Homily: Italian Festival July 14, 2013

+ Peace and goodness to you this day!

I saw an interview recently on TV with a person that the show identified as a “Taliban fighter”, living and working in Afghanistan.   You didn’t have to watch too much of the interview to realize that this man was fighting for the Taliban, and not against it.  It was a very dramatic interview.  The man spoke Arabic, and so the dubbed English voice that you heard was not his own.  But over the dubbed English, you could hear the man shouting in Arabic, in a very emotional fashion.  I remember thinking that the English translation is very clearly not doing this guy justice.  The translator said that he was saying things like “We can’t wait to have our country back.”  “We will fight this western evil all over the world.” “We must kill all Americans who refuse to leave our country.”   What the translator didn’t have to say, and without knowing a word of Arabic or a whole lot about the politics of Afghanistan, what was very clear to me, was the fact that this man being interviewed, this Taliban fighter, was full of hate.  It was in his voice.  It was in his eyes.  It was in his expression.  And I was listening to this translated interview, and at some point it dawned on me, this man really hates us.  It may be because of our God-less music or movies, it may be our nation’s wealth and prosperity, it may be because we are predominately Christians, or at least he thinks we are, and he was a radical Muslim.   But make no mistake about it.  That man being interviewed for the Discovery Channel, hates us.

My brothers and sisters, human hate is destroying us as a species.  We see it in Afghanistan.  We see in Egypt.  We see it in Northern Ireland.  We see outside a courthouse in Ft.   Lauderdale, Florida.  We see it in the escalating violence in downtown Indianapolis.  Hate destroys us.  Hate kills us.  Hate takes the creatures that God created for love and good, and perverts the entire deal.  Hate makes us so much less than what God created us to be.

Today in our Gospel, we hear very clearly God’s great commandment for us to love, to be people of love.  Jesus responds to the scholar of the law, with “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your being, all your strength and all your mind, and you should love your neighbor as yourself.”  And then, Jesus goes on to define what a neighbor is, by telling us one of the greatest parables of all the time, the parable of the Good Samaritan.  The Good Samaritan shows his love.  He lives out his compassion and mercy, and he makes a difference, most especially in the life of this man who have been robbed and beaten.  That’s the power of love.  Jesus shows the triumph of love over the hate that led this poor victim to be robbed and beaten in the first place.  Love always wins in the end.  Jesus asks His followers to stick with love, and to be committed to love and mercy over all, until His return.

This week and this weekend, we continue to celebrate our patroness, St. Maria Goretti.  In her brief life in this world, St. Maria Goretti also witnessed the great difference between love and hatred.  St. Maria Goretti had grown up in a loving, supportive, and affectionate family, where love ruled everything.  But St. Maria Goretti also knew people who hated others.  Being poor, tenant farmers, there were many who hated the rich, the powerful, and those who kept them in their poverty.  There were those who hated others because of their particular lot in life.  And then there was her attacker, who hated because St. Maria Goretti would not give him what he thought would make him happy.  St. Maria Goretti was not naïve.  She saw hate.  She saw what it did to people.  And she knew that she wanted no part of it.  Hate was like a disease, a cancer, to our young patroness.  And she would not allow anyone or anything to draw her into it.  St. Maria Goretti knew that hatred was the opposite of God desired for His people.  And that’s why, when dying from her wounds, St. Maria Goretti forgave her attacker.  She wanted no part of his hate to become part of her.  It was for the good of his soul and her soul, that she forgave Alessandro Serenelli for his crimes.  And that act of forgiveness, that act of great love, changed so many lives, and continues to change lives, even here in Westfield, at a Parish dedicated to her honor.  Love conquers hate once again.

What will it take for us to learn this lesson?  How many relationships have to be destroyed?  Have many feelings have to be hurt?  How many people have to die, before we finally wise up and realize that God’s way of love works so much better than hate.  You know, we make the decision to show love or to show hate, hundreds of times every single day.  We do.  All of us do.  Can you imagine how much more peace-filled, how much calmer, our world would be, if we would just choose love over hatred?

Sometimes it is as simple as helping or not helping, or getting involved or not getting involved, or caring or not caring.  Like the Good Samaritan, like St. Maria Goretti, even like Jesus, we have to choose to love many times every day.  And sometimes it really is a conscious choice!   Just like with hatred.  Our world is self-destructing on hatred.  We can choose to be a part of that destruction, or we can choose to part of the new hope that is offered in Jesus’ love.  Today, may the Holy Eucharist, our Patroness, St. Maria Goretti, and our celebration here together as a community, help all of us to choose Jesus’ love.

+  May God bless us on this happy weekend,  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…                 AMEN!!!

+ St. Maria Goretti…                   Pray for us !!!