HOMILY WEEK 14 01- Year II
Birthing Newness Through Faith and Covenant Love:
Optional Memorial of St. Maria Goretti
(Hos 2:14-16,19-20; Ps 145; Matt 9:18-26)
Have faith in Jesus; touch the hem of his garment, receive healing and participate in a new creation.
There is a relational progression in the readings today. In the first reading from Hosea, God is like a lover tenderly calling Israel to come back to her first fervor. God wants an intimate, covenantal marriage relationship with God’s people, involving righteousness, justice, steadfast love and mercy. God wants God’s people to truly know and experience God’s love.
Psalm 145 unfolds what God is truly like: kind, merciful, slow to anger, gracious, abounding in steadfast love. Our response to that love is to praise God and celebrate God’s awesome deeds.
In the Gospel we see God incarnate, Jesus, performing two miracles. A synagogue leader’s daughter has died, and an older woman with a hemorrhage wants to touch his cloak. By touching the hem of his garment with faith, she is healed, and because of the faith of the synagogue official, the girl is raised back to life.
These two figures in the gospel are significant, appearing in all three Synoptic Gospels. Unlike Matthew, Luke is careful to point out that the girl is “about 12” and that the woman had suffered for 12 years. One is at the age of puberty while the other is barren. One died before being able to give birth; the other was unable to birth new life.
Jesus’ miracles are all revelatory – he is not a miracle worker who performs miracles for their own sake. Note that Jesus never healed appendicitis. All his miracles have a purpose. He heals the mute so they can praise God, as in the psalm. He heals the deaf so they can hear God’s word. He heals the lame so they can walk and spread God’s word. He heals the blind so they can see the beauty of God’s creation and praise God for it.
The meaning here is that Jesus is about to birth something new in the world; a new world order, a new creation, as foretold in the first reading. By putting our complete faith and trust in him, we can participate in that new creation. Just touching the hem of his garment with faith brings healing to us.
One example might be youth drinking all weekend, who sneak into 5 pm mass on Sunday, and sit at the back with sunglasses on. They are touching the hem of the garment of Jesus just by being there with some degree of faith, and healing is happening
Today the church invites us to honor St. Maria Goretti. The story of Maria and that of her mother is one of forgiveness. Maria was third of 7 children in a poor family in the province of Ancona, Italy. Her father died in 1900 when she was 10. When Maria was 12, she rebuffed the sexual advances of an 18-year old neighbor, Allesandro, who threatened to kill her if she did not submit to him. Enraged by Maria’s refusal, he stabbed her 14 times. She did not die right away, but was taken to a hospital 7 miles away on a horse drawn ambulance with her entrails hanging out, operated on for two hours and lived for 24 hours. She became a Child of Mary, received the Last Sacrament and forgave her murderer. She died in the afternoon of July 6 1902. Alessandro was almost lynched, tried and sentenced to 30 years hard labor. He was cynical and defiant for the first 7 years, but then repented, with dreams of her figuring largely in his conversion. After his release in 1928, he sought – and received – forgiveness from Maria’s mother. Maria was beatified in 1927. Alessandro and Maria’s mother received Communion side by side on Christmas day 1937, and spent Christmas together. Pope Pius XII canonized Maria in 1950 for her defense of Christian virtue. Her mother was present at the ceremony, a first. Alessandro spent the last years of his life in a Capuchin monastery. He died in 1970.
The Eucharist is truly touching the hem of Jesus’ garment, and healing is happening to us right here and now – through Jesus’ word and sacrament. May our celebration deepen our faith in Jesus, bring us healing and new life, and empower us to share that life with others.