Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of June 8, 2008
1st Reading: Hos 6:3-6; Psalm 49; 2nd Reading: Rm 4:18-25; Gospel: Mt 9:9-13
Brothers, in hope Abraham believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification (Rm 4:18-25)
You have an extract from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans, and you rejoiced because by attending the bible class last Friday night, you have understood the wonderful concepts and the very high truths contained in this passage of an extremely important letter for us. Today we will not reflect on it, I'm sorry for those who were not present at the bible class, however let us ponder the word of God, for it is so great, beautiful and deep that any passage lays itself open to deep and proper consideration for our spiritual life.
Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth. What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away. Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light. For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. (Hos 6:3-6)
Hosea is a little-known prophet, one of the twelve Minor Prophets. The adjective "minor", in this case, does not mean that he is less important than others, it means that Hosea and the other eleven prophets belonging to this category have written little, far less than those who have written so much as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. Their writings are short and Hosea, among the twelve, is the oldest. He prophesied over twenty-five years, from around 725 to 750, and like any other prophet has his own characteristic: in fact, he is the prophet who stands apart from the others because he is forced by God to foretell the end and destruction, at least momentarily, of the Kingdom of Israel, which will be eliminated, defeated, and enslaved by the Assyrians. For the Jews, this is an unacceptable discourse because despite their weaknesses, their betrayals, and many of them they did, even with their estrangement from God, they have always considered themselves the chosen people, the Lord's favorites. Woe to those who feel this way and then do not match up with a commitment! We can also define Hosea as the prophet of love: he treated the various nuances of love in such a way that in his writings seems to flow his own personal experience; In fact, those who had known him judged him as a person rich with a strong emotional and affective charge, and sometimes also passionate, and in love, all this makes a live and vital relationship. Let us now stop and ponder why Israel was, on several occasions, conquered and enslaved by enemies, mostly pagans. Hosea, a prophet of love, provides a simple explanation based on the fact that Israel did not love God as much as should have done and he says it very clearly by comparing the love of the Jewish people with something with little consistency: "Your love is like a morning cloud". Hosea does not say that it does not exist, but that is scarce, it is like dew vanishing at sunrise. The dew has a short life, the first rays of the sun, the first heat in the morning are enough to make it vanish. Clearly, if love is scarce then what is given to God is scarce. We give love to God in proportion to the love we have, if we have big love, to God we give a lot, if we have little love, to God we give little; But God cannot be satisfied with little love, God must be loved with all our being. Our Lord must be at the hierarchy apex of the loves we have, for the stronger, more robust and vigorous is the love we have for God, the stronger, more robust and vigorous is the love we have and show toward our neighbor, starting with those closest to us: our family members. Only God can guarantee us our love for our wife, husband, children, friends, community. If we love God, He will give us so much love to be able to pour it into the hearts of all people and there will always be a surplus of love that we can return to God. This love coming within us is spread by us, is spread to others, and then returns to God. Quite meaningful is, in this regard, God's assertion: "Love I want and not sacrifice". Start to realize how much the Letters of God are impregnated with public revelations: "First learn to love then pray", "Love I want and not sacrifice", are two sentences that have the same meaning. This must be the fast rule in our life.
At that time, as Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners. (Mt 9:9-13)
In the passage of the Gospel we have read today, Jesus, on the same day, gives two sharp slaps to those who do not love: the hypocrites and Pharisees. The one who loves neither pretends nor acts, nor shows off in the least, he loves and that’s all, even if no one knows it and no one sees it because for those who love, God's approval is enough, is the only thing that counts even if no one gets to know it. The Pharisees liked to have followers, to have disciples, and the more they had the more they felt important, they would have never accepted, among their followers, someone listed as a public sinner. Jesus behaves just the opposite and calls Matthew. I wish that today you could see the apostle's call in this light and in this context. Of course there is Matthew’s generous adherence that will reach the point of martyrdom, but what I would like to emphasize, and which has never been revealed, is the lesson given by our Lord. After this first lesson, Jesus also gives the Pharisees a second lesson, a second slap. When he sits at the table, besides Him there are sinners and the usual false hypocrites are scandalized; even in this case, they show to be cowards by not going directly to Jesus, but turning to the Apostles: “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” The apostles refer it to Jesus, who replies: “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice”, “Love I want and not sacrifices.” Love is a multifaceted, a many-sided reality, and one of these is mercy. Mercy is to love, forgive, help and respect those who make mistakes. Mercy is a derivation of love, there can be no mercy if there is no love. Here Jesus speaks of Himself, He wants to teach us that if He forgives us sinners then all the more so, among us, we must have the same attitude He has for us, weak and sinners. We, therefore, must show mercy to our brothers, even more than Jesus himself, since we all are at the same level. Jesus, on the other hand, is at an infinite, immense, and immeasurable level. That's why He says: "Mercy I want and not sacrifice." To have mercy means to stand beside the weak, the frail, the needy, without a show, with softness and causing no suffering and shame for the people we show our feelings and affection, keeping always in mind, and this is beautiful and wonderful, what Jesus said: "I came for sinners." We all are sinners, but with this sentence Christ means those who make amends and acknowledge it. When man acknowledges it and feels a sinner, Jesus takes him in His arms, brings him higher, higher and higher and closer to God's throne. As far as the others are concerned, the answer has been given to us and is contained in the parable of the Pharisee and the publican, from where the Pharisees come out with an additional sin on their conscience: pride. Our Lord does not like attitudes of superiority over the others, Christ taught us fraternity, wants fraternity, demands it, and fraternity in the Church must be again prominent. Fraternity does not mean not recognizing the variety of services, but those who want to be chiefs must follow Christ’s example and serve. Jesus never said to dominate, are the powerful people of the Earth, the kings, who dominate; His followers must not dominate, and when a priest, a bishop, a cardinal and above dominate, you can say: "You are not a true servant of God" and we can add: "Go away Satan, for in you there is the root of pride and arrogance." This is Christianity, my dear. Until not long ago I spoke to you about Christianity using a more gentle and soft tone, but it is time to stop it, it is the time of John the Baptist, the time has come for the complaints that Christ Himself talked about, the time has come when, facing such evil, wherever it comes from, we cannot bow our head, or worse, to bury it in the sand, but raise it and say: "You cannot say that, you cannot do this." This means to be apostles. We respect and admire the martyrs, and God is also calling us to this: a more courageous and suffered martyrdom than the martyrs who gave their lives and, in a short time, were killed. Christ calls us, not only as our community, but all Christians, to a strong, courageous and persevering testimony. If we have the constancy of doing so, as we have seen in St. Paul's letter, constancy generates proven virtue, proven virtue generates hope. We are in the year of hope and we take advantage of this circumstance to refresh this theological virtue, for only when it will be green and blooming, God will smile and say enough: "Get ready for me for I will come down in your midst in a powerful and miraculous manner."
Praised be Jesus Christ.