19; 24:1-8, 62-67
Psalms 106:1-2, 3-4, 4-5
Feast of Saint Maria Goretti, virgin martyr was born in 1890 at Corinaldo, near Ancona, Italy. She is the patron saint of teenagers, particularly girls. She died on this day in 1902 at the hands of her attacker, Alexander Serenelli. Before she died, Maria forgave Alexander. Then later on, while in prison Alexander experienced a change of heart, when he saw Maria in a dream gathering flowers, to offer to him. She was canonized for her purity in 1947 by Pope Pius XII. (Saints ‘O the Day website)
From today’s reading, continuing in the Book of Genesis, we witness further the prayerful life of our Father of Faith, Abraham. After Sarah, Abraham’s wife, dies he is led by the Spirit to purchase property in the land of Canaan, so that he might bury her. This is significant because the purchase gave his family land rights, something not easily obtained for a visitor to the area. Also, significant because the Lord had promised Abraham, that one day the patriarch would inherit land in this country. We also find the senior servant of Abraham in prayer, after he is asked to go out and find a wife for Abraham’s son Isaac. The man, sent out with specific instructions, stops first to kneel down in prayer for a sign that will tell him he has selected the right woman for Isaac. In today’s readings, God was a big part of the lives of the people in Abraham’s circle of influence, and Abraham lived a long and prosperous life.
The story in today’s gospel from Matthew is familiar as we hear Jesus correct the perception of the Pharisees, who can not understand why Jesus dines with the people they consider sinners. Jesus came for all people. His influence was for the world to partake, so that they might be healed and therefore changed. Because we are weak, it is natural for us to want to avoid bad influences, but Jesus was not weak. He came to touch as many of us as He could, showing us another way to walk on this Earth.
A closing thought, from the homily spoken at the canonization of Saint Maria Goretti by Pope Pius XII:
"From Maria’s story carefree children and young people with their zest for life can learn not to be led astray by attractive pleasures, which are not only ephemeral and empty, but also sinful. Instead they can fix their sights on achieving Christian moral perfection, however difficult and hazardous that course may prove. With determination and God’s help all of us can attain that goal by persistent effort and prayer." (Office of Readings, pg. 1526).Let us be encouraged to strengthen our own piety following Abraham’s lead of trusting in the Lord, a person who lived a long life. We find the same level of trust in the Lord displayed by our young Saint, Maria Goretti, whose short life ended before her 12th birthday. Lest we believe these people were super humans, Jesus reminds us He came to draw all people to Him in the Father. “People who are in good health do not need a doctor; sick people do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘It is mercy I desire and not sacrifice.’ I have come to call, not the self-righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12-13)
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