Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of November 18, 2007
1st Reading: Mal 4:1-2; Psalm 97; 2nd Reading: 2 Thess 3:7-12; Gospel: Lk 21:5-19
Today I invite you to follow me and focus your attention especially on what I will say concerning the Gospel passage. But before entering this wonderful chain of thoughts that have Christ as their subject, I invite you for a moment to reflect on the reading taken from the prophet Malachi.
Look, the day is coming burning like an oven. All the arrogant ones and all those doing evil will become straw. The coming day will burn them, says the Lord of heavenly forces, leaving them neither root nor branch. But the sun of righteousness will rise on those revering my name. (Mal 4:1-2)
The day of the Lord spoken of in the passage, means the day when our Lord will manifest for the good people in a certain way, and in another way for the proud people and all those who commit injustice and everything will happen at the same time. The word of God does not say that the time of which we speak of is imminent, but only that this will happen for sure; he who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Now we come to the Gospel.
Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said: "As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down", "Teacher" they asked, "when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?" He replied: "Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am he' and 'The time is near.' Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away". Then he said to them: "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven". But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. And so you will bear testimony to me. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life. (Lk 21:5-19)
In order to properly understand the above we must refer back to the two central mysteries of our faith, the Trinity of God and the mystery of Incarnation, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us ponder the second mystery and the formulation we say at the moment of elevation of the chalice during Mass, that is: "Jesus Christ, I believe you are true God and true Man present in the Eucharist"; let us pause to contemplate for a moment the Humanity and Divinity of Christ. Christ is a person where there are two different natures, the human and the divine, for this we say that He is true God and true Man. Christ is omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, and has all the divine attributes in the same manner and with the same intensity as the Father and the Holy Spirit. Christ, as man, has intellect, will, sensitivity and feelings that He was shown to possess, and which we find in the Gospel when, for example, He was moved to see the funeral procession that led to the burial of the only son of a widowed mother and raised him; how he cried before the tomb of Lazarus, even knowing that He would have raised him; how he was moved while embracing the children. In our Way of the Cross we point out how Christ is moved in seeing the Cross and embraces it with affection for He knew that that was the way to get all of his brethren in Heaven. Christ is true God and true Man and heretics raged since the early centuries of the Church on this mystery of our faith; some, so-called Docetists (from dokèo, to seem) denied His humanity by asserting that it was only apparent and not real; others have denied His divinity. We reaffirm what the Church has taught us, namely, that in Christ there is both humanity and deity, for this reason we say that He is true God and true Man. Maybe today you will hear something for the first time but they are very beautiful and meaningful. Christ is true God and true Man, then He has a divine and a human will; both have the same aim, go in the same direction and while being simultaneously present, the divine will show in a divine way, the human will in a human way, so Christ as true Man, was a participant of everything that belongs to humanity. He felt Jew to all intents and purposes, He respected traditions, was linked to Jewish history and loved his people. With a witticism we might say that if at that time there were the football World Cup, Jesus would have been a supporter of his national team. I have given you this example, which may seem absurd and irreverent, to make you understand the love and attachment of Jesus to his people, in fact to the Canaanite woman He said: "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel" (Mt 15:24). This expression underlines the affection He had for his people so that when we happen to read the page of the Gospel of Luke recounting this episode, also present in Matthew and Mark, we need to put Christ in that reality. Today, for the first time, we try to raise a little the veil of silence and discretion covering what Christ heard and experienced while uttering those words. Try to imagine this scene: Jesus and the Apostles are going down from the Temple, cross the Kidron valley, go up along the slope of Gethsemane and reach the top of this hill overlooking a beautiful view and immediately, both He and the apostles, are in front of this impressive temple. It's like when we go to the Janiculum hill and see the wonderful landscape or when, from a beautiful terrace, we see St. Peter and we get excited at the sight: the embrace of the columns imagined by Bernini, the dome designed by Michelangelo, the largest temple of the whole Christianity, the history of St. Peter's temple known as the last of a series of churches that have preceded it. Our enthusiasm as men is the same as the one experienced by Jesus. He rejoiced to see this wonderful landscape, contemplating the majesty and beauty of the temple, but at the same time he was suffering because, as God, He also knew that the temple would be destroyed, and feeling this emotion, with grief He told the apostles. I believe that it has never been shown that Jesus, at the time, was suffering greatly. Think about how you would feel if you knew that St. Peter, the symbol of Christianity, will be destroyed within forty years by Muslims or by the Chinese; you would surely suffer, and Christ suffered in that moment, his suffering was more acute than ours because He loves infinitely more. You know that suffering is proportionate to love, the more we love a person, the more we suffer when we are deprived of that person. To participate in the mourning of our kinsfolks is different from that of an acquaintance we just happen to know; if there is love suffering is much stronger, so imagine what might have experienced Christ at that time. In addition we know, even if this is not spoken of in the Gospel, that Our Lady was always, in reality or bilocation, close to her Son, so she too suffered in the knowledge that this temple would be destroyed. She had lived there since the death of her parents until such time as she became Joseph's bride, and there she prayed and under the guidance of prophetess Anna she also mastered the art of sewing and embroidery; in that same place took place many conversations with God the Father, with the Son of God who was to become her Son, with the Holy Spirit, with the One and Triune God. In that temple she had read the Holy Scriptures and in particular the passages of the Old Testament where Isaiah and the prophets spoke of her Son, for she knew that she would become the Mother of God from the first moment of her conception. Let us not stop at the usual commonplaces, let us try, instead, to go deeper and remember that as much as we want to analyze it, we would never run out of the depth of God's word. Then here is Jesus speaking of the temple with suffering and sorrow and to his suffering is we add that of the apostles, authentic Jews. There is still an ongoing debate on the meaning of this passage among exegetes; some say it refers to the end of the world, others say it refers to the end of Jerusalem, and some others are in middle and believe that the end of Jerusalem we are talking about is the symbol, the image of the end of the world. Following the premise that I have done, however, I believe that the passage refers only to the end of Jerusalem, and then I adhere to those exegetes who say it is to be understood as the end of the Jewish world. With the destruction there is the dispersion, sacrifices cease, a world is ending but there is also the birth of another one, starting in labor though; and behold, the picture of the pains of childbirth are becoming clear. The woman in travail suffers; in fact Christianity has sprung from the sufferings of the Redeemer, the Co-Redeemer and from the participation in the pain of the Messiah by his children. Christ spoke clearly of persecutions, imprisonment and made it clear that the cause of this persecution is "My Name". This means that membership of men to His doctrine will lead them to a dreadful persecution.
I explained to you that the true meaning of that part of the third secret of Fatima that has been revealed is not what was given by the ecclesiastical authority but it is another, it was God the Father himself to tell me and Marisa what is the authentic meaning. Those spoken of and who are shooting with bows, arrows and muskets do not represent the atheist regimes of the twentieth century persecuting the Church, but they represent something more hideous: they indicate those clergymen who, abusing their authority, persecute God's prophets, be they simple laymen, priests or bishops. Then, when Jesus speaks of prison and suffering, as He is God, and in Him all reality is included, it also refers to the persecution of the brethren against brethren taking place within the Church. I am not speaking just about our situation but also of those who preceded us and were wrongly convicted and imprisoned, and the souls of those who were called by God and were even given to the secular arm, which issued the death sentence for them. Returning to the third secret of Fatima, Jesus saw also our situation, our persecution; also in this case it was God to disclose who is the white dressed Bishop who is hit and it is not a physical death but a moral death that is vastly bigger than the physical one. Jesus has made known the Church's future, a future that, because of men, has become bitter while it could have been nice and bright, with a full and complete proclamation of love. Unfortunately, many Christians were forced to crawl on the way to Calvary and climb to the top of this small hill and be finally nailed, condemned and killed. At a time when God will decide, you will experience what Malachi had foretold centuries before Christianity: when the day of God's intervention will come, He will destroy the dishonest people, those who committed injustice, as a fire burning the straw. Malachi, when writing this, was referring only to the situation of his time, on the other hand, in God's mind this word of His crosses over the centuries and reaches our time; being a divine word, it is still valid and current and we can rightly apply to our situation as well.
After receiving some energetic strokes from Our Lady, some just reproaches, today she said a beautiful thing: unlike others, although there are limitations that are expressed sometimes as moments of debate, we love God and are loved by Him. Without presumption and as long as we remain humble, we will belong to the category of righteous people; when the time of God's intervention will come, and I am not talking about the final judgment, but I refer to what has already happened in history several times and one was the destruction of Jerusalem, then the sun of justice will rise, the sun of the Eucharist. I see a deep connection with the Eucharist and the triumph of the Eucharist. God is present in everything, any time in history, including our own, and the rising sun of justice is nothing more than the triumph of the Eucharist of which we have been humble instruments and witnesses and in which we are participating. At this time I would like to restore hope, faith, desire for perfection and holiness, because only in this way we can say with Paul: "I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions" (Col 1:24). The unity of the Mystical Body is realized when the suffering of the head becomes the suffering of all members. The suffering of a single member causes the suffering of all the others and the son's suffering becomes the suffering of the head who is Christ. I entrust you with these thoughts, ponder them and give praise to God because, today, the infinite has opened a little more. Praised be Jesus Christ.