Tuesday, 6 July 2021 : 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 as we listened to the words of the Scriptures we are presented with the story of Jacob who encountered the Lord and struggled with Him, and survived, as he made his way back to the land of Canaan to be reunited with his family. God reassured Jacob that he would be always blessed and protected by Him, and God would never abandon him and his descendants.

We heard then in our Gospel passage today, of the moment when the Lord healed His people, healing the blind and the sick, and casting out demons from those who had been possessed. And yet, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law among the crowd were quick to criticise Him and even accused Him of colluding and working together with the prince of demons in order to deceive the people.

This is the same struggle that Jacob had as he was still doubting the Lord when he was on his way back to Canaan. As he returned to the land of Canaan, he was still worried and fearful that his elder brother Esau still held great grudge and anger against him and wanted him and his family dead. Yet, that was not to be the case. Nonetheless, God came to Jacob and made him to see reason, and turn away from his doubts and fears.

The Lord therefore did the same as He came among His people, bearing His truth and salvation, healing His people from their sickness and troubles. And yet, some among them still refused to believe in Him and hardened their hearts and minds, as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done. Nonetheless, God never ceased in trying to reach out to even the most stubborn among His people.

And that was when He also said to His disciples, that while the harvest was plentiful, but the labourers were few. He asked them all to pray and ask the Lord, the Master of the harvest, to send labourers to work and gather the harvest that has been waiting to be harvested. And this means that, all of us as Christians, we have been given this very task to be the labourers of the vineyard and the harvest of the Lord.

He has entrusted to us the mission to evangelise the whole world, to make disciples of all the peoples of all the nations of the world, to be the witnesses of His Resurrection, the bearers of His light, hope and truth to all and every peoples. But how are we going to do this, if we ourselves have not been truly faithful to Him yet, brothers and sisters in Christ? Many of us are still stubborn much like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in refusing to commit ourselves to the Lord and believe in His truth.

That is why today all of us should be inspired by the examples set by St. Maria Goretti, the famous saint and martyr of the faith, a young girl who was martyred while she was but a young teenager, in defence of her faith and chastity. The story of St. Maria Goretti and her martyrdom was well known, how she was about to be raped by Alessandro, a neighbour’s boy, who wanted to do indecent things with her.

St. Maria Goretti refused his advances, and persisted in maintaining her purity and virginity before God, which caused the older boy to be angered and stabbed the young girl many times, and leaving her for death. Yet, this courageous and brave young girl and servant of God forgave her assailant even to her last breath and prayed for his conversion. Later on, she was to appear to her assailant, and according to accounts, led him down the path of repentance, as he turned a new leaf of life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we also able to follow in the path set by St. Maria Goretti and many other of our holy predecessors? God has called us all to be holy and to be dedicated to Him, doing His works and be His faithful labourers in all things. Let us all strive to do our very best in glorifying God, in every little things we do, and commit ourselves, each and every moments of our lives, to be the bearers of God’s truth and love. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 6 July 2021 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 9 : 32-38

At that time, as the two blind men were going away, some people brought to Jesus a man who was dumb, because he was possessed by a demon. When the demon was driven out, the dumb man began to speak. The crowds were astonished and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”

But the Pharisees said, “He drives away demons with the help of the prince of demons.”

Jesus went around all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom; and He cured every sickness and disease. When He saw the crowds, He was moved with pity; for they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are only few. Ask the Master of the harvest to send workers to gather His harvest.”

Tuesday, 6 July 2021 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 16 : 1, 2-3, 6-7, 8 and 15

Hear a just cause, o YHVH, listen to my complaint. Give heed to my prayer, for there is no deceit on my lips.

Let my defence come forth from You; Your eyes see what is right. You have probed my heart, searched me at night, tested me by fire, and You have seen no wickedness in me.

I call on You, You will answer me, o God; incline Your ear and hear my word. For You do wonders for Your faithful, You save those fleeing from the enemy as they seek refuge at Your right hand.

Keep me as the apple of Your eye; under the shadow of Your wings hide me. As for me, righteous in Your sight, I shall see Your face and, awakening, gaze my fill on Your likeness.

Tuesday, 6 July 2021 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Genesis 32 : 23-33

Jacob took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons, and sent them across the stream and likewise everything he had. And Jacob was left alone. Then a Man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the Man saw that He could not get the better of Jacob, He struck him in the socket of his hip and dislocated it as He wrestled with him.

The Man said, “Let Me go, for day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let You go until you have given me Your blessing.” The Man then said, “What is your name?” “Jacob” was the reply. He answered, “You will no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have been strong-with-God as you have been with men and have prevailed.”

Then Jacob asked Him, “What is Your Name?” He answered, “Why do you ask My Name?” And He blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Penuel, saying, “I have seen God face to face and survived.” The sun rose as he passed through Penuel, limping because of his hip. That is why to this day the Israelites do not eat the sciatic nerve which is in the hip socket because the sciatic nerve in Jacob’s hip had been touched.

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.”