Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of March 30, 2008
2nd Easter Sunday or Feast of Divine Mercy (Year a)
1st reading: Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 117; 2nd reading: 1 Pet 1:3-9; Gospel: Jn 20:19-31
[Those who had been baptized] devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
And fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
All the believers were together and had all things in common, they sold their property and possessions and shared with all, as any had need.
Every day they continued steadfastly in the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, taking food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.
Meanwhile, every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)
If only the men of the Church had always had in mind the teachings found today in the first reading of the Acts of the Apostles, the Church would not be in the difficult situation in which it is today and, in centuries past, very sad and worrying pages would not have been written.
History shows us that when a man wants to act without God and pursues paths other than those indicated by Him, when man wants to assert himself and put the Lord in dim light, then it happens what you know as described in the episode the Tower of Babel: conflicts, arguments, quarrels and struggles. The Church, as human institution, has also experienced these painful and serious occurrences that could have been avoided. The Church could have been immune from all this if its representatives had tried to follow and abide by the Word of God. All this is dreadful!
You know that St. Paul compared the Church to the mystical body of Christ. Just as the human body is formed by different organs, with different functions, but all vital and bound together, in the same way must be the Church. The sight, for example, cannot do without hearing, otherwise men would be impaired and so on.
The men of the Church, throughout the centuries, have listened and acted on the last words of Jesus: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Mt 28:19-20). Unfortunately, only a small minority did so.
In the early centuries of the Church history there have been many doctors, fathers and illustrious ecclesiastical writers whose works, even today, after hundreds of years, are read and meditated. Why then do not add to the past heritage a new spiritual heritage on the basis of God's Word? Unfortunately, as I said at the beginning, men have tried to replace God and place themselves at the center to collect applause and praise that should be directed solely to Him. Here it is, the Church, to be born again, must take off all those scales that are attached to its body and return to breathe Godís oxygen, the grace and to see the light of the Holy Spirit. The Church, moreover, must be nourished by the Eucharistic bread that Christ gave us and that, unfortunately, men unsuccessfully tried to set aside by reducing it to mere human food.
"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (Acts 2:42). The center of the gospel is love and charity. God is love, and acts in love and, out of love, sent His Son to Earth. Out of love God the Son died on the cross and, always out of love, rises and opens the gates of Heaven. I have always uttered this sentence "out of love" next to every action of God. Let us examine human actions instead. Did men act out of love? Did they talk and preach out of love? The answer is obvious and it is a huge no, otherwise the Church would not be in such a disturbing and sad situation. The teaching of apostles is the same as Christís. Luke might well write: "They persisted in the teaching of Christ that his disciples handed down from one to the other". Here we give the correct interpretation to the expression "apostolic succession". According to common usage, the bishop is the successor of the apostles, because he was ordained by another bishop, and, going backwards, to the apostles. Instead let's give this expression a more pregnant meaning or that of authentic minister of the Word of God and sacraments. The one speaking to you did not receive the laying on of hands by men, yet, he was ordained bishop by divine intervention. God, hypothetically, could do again many other episcopal ordinations without the intervention of men, but He wonít do it anymore. The apostles' teaching is really this: to live in communion, which is not the Eucharist one, but it is union in love and charity. A family is united if the members are in love, otherwise it is divided. The same is true for a community and for the whole Church.
Have you ever wondered why there are so many divisions in the Church? Unfortunately divisions began from the beginning of its history because love was lacking. If I love all my brothers, I will make sure to have a brotherly and constructive relationship with each of them. I will not be in an antagonistic position, but I will go and meet them while respecting their ideas, allowing myself to be guided and accepting the fraternal correction. But what are human reactions? I have known many reactions: "You do not know who I am!Ē Only God can say: "I am who I am" (Ex 3:14), but you, instead, must say: "I am the servant of God", you are not the Almighty, you are not powerful, you are not the master. Only God can be given these attributes. So, in the Church, over the centuries, this perseverance in communion has failed and, unfortunately, heresies, divisions, quarrels and arguments have taken over. Shall we return to the true Church? Let us love everyone without distinction in a generous and disinterested way, without expecting an advantage or something back.
"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (Acts 2:42). Today Our Lady, perfect connoisseur of the Word of God, recalled an expression that has been referred to me on several occasions: "Hold fast to the tabernacle". The meaning is just that, it means "breaking of bread", that is to receive the Eucharist, to pray before the Eucharist, to love and adore it. This community, although small, even if tested and tired, is doing it. We are very attached to the Word of God as no other community. We, with all our limitations, mistakes and errors, were raised to true love more than any other community. Who can say that someone loves the Eucharist more than we do? Nobody. We were cheated, humiliated, persecuted and condemned because of the Eucharist, but we love it. The Eucharist is the source of everything, and without it, there is absolutely no life in the Church. "And fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles" (Acts 2:43). How many more impressive signs took place here! Did you ever think about it? The apostles healed the sick and raised the dead as well, but here there have been a good one-hundred-eighty-five Eucharistic miracles, and then we too can say we have this "sense of fear" which means respectful acceptance of all the supernatural interventions that have occurred in this miraculous place. And the others? The sentence: "they sold their property and possessions and shared with all, as any had need" (Acts 2:45), must be adapted to current historical circumstances. Today to sell properties and divide them with others is impractical, I am the first to acknowledge it, but this can be replaced with something else.
You have been taught the works of corporal mercy from catechism. One should realize if, next to us, there are people in need of a loving word, an economic aid, a little company or some service. This means to put into practice and realize precisely what is present in the teaching of the Church. I can say with legitimate satisfaction and pride that we live in charity, we strive to put into practice and realize the Word of God. But we must be careful, because we must not boast or brag, but rather recognize our faults, limitations and imperfections. We thank God that we strive to walk the path that He has shown us through His Word and His teachings.
I hope the Church may return to the past, that is, to be poor, faithful and humble. Those seeking wealth, power and important positions are not the true and authentic successors of the apostles. Even the Mother a short while ago, during the apparition, expressed the same point: "We are choosing bishops, I do not say very good ones, but good ones, so tomorrow they can work together with the new Pope" (From the letter of God, 30th March 2008).
To work for the Church means to pray and do everything possible so that the shepherds are truly according to God's own heart. The shepherds must lead us to pasture, what do they do instead? Open the sheepfolds and let the flock flee. These people do not care to reach the lost sheep, but just try to accumulate new land for their pastures and for themselves, defrauding the souls of their belongings.
The Church, in its human component, we have to acknowledge it, is sinful and we are sinners. If I would tell the other way, I would go against the teaching of Christ, but it is comforting to know that Jesus came for sinners. In fact, if we recognize to be sinners, we listen with hope the words of Jesus who said: "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Mk 2:17), that is, I have come to you who feel sinners, I have come to help you pass from sin to grace, from selfishness to love, from poor faith to a more mature faith and to a more certain hope. And, since He knows very well our weaknesses, because He is God and created us, He is saying to us: "Do not worry if you fall, Peter too fell and the apostles fell, I will invent something for you so you may have a nice shower and can be cleaned up and wear the white robe in order to participate in the Eucharistic banquet", this is the confession.
A simple remark: in the same premises where the institution of the Eucharist took place, the Cenacle, the place where the apostles were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus also instituted the sacrament of confession, so I guess we should start thinking differently. We associate the Cenacle to the institution of the Eucharist, however, we should also begin to associate the Cenacle with the institution of the sacrament of Confession. The place is the same, the people are the same and the One who instituted the sacraments is the same. Our Lady is the same too. Did you see how no one has ever noticed certain realities although they were evident? Why when we say Cenacle we think to the institution of the Eucharist only, and we do not think also to the institution of Confession? Can we approach the Eucharist, receive the Holy Communion, if we are sinners? No. Both sacraments are wonderful manifestations of the love of God.
In the same place Jesus said: "For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained"(Jn 20:23). We are a small Cenacle and take power, light, suggestions from the big Cenacle. We always thanked God, so many times, for giving us the gift of the Eucharist; today we also thank God for giving us the gift of Confession. Just ponder this aspect: who would give us safety and certainty to come back reconciled and be truly children of God without confession? Think how fools men are, some have tried to abolish the sacrament of Confession; yet, Jesus gave us this gift and showed us the way: let us draw near to this sacrament, and we will have great benefits. But where is faith?
Some men tried to empty these two great sacraments: Confession and Eucharist. They wanted to abhor the first and reduce the second to a remembrance and not to a reality and unique sacrifice. Some think they can confess on their own, directly with God. When we are sick do we take care of ourselves or do we go to the doctor? And the soul? The soul has a more difficult path than that of the body, because there are many realities that we cannot understand and we need those people who can explain it to us. Therefore, if we do not have the enlightened word of a pastor we are in a situation of perpetual agitation, confusion, doubts, tension, suffering and bitterness. Jesus does not want all this in the least. Easter is death, passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ and we celebrate it here, in this small Cenacle, but we also recall our death in sin and our resurrection in grace.
Let us thank God. You are not yet fully aware, probably because you are used to the greatest gifts God has given us, to the great graces and great teachings He has given us. When one has got it easy, gradually settles down and thinks that everything that comes next is an acquired right. We have no acquired rights, we just have to show to God our love, gratitude and appreciation. Let's do it and we will be calmer and more serene.
Praised be Jesus Christ.