St. Maria Goretti

HOMILY WEEK 13 06 – Year II

New Wine – Fresh Skins:

Optional Memorial of St. Maria Goretti

(Amos 9:11-15; Ps 85; Mt 9:14-17)


An elderly lady went to the bar every night and ordered a glass of whiskey and a drop of water.  Every night it was the same – a glass of whiskey and a drop of water. After a few weeks, the bartender commented on this – usually people ordered there drinks straight, on the rocks or with a mix. How come she always ordered only a drop of water. She replied, “Sonny, you have to understand – at my age, I can handle my liquor, but I can’t handle my water!”

The readings today are very positive and appropriate for the beginning or ending of a retreat. They are all about renewal, restoration and being a new wineskin for God’s fresh, new, powerful wine.

A quote from spiritual writer Ilia Delio fits here: The fact that Christ risen from the dead now lives in the cosmos in a new way must empower believers to live in a new way as well. We are to be new wineskins for the new life Christ wants to share with us.

In the first reading from the prophet Amos, symbolic language is used to express newness and renewal – God will raise up the fallen booth of David, repair and rebuild it, restore fortunes and they will possess the remnant. The result is a renewed covenant relationship with God symbolized by vineyards and gardens, never again to be plucked up.

For its part, Psalm 85 continues the symbolic language and invites us to turn to the Lord in our hearts. Love, fidelity, righteousness and peace will meet and kiss. God’s righteousness or holiness will come down to meet our faithfulness. God will give what is good, the Holy Spirit, and our yield or holiness will increase.

In the Gospel, Jesus resorts to the symbolic language of a wedding feast to answer a simple question about fasting. When he is present, it is time for celebration and feasting, not fasting. Like at the wedding feast of Cana, his presence is powerful new wine, and we must become fresh wineskins to be able to hold and offer this new wine to the world.

Very opportunely, these readings were the daily readings for the end of a retreat I conducted for a group of sisters. I expressed the hope the retreat was for them a nuptial event, truly a honeymoon with the Lord, that will transform us all (including me) more deeply into those new wineskins.

The new wine was the reminder and hopefully a renewed image of God as mercy, compassion, humility, vulnerability, unconditional love, forgiveness and total non-violence, as revealed by Jesus on the Cross. God is love, and only love. Jesus as the Messiah came with a two-fold role: to redeem and to sanctify, to forgive and to heal, and that forgiveness and healing was present among us all through the retreat, especially in the silence and contemplative prayer, soaking up God’s love.

The new wine, I suggested, was a new awareness and experience of that unconditional love of God, experiencing God’s forgiveness through reconciliation, enjoying some healing through the work of the Holy Spirit within us. That new wine could also be deeper sense of gratitude, a greater sense of self-esteem and self-worth, a greater courage to speak one’s truth, a renewed ability to love one’s self, a greater readiness to forgive others, to apologize to others, to seek reconciliation, and new skills by which to communicate our feelings.

The new wine, I suggested, also extends to the whole community, in the form of more open communication, greater understanding of one another, and a greater sense of unity as a religious family. After all, God’s greatest hurt is our broken brother and sisterhood.

Mary is our model. She was responsible for the transformation of water into abundant fine wine at Cana. She became the new wineskin for the Incarnation through her openness and receptivity. We need to pray to her for that same openness during this retreat.

St. Maria Goretti

The story of St. Maria Goretti, whom we honour today, and that of her mother is one of mercy and forgiveness. Maria was third of seven children in a poor family in the province of Ancona, Italy. Her father died in 1900 when she was ten. When Maria was twelve, she rebuffed the sexual advances of an eighteen-year-old neighbor, Allesandro, who threatened to kill her if she did not submit to him. Enraged by Maria’s refusal, he stabbed her fourteen times. She was taken to a hospital seven-miles away on a horse drawn ambulance with her entrails hanging out, operated on for two hours and lived for twenty-four hours. She became a Child of Mary, was anointed, received communion and forgave her murderer. She died in the afternoon of July 6, 1902. Alessandro was almost lynched, tried and sentenced to thirty years hard labor. He was cynical and defiant for the first seven 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 the fruit both of Mary’s receptivity, and Jesus’ openness to the will of God. May our celebration empower us to be receptive to the Holy Spirit as Mary was; to be open to being transformed into new wineskins for the new wine of the Spirit, and to live this new way of life – a share in his own risen life – that the Risen Lord offers us.


Updated: July 6, 2024 — 3:36 am

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