Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of September 16, 2007
Did you realize that every time we approach the reading of a bible passage, an increasing number of reflections emerge in our hearts, for we grow in the knowledge of God's Word. In fact it is a priceless treasure with incomparable depth and surprising elevation. The Word of God is so rich that, following an expression from the Gospel, we can say that heaven and earth shall pass away but the Word will never be fully explained and understood. I am deeply convinced of it and I say it again: there will be others after us who, with God's help, by reading and meditating the Word will understand new things.
In fact, with all due respect to the fathers and doctors of the Church of the past who, full of the Holy Spirit, commented in a very profound way the Word of God, we must move forward in the interpretation because neither them centuries ago, nor us today have totally understood the Word.
Paul comes to us, takes us by hand and leads us to heights so high that if we bow our heads and we look down we feel immediately dizzy. Today's second reading is one of the three pastoral letters that he wrote to his closest disciples: Timothy (two letters) and Titus. To them he gave the fullness of priesthood, the episcopate, and made them leaders of the churches which he himself had founded.
Let us follow Paul in the path of his conversion in the first letter to Timothy.
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
"I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength", so many times he used the word "grace", but in this passage he uses the word "strength". In this way he wants us to understand that it takes great strength to switch from the negative reality of sin to the positive reality of grace. In fact, the conversion is achieved thanks to the strength coming from God, through it you can move from a situation of sin to salvation. Without the action of God there is neither genuine conversion, nor change from the prodigal son to the son united to the Father. "Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man" Paul describes himself as a blasphemer, not as one revolting and offending Yahweh as revealed in the Old Testament, but rather as one who, from the very beginning, had not accepted Christ as the Son of God. His swear words, therefore, do not consist of blasphemy expressions, but of the actual refusal to believe and accept Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah, Son of God and Redeemer, evoked for centuries and promised by God.
Paul, before God, has an excuse for his behavior because he did not know Christ beforehand and, therefore, he could not have loved him: "I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus". Although it is not clearly stated, the apostle is saying implicitly: "I find myself in the situation of those for whom Christ prayed on the cross: Father forgive them for they know not what they do". Paul then, fits into this justification: "I didn't know either, but since I met him and his mercy manifested to me, I have changed and with the strength of God I went from one state to another, by the power of God". Paul, therefore, is showing us God's love and fatherhood.
Today the fatherhood of God is still not fully understood because it is not possible to completely understand the Lord as He is a divine entity and therefore infinite, but we can strive to grasp some aspects. The infinite love of God is amazing, but it is not understood by the bad people and not even by the good people: the parable of the prodigal son we read in today's Gospel bears witness: "I will arise and go to my father and say unto him: father, I have sinned against heaven and against you I am no more worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants" (Luke 15:18-19). He does not understand that his father, instead, loves him with a passionate, immense and immeasurable love. Not even the good ones know the infinite goodness and fatherhood of God. John, in his first letter, defines God as "Love" (1 Jn 4:8) and, thanks to private revelations, we can better develop and articulate this claim. Once again God stands beside us, takes us by hand and says: "You have not figured out who I am, then I will be the One to explain who I am". It took me thirty-six years and you somewhat less, because I've explained it, to get to pray to God as Dad. Father is a severe and austere name indicating authority, but dad or daddy, translated into all other languages into equivalent expressions, shows an incomprehensible love from God: "I, God, am your Dad and I want you to call me with this title" (Letter of God, February 2, 2007). We feel small, Christ wants to take us in his arms, protect and help us, and the great love of God is also apparent in today's reading of the Gospel passage (here it is reported only the story of the prodigal son that the Bishop is going to comment).
Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate'. So he divided his property between them. "Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. "When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.' So he got up and went to his father. "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. "The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son'. "But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found'. So they began to celebrate. "Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound'. "The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!' 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found".
This boundless love is not understood by men, neither by the bad ones nor by the good ones. The eldest son, in fact, does not understand his father's behavior when his brother is back as he made the father suffer, offended him, consumed portion of the assets and, moreover, is not even fully repented, as he does not want to be treated as a son. His father "Filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him" and ordered his servants: "Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate". How is it possible? Here it is, we do not understand God. When Our Lady had announced that millions of souls ascended from Purgatory to Heaven (they reached the figure of about three hundred sixty-six million in successive waves) and, among them, there were several well-known people, all of us, starting with myself, were astonished. One was living with a partner, another had only a civil marriage, a third was divorced, yet, they all went to Heaven! We did not understand God's love, we marveled, we acted as the eldest son. Then God gave us the answers: "They loved, loved me, through the poor, the needy and the weak". They could have kept the money and the earned riches for themselves, instead they gave to a large extent and often in concealment so that others would not know. I just want to quote the last two: the famous tenor Pavarotti and the great comedian Gigi Sabani, the first divorced and then had a civil marriage, the second lived with a partner. My dear, both are in Purgatory, because they have loved and given to the poor. Do not forget that God's mercy goes where we would have never been able to get: We found it out from the Mother of the Eucharist; you see the importance of private revelations.
We have always said that after death there is God's judgment and so everything is already decided, but who are we to impose this rule on God? None of us is dead or has had the experience of meeting with our Lord and able to report what happens immediately after death until God's judgment. Do we realize the stupidity and arrogance we show with these statements?
Our Lady told us, on behalf of God, that He loves his children so much that even after death He is still granting a chance to be saved and ask for forgiveness. Instead we are ready to condemn, denying religious funerals for those who committed suicide, or who asked to pull the plug. No one can deny religious funerals, no one knows if Daddy God in Heaven has welcomed this soul, or if He made this soul wait in Purgatory before coming to Him. It is easy for those who are healthy to judge people who, for years, were nailed on a bed as if on a cross. We have not understood God's love.
After two thousand years of Christianity we still behave like judges, we still behave like those students to whom the teacher, in his absence, asks to write on the blackboard the names of the good and bad people. God is love, a love that must be enucleated in sensitivity, kindliness, fatherhood, closeness, dialogue, conversation and help. This is God, and if men were to know Him they would behave as Paul did, who at first disliked Christ, but then, when he met Him, made his way of life: "but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles" (1 Cor 1:23), this is Paul.
My beloved, after two thousand years we have yet to explore Christianity, we thought that we had preached the gospel throughout the world. Evangelization will never end, and both the baptized and those who are not yet part of the Church must be continually evangelized. The latter must be respected because, as God made us to know, even members of other religions can be saved and go to Heaven, it is enough for them to love and respect Him.
It is not true that a Christian is more likely to go to Heaven than a Hindu, a Buddhist or a Muslim. Be careful, I do not mean that we should not evangelize, even Jesus said: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation" (Mark 16:15). We have the duty to evangelize, but if some people would not get the proclamation of the Gospel, as Paul did not get it, they are not to blame.
Who are we to judge our brothers and sisters belonging to other religions?
Here we have understood everything by combining the two greatest gifts of God, the public and private revelations. Thanks to these two treasures, these two sources, it is possible to affirm the truth that today I have spoken you about. The source, the One who speaks, is always God, and even if is communicating in different ways, we must listen. The public revelation ended with the death of the last apostle, but the private one goes on; let us thank God who has had the patience to continue to stay in our midst.
We men have kicked at God and Our Lady rejecting their interventions in history; unfortunately, several priests have said: "It is not true, it is not possible, Our Lady cannot say this, God cannot say that", and you man, who are you to say it?
Let us bow our head, kneel down, raise our eyes and say: "Thank you Daddy God for you had infinite patience with us, with your ministers. You had patience with those who should have recognized you and, instead, have refused you, thank you my God, thank you Daddy God. Even if I met you when I was thirty, forty, fifty or seventy years old, I have known you in the best way, for you came to meet me, you embraced me, you took me in your heart and tightly held me in your arms". Say now all this again in the Holy Mass, and especially at the time of Holy Communion when you will meet God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. All praise and glory be given to God for ever and ever. Amen.
Praised be Jesus Christ.