Faith and its Connection to Sacrifice, Mercy and Chastity, 13th Thursday (I), July 6, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Thursday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Maria Goretti
July 6, 2017
Gen 22:1-19, Ps 115, Mt 9:1-8


To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 


The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today the readings and the feast all focus on faith and its connection to sacrifice, to mercy and to ardent chastity.
  • In the first reading, we see Abraham’s faith, which is shown in his willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac, knowing, as the letter to the Hebrews says, that even should Isaac be slain, God would raise him from the dead since God had declared that Isaac was the son of the promise through whom Abraham would become the father of many nations. True faith in God means to trust in him and to love him above all things, including the capacity to sacrifice our most precious pearls in the collection to obtain the pearl of great price.
  • In the Gospel, we see the faith of the four friends of the paralyzed man. We don’t know how far they carried their friend on a stretcher, but that’s not easy work no matter the distance. They wanted to bring their friend in need to Jesus. When the house was packed where Jesus was, rather than waiting, they did the very difficult thing of lifting their paralyzed pal up onto the roof, as we see in the other Synoptic evangelists. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to balance a paraplegic or a quadriplegic, but they did it to get him up onto the roof on a stretcher, and after they had opened up the roof, to lower him down without having him fall on their head. What a scene the whole thing must have been, but they were not to be stopped — or frankly delayed. And Jesus went far beyond what they were asking: seeing their faith, he healed the man’s sins and then healed the man’s paralysis. It’s a reminder to us that in faith we ought to be seeking to bring our friends with all their needs to Jesus to let him surpass even our hopes for them, because God always responds to our prayers, for whatever we ask for, with the supreme gift of himself.
  • The third expression of faith is in St. Maria Goretti, whom the Church celebrates today. Her faith led her to love the Lord with ardent chastity such that she was willing to give her life for him. As St. Ambrose said in the early Church, “Virginity is praiseworthy not because it is found in martyrs, but because it makes martyrs.” And we see that her yeses to God in chastity was what gave her courage to say yes to God and no to even the possibility of sin when the supreme hour arrived. When her 20 year old next-door-neighbor Alessandro Serenelli tried to seduce her and then rape her at the age of 11, she said simply, “It would be a sin,” and she repeatedly refused. Her chastity flowed from her recognition that she was a temple of God and that Alessandro likewise was called to glorify God in his body, not sin. Alessandro didn’t want to hear it, however, and when she screamed as he was trying to rip her clothes off, he began to stab her 14 times with a long awl, piercing her lungs, her diaphragm, her throat and her heart. He ran away. Maria’s infant sister Teresa whom she was babysitting began to cry and her cries weren’t addressed, so eventually Alessandro’s father and Maria’s mother came to see if everything was okay with Teresa. That’s when the found Maria. She was rushed to the hospital where they did surgery without anesthesia to try to stop the bleeding and repair the damage but it was too late. Maria described Alessandro’s advances and what he had done that day, said that she forgave him and wanted him to join her in heaven, and died on the following day. Alessandro was a very bitter man after he was sent to jail for 30 years. For the first three, he refused all advances to help him, including from priests. But then Maria appeared to him in a dream, gave him lilies — signs of her purity as well as of her resurrection — and told him anew that she forgave him. He became a changed man. He was released after 27 years for good behavior. His first visit was to Maria’s mother Assunta to ask for her forgiveness. She said that if her daughter could forgive him, so could she, and then she brought him to Church the next day, which was Christmas Eve, and asked the whole community to forgive him — something that made it possible for him to live there. Eventually he became a Capuchin brother and lived the rest of his days in holiness. He was present at the canonization of the little girl he had tried to rape and then murdered when she was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1950, the first canonization ever to be held outside in St. Peter’s Square because of the immensity of the crowds that wanted to be present for the ceremony. Her chaste love of God had led her chastely to love others in God with the Lord’s own mercy and that love of God through her in life and after death was what transformed Alessandro and is meant to transform us.
  • Today as we come to Mass we encounter the fulfillment of the sacrifice of Abraham, when another Son carried the wood of the Sacrifice, when God provided the Lamb, and when God didn’t stop this Son from being slain, because he knew he would raise him from the dead. It’s this Son we receive at Mass, and hope to receive in faith. This mystery is what strengthened St. Maria Goretti. Exactly 13 months before she was martyred, she had received Holy Communion with intense longing. “I long for Jesus,” she was accustomed to say. Even though she was illiterate, she learned all her prayers and catechism with the help of her parish priest and a lady of the village so that she would be ready to receive him. She would receive Holy Communion every Sunday with great zeal and would receive Jesus for the last time as Viaticum, “like an angel,” as those present attested. It was after she had received Jesus that last time that she said that she had forgiven Alessandro out of love for Jesus and prayed that God would forgive him too. That’s the power of what Jesus did in her. May we receive today with the faith, longing and love of St. Maria Goretti, a faith that will allow us to sacrifice like Abraham and to bring others to the Lord so that he may do in them what he did in Abraham, Maria Goretti and all the heroes of faith.


The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 Gn 22:1b-19

God put Abraham to the test.
He called to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
Then God said: “Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love,
and go to the land of Moriah.
There you shall offer him up as a burnt offering
on a height that I will point out to you.”
Early the next morning Abraham saddled his donkey,
took with him his son Isaac, and two of his servants as well,
and with the wood that he had cut for the burnt offering,
set out for the place of which God had told him.
On the third day Abraham got sight of the place from afar.
Then he said to his servants: “Both of you stay here with the donkey,
while the boy and I go on over yonder.
We will worship and then come back to you.”
Thereupon Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering
and laid it on his son Isaac’s shoulders,
while he himself carried the fire and the knife.
As the two walked on together, Isaac spoke to his father Abraham:
“Father!” he said.
“Yes, son,” he replied.
Isaac continued, “Here are the fire and the wood,
but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”
“Son,” Abraham answered,
“God himself will provide the sheep for the burnt offering.”
Then the two continued going forward.
When they came to the place of which God had told him,
Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it.
Next he tied up his son Isaac,
and put him on top of the wood on the altar.
Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.
But the LORD’s messenger called to him from heaven,
“Abraham, Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he answered.
“Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the messenger.
“Do not do the least thing to him.
I know now how devoted you are to God,
since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.”
As Abraham looked about,
he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket.
So he went and took the ram
and offered it up as a burnt offering in place of his son.
Abraham named the site Yahweh-yireh;
hence people now say, “On the mountain the LORD will see.”
Again the LORD’s messenger called to Abraham from heaven and said:
“I swear by myself, declares the LORD,
that because you acted as you did
in not withholding from me your beloved son,
I will bless you abundantly
and make your descendants as countless
as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore;
your descendants shall take possession
of the gates of their enemies,
and in your descendants all the nations of the earth
shall find blessing—all this because you obeyed my command.”Abraham then returned to his servants,
and they set out together for Beer-sheba,
where Abraham made his home.

Responsorial Psalm PS 115:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

R. (9) I will walk in the presence of the Lord, in the land of the living.
R. Alleluia.
Not to us, O LORD, not to us
but to your name give glory
because of your kindness, because of your truth.
Why should the pagans say,
“Where is their God?”
R. I will walk in the presence of the Lord, in the land of the living.
R. Alleluia.
Our God is in heaven;
whatever he wills, he does.
Their idols are silver and gold,
the handiwork of men.
R. I will walk in the presence of the Lord, in the land of the living.
R. Alleluia.
They have mouths but speak not;
they have eyes but see not;
They have ears but hear not;
they have noses but smell not.
R. I will walk in the presence of the Lord, in the land of the living.
R. Alleluia.
Their makers shall be like them,
everyone who trusts in them.
The house of Israel trusts in the LORD;
he is their help and their shield.
R. I will walk in the presence of the Lord, in the land of the living.
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia 2 Cor 5:19

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mt 9:1-8

After entering a boat, Jesus made the crossing, and came into his own town.
And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,
“Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.”
At that, some of the scribes said to themselves,
“This man is blaspheming.”
Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said,
“Why do you harbor evil thoughts?
Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’
or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?
But that you may know that the Son of Man
has authority on earth to forgive sins”–
he then said to the paralytic,
“Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”
He rose and went home.
When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe
and glorified God who had given such authority to men.