Friday, 6 July 2018 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyr)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the prophet Amos, from the Old Testament, speaking to the people of Israel, to be precise the northern kingdom of Israel to whom he was sent to remind the people of their obligations to worship and follow God. And in today’s reading, he chastised the people for their wicked behaviour.

The people did not follow the Law of God or obeyed His commandments any longer. They have sought to seek personal glory and benefits for themselves, even through cheating and wicked treatments on their fellow men. They cheated the people of their money and their time, for their own benefit. They treated their neighbours badly and made profits out of another’s suffering.

And the prophet Amos warned the people of God’s retribution and justice, which would come for them in time to come, should they continue to walk in their sinful path, and indeed, as time would prove, they were to face all that God had warned them through His prophet. They were scattered and defeated by their enemies, and were forced into exile from the land given to their ancestors.

But God was not without mercy and love for His people, for in fact, He was ever ready to extend His love, mercy and compassion for those who seek Him, and are willing to repent and turn themselves to His merciful love and kindness. Yet, many of the people hardened their hearts and minds, and refused to follow Him or to listen to the words and the calling which He had made to them through His prophets.

That was why many among them failed to recognise Him, when He came in our midst, calling us all to repent from our sins and turn towards Him. They instead, like the Pharisees, questioned Him and doubted Him, and even looked down on Him when He went out to seek the conversion of sinners. But the Lord Jesus spoke out against them and told them, that indeed He came into this world looking for the conversion of sinners, and for those who are willing, He will forgive them.

Today, we should reflect therefore, on the life and death of the faithful servant of God, the renowned St. Maria Goretti, whose feast falls on this day. St. Maria Goretti was a relatively recent saint and martyr, whose tragic story is a remembrance of our own mankind’s sins and inability to resist the temptation to sin. And yet, in that same story, we also see the amazing capacity that we mankind have for repentance and forgiveness.

St. Maria Goretti was just one among the many humble young woman, whose life was ordinary and yet filled with faith and dedication to the Lord. She lived an ordinary and grace filled life, but one of her neighbours, named Alessandro, desired her and wanted to have carnal pleasure with her, outside the bounds of marriage and beyond the appointed time and in disobedience of God’s laws and the laws of the Church.

On one day, Alessandro had St. Maria Goretti cornered, and demanded that she committed the act of great sin with him. St. Maria Goretti refused to do so, remaining committed to her life of chastity and commitment to God. She resisted, even though knowing that she would suffer and even die defending her sacred vow of virginity and devotion to God. Alessandro stabbed her many times out of anger and unfulfilled desire, and St. Maria Goretti met her martyrdom.

But St. Maria Goretti did not blame her murderer, Alessandro. In fact, from her deathbed, she forgave him and prayed for his conversion. And while initially Alessandro was unrepentant in his ways, but constant prayers from St. Maria Goretti, who had, according to Alessandro himself, appeared before him asking him to repent his ways, eventually, the murderer turned away from his sins and repented.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in that example alone, we see both mankind’s capacity for sin and disobedience, as well as their ability to seek forgiveness and repentance. Now, the choice is in our hands, whether we want to remain in the path of sin, disobedience and wickedness, or whether we want to commit to a new path of obedience, faith and devotion to God.

May the Lord help us in this journey of life, so that we may be able to find our way to Him, turning our whole heart, mind, being and existence from now on, to serve Him with all our strength. Let us follow the example of St. Maria Goretti, in her unflinching and courageous obedience to the Lord, and in how forgiving and loving she has been to her murderer, as the sign of our true Christian faith and love. Amen.

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