Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of December 2, 2007
4th Day of the Novena for December 8
1st reading: Isa 2:1-5; Psalm 121; 2nd reading: Rom 13:11-14; Gospel: Mt 24:37
This is what Isaiah, Amoz's son, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In the days to come the mountain of the Lord's house will be the highest of the mountains. It will be lifted above the hills; peoples will stream to it. Many nations will go and say, "Come, let's go up to the Lord's mountain, to the house of Jacob's God so that he may teach us his ways and we may walk in God's paths". Instruction will come from Zion; the Lord's word from Jerusalem. God will judge between the nations, and settle disputes of mighty nations. Then they will beat their swords into iron plows and their spears into pruning tools. Nation will not take up sword against nation; they will no longer learn how to make war. Come, house of Jacob, let's walk by the Lord's light.
Let us ponder on what Isaiah, one of the greatest prophets said: I see many moments in the history of man in what he said. At the time when Isaiah prophesied, the Jewish people were going through a very difficult stage, for a large and dangerous political and religious crisis was taking place. The Jews, despite being in a difficult situation, instead of seeking God's help and support, as had happened so many times in the past, took refuge in human alliances to repel the enemy that was entering their territory. Facing this imminent danger the great prophet Isaiah awakes and arouses in the hearts of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and in those of all of Palestine, the hope and certainty that their city, Jerusalem, will become a beacon that will light up the whole world. Isaiah gives them this hope in spite of the Jews who at that time were running the danger and risk of becoming slaves and prisoners. In fact, this is what he says. Among the various mountains or hills on which Jerusalem stands out is mount Zion, on which was placed the ark containing the Ten Commandments and where was erected a temple similar to ours because it was not made up of walls but of simple curtains. After this first structure dedicated to worship, Solomon built the great temple which, as the first St. Peter's Church, other churches would follow on the same site. In fact, in a similar manner, after the Temple of Solomon, others will follow. Well then, on this mountain and from this mountain salvation is coming forth because there is identification between Mount Zion and the Jewish people. In the same way as from Mount Zion this light goes forth, lighting up and saving the world, so salvation is coming from the Jewish people. And that is what Jesus too said; indeed, in the Gospel of John we find this very sentence: "For salvation is from the Jews" (John 4:22), and in the Gospel of Luke we find another sentence: "Repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem" (Luke 24:47) because salvation and light come from Mount Zion, where the temple of God is, towering and dominating the town. With regard to the danger faced by the inhabitants of Jerusalem to be invaded by the enemy and to see their city sacked, Isaiah says to stretch their gaze because Jerusalem will be the center where all the people of the world will stream. Isaiah is referring to an intervention of God and we know that the Lord is always present in history and I think I can state that He is the greatest character in men's history. In fact, even if men do not realize it, God is always present and, depending on the His Omniscience and divine will, brings forth time and centuries according to a given flow. There is no determinism in this, mind you, because there is always the freedom and free will of man, but God is channeling man towards the good, showing him the path of good deeds and men are free to follow it or to go through a different path, to turn their backs to God and go back to where they started, namely from sin and to sin. But God's interventions in history are many and this presence and description, this invocation of mountains, made me think about the passage from the Jewish Jerusalem to the Christian Jerusalem. Rome too has its hills and on one of them, though not often mentioned in tourist guides, God has placed His material tent. God has set his eyes on this temple that we call, sometimes it may seems pompous, "Basilica" but it is nothing more than the definition God has given it. The Lord was pleased with the first temple in Jerusalem, which was made with fabric, even though the Jews had brick houses. God has also appreciated this temple that He wanted, while men, and now I use the term men of the Church, the big men of the Church tried to demolish it, and failed. They created hassles and setbacks; I can also tell you of the people who came, sent by such as these, to shoot this fabric with movie cameras and photographic machinery, so they can report to police and have it demolished. We go ahead and who wants to understand can understand what I mean. God has chosen this hill, here He wanted his dwelling and nowhere else in the world. The Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit have occurred in this place with an impressive frequency. Often it occurred not before a crowd but just a few people: before you all attending this place, even if in the past you were a larger number, or before a smaller number of people and I'm referring to Marisa and me. God does not count the people, does not think: "You are only two, then I do not bother" or "You're fifty, I do not bother", He does not say: "I want a mass of people" because this is how men behave even getting to the point to make comparisons between a Pope and the other, saying: "During this pontificate, in three months, we have exceeded the number of pilgrims who came to Rome in the same three months last year". But you see the meanness and pettiness, and I tell you all this because it is in the public domain, because are figures released by the office supervising social relations. You see that meanness on the part of these people who believe they are foxes, but, in reality, they are only snakes. God is teaching these people something more: "I'm going even if there is one person or two". The importance and greatness of the encounter is measured by the importance and greatness of the person who is intervening and when is God intervening, you can put together all men of the past, present and future, but before Him they are or we are little more than dust. But why don't men understand these things, and, above all, why don't the big men of the Church understand it? Do not think I am arguing, I am just by referring the same things that were said to us, and now, finally, they begin to flow outside.
Well then, as from Mount Zion the light came forth, equally from Monte Mario the light is coming forth: the triumph of the Eucharist. It is neither up to me or to you to say it, for it would not matter, but is God saying it and this is the important thing. Men can think, say and write what they want, but we believe it because we have been clearly told that from here started the triumph of the Eucharist and, ideally, it is to this place that, more and more, people will be coming back because this is the will of God. So when we talk about Mount Zion we mean the very beginning and when we refer to Monte Mario we mean the new beginning, the rebirth and renewal in the Church. We talked about darkness and light, but this is what Paul says, our great Apostle Paul:
Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.
The works of darkness are actions, thoughts and desires that are contrary to the law and love of God. But I want you to notice one thing, one specific thing; why did Paul say: "let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light" and not "Let us accomplish the deeds of light"? Because here Paul wants to highlight a great lesson: we can throw away the works of darkness, and do the works of light if we use the weapons God makes available to us. And what are the weapons that God makes available to us? His Word and Sacraments. So you have to be loyal, respectful, obedient to the Word and docile, obedient to accept the sacraments and to make use of the sacramental grace that each sacrament gives us. This is what Paul says, this is today's teaching and the last shock, the last blow is always given by Paul: "Wake up from sleep", don't you hear the echo of the many letters of God, the many attentions and encouragement from our Lady when she says: "Wake up from this long sleep"? How many times we've been told about it. Here it is, this is further confirmation that the letters of God that Mary is bringing us contain the public and official Word of God, the Sacred Scripture. The private Word of God is equally Divine Word, therefore, it is important and worthy of being accepted.
Here, before us there is the Advent timetable, little by little those candles will be lit, little by little those candles will decrease their height because the wax will be consumed, as they decrease, we need to grow; as they fade, we must get stronger; as the light fades, we must raise up. Is this all we have to do, this is the plan that I suggest you adhere to and, at this point, there is nothing left but to say your "Yes". You have to utter your "Yes" at two distinct moments of the H. Mass. At the moment of the consecration and elevation of the bread and wine, which are no longer bread and wine, but under the appearances of bread and wine Christ is present with His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, and at the time of embracing that we do not address to the Eucharist, but is Jesus the Eucharist addressing each of us. The one who embraces is always the most important person, we say the Pope embraced me, the Bishop embraced me, the President embraced me, but we can say, if we want: "Every day Jesus, true God and true Man, Messiah and Savior, Redeemer and Master is embracing me", and what have we to envy from others? Nothing. Remember this and put it into practice.