Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of June 29, 2008
1st reading: Ac 12:1-11; Psalm 33; 2nd reading: 1 Tim 3:1-6; Ac 20:18-20, 23-24, 28, 33; Gospel: Mt 16:13-19
Today, in this place that by the power of God is extending to become unbounded and immense, three churches have met: the triumphant Church, the militant Church and the purgatory Church. When Jesus, in the letter of God, said that all Heaven had poured out here, he referred to the triumphant Church. We are the militant Church, the first nucleus, the first cell of the new Church, to be born renewed by the blood of Christ, by His redemptive power and by His love suffered on the cross. The purgatory Church are our brothers still without the gift of beatific vision and waiting for their purification. We hope that their purification time will be short and this wish will be supported during the celebration of the Holy Mass. In particular, I am referring to those who have, with us, ties of blood, kinship, friendship, or are part of our community, which has now roots in each of the five continents.
We are the militant Church, we are the harbinger of the new Church. As you have recently followed my catechesis and todayís readings, you have noticed that there is a path that better and better outlines, and cannot be otherwise, the character of the Bishop. Today we celebrate one of God's greatest works: we do not celebrate the person, but our Lord's work because everything that God accomplishes is an immense gift, sometimes unfathomable, which He gives to the whole humanity. Today, unfortunately, this episcopal ordination is still not accepted, especially from the top of the Church; it is not a gift made only to the individual person, as it would mean nothing, but it is for the whole Church. It is as if God would say: "I am the Head of the Church, I intervene as and when I want and address the course of the Church History towards the goals and ends that I myself have set and established". One of the many goals, and todayís celebration gives us full rights, is the character of the Bishop. In one of the last Bible classes, to make you understand what a Bishop should not be, I have read, and this I rarely do, a reflection from cardinal Martini on the flaws in the clergy.
Today's readings outline what these conditions are, the qualities of those who aspire to the episcopate. The second reading is composed by the First Letter of St. Paul to Timothy and the Acts of the Apostles, but it is always St. Paul speaking.
"It is worthy of faith as I say to you: if one aspires to the episcopate, he desires a noble work. But the bishop must be blameless, married only once, sober, prudent, dignified, hospitable, able to teach, not devoted to wine, not violent but benevolent, non-litigious, not attached to money. Know how to direct his own family well and have children subdued with every dignity, because if one does not know how to direct his or her family, how can he care about the Church of God? Also, he is not a neophyte, because it does not happen to mount in pride and to fall into the same devil's condemnation. (...)
You know how I have been with you since the first day I arrived in Asia and throughout this time I served the Lord with all humility, in the tears and in trials that the traps of the Jews have brought me. You know how I never back out of what might be useful in order to preach to you and educate you in public and in your homes. I only know that the Holy Spirit in every city testifies that chains and tribulations wait for me. However, I do not consider my life deserving of anything, as long as I have completed my journey and service that was entrusted to me by my Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the message of the grace of God. Pay attention to yourself and to the whole flock where the Holy Spirit placed you as bishops to feed the Church of God bought with his blood. I have longed neither for silver, nor gold, nor clothing of anybody."
The initial sentence may raise some uneasiness in you: "It is worthy of faith as I say to you: if one aspires to the episcopate, he desires a noble work." What does this passage mean? Please pay attention: Paul is the son of his time and at that time to become bishop was lived more as a burden than an honor. In fact, other gifts and supernatural charisms were sought, such as the gift of prophecy, which was considered superior to the episcopate itself because of the responsibilities that this office required in the performance of its functions. So it is good to long for the episcopate if there are conditions for which he makes a long list: "The bishop must be blameless, married only once, sober, prudent, dignified, hospitable, able to teach, not devoted to wine, not violent but benevolent, non-litigious, not attached to money." So if the candidate does not have these qualities, he must not be ordained a bishop. There is an ecclesiastical institution that is responsible for episcopal appointments, but unfortunately it does not keep in mind St. Paulís instructions contained in this passage of the scripture because if they were kept in mind, today we would not have many episcopal appointments that leave much to be desired. It is absurd: we who defend and continually refer to the Word of God are criticized and condemned.
A bishop must not be inclined to wealth at all, nor to seek power but must live his role as a service, as Paul is teaching us, today instead is true the exact opposite. And then in the new Church the identity of the bishop must be exactly the following: poor, detached from material goods and living his role as a service; Always remember what Our Lady said: "We are preparing good bishops." It is useless to have among the various titles the title of "servant of the servants of God" unless you live it completely. Jesus taught just this in the last supper during the washing of the feet: "You call me Master and Lord; and do well, because I am. Therefore, if I, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also must wash your feet to each other. In fact, I have given you an example, so that you too can do as I have done to you" (Jn 13-15), that is, put yourself at your brothersí service. The bishop must be poor, servant, available, ready, generous, loyal, pure; chastity is a value that God the Father reiterated a few days ago during a conversation with Marisa and me. Priests must be celibate, let all those coquettes talk invoking the right to freedom, to modernity. The priest must resemble Christ, with his life he must remind that the final condition of man in Heaven will be that of a pure spirit and therefore there will be no need for marriage. All these qualities that you have heard are, once more, intimately tied to love and charity. Without charity they are nothing. St. Paul also taught us that concept: with love we offer God the best of ourselves. "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing" (1 Cor 13:1-2). I could be wise, a great programmer, a polyglot, a theologian, a philosopher but if I have no charity, no love, I'm nothing. In the new Church, the episcopal nominees must possess such qualities, if they do not have them, there is nothing that can be done even if they are recommended. Do you remember the words spoken by Cardinal Martini, who is not the least inexperienced of the Church? Todayís episcopal appointments go on for recommendation. We have to look at the models and Paul is one of them! He sacrificed for his faithful because he had their spiritual health in mind and trembled when poisonous doctrines, contrary to what he taught, infiltrated the communities. Paul's fellow, Peter, is also a model to follow. Unfortunately, he is often referred to as the weak side rather than the strong side. Today I would like to re-evaluate Peterís figure who received a wonderful praise from Jesus because he, illuminated by God the Father, recognized the figure and mission of Christ, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16:16). This means to have faith; A priest, a bishop, cannot fail to have faith.
In today's letter from God, Jesus said: "You have heard from a message from my mother that to a high prelate the Eucharist bled while celebrating the H. Mass, but he put it away and placed in its place another white host. Why are they so afraid of my blood?" We know name and surname of this ecclesiastic. During the celebration of the H. Mass, he was pushed to conversion, a Eucharistic miracle in his hands, and yet, instead of being thankful to God, he threw the host aside, thus desecrating the Eucharist. Is this faith? If we have no faith, and Peter reminds us of its importance, we cannot play our part because we, on our own, would not get anywhere; Only with God's help and grace we get everywhere. This is the teaching of Christ: "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father." (Jn 14:12)
Look here, before the altar, where it is represented what I have just said. (At the foot of the altar there is a decoration where the Eucharist and three zucchettos are represented - editorís note) Take a nice picture because in this image there is everything. It is easy to identify the three zucchettos: Peter the white one, Paul the golden one and, modestly, the undersigned is the violet one. There is also the triumph of the Eucharist, giving vitality and nourishment, sky, earth and sea and abundant grace. This reminds me of Saint Augustine's words: "Where abundant is sin, the grace has overabounded." Look at the flow of grace coming out from this amphora, this is the redemption that has changed the History of Man, so we are no longer as we were before. The sword is the Word of God penetrating in depth and remains stuck within us. All this must really push us to pray for the Church.
We will see you again in September, you all will stay on and you know it, for you will not die; so long as there is no triumph, no one in the community will die. Pray for the Church, it is the only intention I leave to you and entrust you with for these two months. Let us pray for the Church, we must give the best of ourselves, so God, with His strength, urged by our poor prayers, may realize, as soon as possible, what we are waiting for. The rendezvous is on September 6, at the thaumaturgic place at the San Lorenzo spring. We return to the origins after three years. From there, near that spring, thirty-seven years ago, our story begun and who knows if it ends there with a closing that has a link to the beginning. Beginning and ending always in the name of the Mother of the Eucharist, in the name of the Eucharist.