Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of February 1, 2009
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1st Reading: Deut 18:15-20; Psalm 94; 2nd Reading: 1 Cor 7:32-35; Gospel: Mk 1:21-28
Today's reading is like a mirror where we, as a community, can reflect and see what is the image conveyed back to us in order to properly understand our situation. The first reason that leads to say that what happens in our community has a supernatural origin is that we are not lulled into fanaticism or presumptuousness. To recognize our own mistakes, our spiritual situation, sometimes weak, sometimes fragile, is a sign of authenticity. False people deceive, they are hypocrites, and while praying or doing acts of worship or love for our brothers and sisters, they put up a pose that in the Gospel was condemned by Jesus.
Today God has spoken. I thank Our Lady for she repeated, using my own words, what I said last night. Some of you in your heart, actually very few, have said: "If it doesn't serve him right, we're leaving". I am the first to say: if it doesn't serve you right, then go away, we will be friends as before, no one will chase you or ask for explanations, the door is open. They told us we are a sect, but it is pure falsity, for the doors are open and anybody may come to listen and participate. Here we do not ask for anything, but the respect for God, for the place and for those whom God has placed in charge of this community. If you do not agree, no one has anything to complain about.
When I was a child - says our friend Paul - I acted as a child and now that I am an adult I have to behave like a responsible person. In yesterday's meeting, this did not show at all. There have been incidents of meanness and pettiness. Why? Our Lady spoke about the example of the child trampling on his little friend's foot and then starting a fight.
Today's reading, taken from the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians, gives food for thought when talking about the difference between those who dedicate themselves to God, consecrating their virginity and chastity and those who are getting married. Those who get married cannot be totally for God for they are engrossed in so many other activities and issues: the family, wife, husband, children and job; this involves a certain spiritual decline and the reason is material, so it is understandable.
It is up to us priests, our chastity consecrated to God, to warn our brothers, not because we want to teach, but when we see that the tone of their spiritual life has gone down. Those who dedicate themselves totally to God, offering to God their purity, their chastity, their body just like Christ, described in the passage of the Gospel of Mark, can behave exactly like Him. Christ came across the one possessed by an impure spirit and kicked him out. Christ is the infinite purity and chastity and whoever is approaching and imitates His chastity is in a position of strength and superiority against the enemy. In fact, if one were to meet a possessed brother or sister, is up to the priest, the ordinary minister, who must do the exorcism, although if necessity arises, a layman can do it. But who has more strength to fight against the devil? The pure and chaste person who has tasted the intimacy with God and can warn his brothers.
Love God with all your own, totally devote yourself to Him and you will love in the best way your husband, children, grandchildren, relatives, friends and the people with whom you come across. Instead, if you allow touchiness to pour from your heart, you pollute you relationship, so a trivial thing becomes a burying mountain. Suffering is something different! When God calls us to be involved in his Son's passion, the suffering He allows is different, it is not the one caused by a brother saying something unpleasant. If you suffer, it is you to be blamed because you are proud, touchy and arrogant. This is why it is important to say mea culpa.
Yesterday you said your culpa. I had the patience of a saint to listen to you all, I could intervene, but I let you talk for I wanted the matter to come to light, in a sense I steered it that way.
With Baptism we are embedded in Christ and, as Christ is king, priest and prophet, the baptized, especially the priest, have the same prophetic, priestly and royal dignity. Consequently, all baptized can claim to be prophets because they announce God's will in the ordinary way. There are those who do it in an extraordinary way because they have received a particular call. The baptized person is a prophet, but the priest is a prophet with more authority and intensity. The prophet is one who is to highlight what God says and what God has taught. If a prophet, as God says in the Old Testament, pretends to speak in the name of God on something he was not commanded to, that prophet must die. Was it said yesterday what God commanded us to say? Was the fraternal reproof made? No, because you did not understand that to make a fraternal reproof there should be an essential condition: you must reproof and reprove your brother, but must be made with a lot of love. If I do not love him the reproof is unnecessary and counterproductive. This is what happened: love was missing. Someone asked me to teach him to understand where he went wrong. You have not loved, that's all. You should have loved, respected and accepted the other person because love means to meet the one living with us, working and praying with us. How much there is to change! Lent is starting soon, it is conversion time. We must take advantage of it!
Another remark: if someone does good he needs not show off, he should not become proud and should not do things so the others know and approve. What matters is that God knows, others need not know: "Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing" (Mt 6:3). When you are fasting they must not know it, put on some scent on your head and go smiling and serene. If we start saying we do fasting, we feel that your stomach is hurting, our head spinning, this is exhibitionism. Do not always say: "I'm sick, I'm sick, I'm sick". If you are sick, follow a treatment!
Holiness is not to fast or do good and make everyone know it. We are called to become saints and we should be thankful to God who has opened our eyes. The one who stands as the head of a community must also be smart and must, at times, foresee certain situations and let them burst, to be able to intervene later. If I would have spoken today and what happened yesterday would have had no chance to happen, you would have said I am harsh, demanding and never to be pleased! Instead we must cover our head with ashes, put on sackcloth and make penance. What is penance about? It is about loving. I never asked you to fast, just a few little sacrifices, I do not think I have asked God knows what. Above all I asked for love, for it is God who wants it. Love is everything: pay attention to your brother, respect, dialogue and unselfishness.
How much we have to change! And you would be the ones to bring a certain style in the Church? Do you think you're better than others? Let us begin by saying mea culpa, let us begin by beating our chest, let us try to be mindful. Remember: everything you do, do it with love and humility. If your brother is not up to his duty, tell him; if he does not listen to you, then you will tell the Bishop, as the Gospel says. Then it is my duty, which is neither easy nor nice, to intervene, but love brings you to do it.
In today's homily I prepared something quite different and as it happened in the past to Our Lady who, on God's command, said different things from what was originally planned, so I digressed but it was good because, despite everything, I believe in this community, but you need to change a lot and this intention is for everyone: young ones and adults. Be careful not to say anything behind someone's back, but directly refer to that person and do not form isolated little groups, but cherish the community spirit, even if sometimes there are character issues.
We have to change and to do this we must truly love. Remember that we do not love God unless we love our neighbor. When we will go to Him, He will ask this question: "Did you love me?". It is on this love that God is calling and judging us.
Last summer our Lord asked me if I loved Him more than any other, not because my love was bigger, but because I had to love more, He was asking more love from me as Bishop and as a responsible person. What God said to me, in proportion applies to you too. God will not settle for "Do you love me?" But will say, "Do you love me more than any other?" For you have received so much and just as much you have to give. Smile at each other and "Love one another as Jesus loved you". In that word there is everything: a plan for life and a plan for holiness.
Today, during the H. Mass, ask God for forgiveness and if you hurt someone with your behavior, go to your brother and apologize and ask to be forgiven.
Let's see if you are able, for once, to be humble and simple.