Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of June 7, 2008
1st Reading: 2 Tim 4:1-8; Psalm 70; 2nd Reading: Mk 12:38-44
And in his teaching he said: “Beware of the scribes, who desire to walk in long robes, and to have salutations in the marketplaces, and chief seats in the synagogues, and chief places at feasts: they that devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers; these shall receive greater condemnation.”
And he sat down over against the treasury, and beheld how the multitude cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a poor widow, and she cast in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and said unto them: “Verily I say unto you, This poor widow cast in more than all they that are casting into the treasury: for they all did cast in of their superfluity; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” (Mk 12:38-44)
As I was reading the passage of today's Gospel, certain expressions reminded me of some painful situations of the present time. In fact, if you replace some terms, especially in the first part of the gospel passage, you will have the photograph of today's reality in the Church. “Beware of the scribes, who desire to walk in long robes” the scribes were the doctors of the law, and today they are the experts, theologians, priests, bishops, and unfortunately even higher; The Gospel warns us of reading what they write: see how it is always close to the present time! “They desire to walk in long robes”, you have no idea how much some ecclesiastical and liturgical clothes cost; one cannot claim they are worn in God's honor because I reply that by displaying precious and expensive fabrics they show off their vanity. You can give God the best by spending even less and giving the extra to the poor. When reading the Gospel and came across the expression “to have salutations in the marketplaces”, my memory goes back to certain religious manifestations where, despite the presence of Jesus the Eucharist, they were honoring those who presided over that celebration and not Christ himself. They even told me that a priest, while Jesus the Eucharist was present, informed the assembly that the work to build a swimming pool was over; we must be scandalized by these attitudes, we could have stood up and shouted that this was a behavior of a merchant, not a priest.
We do not have to keep silent in front of them, and there are many, who just want to emerge, appear in television programs, occupy the first places and the first pages of newspapers. In the Gospel it is plainly affirmed that these powerful people, both laymen and ecclesiastics, glorify each other, praising each other so they can rise up to the stars. I have never heard them honoring Christ, nor shouting "Up with Christ."
Prior to the Mass I was thinking out loud: "When will this terrible law where Cain always kills Abel end? Why should Abel always be the victim and Cain always be the persecutor?" This happens everywhere: both small and large communities. The worst thing is that the Cains want to make it believe they work for the Lord's sake, in short they make fun of God. They have their hands clasped and their eyes lowered in front of men or television, but then inside their own home they do not even recite an Our Father, this means to be hypocrites.
The Church must be free from hypocrites who recite long prayers, sometimes jotted down in writing, but empty and cold, and anyway some would say that they are beautiful and expressive prayers; flatterers are always around and always will be: they are part of the family of hypocrites. They are only flattering for their own interest, for history teaches us that when a powerful person falls and is replaced by another, the latter is immediately payed respect even if he was despised before. The world cannot go on like that, but we, and everybody is against us, do not have to lower our guard: on our identity document we should qualify as "pain in the neck". If you notice something wrong as in the episode I told you about, you have to go to that priest and ask him if he would keep the same behavior in front of the Pope. If he chases you away it is a sign of weakness and you have to point out that he is chasing you away only because he has no other argument and knows he is wrong.
We cannot continue to shut our eyes and turn to the other side, even if we are facing a bishop or a cardinal, for they have greater responsibility and will receive a more severe punishment. Read the letters of God and you will notice that they are pregnant with the Word of God; quite often God, Jesus and Our Lady said that those who soil their works will go to hell. Be aware that we are talking about priests, bishops, cardinals and perhaps beyond but for God it makes no difference. Instead the Lord loves the little, weak, suffering and humble people and we belong to this category. To the others, to the enemies of God, Jesus said, "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels!" (Mt 25:41) and it is not just the laity who are in the category of the damned. In fact, in today’s Gospel, referring to the scribes or doctors and experts of the law, Jesus says that "they will receive a stricter punishment" that is a stronger one because they are aware of how really things are.
My dear, we have reached a point where the “Abels”, and we belong to this category, have to cry out to God with all their strength: "It is now time, oh Lord, to stop ruining, staining, destroying, hurting Your Church, You only can do it." There is too much evil, there is too much bad faith, there is too much dirt, arrogance, and we cannot go on like that. Shortly, television news and services, newspapers, magazines will talk about the World Youth Day in Australia (The 23rd World Youth Day took place from 15th to 20th July 2008 in Sydney, Australia, and was the second WYD to see the participation of Pope Benedict XVI. Editor’s note). These big assemblies serve only to gather a lot of people as proof of power!
But let us go back to the Gospel: when the crowd followed Jesus to exalt Him as their King, He escaped. Instead, it seems to me that today in the Church there is a different attitude, they only rush where there are oceanic but spiritually arid gatherings, and to organize these events they even spend millions of euros. I recollect the episode of the Gospel where hypocrite doctors criticize Mary Magdalene when she broke the vessels containing the scents used to sprinkle Jesus' feet. Judah, on this occasion was a master: "Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?" (Jn 12:5), then I say the same thing: they could avoid these expensive gatherings and give money to the poor. How many schools, hospitals and leper hospitals could be built in all these years when this World Youth Day has been organized! They have devoured and burnt floods of money just for the vanity of a few days. Yes, I must do the character of the "naysayer", this is my job; You have to help me in this and I am happy and proud if what I say today will reach high places as I think. To them I shout in the face: you brood of vipers, whitewashed sepulchers. If you have carefully read the presentations of the Letters of God, this is very clearly said. I express a simple statement: you will remember what Our Lady said to me: "I wish you would go to places where there is poverty," do you remember? The poor countries where the various Popes have gone are just a few. How can you go three, four times in the United States and never go to Ghana or Sudan, for example? I continue to receive letters from Christians in those areas that cry out for help. While in Rome they talk and discuss, children die and defenseless people are suffering; I've read that every few minutes many people are dying by hunger and wonder how we sit at the table and eat without thinking of all these children who have nothing. I'm not saying we must not eat, but we must do something; we only send telegrams when disasters strike, but they do not fill their belly. How far away we are from the Gospel, and my bitterness is profound, for after two thousand years there are not enough people in the Church to think as Christ: "For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me." (Mt 25:42-43) but when this crowd of colorful ecclesiastics with multicolored garments will appear before God, what can they say for their justification? The afterlife does exist, hell is full of people who do not love and who did not love, but the Heaven is full of people who loved, Purgatory is full of people who loved but with some failings. If love is missing, you go to hell, if it is present you are saved, when it is present in massive form you fly immediately to Heaven.
One last remark. I am a subscriber to Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian Bishops' Conference and every day after reading it, or most of it, I close it up and wonder if I'm the one who does not understand or are the others. I do not feel at all in harmony with some of the behaviors of the churchmen; I well know some situations, but I read completely different things: all satisfied, happy and contented with exaltative titles and praises that, with some churchmen, persist in time. After months they still receive praises and appreciations and what have they done? They went to a place and started praying; we always do it and why they did not talk about it? I'm never silent! There so much to be really changed, but we cannot do it alone! May God intervene as soon as possible, for I fear that with time we could not only dry up, but live in an oppressive melancholy: you see evil but you cannot defeat it and this is really awful. That is why I say, “Lord, hurry up”. It is becoming impossible for me and I hope for you too to keep seeing and knowing certain things that destroy; sorry but that's what I wanted to tell you.