6 July, Friday – By God’s Mercy And Grace

Jul 6 – Memorial for St. Maria Goretti, Virgin & Martyr

Maria Goretti (1890-1902) was a beautiful and pious farm girl, one of six children of Luigi Goretti and Assunta Carlini. In 1896 the family moved to Ferriere di Conca. Soon after, Maria’s father died of malaria, and the family was forced to move onto the Serenelli farm to survive.

In 1902, at the age of 12, Maria was attacked by 19-year-old farm hand Alessandro Serenelli. He tried to rape the girl who fought, yelled that it was a sin, and that he would go to hell. He tried to choke her into submission, then stabbed her 14 times. She survived in hospital for two days, forgave her attacker, asked God’s forgiveness of him, and died holding a crucifix and medal of Our Lady. She is counted as a martyr.

While in prison for his crime, Alessandro had a vision of Maria. He saw a garden where a young girl, dressed in white, gathered lilies. She smiled, came near him, and encouraged him to accept an armful of lilies. As he took them, each lily transformed into a still white flame. Maria then disappeared. This vision of Maria led to Alessandro’s conversion, and he later testified at her cause for beatification.

– Patron Saint Index

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Amos 8:4-6,9-12

Listen to this, you who trample on the needy
and try to suppress the poor people of the country,
you who say, ‘When will New Moon be over
so that we can sell our corn,
and sabbath, so that we can market our wheat?
Then by lowering the bushel, raising the shekel,
by swindling and tampering with the scales,
we can buy up the poor for money,
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and get a price even for the sweepings of the wheat.’
That day – it is the Lord who speaks –
I will make the sun go down at noon,
and darken the earth in broad daylight.
I am going to turn your feasts into funerals,
all your singing into lamentation;
I will have your loins all in sackcloth,
your heads all shaved.
I will make it a mourning like the mourning for an only son,
as long as it lasts it will be like a day of bitterness.
See what days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks –
days when I will bring famine on the country,
a famine not of bread, a drought not of water,
but of hearing the word of the Lord.
They will stagger from sea to sea,
wander from north to east,
seeking the word of the Lord
and failing to find it.

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Matthew 9:9-13

As Jesus was walking on he saw a man named Matthew sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.

While he was at dinner in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When he heard this he replied, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.’

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Follow me

Israel rejected the word of the Lord, as prophesied by Amos in today’s first reading. Amos was expelled by Amaziah from the sanctuary and demanded he return to his native land of Judah. They simply refused to hear what God had to say and continued to rain injustice over the land. They were cheats, unrighteous and oppressive of the Roman people. They were unrepentant and the Lord was sure angry!

In comparison, Matthew encountered Jesus and was asked to “Follow me.” Profitable as his business was, obviously happy with his lot in life, still Matthew dropped everything and obediently followed Christ. As a tax collector, Matthew would seem the most unlikely candidate to be chosen as a disciple. He would be exactly like the sinners that Amos described in the first reading. But our Lord knows better. It’s not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick.

Many of us in Singapore are very privileged and some are living a pretty good life. When Jesus calls us – how many of us would say “Yes!” immediately? Or would we say “Yes, but not right now.” Or will be deem ourselves unworthy, not holy enough?

Brothers and sisters, we are all sinners in need of God’s mercy. We will never be holy enough nor ready enough. In my own faith journey, it hasn’t been easy. Each time Jesus called, I gave a half-hearted ‘Yes’. Yet He has been so loving and patient with me. All He needs from us is our ‘Yes’. And be prepared, that one ‘Yes’ will lead to many other ‘Yes’-s and the journey will not be easy. But it will be far more rewarding, more profitable, more peaceful than the life we live for ourselves today. When God visits us, we should not reject the word of God, but welcome it every day in prayer, the scriptures and the Eucharist, in serving others, in giving of our lives. We shouldn’t judge others until we have walked in their shoes, until we have acknowledged our own weakness and pride. Let us be like Matthew, after encountering the call of Jesus and leaving everything behind, trusting that God has a better plan for us. Let us follow Jesus and gather our friends and family, non-believers, sinners to the table of God, so that they too can encounter the mercy of Christ!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, give us the strength when we are weak, give us courage to say ‘Yes’ when you call. Help us to open our heart and ears to your soft promptings.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for your forgiveness and mercy.

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