Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of October 14, 2007
1st Reading: 2 Kings 5:14-17; Psalm 97; 2nd Reading: 2 Tim 2:8-13; Gospel: Lk 17:11-19
Today, together with you, I will try to point out three topics. The first is taken from the Gospel of St. Luke, the second from the second letter of St. Paul to Timothy and the third from the letter of God we just heard. I must admit that the reading of the Gospel passage saddened me, I felt a big pain, for I thought about how many times Christ was in the situation that was described.
"Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice: 'Jesus, Master, have pity on us!' When he saw them, he said: 'Go, show yourselves to the priests' and as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him - and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked: 'Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?' Then he said to him: 'Rise and go; your faith has made you well".
Jesus fulfilled benefits, worked miracles, preached, he was concerned with the needy and the poor and what was their attitude toward Him? Ingratitude. The Gospel introduces us to one of these on going and repeated episodes of ingratitude toward Christ. Even on the cross, our Lord, while glancing around, did not see any of the people who were miraculously saved. Yet he worked many healings and miracles, many more than those described and recounted in the Gospels.
Unfortunately men continue to show ingratitude to Christ. We men turn to God to ask for what we need, but if we are not given a quick hearing, that is, if we do not find the door open, if when we ask, it is not granted immediately what we want, we get into a bad mood, we shake our heads and we feel offended by Him. Instead, why don't we pay our attention and the highlights of criticism toward ourselves? We men have received so much: we have been given the Son of God who has opened the doors of eternal and infinite bliss of Heaven. Christ became incarnate to take on our human nature in relation to suffering, passion and death. And we men how are we behaving? What is our attitude toward God? The question wants to remain unanswered, at least on my part. Each of you will give the answer, in the secret of your heart, after a serious examination of conscience is made. Do not look at others, we are not interested in them, let's think to ourselves. Sometimes we focus on the actions of others, we think about how they behave toward Christ, to hide our responsibilities. Instead we should seriously question our conscience asking ourselves what we do for Christ and how we live our relationship with Him. We must be honest and sincere with ourselves, even if it were to cost us a lot and make us suffer. But it is better to suffer on earth today than to suffer tomorrow in Purgatory. We must be really honest and answer this question with humility: "How did I live the gifts I have received from God?" No one can feel excluded by Christ's mercy, liberality and generosity.
And now we come to Paul's letter, my great friend and teacher, to whom I turn just to try to imitate him, both in preaching and in life.
"My son, remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, of the seed of David, according to my gospel: wherein I suffer hardship unto bonds, as a malefactor; but the word of God is not bound. Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sake, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. Faithful is the saying: For if we died with him, we shall also live with him: if we endure, we shall also reign with him: if we shall deny him, he also will deny us: if we are faithless, he stays faithful; for he cannot deny himself".
This letter speaks of the time when Paul was a prisoner in Rome. This is the first imprisonment suffered by the apostle. The development of his speech begins with a profession of faith. He, in front of Christ, bows because he recognizes Him as true God and true Man. Man as a participant in the lineage of David, because God, by his own power, and that power belongs to Him only, is risen from the dead. Paul wants that his profession of faith he pronounced would see also the participation of his disciples and, specifically, Timothy who was ordained Bishop by Paul. What is the recommendation of the Father to the Son? He says: "Be faithful to my Gospel". We know that the four Gospels are from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Then what is the meaning: "Be faithful to my Gospel?" When Paul speaks of the Gospel he means the message of salvation brought by Christ on Earth and that he, as an apostle, preaches and proclaims to all nations and in every corner of the world. The announcement of this message does not take place in a serene, quiet and peaceful way. To be able to preach, Paul, the Apostle of peoples, endures suffering, persecution and accusations. He puts himself in a condition where he had to pay a high loyalty price for the Christ. But he is not focusing on his status as a prisoner, instead, with a powerful impetus typical of him, brings your attention to the Gospel. "I am bound with chains, but the Word of God is not bound", says Paul, "The Word of God flies, the Word of God reaches every corner". Paul has suffered imprisonment during which he could also welcome and receive other people. He preached both to those who came to see him and those who had to see that he would not flee and ensure that he would not elude imprisonment, i.e. the prison guards.
Let us pause now on the last part of Paul's letter. This is a summary of Christian life: "If we die with Him, we shall also live with Him". These juxtapositions, also present in the Gospel of John, clarify the following notion: if we die to sin, if we renounce sin, we are in a position to enter into true life. The death of sin is the result of a life of grace. Then every time that man is separated from sin he is part of the life of Christ who said: "I am the life". This is the basic condition that cannot be ignored, it is not possible to be a Christian without grace. The Christian is the one adhering to Christ, the one sharing the life of Christ. If man is not a sinner, he fully adheres to Christ. As human nature is weak, Jesus instituted the sacrament of Confession. There are neither excuses nor justifications: Christ has given us all the chances to live continually in a state of grace. And even if, through weakness, we would fall into sin, we can return to live in a state of grace, because the repenting man goes through the purification of the sacrament of Confession.
"If we endure with Him, we shall reign with Him". To be determined means to do always our own duty by respecting the Decalogue that was not abolished by Christ, but was actually confirmed. To be determined means above all to respect the great law of the New Testament, the commandment of love, on which Our Lady too was focusing today.
The Mother of the Eucharist spoke of love several times. There is no letter from God where we do not talk about love, and where there is no maternal invitation to live charity truly and deeply. Let us recollect the words of Christ: "Those who persevere in the acceptance of the message, will reign", "My good and faithful servant come into the joy prepared for you since the foundation of the world", "If we deny him, he also will deny us".
In this instance, Paul keeps in mind what Jesus said: "Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven" (Mt 10:33). This means that we must also outwardly profess our adherence to Christ. It is not a matter concerning just our intimate and personal life or our conscience, it must be something emerging from us, from our actions and our behavior. Be disowned before God means to suffer the condemnation for lack of loyalty. "If we are faithless, He remains faithful". This is a very beautiful encouragement for all the people who feel weak, fragile and sinners. Sometimes you know moments of weakness, as it was for Peter and the other apostles or today's people who have been raised to the glory of the altars. We too have known moments of weakness and I hope they will decrease until we reach, if we wish, a persevering and constant fidelity. If we would be aware of our frailties, we should have the certainty that Christ remains faithful to what he promised. Thus Jesus is opening his arms again if we repent. Remember the parable of the prodigal son, the father who even anticipates his son's return as a desire, as hope growing in his heart.
The third point on which I wish to speak today is about the letter of God. I want to focus on two topics. The first, perhaps some of you have already understood, is concerned with that episode about the Pope and the seminarist. Just today is forty-five years since then. The Pope is Albino Luciani, then Bishop of Vittorio Veneto and the seminarist is myself. I worked at the beginning of the Council by placing my willingness to the bishops' service, for what they needed. On several occasions I read the speeches delivered during the Council assembly or in restricted meetings of bishops. Thereafter I also had very significant meetings with the future Pope John Paul I, for after my priestly ordination we were staying together for a few months. During the first session of the Second Vatican Council, during my services, I was approached by the then Bishop Luciani and we gained some confidence. I well remember that he made me read his speech with a request to tell him what I thought about it and amiably, he said: "I have to be clear and I must be understood, if a seminarist can understand it, the others too will understand it". This very concept was emphasized in the television serial on the life of John Paul I: "I do not want to fly high because the clouds higher up do not give rain, I have to fly low because, if out of everything I say, people who listen to me will understand only a part of it, for me this is already a great satisfaction". The limit of us bishops and priests often lies in the desire to appear learned and, to show as such, we resort to tricks that anyone can use. We draw on classic citations of great characters, using a refined and difficult language. But to those who are listening, when the sermon ends, nothing is left, because they failed to understand a speech too complex and beyond their reach. This great Pope, since he was bishop, taught to us priests that it is preferable to use a simple language while preaching, so the faithful may understand and this is the reason why Our Lady has spoken of it today, after forty-five years.
We now come to the second point of the letter of God on which I wish to talk. You understand to whom the Mother of the Eucharist was referring when she says she was never put aside or neglected by Christ. A Father failed to show respect and love for her, but the significant and strong thing is God's judgment. When our Lord says: "He who said these things is good for him to leave his position and retire in a monastery", we must reflect. Why he said this or how he did it does not matter, what matters is that when we priests talk, must be faithful to the public revelation and, with humility, to avoid these errors, we must also respect the private revelation, the genuine, authentic and proven by miracles and conversions. The reason is simple: both the public revelation, which must be accepted by faith, and the private revelation have God as source and author. When God is present, no matter the way through which He is manifested and revealed, we must humbly bow our head and show gratitude, appreciation, respect, docility and love. If this does not happen we are outside the union with Christ, we are outside the communion with the Holy Spirit because if we do not love God, He cannot see reflected in us the likeness of his Son. Now let us entrust all these thoughts and our prayers to the Mother of the Eucharist. Praised be Jesus Christ.