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.”

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

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyr)

Psalm 118 : 2, 10, 20, 30, 40, 131

Blessed are they who treasure His word and seek Him with all their heart.

I seek You with my whole heart; let me not stray from Your commands.

My soul is consumed with desire for Your ordinances at all times.

I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart upon Your laws.

Oh, how I long for Your precepts! Renew my life in Your righteousness.

I gasp in ardent yearning, for Your commandments that I love.

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

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyr)

Amos 8 : 4-6, 9-12

Hear this, you, who trample on the needy, to do away with the weak of the land. You who say, “When will the new moon or the Sabbath feast be over that we may open the store and sell our grain? Let us lower the measure and raise the price; let us cheat and tamper with the scales, and even sell the refuse with the whole grain. We will buy up the poor for money and the needy for a pair of sandals.”

YHVH says, “On that day, I will make the sun go down at noon; and darken the earth in broad daylight. I will turn your festivals into mourning and all your singing into wailing. Everyone will mourn, covered with sackcloth; and every head will be shaved. I will make them mourn, as for an only son, and bring their day to a bitter end.”

YHVH says, “Days are coming when I will send famine upon the land; not hunger for bread or thirst for water, but for hearing the word of YHVH. Men will stagger from sea to sea, wander to and fro, from north to east, searching for the word of YHVH; but they will not find it.”

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.