Friday in the 13th Week of Ordinary Time (I)
Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr
Choosing the Weak and Making Them Strong
Readings: Genesis 23:1-4, 19; 24:1-8, 62-67; Psalm 106:1b-2, 3-4a, 4b-5; Matthew 9:9-13
There’s a well-known principle (if we can call it that) of the spiritual life that’s not easy for many of us to accept. The reason being that it contrasts so sharply with our everyday experience. In the world, we are often conditioned to make ourselves strong so that we might be chosen. We study hard to qualify for scholarships, or simply to be promoted to the next grade. We undergo training and try to build up impressive resumes so that we can be chosen for the jobs that we want. Such is the way of the world. One has to make oneself strong so as to be chosen. And such is also the way in which some approach the spiritual life. Such is the approach, for example, of the Pharisees in the today’s gospel. They try to strengthen themselves, to make themselves holy, so that God might choose them. They pride themselves in their spiritual discipline.
Which explains why they are so surprised and even scandalized by Jesus’ actions. Not only does Jesus mix and eat with tax collectors and sinners but he also calls them, chooses them to follow him, to share in his life and mission. Jesus comes to call not the virtuous but sinners. In the words of the preface for martyrs, which we will be using today, God chooses the weak and makes them strong. And we see this also in the experience of the martyr we celebrate today. Twelve-year-old Maria Goretti was a mere child. Yet she was given the grace of martyrdom when she died resisting rape. But not before she had forgiven the one who had stabbed her. God chooses the weak and makes them strong.
And, in Maria Goretti’s experience, we also see just how God strengthens the weak. Unlike what we might expect, God doesn’t quite do this by shielding the chosen ones from life’s hurts, or by making them invulnerable to pain. Consider Abraham and Isaac in the first reading. Though chosen and blessed so richly by God, they are not spared the pain of Sarah’s passing. But even in their grief God consoles them. The departure of Sarah also marks the entrance of Rebekah into their lives. God chooses the weak and makes them strong.
How is this true in our own experience? How does God choose and strengthen us today?