Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of January 20, 2008
1st reading: Is 49:3, 5-6; Psalm 39; 2nd reading: 1 Cor 1:1-3; Gospel: Jn 1:29-34
The Lord said to me: "You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor”. And now the Lord says, he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself - for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord and my God has been my strength - and says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth". (First reading)
Prophet Isaiah again, one of the greatest of the Old Testament admittedly a gigantic figure announcing something beautiful, great and important. By now you are used to connect the passages of the Holy Scriptures presented on holidays or Sundays, so that the scheme of the homily that I will then try to develop together with you is clear. Isaiah opens a great dialogue, the passage from the Gospel of St. John is continuing it and the extrapolation from the first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians closes it. With you I want to grasp the clarity, importance and greatness of it.
In this passage you have to make a distinction about the word "servant" talked about by the prophet: initially it has a cumulative, a community meaning. The "servant" referred by Isaiah must be understood as all of the Jewish people, but the perfect and most beautiful shoot will originate from the root of Jesse, the Messiah, he is the authentic, exclusive, sole "Servant of God", the One who is pleasing to the Almighty. The Jewish people, as I pointed out last Friday during the Bible class, is a small and modest people, without ambitions to conquest, indeed, they have often been conquered, after being defeated in battle by nearby enemies. Nevertheless, with this weak people, many times even unfaithful to Him, God entered into a covenant. Throughout the history of the Jewish people, as Isaiah says, God is manifesting his glory. In this very context, the glory of God is manifested by the return from exile of the part of people who had been captured, eradicated from the land of Israel and carried away. Only God can step in and do what is humanly impossible, making it possible. The glory and power of God are manifest in this event that according to human logic would have followed a certain path but according to God’s logic followed an opposite path to what men assumed to identify and know. If the power of God was showing on the Jewish people so much so it shows through the authentic and true "Servant of God", who is Christ, the Messiah. In fact this passage has an exquisitely Messianic taste. God does not like half-measures or light and shade effects, when he has to communicate something he does so with such lucidity and clarity that can be understood by even the smallest and most modest inexperienced person. In this case, God, through prophet Isaiah, makes us understand and shows that the Servant of Yahweh has no political, social or cultural task, but it has solely a religious task: He must win the darkness, that is sin. The strength and power of this Servant is so immense, so incomprehensible to men that it cannot address the Jewish people only, but has a breadth, an extension that reaches every corner of the Earth. Here was fulfilled the idea of ??the Messiah, true Man and also true God because only God, or one of His action, can have resonance across the Earth. With this hope from God, the Jewish people, through ups and downs, between loyalty and disloyalty, between service to God and service to false gods, went ahead in its history and was the depositary of that promise that was handled down for generations. The human mindset is often polluted by strict and miserable human ideas and concepts. To understand the action of God we must empty ourselves of human ideas and fill with His ideas. Jesus has come, is showing, but no one really understands that the little Child we have loved and adored over the Christmas time that just ended, is the Servant. No one understands that that Child, taken at night and brought to safety, for Herod wants to kill him, is the Holy of God. No one understands that this twelve year old boy is the Messiah. While expressing astonishment and marveling at His knowledge, the doctors and priests do not come to the right conclusion because they do not have the light of God, are closed to it, are obtuse and unable to discern and really understand the actions of God and feel His presence. No one realizes that that young boy, who is getting more and more mature and becomes man, is the Son of God. His own people, when they hear the spreading fame of Jesus who is working miracles, wonder: "Isn’t he the son of Joseph the carpenter?” They did not understand but in some of them, a few of them, the authentic concept remained intact, unchanged and I am referring to the elderly. Who is recognizing the Baby? Anna, the elderly priestess and the aged Simeon. From God there is a standing in favor of the elderly who are often forgotten, sometimes there is lack of respect towards them, and you think they do not understand because they are on in years. God goes against stereotypes also in this situation: He treats the elderly with respect, He loves them and calls them his pearls, He describes them as pearls of God; for men they do not matter, for God they matter a lot.
At that time, the next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said: ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me’. I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One" (Gospel).
The Lord appears to the one who is called to proclaim the Son of God, the precursor, who waited for many years. He is the same age as Jesus, just six months older, it means that he waited for about thirty-three years because when Christ began his public life he was about thirty-three, not thirty, as erroneously claimed. He sees Jesus for the second time, the first time was on the occasion of the Baptism of the Lord. Jesus is back to the Jordan River to meet John, who, by now, has designated him for what He is: the Lamb of God. He waited for Him for a long time and although he personally never met Him before, he knew and loved him. He was alone in his waiting, since his parents died when he was a few months old and the angels took care of him. Our Lady was in touch with little Baptist, in the manner prescribed by God. When John sees Jesus approaching he looks at His face radiating with splendor and beauty, a charming man with magnetic eyes, He is powerful, in Him there is strength and calmness, power and sweetness, deep word and simple word. This is the advancing and approaching Christ seen by John. I have always encouraged you to read the Gospel by living what you read, unlike a common book or a magazine that you would normally read, but giving importance to what you read. When John says: "Behold, the Lamb of God", wants to mean: "I met you at last, subject of my desire, my love, my service", and there is a bursting love. On the other hand something similar happened about thirty years before, when Mary had traveled from Nazareth to Ein Karem, the birthplace of John the Baptist, to help her cousin Elizabeth, and the two unborn babies in their mothers’ wombs had enjoyed the presence of each other. If there was such a joy from John when he was in Elizabeth’s womb, and this is Word of God, so much so there was a greater joy on this occasion. For this reason I advise you to always guard the Word of God, keep it united so you can enjoy it better, understand it more and deepen it. And here is the Lamb of God! What He is capable of doing is explained by St. Paul in a manner that is comprehensible even to the smallest among us.
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ - their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! (Second reading)
Christ sanctifies, and holiness is the absence of sin and the presence of grace. There are different degrees of holiness, depending on the amount of grace present in each of us. Mary is the highest saint, for she is the richest in grace. The person immediately below Mary as sainthood but superior to all other saints is St. Joseph, God the Father said it again just two days ago. When I heard that I was very happy because, you know it, I love St. Joseph with great love and to know these truths, which are authentic, as they come from God, fills my heart.
Let’s bring this aside and let’s move on. "Saints by call, by vocation". Today the Mother of the Eucharist spoke how to reach holiness, you see how everything is connected, and it is not difficult she said, it is challenging, yet possible. What's even more beautiful is this: those who truly love God, who have an exclusive love for God, enjoy and rejoice, for they are happy to know that holiness is present in an increasing number of people. The more the people are holy, the more the Holy rejoices. St. Paul presents this very concept: The "saints by call" are all those who call upon the name of Jesus, that is, those who acknowledge Jesus as God, and are open to His action and feel they a respected and privileged subject of God's love. I would like to deliver to you an invitation: when, in a few minutes, you'll hear the Bishop who, showing the Eucharist, will say: "Behold, the Lamb of God", do ask John the Baptist to have in your heart the same love that he felt when he said "Behold, the Lamb of God". We are more fortunate than John the Baptist. Christ’s precursor was restricted to just pointing Him out, we, instead, can hold Jesus the Eucharistic in our hearts and, with Him, we also hold the Father and the Holy Spirit, which means: Trinity is present within us as long as the Eucharistic species last. Daddy God, Brother God, Friend God, God One and Triune, God is within us, not metaphorically or symbolically but in reality. Let's think about this, we must be convinced and if we really are, we would not see so many people approaching the Eucharist or, worse, celebrating the Eucharist with distraction, carelessness and negligence. It is not possible to avoid concentration, not to show faith and love when I am in the presence of God or rather, when God is present within me. How patient is God with man! All of us, ministers of the Eucharist, from the highest authorities to the last priest, should always repeat the words of John the Baptist: "I am not worthy to untie the strap of His sandals" and remember, this was the most humble service, reserved to the least of the slaves. The least of the slaves had to untie his master’s footwear. This is the attitude we should have and instead we do theater, we present ourselves as actors wearing rich outfits for our own glory, for our own manifestation. We are unable to understand that when the priest is celebrating the H. Mass, even when he is alone with no faithful present and even if he is old, shaky and weak, is fulfilling an action in front of which all of the Heaven bows in reverence and adoration. The greatness of the Mass does not depend on the charge or position of the person celebrating it because before God, the Eucharistic celebration of the Pope and the Holy Mass from the most modest of the priests are identical, there is no difference, it is us creating it, arousing God’s smile. That's why I dream, hope and wish that as far as the celebration of the Holy Mass is concerned, there would be no differences between the Pope and the least of the priests, but this is a task which any future authority will have to deal with. We priests and bishops have to understand that at that moment we are all servants before God. There is no servant more important than another. When we will come to understand this or wonder: "Am I worthy of celebration?” When we will say: "My God, you brought me to such a high height that I feel dizzy", only then we will be truly servants of God and ministers less unworthy of the Holy Eucharist.
Praised be Jesus Christ.