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Maria Goretti - A Story

by the Rev. Mark Connolly

I think all of us know that as the day called Christmas approaches many of us get tired because of the extra responsibilities we have, but we still have to keep in mind it is an important day not only in the life of the Church, it is an important day in the lives of each one of us. You know about 70 years ago in the Basilica of St. Peter's in Rome an unusual situation took place. It is the story of an elderly mother who was assisted to the altar by an elderly man. The woman who was assisted to the altar was the mother of St. Maria Goretti. You might recall that it was Maria who was brutally assaulted, brutally raped and eventually killed by a man whose name we have forgotten in history. It was the same man that night on that Christmas eve that accompanied Mrs. Goretti, the mother of Maria, to the altar to receive communion. As the reporters found and looked they recognized this man as the same man who killed her daughter years before. When Mrs. Goretti was asked how she could ever allow herself to be brought to the altar by the man who killed her daughter, she simply replied, if my daughter Maria could forgive him before she died, then so can I.

When you recognize the teachings of Jesus Christ concerning love and forgiveness that are always talked about during this season, they are more than just theories, they are more than just ideas. They are more than just philosophies and theologies. They should become ways of life for each one of us. There is a basic principle that if you follow the teachings of Christ you might recall that Christ said forgive us in Our Lord's prayer, forgive those who trespass against us, we must be willing to forgive seven times seventy times a day. The last few words that he spoke upon the cross, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do."

When you take the whole series of themes associated with Christ, the two themes that come forth are forgiveness and love. If there is any one who is carrying a grudge today towards a member of your family, you have to recall the words of Jesus Christ concerning forgiveness. He said, before you come to the altar to leave your gift, go first and be reconciled with him who is the object of your love. The element of forgiveness is something that we can never forget. There is another facet that is often overlooked when we talk about forgiveness.

When you forgive a person, you not only do it because this is the way Christ wanted us to act, but in that forgiveness of others you also empty yourself of any grudge or any hatred or hostility that could corrode your personality, destroy your attitude. All of us know that when we get angry often times we pay a greater price than the person who caused our anger. Our whole lifestyle is upset. We lose sleep, we cannot eat, we have an awful lot of tension, we are continually upset all because we are hurt by someone who should not have done us that hurt. Unless we forgive, unless we reach out and offer the same kind of love that Christ offered to us, then we are really going to miss the meaning of forgiveness and the true meaning of Christmas. On Christmas day that person whom we call Jesus Christ came to the world to reconcile sinful with sinless God. He did this through the act of forgiveness. If our Christmas is to be a blessed one, if our Christmas is to be a sacred one, then we must imitate the Christ who said, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Oftentimes when you are preparing a Christmas message you always look for material that is so significant and symbolic of what the day is all about. To go to libraries, to write and look at books, your own research, oftentimes you do come up with a piece of work or a poem that has value for Christmas day. I would like you to read one little piece of work that I think sums up the whole spirit of the life of Christ.

He was born in an obscure village,
a child of a peasant woman.
He grew up in another obscure village
where he worked in a carpenter shop
until he was thirty.
Then for three years
he was an itinerant preacher.
He never had a family.
Or owned a home.
He never set foot inside a big city.
He never traveled two hundred miles
from the place he was born.
He never wrote a book
or held an office.
He did none of the things
that usually accompany greatness.
While he was still a young man,
the tide of popular opinion
turned against him.
His friends deserted him.
He was turned over to his enemies.
He went through the mockery of a trial.
He was nailed to a cross
between two thieves.
While he was dying
his executioners gambled
for the only piece of property he had,
his coat.
When he was dead,
he was taken down
and laid in a borrowed grave.

Nineteen centuries have come and gone
and today he is still the central figure
for much of the human race.
All the armies that ever marched,
All the navies that ever sailed
And all the parliaments that ever sat
And all the kings that ever reigned
Put together
have not affected the life of man
Upon this earth
As powerfully as this
One Solitary Life.

To all of you a very Merry, a very Blessed, a very Joyful Christmas.

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