Saint Maria Goretti

Today’s readings

Today’s readings are, well, interesting. It’s hard to know in today’s first reading if the Lord is blessing dishonest conduct, or if it’s the providence of God that is working its way out. All of us must surely bristle a bit when we see Esau cheated out of his father’s blessing, and Jacob and Rebekah’s dishonest conduct blessed. Secretly we all must have been waiting for the wrath of God to come down upon the two of them and turn them into a pillar of salt, like Lot’s wife. But that’s not what happens here. And we know that Jacob is blessed as the father of a nation. What the message seems to be here is that God does not let an accident of birth order stand in the way of blessing one he has chosen.

If our Gospel reading today could shed any light on this conundrum, perhaps it is that we cannot put new wine into old wineskins. The new wine of God’s justice and omnipotence just won’t be contained in the old wineskins of our understanding. Instead, that new wine bursts forth from those wineskins and saturates the earth with mercy and justice.

That new wine is well represented in the blood of the martyrs.  Like the blood of their Savior, martyrs like Saint Maria Goretti have saturated and refreshed the earth, calling the world to new holiness and bringing the world to Christ.  Maria was stabbed to death in 1902, preferring to die rather than be raped. In the hours before her death, she forgave her murderer, a neighbor named Alessandro.  He was unrepentant for years, until one night he had a vision of Maria gathering flowers and offering them to him.  Forgiveness is a powerful instrument to bring people to Christ.

Today, may we rejoice with our bridegroom that God’s mercy and compassion never end and that our limited understandings cannot be the containers of God’s ways, and that forgiveness is always the doorway to Christ.

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