5th August. Tuesday, Week 18
Dedication of the basilica of Saint Mary Major
This basilica is the larges of the Roman churches dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. It is sometimes called Our Lady of the Snows, (Sancta Maria ad Nives) due to apious legend that a childless Roman nobleman vowed to donate his property to honouring the Virgin Mary and prayed her to reveal how best to do so. That night, August 5th, snow fell during the night on the summit of the Esquiline Hill; and on that spot he built a basilica in honour of Mary. It was a church much visited by subsequent Italian saints, and under the high altar of the basilica is the Crypt of the Nativity said to contain wood from the manger of the nativity of Jesus.
1) Jeremiah 30:1-2, 12-15, 18-22
(After the exile the Israelites will be restored in their own land with their own civil and religious leaders.)
The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you.
For thus says the Lord: Your hurt is incurable, your wound is grievous. There is no one to uphold your cause, no medicine for your wound, no healing for you. All your lovers have forgotten you; they care nothing for you; for I have dealt you the blow of an enemy, the punishment of a merciless foe, because your guilt is great, because your sins are so numerous. Why do you cry out over your hurt? Your ain is incurable. Because your guilt is great, because your sins are so numerous, I have done these things to you.”
Thus says the Lord: “I am going to restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob, and have compassion on his dwellings; the city shall be rebuilt upon its mound, and the citadel set on its rightful site. Out of them shall come thanksgiving, and the sound of merrymakers. I will make them many, and they shall not be few; I will make them honoured, and they shall not be disdained. Their children shall be as of old, their congregation shall be established before me; and I will punish all who oppress them. Their prince shall be one of their own, their ruler shall come from their midst; I will bring him near, and he shall approach me, for who would otherwise dare to approach me? says the Lord. And you shall be my people, and I will be your God.”
Gospel: Matthew 14:22-36
(Jesus retires to pray, walks on the water, saves Peter from sinking and cures people who simply touch the tassel of his cloak.)
Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water. ” He said, “Come. ” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. After the people of that place recognized him, they sent word throughout the region and brought all who were sick to him, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.
Today’s readings deal with two moments of crisis, first a national crisis arising from political forces, the Assyrian invasion of the northern Kingdom of Israel, and the other from natural causes, a sudden windstorm sweeping on the Lake of Galilee from the Mediterranean. No circumstance is either too insignificant or too critical for the Lord not to help us.
A tragic situation is described by Jeremiah. The northern Kingdom of Israel had been broken by the Assyrians in 721 B.C. and its people taken forcibly into exile. Jeremiah’s family was among the few left behind. Now more than thirty years later, as the Assyrian empire was collapsing and falling apart, Jeremiah sees hope for their return. Earlier it had seemed hopeless, “Incurable is your wound, grievous your bruise;” but this desperate situation was not too hopeless for the Lord. The prophet is inspired to declare in God’s name, See, I will restore the tents of Jacob. City shall be rebuilt on hill. From them will come songs of praise.
This optimistic spirit continues into the gospels: Jesus saves the disciples, adrift on stormy waters on the Lake of Galilee. His concern also comes to their defense when they fail to wash their hands religiously before eating. Events both small and great show the tender way that God fulfills all his promises. Meekness and prayer, whether it be like Moses ecstatic on Mount Sinai or silent before his detractors, or like Jesus who “went up on the mountain by himself to pray”; or like Jeremiah “hoping against hope” and always allowing God to decide the time and way to come to our help.