Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of May 31, 2009
1st reading: Acts 2:1-11; Ps 103; 2nd reading: Gal 5:16-25; Gospel: Jn 15:26-27, 16:12-15
To understand what happened during the day of Pentecost it is necessary to step back at Ascension time and letting us be guided once again by the Holy Scripture. Luke only talks about Ascension, but in a generic way in the last lines of his gospel and in detail in the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1). After his time on earth, Jesus, as Luke says, went to the Mount of Olives, where the Gethsemane is, not only in the presence of the Apostles, but surely with Mary, the pious women who used to accompany him and part of that first group of disciples whom Peter will address after Ascension, and then He ascended to Heaven. Thereafter the Apostles go back in Jerusalem, just over a kilometer away from the Mount of Olives, and reach the upper room of the house that they had already inhabited. There is no reason to think that it is not the same place where Jesus instituted the Eucharist, because the owner, Jesus' faithful friend, continued to grant its use to his mother, whom he knew well, and to the Apostles. There began the first major novena in the Church history: nine days of prayer. I love to think, and my heart strongly suggests this certainty, that under the guidance, counsel and encouragement from the Mother of the Eucharist, the Apostles begun to celebrate the Eucharist.
I have already had occasions to say that Jesus spoke about the Eucharist much more frequently and longer than it is reported in the Holy Scripture; remember what John says at the end of his Gospel "Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written" (Jn 21:25).
Jesus would have given instructions, but the atmosphere of sadness caused by the physical separation after Ascension, caused the Apostles to live in a state of commotion, disappointment and confusion that the Mother of the Eucharist tried to govern and partly dispel. How? Asking them to celebrate the Holy Mass. Even behind the decision of the Apostles to find a replacement for Judas there is Our Lady's encouragement and advice as they listened to her a lot because they had personally seen what was the very great respect and love uniting the Son to her Mother. So Peter played the task he was assigned as head of the Church, as the first Pope. He addresses those 120 disciples mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles and says: "Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection" (Acts 1:21-22). Tow people were suggested, Joseph called Barsabbas and Matthias and, casting lots, Matthias was chosen. The Apostles' responsibility and Peter's in particular does not end here. Matthias is to be equated with the other Apostles, but was not ordained bishop by Jesus as the Apostles were. Peter then began to exercise the sacrament of the order with Matthias in the Cenacle. Matthias, therefore, followed the usual route, unlike Paul, who will follow the extraordinary route that will occur again after 2000 years and will give so much trouble to the powerful men of the Church.
Thus, back to twelve again, prayer and celebration of the Eucharist start again: nine days of incessant prayer. The Apostles knew that before starting their mission, the Holy Spirit would come down upon them, they were aware of it. Moreover in the last chapters of St. John's Gospel there is the speech that Jesus begins in the cenacle and continues along the path toward the garden of Gethsemane: "When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me; And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning" (Jn 15:26-27). This was what the Apostles were waiting for.
"When the day of Pentecost was fully came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them" (Acts 2:1-4).
In this passage is written that the day of Pentecost was ending. In Jewish worship, Pentecost was celebrated fifty days after Easter, as in Christian worship. On the occasion of the Jewish Pentecost, the rites of thanksgiving to God for everything He had given with the gift of harvest were also celebrated. When you read that it was the moment when the day was fully come, it does not mean that we are at the end of the day. How could the apostles go at once into the temple if it was evening? According to the Jews, the day used to begin at sunset the previous day and then the feast of Pentecost, like other festivities, used to begin at sunset the previous day and bearing in mind the hours spent from sunset, the night and early hours of the day, it is clear that to finish the day of Pentecost there are still a few hours left. The descent of the Holy Spirit took place - and this is understood from the whole story - at around nine in the morning. So it is also absurd that they were drunk, because you cannot be drunk at nine in the morning.
Then something happens giving a turn to the apostolic action: the Church is born. The mention of wind and tongues of fire are ways to indicate that there was a true theophany. Even in the Old Testament there are expressions in which God is manifested through the wind. These are external manifestations clearly indicating that something big is happening. And that something big was the birth of the Church. The Church was born on the day of Pentecost.
In the sentence "they were all together" the subject is not specified and we commonly think that it refers to the Apostles only. But that is not the case. Read again what is said in the first chapter: "Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day's walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers" (Acts 1:12-14). When they returned from the Mount of Olives Luke says that those present were, and says the names, eleven Apostles, some women, he mentions Mary, mother of Jesus, and also adds some men, part of the 120 people I mentioned before. So in the cenacle, when the Holy Spirit descended on them, the whole Church is potentially present in its various distinctions: the Virgin, the Apostles, the laity, men and women.
What is the Church main feature that unfortunately we have forgotten? Being missionary, this is the essence, for it indicates the task that Christ entrusted to the Apostles and their successors: "Go and preach to all nations". But to do this it is not only necessary to have strength, courage and a very strong light and conviction. It is not enough to rely on human skills: excellent orator, a deep knowledge of theology, erudite and eloquent in our expressions. No, if I want to punch my words and get them into my listeners' hearts, I have to rely solely and exclusively on God, specifically on the Holy Spirit to enlighten me as I speak and you while listening. In this way the Church is born and grows stronger. So the Church was officially founded on the day of Pentecost.
The Apostles have paid for their fidelity to Christ with martyrdom, and for centuries the Church has been fed with the blood of its martyrs, but, going forward, it met opposition from various inside groups, giving origin to schisms, heresies, divisions, separations, betrayals and walk outs. As Paul says, these men who have fulfilled the desire of the flesh and did not comply with the wishes of the spirit have meant that although the apostolic succession in the Church was still valid, it has been polluted by corrupt and rotten rings.
After years, even centuries, the time has come when the Church must be born again because it cannot give the world this type of testimony. The media is constantly talking about scandals within the Church, between priests and high prelates, and you cannot continue to see it torn and stricken by those who should defend and protect it. Never before were the moral, ecclesiastical and religious conditions so negative and destructive. This rot was also highlighted in the ninth station of the cross recited by the then Cardinal Ratzinger. He said these words: "In the church there is dirt and pride". I endorse these words because in the mission God called me up I was informed, along with the Seer, of detail of things that are part of dirt and pride. We must cleanse the Church, expel the mercenaries, bring the flock to pastures that give the right food through the Word of Holy Scripture and the Eucharistic bread.
The Eucharist must return, and has actually returned, even if not followed by all, at the center of the Church. When Christ founded the Church, one only betrayed; the others had moments of weakness, but they later paid off by preaching around the world with enthusiasm and remarkable strength.
Before the Council of Trent, where they tried, and only in part succeeded, to ensure that men of the Church were back at some inner cleansing, this sentence was running around: "The Church must be renewed from the top and down to its members". And after five centuries, this sentence is all the more compelling as the situation is even harder.
The Florentine writer Domenico Giuliotti, speaking about Italy, described it with two superlatives: our most holy and our very beastly Italy. There is good and there is evil, there is holiness and there is sin, but today, unfortunately, mud is painfully prevalent. There are people who have moved away from the Church because of the scandals that have known, seen and suffered. The youth, seen as a mass of people, is no longer interested in the Gospel teachings because they are not given to them. Therefore it is right for the Church to be born again, but this task is more difficult than its foundation.
The prayer Marisa recited is extremely clear. God wants men to cooperate with his rebirth plans and we know that He can do without each of us, beginning with the one speaking to you, but his will is different. For this reason we must go on. I think we can claim that no community loves the Church as we do, for we have been taught to love and we suffer because no longer we would like to see those blemishes that men constantly throw at it. You have prayed and from now on this will be our intention that will accompany us and will continue even when the year of faith will be over. Pray for all those who are raised in places of command so that they may exercise a service and look not for power, so they may love all virtues, especially love and what makes priests different from the others, that is, purity, chastity and humility, with the certainty that we are servants, useless servants, as Jesus says.
If we have the grace we will realize what Paul calls the fruits of the spirit, we are interested in no other. Fruits and actions coming from the flesh have no interest for us, not because we feel accomplished, but because we strive to be faithful disciples of Christ. And if frailty and weakness were to emerge, there is, thank God, the sacrament of confession, through which we regain full filiality with God and fellowship with our brothers. For, I say it again, when a Christian sins gravely loses his grace and not only does he go away from God, but also from his brothers. How can he be united with his brothers if there is sin, if that branch broke off, became dry and is useful only to fuel a fire?
"I have much more to say", Jesus said, and I see this continuity in the teaching of God down the centuries. Those divine manifestations, the theophanies, the letters of God and the Marian apparitions that the men of the Church have rejected, are present here. "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear" (Jn 16:12).
God is present in various ways throughout history, and the people who have accepted God's actions have seen their true spiritual life, and plentifully too, born again. Only those people who are gifted with the light of the Holy Spirit can understand and let other understand the Word of God, if there is no light there is no understanding. May each of you give the best.
I can say with Saint Paul: "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" and by saying it I do not wish to leave out the Seer, actually I include her. We have tried within our limits to follow Christ, for the time being we have been following the suffering Christ, but I hope that not before long we can follow the triumphant Christ. For you must remember that when the Church is reborn and triumphant, Christ too will be triumphant and we can sing Christus Vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat for ever and ever.