Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of February 6, 2008
1st read: Joel 2:12-18; Ps 50; 2nd Reading: 2 Cor 5:20, 6:2; Gospel: Mt 6:1-6, 16-18
The liturgical year is divided into several periods and some of them are special and specific and are called "special times" such as Advent and Lent. They are called "special" because they prepare the celebration of the greatest mysteries of Christianity: the Incarnation, birth, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the celebration of Christmas and Easter, proceeded by the Sacred Triduum, Thursday, Friday and Holy Saturday, is contained the whole Christological mystery.
How do we prepare to meet God? How do men prepare to meet at an audience a powerful or famous figure, a Pope, a king, or a bishop? Those who are called at the audience do not improvise a talk, on the contrary, they study the most suitable words and learn them by heart in order to be lucid and clear, they also choose the most suitable dress. And with God? Unfortunately the meeting with God on the part of men is always cared less. Who cares to prepare to meet God in the Eucharist, at a Mass, at the recitation of the Holy Rosary, in prayers?
Just think that some Saints have been teaching people how to prepare to pray.
It seems absurd, but this is not done. In this world we are bombed by noise, notifications, ads, sounds; and how can you go from the moment of confusion to a time of peace and silence? It takes a preparation which, let's face it, nobody does. To prepare to meet God, you must fathom your heart to see if it is clean and honest. You need to examine your own conscience, consider the spiritual condition of your own soul before approaching God with prayers. Do I live in a state of grace? Am I firmly united to God or is my soul stained by sin?
My dear, the spiritual life is not child's play, the spiritual life is a strong commitment, it is the greatest commitment that can ever be. Today, however, this commitment is often associated with moments of escape and fun.
The main reason why our community is not growing in number, especially among the former young people, is the fear of commitment. We have a reputation for being demanding in the spiritual life: it is difficult to live in the grace of God and observe the Commandments, to live a daily sacramental life together with a strong prayer. My beloved, these commitments, which are the basis of Christianity, are not respected today, even by those who should teach them by word and by example. We see priests involved in everything but sanctifying their own vocation.
Today, at last, they talk about the Eucharist, the importance of approaching Jesus, but the previous step is missing: to live in a state of grace and respect the Commandments. Let us launch in the Church a new great crusade, that of living in a state of grace and to live Christianity with the best effort. Here is the importance of Advent and Lent as well.
The call to conversion is also true for us, already committed, and believe we have given so much but in the light of what I have said, we could have given much more.
From the book of the prophet Joel:
The Lord said: "You can still return to me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Don’t rip your clothes to show your sorrow. Instead, turn back to me with broken hearts, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, of great love, ready to repent of the evil". Who knows whether he will have a change of heart and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God. Blow the horn in Zion, demand a fast, request a special assembly. Gather the people, prepare a holy meeting, assemble the elders, gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the groom leave his room and the bride her chamber. Between the porch and the altar let the priests, the Lord’s ministers, weep. Let them say, “Have mercy, Lord, on your people, and don’t make your inheritance a disgrace, an example of failure among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”. Then the Lord became passionate about this land, and had pity on his people. (Joel 2:12-18).
In the first reading, prophet Joel uses bright and very clear expressions in explaining that the conversion of a person cannot be attributed to human merit, but the initiative of all conversions always starts from God.
Remember the parable of the workers who, at different times, are called to work at the owner’s field, but receive the same reward? This is the conversion and the Lord sets the timing for all men. Remember: the call to conversion is not reserved to elite, but embraces all, for the initiative belongs to God. However, the response depends upon men: "Si vis", "If you want”. This expression is present many times in the Gospel and is the keystone to get in the authentic, true, genuine conversion.
How is it that a corpse can walk? Only if God intervenes there is resurrection. Jesus, to Jairus’ daughter, a ruler of the synagogue, said, "Talitha cumi" which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise" (Mk 5:41) and facing the tomb of his friend Lazarus shouted loudly: "Lazarus, come out!" (Jn 11:43). To pass from death to life you need resurrection, which always requires a miraculous intervention of God. Each of us should put here a votive offering, for graces received, when a blind man regained his sight, when a deaf man recovered his hearing or somebody seriously ill is healed. But I believe that the most beautiful, most valuable votive offering that each of us should offer the Lord is the spiritual offering, i.e. the gratitude and gratefulness because we have been resurrected from the death of sin due to God's intervention.
This spiritual resurrection must be protected, defended and strengthened with prayers and good deeds and even with fasting. Furthermore the penance in eating what you do not like, in some respects, I myself have experienced it, it is much harder than just fasting on bread and water. In fact, eating what the palate rejects and does not like is much harder and we have to do it because it strengthens and invigorates our soul. Therefore, in addition to prayer, this is a way to give strength to our soul, but charity is also important. Now you understand why yesterday, a day devoted to Eucharistic adoration, has not taken place here: in addition to prayer and worship in your churches, you had to put beside them some good deeds, for charity strengthens the soul.
We must not think just to our conversion even though this would be enough as it requires a very strong and consistent commitment in order to be long-lasting. We must also look around us, not to judge or condemn, but simply to help those in need. Today, unfortunately, the Church needs the collaboration of all its good and honest children. My dear I assure you that never as in these last days God is acting; the conversion is always God's initiative, but much depends on that "Si vis".
Today the spiritual situation is blocked, actually we are even seeing a regression: we see good priests, but weak, lacking in courage, who did not have the strength to oppose those higher up in the hierarchy who impose on them certain bad decisions. They did not have the strength and courage to profess the true adherence to God in respect of truth, but they hide behind the so-called obedience. You know that blackmail must never be confused with obedience. In fact, these higher ranking people do not represent God, for they have come to power through a series of compromises, blackmail and bad choices.
The Church today is like a sinking boat: God tries to remove the water to save it, but men have fun putting continually rocks and boulders in its course, so the bow does nothing but break against these rocks causing new leaks and openings. After showing you this sad situation, I show you the way to recovery, it is shown in the prayer that we say before the Holy Mass (the prayer for the Church written by Mons. Claudio Gatti on Aug. 5, 2007, ed.): sacrifice and prayer. John Paul II too expressed the same idea with different words: "The Church will be born again from the blood of his children", the Church is always reborn through the blood, tears, sacrifices and penance of its children.
So if we want to save the Church, we have to engage personally with love, prayer, good deeds, big and small sacrifices and penance.
Here is the importance of Lent: Christ rises at Easter, but also the mystical body of Christ, the Church, must resurrect; if only Christ would have risen and not the mystical body, we would live and celebrate an incomplete and partial Easter. That's why to this Lent, in preparation for Easter 2008, I attach great and enormous importance because with Christ also the mystical body must resurrect. I have the duty and authority to say it, for this I ask you a daily commitment that should not be limited to what is strictly personal, but must extend to a broad horizon embracing, tightening and uniting the whole Church.
The rebirth and triumph of the Church depends on the commitment of each of you. No one should feel excluded or exempted from this commitment. Give your best because the commitment is great, the task is enormous, but the goal is sacred, that's why the Lord addresses the humble, small and simple people. I entrust you with the fate of the Church.
Powerful men are too busy cultivating their interests, working for their own triumphs, showing what they are not; these words of Christ apply to them: "They have received their reward in full" (Mt 6:2). Although many men are queuing and following them, with hosanna and cheers, God, who reads the hearts, knows that this triumph lasts the space of a day, it is ephemeral.
Today God is only interested in the triumph of His Church and to cooperate to this triumph He does not call the powerful, but once again He calls on the small and humble people, so that the action and intervention of God may shine with a full light.
Today, and I am closing it, we need a personal and individual holiness; the more we nurture our personal holiness the more we can be certain that the Church is holy, and its members can become saints.
Cheer up, come on, do not get disheartened: the commitment is huge, exhaustion is frightening and this responsibility shakes our knees, but we are not alone, God is with us. And if God is with us, what do we fear, who is going to frighten us?
It will come a time when, before God, even the crowns will roll on the ground, scepters will disappear, miters will be reduced to dust and ashes, the pontifical and episcopal trappings will be burned because they are filthy, full of pride and arrogance and new fabrics, new trappings, a new life, a new existence will succeed after them.