Saturday, 6 July 2019 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the story between the brothers Esau and Jacob who were the two sons of Isaac and therefore were the grandsons of Abraham. Esau and Jacob were rivals for their father’s affection, and Esau as the elder child was destined to be the recipient of his father’s inheritance, but fate and God’s will eventually showed that it was Jacob, the father of the Israelites who was the one to receive the fullness of God’s promised inheritance.

Esau and Jacob were very different from each other although they were brothers, as the former was a hunter and lived among the hunters in the fields, and tradition told that Esau married the local Canaanite women, despite the disapproval from his parents, and his less than faithful ways were the reasons why Rebecca in particular, the mother of the two brothers, sought to have Jacob to be the one to succeed his father Isaac.

Jacob was however uncertain of the prospect, and was afraid that his father would discover the ruse. But his mother supported him, and by God’s providence, Jacob succeeded in getting what his brother Esau had carelessly abandoned. First of all, Esau easily traded his birthright just over a pot of food that Jacob cooked, and then, he managed to gain the blessing which Isaac reserved for his firstborn and heir.

Eventually, this would lead to friction and division among the two brothers, and Jacob was forced to flee to a faraway land, going to the land where his forefathers came from in order to escape the wrath of Esau, his brother. It was many years before Jacob was to return with his own family in tow, and was reconciled with his elder brother. And from here, let us all link what we have heard with our Gospel passage today, in which the Lord spoke of the parable of the new and old cloth, and the old and new wine and wineskins.

In that parable, the Lord showed the incompatibility between new cloth and old cloth, and new wine and old wineskin and vice versa. One cannot use one with the other, or else they will end up destroying each other. What this parable means for us is that old ways of our life is not compatible with the new ways that we should be embracing in our lives either. And these old ways refer to the ways of sin, our disobedience against God.

This means that we cannot continue to live the way we are, and at the same time profess to believe in God. We cannot be sinful and be righteous at the same time, as the two of them are just as polar opposites as Esau and Jacob had been different from each other. Eventually this will end up in conflict and dilemma within us, and unless we make the conscious effort to change our ways in life into the way which God has shown us, that is the way of righteousness and holiness.

Today, we celebrate the life and memory of a saint whose life and death will remind us of this exact incompatibility between our old and new way of life, that is between wickedness and righteousness. This saint is St. Maria Goretti, the famous saint renowned for her defence of her own chastity and holiness, her virginity and obedience to God rather than submitting to the desires of man. She was martyred defending her own holiness against the advances of a young man who wanted to defile her.

At that time, St. Maria Goretti, who was still a young girl, lived with her mother together with another family, who had a young boy named Alessandro. Alessandro who was a few years older than St. Maria Goretti, desired her and made sexual advances on her, which was flatly and firmly refused by St. Maria Goretti. St. Maria Goretti remained strong and firm, even as Alessandro became angry and stabbed her many times.

And despite of all that the young man had done to her, St. Maria Goretti forgave Alessandro and told the people that he should not be punished for what he has done. Clearly, we see here, what a virtuous Christian she has been, as contrasted to the actions that Alessandro had done. But Alessandro eventually also regretted all that he has done, and, helped by a vision of the saint, St. Maria Goretti who came to him and talked to him in prison, he became a better man, and devoted himself to serve God from then on.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are called to reflect on our own lives. Are we able to follow the Lord wholeheartedly as St. Maria Goretti and many others of our holy predecessors had done? Are we able to commit ourselves to a new life of holiness and righteousness, abandoning all of our past disobedient and wicked ways, and seeking a new path of holiness in God?

May the Lord help each and every one of us to be faithful to Him, and devote ourselves to Him ever more each and every days in this life. Let us all draw ever closer to Him, from now on, that we may truly be worthy to be called His beloved children. Amen.

Saturday, 6 July 2019 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Matthew 9 : 14-17

At that time, the disciples of John came to Jesus with the question, “How is it, that we and the Pharisees fast on many occasions, but not Your disciples?”

Jesus answered them, “How can you expect wedding guests to mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The time will come, when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then, they will fast.”

“No one patches an old coat with a piece of unshrunken cloth, for the patch will shrink and tear an even bigger hole in the coat. In the same way, you do not put new wine into old wine skins. If you do, the wine skins will burst and the wine will be spilt. No, you put new wine into fresh skins; then both are preserved.”

Saturday, 6 July 2019 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Psalm 134 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Alleluia! Praise the Name of YHVH. O servants of YHVH, praise Him, you, who serve in the house of YHVH, in the courts of the house of our God.

Praise YHVH, for He is good; praise His Name, for it is beautiful; for YHVH has chosen Jacob as His own, Israel as His possession.

I know that YHVH is great, that our YHVH is above all gods. Whatever YHVH pleases, He does – in heaven and on earth, in the seas and in their depths.

Saturday, 6 July 2019 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Genesis 27 : 1-5, 15-29

When Isaac was old and his eyes so weak that he could no longer see, he called Esau, his older son, and said to him, “My son.” “Here I am,” he answered. Isaac continued, “You see I am old and I do not know when I shall die; so take your weapons, your bow and arrow, go out into the country and hunt some game for me. Then prepare some of the savoury food I like and bring it to me so that I may eat and give you my blessing before I die.”

Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. When Esau went into the country to hunt game and bring it back, she took the best clothes of her elder son Esau that she had in the house and put them on Jacob, her younger son. With the goatskin she covered his hands and the smooth part of his neck, and she handed to him the bread and food she had prepared.

He went to his father and said, “Father!” He answered, “Yes, my son, who is it?” And Jacob said to his father, “It is Esau, your firstborn; I have done what you told me to do. Come, sit up and eat my game so that you may give me your blessing.” Isaac said, “How quick you have been my son!” Jacob said, “YHVH, your God, guided me.”

Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near and let me feel you, my son, and know that it is you, Esau my son, or not.” When Jacob drew near to Isaac, his father felt him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob but the hands are the hands of Esau.” He did not recognise him, for his hands were hairy like the hands of Esau his brother and so he blessed him.

He asked, “Are you really my son Esau?” And Jacob answered, “I am.” Isaac said, “Bring me some of your game, my son, so that I may eat and give you my blessing.” So Jacob brought it to him and he ate. And he brought him wine and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me, my son.” So Jacob came near and kissed him.

Isaac then caught the smell of his clothes and blessed him, saying, “The smell of my son is like the smell of a field which the Lord has blessed. May God give you the dew of heaven; and of the richness of the earth; and abundance of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you and nations bow down before you. Be lord over your brothers, and let your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone that curses you and blessed be everyone that blesses you!”

Friday, 5 July 2019 : 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 are called to reflect on the love and dedication which God has shown each and every one of us, as we are reminded of the great love with which He reached out to us sinners, as what we have heard in our Gospel reading today ought to remind us of this fact. In that passage, we heard how the Lord Jesus called a tax collector named Levi, who would later on become one of his chief disciples, St. Matthew the Apostle.

In order to appreciate better the significance of what we have heard in today’s reading, we should understand the context and the historical norms of that time, when the tax collectors were in particular seen as people who were sinners and unworthy of God, looked down and reviled upon, often ridiculed and hated because they were seen as willing agents of the conquering Romans who then ruled over Judea.

They were even treated like traitors, as those who were considered to have sold out the Jewish people and nation to the Romans. And this compounded by the fact that no one likes to pay taxes for their living and land, makes the tax collectors truly among the most hated group of people at that time. They were considered as people who were greedy and wicked, sinful and selfish, and therefore were shunned by the general society.

Yet, the Lord reached out to them and called to them, as what He had done to Levi, calling him to be His follower, not withstanding his occupation as a tax collector. He reached out to Levi and to the other tax collectors, just as He had done with the prostitutes, who were another group of people reviled and rejected by the society as they were cast out and considered as lost cause and terrible sinners.

The Lord made it plainly clear to the teachers of the Law who doubted and criticised Him and His actions, that He did what He had done because He was seeking those who had been sick and afflicted by the dangerous sickness of sin. And yes, sin is a form of sickness that affects the body and the mind, and unless the people afflicted by these sins are cured from their sins, they will be lost forever from God.

And we must always remember that God loves each and every single one of us without exception, mankind great or small, whether their sins were significant or insignificant, whether they were great or small, He loves each and every one of us without exception, to the best that He has given us all. And this great love He has shown us, He gave to us through nothing less than His own ultimate sacrifice on the Cross.

He cared for us all, that He provided for all, including what we heard in today’s first reading, from the Book of Genesis, relating to us of the time when Sarah, the wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac passed away. God took good care of Isaac by providing him someone to love despite the grief that he must have endured and faced at that time, giving him Rebecca to be his wife, and at the same time, fulfilling the promise that He has given to him and his father Abraham, that their descendants will be great and numerous.

God has been so loving and so generous to us, and He wants to love us all the more, and today, we celebrate the feast of one of His saints, who have embraced this love which God has given him, and became a great role model for many of the faithful through the ages. St. Anthony Zaccaria, was a renowned priest and hardworking servant of God, who worked extensively among the people, and was known in particular for the Forty Hours Devotion that he popularised among the people.

Through this popular devotion, the Blessed Sacrament is exposed before the faithful and including other practices that St. Anthony restored and encouraged, such as the ringing of bells at 3 pm on Fridays to remind the people of the moment of Crucifixion, of God’s ultimate love, St. Anthony Zaccaria had made tremendous impact on the faith and the salvation of many souls throughout the years of his works and beyond.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, after we have heard of the extent of Our Lord’s great and vast love for each and every one of us, and of the commitment and dedication shown by St. Anthony Zaccaria, let us all follow in his footsteps and dedicate ourselves ever more to God, for His great love and merciful compassion towards us. Let us all abandon our old ways of sin, and seek to be reconciled to Him, just as He reaches out to us, regardless of how great a sinner we are.

May the Lord continue to love us and may He show His generous mercy at all times, and may all of us draw ever closer to Him and be worthy to receive the salvation which He has promised to all of us, who are faithful to Him. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 5 July 2019 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Zaccaria, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Matthew 9 : 9-13

At that time, as Jesus moved on from where He healed the paralytic man, He saw a man named Matthew, at his seat in the custom-house; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And Matthew got up and followed Him.

Now it happened, while Jesus was at table in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners joined Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is it, that your Master eats with sinners and tax collectors?”

When Jesus heard this, He said, “Healthy people do not need a doctor, but sick people do. Go, and find out what this means : What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Friday, 5 July 2019 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Anthony Zaccaria, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 105 : 1-2, 3-4a, 4b-5

Alleluia! Give thanks to YHVH, for He is good, for His love endures forever. Who can count YHVH’s mighty deeds, or declare all His praises?

Blessed are they who always do just and right. Remember me, o YHVH, when You show favour to Your people.

Rescue me when You deliver them; let me see the triumph of Your faithful; let me share the joy of Your nation; and join Your people in praising You.