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.”

Thursday, 6 July 2017 : 13th 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, today we heard about how God tested the faith of Abraham, by asking him to bring his son with him to the Mount Moriah, and then sacrifice Isaac, his son, on that mountain to Him. Certainly we must have been wondering, why did the Lord do such a thing? And why did He ask such a request from Abraham?

It was not recorded how Abraham personally felt about such a strange and outrageous request from the Lord. Nonetheless, as parents certainly should know, he must have been shocked initially as he heard the Lord asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac to Him. Isaac had been the son whom the Lord promised to him, as the one through whom God would bless him as the father of many peoples and many nations. And then, why would He suddenly just withdraw His promise in that manner?

Yet, Abraham remained faithful and true to the Lord, despite his possible doubts and uncertainties. He obeyed the Lord and followed His commands, listening to His will and brought Isaac up the mountain to be sacrificed. When Isaac himself asked his father on the whereabouts of the lamb to be sacrificed, Abraham told him, “God shall provide.”

In all of these, Abraham believed that God had plans for him and His will ought to be done no matter what. After all, who is man to presume to know all about God’s plan for them? Abraham trusted in God and kept his faith in Him, the same faith which he had ever since he was first called by God from his homeland, and following that call to walk in the path of God.

And God rewarded Abraham for his faith, as He saw just how genuine his faith and devotion to Him was. Abraham did not let his personal desires and human and worldly concerns to undermine or affect his faith and decision. He placed his faith in God first and foremost above everything else. That is why, after the Lord revealed His true intention to Abraham, He blessed him and his descendants because of his great and genuine faith.

What is the lesson which we can learn from this, brothers and sisters in Christ? What is the lesson that we can learn from Abraham, our father in faith? It is the lesson that all of us must not let our human and worldly concerns to overcome us or to affect our faith in God. It is too often that we mankind succumb to worldly temptations, the temptation of money, the temptation of worldly power and influence, the temptation of flesh pleasures and many others.

Take for example the case of St. Maria Goretti, the saint and holy woman whose feast we celebrate today. St. Maria Goretti lived about more than a hundred years ago in Italy, who was a devout and God-fearing young woman. At that time, she was suited by the son of her neighbour, named Alessandro, who wanted her to be his. He made his advances on her, and on a particular day, he cornered her, wanting to have sexual relations with her.

St. Maria Goretti, knowing that such an action is a great sin before God, rejected Alessandro’s advances and reminded him that they should not commit such a heinous sin before God. Therefore, as she continued to reject his advances, it made Alessandro to be overcome with anger and hatred, resulting in him stabbing St. Maria Goretti many times. He fled from the scene, leaving St. Maria Goretti mortally wounded.

But St. Maria Goretti did not have any grudge or hatred towards her murderer, Alessandro. From her deathbed, she forgave Alessandro and prayed for his conversion and redemption to the Lord. Eventually, Alessandro confessed to his murder and while in prison, he saw a vision of St. Maria Goretti who visited him. He had a change of heart and devoted himself to good cause from then on. He died many years later as a changed man, and even witnessed the canonisation of St. Maria Goretti, when she was proclaimed a saint by Pope Pius XII.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all heed the examples and the inspirations from St. Maria Goretti and Abraham, our father in faith, by committing ourselves to the Lord wholeheartedly and not allowing ourselves to be swayed by worldly temptations and influences. Let us stand by our faith in the Lord and remain true and righteous in all of our ways. Let us seek to do our best to be truly just and adhere to His laws obediently. May the Lord help us all in this endeavour. Amen.

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, 6 July 2016 : 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, today we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking about the people of the northern kingdom of Israel, to whom the prophet Hosea had been sent to. The people of Israel had been blessed with much blessings, as their ancestors had been faithful to God and to His covenant with them. And at that time, as a background, the prophet Hosea was sent to the northern kingdom of Israel at the time of relative prosperity.

And all that prosperity as well as their own stubbornness and lack of faith had made the people of God to lose track and deviate from the true faith in God. They refused to listen to the prophets which had been sent to them to remind them of what they ought to do to repent and to turn back to the Lord. They disobeyed God and instead, they lived in debauchery and wasted themselves on the prosperity and the wealth which they had gained.

And instead of following their one and true King, they followed the king whom they have set over themselves. Those kings had misled them into evil ways and thus into sin. But despite of this, they continued on with their wrong path, and they therefore sank deeper into the darkness. And yet, God continued to send His help again and again, one after another with the hope that some of them would realise their errors and return to Him.

That was why Jesus our Lord, Who came into the world in order to save it, also sent His twelve Apostles and the many other disciples He had to preach His Good News to the people, spreading the truth about God’s love and mercy to them, and calling them to repentance and to turn themselves to God’s ever great and generous mercy.

But the resistance by all those people to whom the Apostles and the disciples had been sent to, was great. They did not like it when they had to change their ways to suit that of the ways of the Lord. For them, it was much more preferable for them to continue with their then way of life rather than to abandon them for the sake of the Lord. Many of them were too attached to worldliness and thus their hearts were set against God and His message.

Then, this is where we should take note of what happened to the saint whose feast day we celebrate today. She is the famous saint whose story must be quite familiar with many of us. St. Maria Goretti was a young woman who was devoted to the Lord, and has promised herself before God to remain holy and pure in all things. She lived with another family as her own father had passed away when she was still very young.

The son of the family where St. Maria Goretti lived in took an interest in her, and he on one occasion, threatened St. Maria Goretti and wanted to rape her when she was alone, but St. Maria Goretti, even when threatened with a sharp knife, refused his advances, and courageously reminded him that such an act is a great and mortal sin that would condemn both of them to the eternal fires of hell.

Faced with such a setback and opposition, the boy panicked and as he gave in to his fears and anger, he struck at St. Maria Goretti many times with the knife. As she laid dying from her wounds in the hospital, she forgave her murderer with love, and wished that he would be with her in Heaven.

And indeed, while the murderer refused to repent and did not show regret over his actions in the first few years of his imprisonment, but after a bishop visited him in prison and told him how St. Maria Goretti had forgiven him and even prayed for him, and as on one night she even appeared before him and spoke to him, the murderer, Alessandro Serenelli, repented sincerely and changed his ways, eventually even becoming a member of a religious order, dedicating himself to a life of piety and devotion to God.

This wonderful story of the life and death of St. Maria Goretti, and how her murderer had been converted into the way to salvation should be inspiration for us all as well. Let us not be like the people of Israel in ancient times, who placed their worldly desires and greed above their faith in God. The same problem had caused that Alessandro to murder St. Maria Goretti, and also many other sinful things which we mankind commit in this world today.

Let us all no longer give in to our human desires and the greed that is in our hearts. Let us instead devote ourselves ever more faithfully to our God, and give ourselves to Him in all the things that we say and do, so that we may draw ever closer to the throne of His love and mercy. God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 10 : 1-7

At that time, Jesus called His twelve disciples to Him, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits, to drive them and to heal every disease and sickness.

These are the names of the Twelve Apostles : first Simon, called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew, the tax collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon, the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, the man who would betray Him.

Jesus sent these twelve on mission with these instructions : “Do not visit pagan territory and do not enter a Samaritan town. Go instead to the lost sheep of the people of Israel. Go and proclaim this message : The kingdom of heaven is near.”