house have our redemption in Christ (Hebrews 3:2-6)
To be a Christ-follower is not just to acknowledge the ‘God who Is’ and to lament “Why? Why? Why?” But to fall prostrate and to return in contrition, and Pray, Listen, and Follow! May this be the next steps you and I take when we are tempted by doubt, despair and fear.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)
Prayer: Lord, I seek the gift of wisdom and courage, as well as action. May it come today, and if not, tomorrow. And if not, may I keep seeking You and Your Kingdom for Your own sake!
Thanksgiving: Thank you God for giving ear to my laments and for pouring mercy upon my unbelief and inaction. Thank you for your infinite patience and second chances in life.