Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of June 29,2009
(Readings: Acts 12:1-11; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18; Matthew 16:13-19)
The readings we heard today are, as usual, surprisingly deep, encompassing, original and topical.
We begin by examining the moments specifically described in Matthew's work.
You must not believe that Jesus makes things by surprise, as do parents with their children and friends among themselves. In this reading, at the core of the announcement there are some fundamental truths, such as the indication of the first earthly head of the Church and you cannot quite believe that Jesus has not previously spoken to Peter and has not prepared him for this great mission. On the other hand, my dear people, most of the apostles were busy with humble professions; they were fishermen, farmers and tax collectors. Among them there were neither great masters, nor the great guides of Israel. But why? Because the Lord does not need great men. He is the greatest and infinitely superior and then makes up with His Omnipotence, Omniscience, Omnipresence, for the weaknesses, fragility and caducity of men He is placing as the head of the Church, when these weaknesses, however, are not caused by pride, arrogance, envy, jealousy, or worse.
When Jesus asks the question: "Who do you say I am?" He is embarrassing the Apostles because the answer is extremely difficult, it is an answer that puts the new revelation in a totally different light from the previous one.
The meaning of the Messiah was now lost in the Jewish people. There was a surrogate, that is a political Messiah, a deliverer Messiah, but the spiritual Messiah did no longer exist. And here we come to what I said before: the fragility, caducity and limit of Peter is compensated by God through His direct action and inspiration.
And here we stop for a moment. If God willed, could He make a statue of Our Lady talk? Yes! For God can do whatever He wants! It is men who must adapt to it.
"God does not do this!" But who said that? He has made prophet Balaam's donkey talk and cannot make a statue of Our Lady talk? Cannot He do anything else?
This also means something else very important: God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Most Holy Trinity, God One and Triune, are flawlessly following those people who are called to special responsibilities.
And for these people there is not only praise, there is also, in due time, a reprimand: the poor Peter got a beautiful praise and shortly afterwards a reprimand. When Jesus said: "I must go to Jerusalem where I will suffer many things", Peter replied, "Heaven forbid, Lord". What did Jesus say to him? "Get behind me, Satan! You are an offense to me".
So you see that the Lord continues His work. And what is great is that He makes no distinction, as we usually do: he is the Pope, he is not wrong! He is bishop one cannot say anything!
Peter, the first Pope, was praised because behind his answer: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God", there was God's inspiration: "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for flash or blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father in Heaven". Peter said exactly what he had to say. He was later reprimanded because he was opposing God's plan. All those who oppose God's plans are rejected by Him, discarded and condemned, even if they were the highest ecclesiastical persons in the whole Church. I hope that by now you understand it and it is this that is happening and that must happen.
Let us talk about Peter again. We read the Acts of the Apostles (12:1-11): It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. "Quick, get up!" he said, and the chains fell off Peter's wrists. Then the angel said to him, "Put on your clothes and sandals." And Peter did so. "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me!" the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came to himself and said, "Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod's clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating".
Herod had James killed and Peter arrested. He did not have Peter killed because the apostle was already beginning to have an influence on the people, so if he did kill him, it could have caused a series of reactions. Herod, in order to protect himself, would have liked to involve the people in the trial. And what is God doing? He lets Peter get away.
Peter, the first head of the Church had been unjustly condemned to undergo a trial that would have ensured the same fate as James's. But this was not God's will.
Trials, convictions, imprisonment, soldiers and chains, can they coexist with a Christian-Catholic vision? It is possible that a Pope, whomever he may be in history, might utilize the same actions that unfairly and illegally were made against the first Pope? No!
So why some men of the Church, for centuries, have condemned, imprisoned, and killed? These are crimes crying out to God for vengeance for which there is no possibility of acquittal. We cannot hide behind the statement "Times were different". Christianity was born two thousand years ago, but has not changed. Jesus said "Love your enemies", "Do good to your persecutors". So why then if a man is difficult, you cut his head off?
We need the courage to say: "All this must be condemned". And if, hypothetically, this attitude of persecution within the Church, albeit in a more deceitful way, would persist even today, for these gentlemen, as God the Father has told us a few days ago, there is only Hell! God has given us the names of those who are at the top of the Church and are fighting those who oppose their desires, their plans. For them there is only Hell. This is sincerity.
Anyone may hurt the feeling of love: a Pope, a cardinal, a bishop, a priest, a nun or a committed Christian.
I say to you again: Hell exists! So we were told many times and it is also full of popes, because they did not love! They did not love!
Now we talk about Paul, my dear friend Paul (2 Tim. 4:6-8, 17-18): For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!
In his letter to Timothy, Paul is showing the end of his life, he is not far to the final martyrdom.
We may adapt this letter to our situation. For example: "I have fought the good fight and I have kept the faith". This expression fits us perfectly. I wish it were the same for the whole community, for all the people present, certainly for young people. Although they have experienced moments of confusion and rebellion, even if they have had periods in which they were sick, and are still physically sick, in this sentence I see their lives in recent years: "We fought the good fight and we kept faith".
And Paul goes on with another sentence: "And now I expect the crown of righteousness that the Lord will not only give to me but to all who are waiting with love his appearing and his coming".
We see ourselves in this as well. After thirty-eight years I am waiting from God what I have asked during the Eucharistic adoration. The apostles, while they were on the boat in the middle of the storm, awoke Him up because they were frightened. Marisa and I, after these long years of pain and suffering for the Church, have more rights than the apostles. And we will always keep on asking, by the intercession of my ambassadress in Heaven, what I have repeatedly asked Him on earth: "Enough, all is over". There is nothing left, but to start the great plan of God which is the rebirth of the Church!