Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of October 12, 2008
1st Reading: Is 25:6-10; Ps 22; 2nd Reading: Phil 4:12-14, 19-20; Gospel: Mt 22:1-14
Today we ponder on the passage of the Gospel only. You have heard me saying many times that the Word of God is always young, in the sense that it is current and will never be exhausted in its understanding, deepening and reflections that can flow from it because, being true Word of God, reflects the quality of God, so it is wisdom and it is eternal and produces, even after many centuries, effects and immense and incalculable benefits. The Word of God can effortlessly adjust and in a wonderful way to every situation and you too have had some confirmations. I am referring to those of you who married here who have formed a family and prepared here for the marriage. In the meetings I had with each couple, the Word of God was adapted to the needs of the would-be spouses and I showed them, but now to you too, that the same teaching adapts precisely to any people category and every situation, so much fertile, rich and wonderful is the Word.
Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. Then he sent some more servants and said, "Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet". But they paid no attention and went off - one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, "The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find". So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, "How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?" The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants: "Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are invited, but few are chosen".
Exegetes, those who study the Word of God, often with strictly human commitment and without going beyond the moment it was given, would say that this parable is to be referred to the situation of the Jewish people. The king is God, and those who are invited are members of the Jewish people, the servants he sends are the prophets throughout the history of the Jewish people, the city being destroyed is Jerusalem and those who are gathered to fill the seats vacated by the first are pagans. All this is right; in fact, if we would stop at this exegetical commentary, you would, from a cultural point of view, grow and mature, but from a spiritual standpoint you would stop at the point you have reached without going any further. Once more I tell you that Jesus, as He is God, when was talking, knew that his words would be adapted to individual situations and He, as God, knew that today your Bishop would have explained this parable, adapting it to our situation and extending it to today's Church that is living and working all over the world. You will see that from the point of view of understanding and deepening, what you will hear is exactly as I am going to explain and you too will give your confirmation of the validity of the new presentation; I did not say interpretation because the truth of God is presented and not interpreted by us, but by God Himself: He is presenting it and He is interpreting it; Jesus speaks, teaches and explains and we must stand by what He says in his teachings that do not stop with the death of the last apostle. This concept must be clear: when they say that the revelation ended with the death of the last apostle we must specify that we are dealing with public revelation, the official one, while the so-called private revelation is not over because if God is the author and source of both the public and private revelation, I think that after we pointed out the distinction from a theological point of view, we should accept the Word of God, both public and private with respect, for it is the same Person who said it.
Let us adapt the parable situation to ours: The kingdom of Heaven is a term having a remarkable extension, in fact I have already said to you that you must not interpret it just as a supernatural reality, but as a reality present in the human history and situation. The Kingdom of God can be understood as redemption and also as the so-called messianic goods: Sacraments, the Word, the grace that came together with the life, passion, death and resurrection of Christ. Then the Kingdom of Heaven is all this and refers to a character that historically we identify in Christ. The king is Christ with everything He brought, operated and delivered to men, so they could treasure it. This refers not only to the past but also to the future of the historical moment in which these words were spoken. Isn't it Jesus who said: "My Father is always operating, and I too continue to operate"? To operate, to place in the reality, this is God; and then, in this light, what are some of the works of God that along the centuries He is realizing? They are apparitions, miracles, especially the Eucharistic miracles, the Episcopal ordination of a priest, the absolution God gives personally, if he wills, in an extraordinary way to some, in an ordinary way to all those who are about to die. So here is Jesus operating, but wants to involve all men and hence he gives to all mankind.
The good that comes from God is not a privilege for a few, but is a gift of all. It is not only a privilege of the baptized and Christians because it would be unfair if God did not give His gifts to all men without distinction. About this, even theology has evolved and progressed. For example, St. Augustine, one of the greatest theologians and Doctors of the Church, made the statement which was then superseded by God himself: outside the Church there is no salvation "Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus". But we know, because we have been told, that in Heaven there are also non-Catholics and non-Christians, then God gives to all. Initially God can even bestow on limited and specific historic realities as our community. Everything that has been done and that has happened in this place is the work of God. Here God has symbolically prepared a banquet and it is nice to share it with many people when it becomes a big one. God made the banquet here, worked here miracles, apparitions, the Episcopal ordination of the Bishop, and sent his servants: ministers, prophets, visionaries and charismatics and through these people he sent an invitation to all and many have answered.
In the parable there is an extremely impressive fact. A call is addressed first to the important people, and here it is aimed first of all consecrated souls: bishops, priests and nuns. How did they answer? The parable says how: they had other things to attend to, something to think about, they had to follow their own interests, their own careers and alliance in order to rise in rank, and this was an offense to God. And what the Lord said? He says it in the Holy Scripture: "Go, you cursed", they were sentenced before their death, because they were rooted in the rejection of God's works "Woe to those who will not acknowledge the Eucharistic miracles": God did not mention the apparitions because we are faced with sacramental realities; "Woe to those who slander my Bishop": This is God's work, and this is the equivalent of the sentence the king made on those who rejected his invitation. The first people who had to come here did not come and will pay for it some extremely serious consequences. The Lord then sent his servants who gathered the simple, humble and small ones: that's you all. In all this I have always said that we are not powerful or strong, or cultured, we have no political connections, we have nothing, we are small, humble and simple people, but God turned to us and invited us here. But even among us there were people who did not have the white vest, who appeared for a short while, others stayed a little longer; Our Lady said that if all the people who had come to this place were present, there would not be enough room either in the garden or in the streets around here to hold all of them. These people came to boast their ego, out of curiosity and to be able to say: "I was there", but the conditions to stay in this community are boundless faith, blind abandonment and acceptance of suffering, and those of you who did not have these qualities have been sent away or went away on their own. The Gospel says what the fate is of those without wedding clothes: "Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth". Do you think that those who went away from here, and some were asked to leave, are now happy, calm and joyful? The worm of remorse is felt very strong; and the final statement is dreadful: "Many are invited, but few are chosen". Let's not complain if earlier we were a much larger group, although humanly speaking it is a fair complain and today also Our Lady spoke about it in her short and suffered message. Few are chosen: the chosen is the one who usually has a more difficult life than the others because must bear witness, must accept uncomfortable situations, and I am speaking of ordinary things, I am not referring to the suffering that God has bestowed only to a few people.
I would like to still ponder on a detail. In the Gospel passage it is written that some servants were first abused and then killed; let us consider the fragment of the third secret of Fatima that has been revealed; the story says that some soldiers armed with arrows and guns shot and killed those who were climbing the mountain. The interpretation that was offered by the ecclesiastical authority, and could not be otherwise, was that it represented the atheists systems fighting the Church. But was there a need for a secret? Jesus said: "They persecuted me, they will persecute you as well". Was there a need, after seventy years, for God to let us know that the Church was persecuted by its enemies? It is a triviality. The interpretation is the one God gave: those who shoot and kill are members of the Church who are unjustly condemning God's servants, visionaries, charismatics and authentic pastors. Guns and arrows are mentioned in the secret because God is using images: in ancient times people used to kill with arrows, in modern times they shoot with guns; those two expressions refer to different times, that is, at all times of its existence, in the Church there were cases that charismatics, saints and good ones were unjustly condemned by the ecclesiastic authority. If you knew the Church history you will, on your own, easily reach this conclusion. Remember St. Joan of Arc, condemned and killed at the stake; Savonarola, who probably will be beatified, he too killed and burned and if we think about more recent times we think of Padre Pio, and after him, humbly here we are. Who were those condemning, persecuting and hurting us? Here it is, you see how the Word of God is coming and getting in every century, in every passing year that sees the Church always present.
The upshot of all this is that the chosen ones will receive from God the invitation: "Come, you blessed of my Father, come in", but we are not satisfied with just the future. I will not say it to you, nor will I say it to myself, to wait for the call from God after death to enter Heaven because we have been faithful, though different in form and intensity, and perhaps with some falls or stumblings, but we are waiting for the recognition even during the earthly life, as we were told. There is no pretension at all in hoping that this waiting will not go on too much, for it was promised and announced and thus it will be. I hope this will happen soon more for me and Marisa than for you. You too have a right to it, but you certainly know that someone has more right than you, so I am not excluding you, but I even hope to share with you this joy. This is the intention I am offering you and to pray for: so that it may happen soon, for I will not hide that we cannot cope with it anymore. I do not want to say anything more, but I ask you, and this time I am begging you, to pray a lot for Marisa and me, for we need strength. This morning I talked about this with whom I had to, I used Elijah's image, exhausted and collapsing to the ground, I used Jesus' image, exhausted and who can hardly walk and asks his Father, He who is the Son of God, a stick to lean on in order to go on. Here we are in the same situation, and as the angel came to Elijah and got him to rest, feed and pick up strength, and as Jesus turned to his Father with his small and simple request and it was granted, so we hope that we too are answered. Praised be Jesus Christ.