Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of November 8, 2009
10th wedding anniversary of two youth of the community
Reference Readings: St. Paul: Rom 15:1b-3a, 5-7, 13; Gospel: John 15:9-17
I am addressing the spouses, for today is their anniversary, but at the same time I also keep in my mind the whole community, otherwise we would have a more intimate and private ceremony; Instead, both I and the spouses are happy to celebrate with everyone else, so that all married people may now find a drive to improve their own marriage as well.
Today we have to deal with our own emotions. After ten years it is with great pleasure to welcome you on my behalf, the community and all those who love you in the same Basilica (as defined by the Mother of the Eucharist) where your marriage was blessed by God and you are now husband and wife before Him and the Church.
You remember that, dear Angelo and Selenia, at that time I gave you my wishes that were interpreted, from those who are not familiar with the spirituality of our movement, with some surprise. Rhetoric used to treat the wedding day as the happiest day of life but, as usual, one of our characteristics is to go a bit against the mainstream. In fact I wished you that the day of your marriage to be the worst day of your life. I find that, in the perspective with which this wish was made, you have implemented it. Love is for us to be considered ever growing, In Latin they would say in fieri or in progress, i.e. it must keep on growing.
I can testify, along with those who have been close to you in recent years, that your love has really grown, not that of ten years ago. It is a greater love because it is tested, joyful and suffered: it is total love.
When you married the form was slightly different from the one that is recited today. Now the form is more beautiful: "I welcome you as my wife", "I welcome you as my husband".
The wording "I welcome you" means the one wanted all of the other and vice-versa, has accepted everything and did not refuse anything. It is total acceptance, dealing with the physical and spiritual characteristics. The physical ones can be fixed along the way: when hair go gray you can disguise them, if there is some extra weight, there are efforts to be undertaken; the spiritual characteristics must be refined along these years of marriage.
Today, after ten years, you consider the world, the Church and society in a way completely different from before, but it is the right one. Love also develops mental qualities, because love is an urge to improve, to become aware of what is happening and a drive to understand the other. All this effort and commitment will result in a refinement of intellectual capacity, but, above all, love involves an exponential increase in the purely spiritual quality.
The symbol of marriage is the ring and has a spherical shape, if love is like a ring, you ideally fill the ring vacuum with all the spiritual qualities. If you love, you are honest and generous, you pray together and you are obedient. The condition is always the same. The opposite cannot be true: it is love that characterizes, declares and testifies the presence of all other virtues.
By growing in love, we grow in all virtues.
To the one asking me: "How can I win pride and arrogance? How do I curb impurity?". The answer I give to my conversation partner could be quite embarrassing for him, to the point that he might think: "What is Don Claudio telling me?". The answer is just one: "Love!" It is St. Augustine reminding it to us: "Love and do what you want", but what we want according to the law of love and charity. This is the wish I give you today.
Once again, today your rings will be blessed. Imagine that, although they are physically the same, they are larger, then you need to put in them more grace and all other virtues. The ability to keep love, that is charity, is guaranteed by God Himself.
Over the years, the ring will become bigger and bigger because it is love that, fueled by virtues, by the grace of God and charity, grows more and more. It is love that covers, embraces and caresses everything.
It is not easy to keep the ring intact. Where there are precious objects, thieves go and try to steal. You have to be careful because, ideally, there are many thieves who might rob you of your ring. Imagine when you will stand before God in Heaven, and you will show Him a very large ring. God will say: "Come, there is no need of anything else. There is no need of examination. I will not ask you if you kept the commandments. I see such a big ring that is more than enough to have the joy of an immediate admission". The wish I give you, ultimately, is to immediately enter the Paradise of Beatific Vision.
With this wish of a forthcoming very big ring, I leave you with your intimacy, your personal prayer where we mention also Aunt Marisa, as today marks the third month of her ascent to Heaven, and her admission into Paradise. Who knows what big ring she, mystically married to Jesus, is showing us today, in this ring there is also your family and all of us.
May everything go to the glory of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, for your joy that we hope will be always full, complete and wonderful.
My dear children, God bless you. Together with the blessing of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, in addition to the blessing of the Mother of the Eucharist, St. Joseph, aunt Marisa and grandmother Iolanda, there is also your Bishop's blessing who loves you with a full and great love, and who, in these days, prayed a lot for you, your family, for the present and future.
Today we seek to choose the readings in line with the celebration that we are doing in this moment.
It is our friend Paul to usher in the great mystery of Redemption with a speech that apparently may seem difficult to understand, but it is instead amazingly simple. Paul wants to emphasize the huge difference between the sacrifice the high priest made every year in the temple, killing and offering to God the blood of animals, and the sacrifice of Christ. The priest who gave the animals was celebrating a symbolic ritual of atonement and purification. However, it was not a celebration that could erase sin, because it is only through God's action that sin can be eliminated. The offense to God, perpetrated by our ancestors is of infinite gravity, and to be able to repair it, you need an infinite Victim, God himself. The Second Person of the Holy Trinity is offered, is incarnated and sacrificed so that men may be redeemed. If it were not for the Redemption, today, from the spiritual standpoint, we would be in the same situation as the Jews of that time, to whom Paul was writing the letter. This Redemption is so complete and effective to the point to put us in a position to see Christ as the giver of salvation.
"He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him" (Heb 9:28). Redemption does not imply salvation only but implies also communion and union with God, when Christ will show and appear. It is truly through His sacrifice that He will put men in a position to reach the ultimate stage of the goal of Redemption.
Redemption also includes the possibility to see God. In this there is the wonderful love of Christ, the Father and the Holy Spirit. In fact, it would have been enough for men, when redeemed, to live in a state of joy and happiness after their death, but not as great as the one that Christ wanted us to enjoy and share. God was not obligated to open the Heaven and let all the redeemed people in. Not satisfied or not happy with this, Christ has made sure that man's life, in the various milestones of his existence, is always accompanied by His presence through the sacraments. The sacraments, in fact, give their welcome with the H. Baptism and the final respect with the Anointing of the Sick. Throughout life we are accompanied by the H. Communion, Holy Confession and Marriage, which is also fruit of Redemption.
Those who have received the sacrament of marriage are in a different and even better situation than St. Joseph and Our Lady's marriage. They could not have received the sacrament because redemption was not yet realized. Unfortunately for men, who are now in a position to receive a great gift, often reject it.
This does not concern you. We are here all around you to wish you that this marriage, based on Redemption, based on the grace, be with you for all your life.
What is needed to realize the fullness of marriage? It is always Paul to answer: "You do not have to please yourself" (Rom 15:1b). In this there is already a clear impetus to love: those who please themselves are selfish; instead whoever is pleased of the other's good, of the other's spiritual progress, is in a suitable condition to live marriage as Christ wanted. In the sacrament of marriage, in fact, the greatest aspiration of the wife towards her husband and the greatest aspiration of the husband towards his wife is to please the spouse, is to please the other. We are back again to the wonderful word of love.
"Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, for his edification" (Rom 15:2). To whom must you address your example of truthful life, generous life, essentially Christian? In respect of each other and in respect of children, the fruit of your love. To please means to give your best to ensure that the husband in his wife and the wife in her husband would not find any obstacle to the spiritual life. If there would be an obstacle, then there would be impediments. Paul, however, is excluding it.
Christ, in every moment of his life, always wanted to do everything for and to the advantage of salvation of souls. To accomplish such a project you need strength and generosity, we must overcome, at times, even sufferings and face sacrifices. These can be addressed by the virtue of perseverance. God is everything, In Him everything is present, every virtue is infinite. Paul, in this case, is showing Him with the aspect of the God of Perseverance and Consolation. Perseverance, for He gives you the necessary help so you can be guaranteed to do good. Consolation, for in a world where often ideas, values or goals are different from those of Christ, we are unfortunately in a situation of conflict and struggle. Paul's wish, and it is the one I am conveying to the families, is that God may grant the two of you the same feelings of Jesus Christ. The word "Feelings" should not be understood as an emotion, but as a commitment where a struggle might lurk. Then, to have the same feelings of Christ means to endeavor to behave like Him.
If a husband or wife would wonder: "If Christ would be present in my place what would He do?". He would choose the most beautiful thing, the greatest, the best; He would do anything where you could see love present in the highest degree.
All this has a conclusion: to come to praise God with one only soul and glorify Him with one only voice.
Thank God for He gave you a gift, He made you the grace to meet each other, He put you one beside the other and this is something great and beautiful which also guarantees your spiritual life.
God has not chosen you eleven or twelve years ago when you got engaged or ten years ago when you got married, but He chose you before you were born. He loved and kept you in mind before you were born. He knew, for God knows everything, what your life would have been and what aid, graces or assistance He would be giving to you, He was concerned about this from the beginning.
Remember: God is always on time, when the time comes it means that the time was right. Not by chance, but a planned time, a wanted time, decided by Him prior to your existence.
From the God of Perseverance and Consolation we get to the God of Hope. We are closing the year of Hope, Hope is certainty. What was told to you is certainty.
May God fill you with every joy! This does not mean you are not going to meet with sufferings, but God will give you His help, strength and grace to avoid collapse. He will give you everything you need to be always mutually responsive.
According to the world mentality, when a problem takes over, it happens that the one blames the other. What is the way to act according to Christ? When there are problems, the one must be beside the other because in this way you can truly abound in certainty, guaranteed by the presence of the Holy Spirit in your soul. The Holy Spirit is grace, the Holy Spirit is love, the Holy Spirit is light.
From John's Gospel (15:9-17) we take just a few passages but, in my opinion, they are the most meaningful and most relevant for you.
Now it is Jesus speaking and saying to the one and the other: "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you" (John 15:9). Hence you have become recipients of His infinite love, of His divine love. What is His wish? "Remain in my love" (John 15:10). For it is love giving you assurance and keeping you together. In our world, unfortunately, marriage crises, separations and divorces are increasing. Men do not remain in the love of Christ. When they are with Christ and with his love, then the Christian couple has a strength and courage that surprises even the others; when they see how they react, they wonder and ask: "How do they do to be so fond of each other? How do they manage not to betray?". Today, betrayal is a frequent and painful experience, but I am sure that our couples, the young people who have been formed in this place, do not even think of betrayal, for love is so great that it makes you see your loved one with the deep eyes of love, then you discover the beauty, greatness and marvel lurking in the other's heart.
How do you remain in love? It is always Jesus who says: "Keep the commandments" (Mt 19:17 - John 14:21), but in particular, look at my commandment: "Love your wife! Love your husband!". This is the meaning of Christian marriage and this is my wish: to remain in God's love and in God's grace, is a guarantee to remain in mutual love.
If a young, or adult or elderly couple would ask me: "What must I do to be faithful to my wife, to be faithful to my husband?". Love with all your heart, love as you would love yourself, love as you should love God. This is the commandment that you must keep.
We began by pointing out how love is all inclusive, we end these reflections reiterating the same idea: "Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est" - "Where charity and love are, there God is".
As I told you ten years ago, going out together arm in arm from this Basilica to receive the good wishes from your loved ones, friends and relatives, you do know that you are accompanied and protected by God's love, and now coming back to physically retrace the same path, I say to you again: "This you have done, and do it again for all your life", because marriage endures so long as God is present. "Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est".