Thursday, 6 July 2017 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)
Matthew 9 : 1-8

At that time, Jesus got back into the boat, crossed the lake again, and came to His hometown. Here, they brought to Him a paralysed man, lying on a bed. Jesus saw their faith and said to the paralytic, “Courage, my son! Your sins are forgiven.”

Some teachers of the Law said within themselves, “This Man insults God.” Jesus was aware of what they were thinking; and said, “Why have you such evil thoughts? Which is easier to say : ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? But that you may know, that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins,” He said to the paralysed man, “Stand up! Take your stretcher and go home!”

The man got up, and went home. When the crowds saw this, they were filled with awe, and praised God for giving such power to human beings.

Thursday, 6 July 2017 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)
Psalm 114 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

Alleluia! I am pleased that YHVH has heard my voice in supplication, that He has not been deaf to me, the day I called on Him.

When the cords of death entangled me, the snares of the grave laid hold of me, when affliction got the better of me, I called upon the Name of YHVH : “O YHVH, save my life!”

Gracious and righteous is YHVH; full of compassion is our God. YHVH protects the simple : He saved me when I was humbled.

He has freed my soul from death, my eyes from weeping, my feet from stumbling; I will walk before YHVH in the land of the living.

Thursday, 6 July 2017 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)
Genesis 22 : 1-19

Some time later God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he answered, “Here I am.” Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I shall point out to you.”

Abraham rose early next morning and saddled his donkey and took with him two of his young men and his son Isaac. He chopped wood for the burnt offering and set out for the place to which God had directed him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance, and he said to the young men, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there to worship and then we will come back to you.”

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. He carried in his hand the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke to Abraham, his father, “Father!” And Abraham replied, “Yes, my son?” Isaac said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?” Abraham replied, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the sacrifice.”

They went on, the two of them together, until they came to the place to which God had directed them. When Abraham had built the altar and set the wood on it, he bound his son Isaac and laid him on the wood placed on the altar. He then stretched out his hand to seize the knife and slay his son. But the Angel of YHVH called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”

And he said, “Here I am.” “Do not lay your hand on the boy; do not harm him, for now I know that you fear God, and you have not held back from Me your only son.” Abraham looked around and saw behind him a ram caught by its horns in a bush. He offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son. Abraham named the place ‘The Lord will provide.’ And the saying has lasted to this day.

And the Angel of YHVH called from heaven a second time, “By myself I have sworn, it is YHVH Who speaks, because you have done this and not held back your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the lands of their enemies. All the nations of the earth will be blessed through your descendants because you have obeyed Me.”

So Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba and it was there that Abraham stayed.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Zaccaria, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the story of how Abraham sent away his son Ishmael, who was born from his slave Hagar. He was not allowed to share in the inheritance which God had promised for Isaac alone, the son of Abraham born of his wife, Sarah. Thus, he was sent away from the household of Abraham to wander on his own with Hagar his mother in the desert.

Yet, God did not abandon him and leave him behind without care. Indeed, God promised Hagar and Ishmael that from Ishmael would also come many peoples and many nations, for he was still a son of Abraham. God took care of him and his mother, and provided for them all that they needed. After all, he is also a son of man, one of those whom God had created, as all mankind were created through God’s love. He provided water and food for them that they might live.

Then in the Gospel passage today, we heard about how Jesus our Lord cast out the evil spirits and demons from the two men in Gadara. The two men who were possessed were so terrifying to others, that people feared to approach them and kept themselves away from them. That was why they were cast out in the desert, barred from coming close to the cities, shunned by the rest of the society for the evils that resided within them.

If we all think about this, is it not somewhat like what we heard in the first reading? Is it not like when Abraham cast out his son Ishmael? When the men possessed by the evil spirits came into that condition, they were thrown out of their society, and were forced to wander in the wilderness. They were rejected and their condition was hopeless, that is, until the Lord came to them and saved them from their distress.

Just as He had come to the help of Ishmael, the Lord came to help the two possessed men, by the mercy of His heart. He ordered the evil spirits to depart from the two men, and by such act, redeemed the two men and allowed them to reintegrate back into the society. In this manner, it is just the same as what He has done for the sake of all of us, all sinners and rebels before Him.

Why is that so? That is because, all of us have sinned before the Lord by our disobedience and inability to resist the temptations to sin, ever since the time our first ancestors first sinned against God. And those who have sinned before the Lord had become unworthy of the Lord and were cast out from His presence. Remember, brethren, that our ancestors, Adam and Eve, were banished out of the Gardens of Eden and were forced to endure the sufferings of this world.

However, God did not forget about us or abandoned us. He continued to love us regardless, even though He despised our sins and disobedience. Therefore, He promised us all the salvation which He had made evident and perfect through Jesus Christ our Lord, by His coming into this world, and by His act of the ultimate sacrifice on the cross. He gave us all a new hope, by bearing upon Himself our faults and shortcomings.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us take this opportunity to reflect, whether we have purposefully ostracised our brethren in life, just because we think that we are better than them, more righteous than them, or more pious or faithful than them. Then we ended up consigning them to damnation and ridicule, just because that we thought that they had no hope.

Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law also thought the same about the tax collectors and the prostitutes. Many of these sought the Lord to be forgiven from their sins, and Jesus Himself commented that they were going towards the kingdom of God far faster than the Pharisees themselves, for they were genuine in their repentance and desire to be forgiven and to be loved again by God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all remember that we are all sinners before God, no matter whether our sins are small or big, serious or trivial. And let us remember just how much God loves each and every one of us, and how much He desires to help us out of our predicament, just as He helped Ishmael and as He saved the two men by casting out the evil spirits that tormented them.

That is why all of us need to turn sincerely and wholeheartedly towards God. All of us ought to heed the words of the Lord Jesus, as He spoke to the woman caught in the act of adultery, whom the Pharisees and elders wanted to stone to death, but saved by the love and mercy of the Lord Jesus, Who spared her from death. He told her, “Sin no more.” This is what we all need to do, brethren, to sin no longer and henceforth be righteous in our ways.

Perhaps, all of us should be inspired by St. Anthony Zaccaria, the holy saint whose feast day we celebrate today. St. Anthony Zaccaria was remembered for his strong devotion to the Lord, through what we now know as the forty-hours devotion before the Blessed Sacrament, spending the time in fervent prayer before the Lord present in the Eucharist.

He was also credited with the practice of ringing the bell at the hour of the Lord’s death on the cross, at the third hour after noon time. Through all these, he helped to remind many people of the love which God had shown us, of which there is no greater love, according to the Lord Jesus Himself, than for one to die for another person’s sake. And that was precisely what the Lord had done for us, that by bearing all of our sins and iniquities, He suffered instead of us and bore our burdens, that all of us may live.

Shall we love the Lord just as He has loved us first? Shall we be thankful for all the kindness and graces we have received from Him? Let us show our gratitude to Him by sincerely devoting our whole lives to Him, that in all that we do, in all that we say, and in all of our interactions we will always bring glory to God and walk ever faithful and righteous in His ways. May the Lord, our loving God, be with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.