Monday, 6 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are brought to pay attention and place our focus on God’s loving mercy, His generous forgiveness and the compassion with which He has taken great care over each and every one of us. And we are reminded that each and every one of us are truly blessed to have the opportunity to embrace God’s loving grace and rich mercy. But have we been appreciative of His love for us all these while?

In our first reading today all of us heard from the words of the prophet Hosea, the proclamation of God’s love and upcoming salvation for His people, a very significant promise made at that time when the people of God were already on the verge of destruction and defeat, as the prophet Hosea performed his ministry among the people of the northern kingdom of Israel just within twenty years or so from the downfall of Samaria and the kingdom under the conquest of the Assyrians.

For a people and kingdom who had deviated from the Lord’s path for so long, many decades and centuries, it might have sounded so amazing that even after everything that they had done, the Lord was still so patient with them that He was willing to welcome them back, to love them and to show them His care despite every kind of sorrow and sadness that they had given to Him by their persistent disobedience and sins, their betrayal of the Lord for the pagan idols and gods.

The prophet Hosea brought forth the prophecy that God would once again restore His people, gather them once again and allow them to live in peace and harmony together with Him, and they would no longer worship the pagan idols and Baal, the chief god of the Canaanites, but instead, they would only worship the Lord, the one and only true God. The Lord desired for the reconciliation with His people and He was willing to forgive them their sins, but provided that they were willing to turn away from their sins.

In our Gospel passage today, then we heard yet another amazing story, of the healing of a woman who was suffering from haemorrhage or bleeding for twelve long years. The woman was hesitant and afraid to come to the Lord, as bleeding such as what she had suffered from was something considered unclean according to the Law, and she must have tried her best to hide her condition for all those years. There was certainly a mixture of shame and uncertainty in her mind that day.

But she gathered her courage and whatever strength she had to come towards the Lord, with faith that if she could even just touch the fringe of the Lord’s cloak, then she would be healed from her bleeding troubles. And sure enough, the very moment she touched the Lord’s cloak, her troubles were ended, and her body was made whole again. In all of these, and linking to what we have heard earlier on in our first reading, we heard the amazing story of God’s mercy, love and compassion for each and every one of us.

For the woman was actually a representative of us sinners, also much like the people of Israel of old, those who have disobeyed God and committed sins against Him. Her bleeding was just like how the people had sinned and disobeyed God therefore became defiled and unworthy of God. And by God’s power and grace, He will heal all of us just as He has healed the woman from all of her troubles. But all these, as we have heard, required faith, and strong, genuine faith.

Are we able to seek God with faith, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to follow the examples of the woman, who although fearful and uncertain, but her faith helped her to overcome those fears and she stepped forward, seeking the Lord with that faith? And that is what we need, brothers and sisters in Christ, that faith with the genuine desire to seek the Lord, to love Him and to turn away from all of our evil and sins, and embrace God’s ever great and bountiful forgiveness and mercy.

Today, we also celebrate the memory of the renowned saint, St. Maria Goretti, whose faith and devotion to God, her commitment and love for God, her love and patience, her forgiveness even for someone who had caused her so much hurt can be a great inspiration for ourselves, in how we ought to live our lives with faith. St. Maria Goretti was still a young girl and in her early teenage years, from a poor but loving family, as her parent worked and lived with another family.

The son of that family with whom St. Maria Goretti stayed with, named Alessandro, desired her and wanted to commit what was sinful in the eyes of God. St. Maria Goretti resisted his advances when he made it during one opportune moment as she did not want to do what was against God’s will and Law, and her, being a pious and God-fearing person, also did not want Alessandro to fall into evil. In his moment of anger of being rejected by St. Maria Goretti, Alessandro stabbed the girl many times.

On her deathbed, St. Maria Goretti forgave her assailant and murderer, and prayed for him, and asked for clemency for Alessandro. And with that, this young girl who chose death rather than to blemish herself with the taint of sin, entered into heavenly glory through martyrdom. And through the testimony of Alessandro himself, when he was in prison, he saw St. Maria Goretti coming to him and told him how she had forgiven him and that she prayed for his conversion of heart.

That was how Alessandro was converted and turned away from his earlier, sinful in his youthful years. When he was released from prison, he begged for forgiveness from the mother of St. Maria Goretti, who promptly forgave him, saying that how she ought to have forgiven him if her own daughter herself had forgiven him and prayed for him so much from heaven. Alessandro spent his remaining years doing his best in penance and also living righteously in prayer.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard all of these, we can see just how wonderful and amazing God’s healing and reconciliation can be for us. Are we willing to commit ourselves to the Lord and seek His forgiveness just as Alessandro had? And are we willing to commit ourselves to God and reject sin and the temptation to sin just as St. Maria Goretti had done? Let us all be righteous and good, and embrace God’s love and forgiveness from now on.

May God bless us all, and may He show us all His mercy, lovingly embracing us and taking good care of us, and help us in our journey towards righteousness, guiding us in repentance and giving us the necessary strength and patience to overcome all the temptations and sins present in our lives, that we may be healed from all these sickness of sin, and be purified by God’s ever wonderful mercy and love. Amen.

Monday, 6 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 9 : 18-26

At that time, while Jesus was speaking to the disciples of John and the Pharisees, an official of the synagogue came up to Him, bowed before Him and said, “My daughter has just died, but come and place Your hands on her, and she will live.”

Jesus stood up and followed him with His disciples. Then a woman, who had suffered from a severe bleeding for twelve years, came up from behind and touched the edge of His cloak; for she thought, “If I only touch His cloak, I will be healed.”

Jesus turned, saw her and said, “Courage, my daughter, your faith has saved you.” And from that moment, the woman was cured. When Jesus arrived at the official’s house and saw the flute players and the excited crowd, He said, “Get out of here! The girl is not dead. She is only sleeping!” And they laughed at Him.

But once the crowd had been turned out, Jesus went in and took the girl by the hand, and she stood up. The news of this spread through the whole area.

Monday, 6 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 144 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

I will praise You, day after day; and exalt Your Name forever. Great is YHVH, most worthy of praise; and His deeds are beyond measure.

Parents commend Your works to their children and tell them Your feats. They proclaim the splendour of Your majesty and recall Your wondrous works.

People will proclaim Your mighty deeds; and I will declare Your greatness. They will celebrate Your abundant kindness, and rejoice in singing of Your justice.

Compassionate and gracious is YHVH, slow to anger and abounding in love. YHVH is good to everyone; His mercy embraces all His creation.

Monday, 6 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Hosea 2 : 16, 17b-18, 21-22

So I am going to allure her, lead her once more into the desert, where I can speak to her tenderly. There, she will answer Me, as in her youth, as when she came out of the land of Egypt.

On that day, YHVH says, “You will call Me my Husband, and never again : my Baal. You will be My spouse forever, betrothed in justice and integrity; we will be united in love and tenderness. I will espouse you in faithfulness; and you will come to know YHVH.”

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, 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.

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

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyr)

Matthew 9 : 9-13

At that time, as Jesus moved on from the place where He cured a 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.”