Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of March 1, 2009
First Lent Sunday
1st reading: Gn 9:8-15; Psalm 24; 2nd reading: 1 Pt 3:18-22; Gospel: Mk 1:12-15
You certainly wondered why there was no apparition today. As frequently happens, before the public apparition there was a private one, only for the Bishop and the Seer. It was a very dramatic, immensely dramatic appearance and I'm not exaggerating. It was so painful that Marisa fainted, she felt bad and therefore it was not possible to continue with the message for everyone. I can't tell you anything else at the moment, I don't have to add anything else…
When Our Lady comes to Earth she enters human reality, in fact many times she told us: "I am a person like you", therefore subjected to suffering, emotions, tensions, just know that during the private apparition she was no longer able to continue the message, because she was crying profusely.
This is the atmosphere with which we enter Lent, an atmosphere of extreme suffering and tension. It's true, everything is in God's plan, we have personally verified and paid for it, for the good of souls, the rebirth of the Church, the conversion of that significant number of people that you know and again for the triumph of the Eucharist and the Mother of the Eucharist. The Lord asked it and did not exempt us from huge suffering.
After all, John Paul II when in Fulda, Germany, in front of some people who were a bit nagging him to know something about the third secret of Fatima, took the rosary in his hand and said: "The Church will be reborn from the blood of his children". By showing the rosary, the Pope wanted to say that prayer can save the Church together with the "Blood of her children". You know how much blood and how many tears were shed here in the thaumaturgic place by the Bishop and the Seer; you too have given a contribution.
Someone was shocked by what is written in the letters of God: "The Church will be reborn", yet, the Pope too said the same thing. God does not need human approval, let's get this straight into our heads: God is free to speak, to intervene how and when he wants. So it is not necessary for the Pope, with his authority, to certify the authenticity of a message that comes from God.
Lent indicates the preparation for the resurrection, for the triumph, for the victory of Christ. How many Lents we have celebrated! I am not referring those experienced by you individually, but those experienced here in this place as a community. If we want to calculate them, bearing in mind the years since the beginning of the public apparitions, i.e. since 1993, they are sixteen years. Sixteen Lents, all of them strong, dramatic, hard and painful.
Lent is the preparation for God's great intervention: the resurrection. Christ is God and therefore the resurrection sprung from his power. However, he himself, before reaching resurrection, spent about three years of public life which then culminated in the dramatic moment of passion and death.
How did Christ prepare himself for the public life? It is clearly indicated in today's Gospel of Mark: "At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God “The time has come” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mk 1:12-15). Some might be surprised that Jesus Christ, who is God, was attacked and tempted by the devil. Remember that Jesus is true God and true man, so this is the explanation: Jesus is tempted by the devil as a man; He has human nature and therefore everything that belongs to us, except sin and the inclination to it.
For us, on the other hand, very often temptations arise from our heart, from our weakness, from our fragility, from our inclination to evil, from our concupiscence and disordered desire. In Christ all this cannot happen, therefore temptation never has an internal starting point as we do; therefore, the diabolical attack can only be external, because he is true man but also true God, therefore perfect, free from any shadow of imperfection.
Today, for the first time, I am going to disclose a detail: Jesus, up to the moment of incarnation, could not be tempted by the devil; when he became a man, even though he is God, he is attacked and tempted. “Then the Spirit drove him into the desert”: pay attention, here it is highlighted the action of the Holy Spirit on Jesus-Man. The pronoun "him" indicates precisely that the Third Person of the Holy Trinity influences the Christ-Man to take refuge in the desert for forty days.
Forty is a biblical number that occurs quite often: forty are the years of permanence in the desert of the Jewish people, because they had no total trust in God, forty are the days of waiting before Moses could receive the Decalogue, forty are the days spent in the desert also for Elijah before receiving the great revelation of God, the great experience at Mount Oreb, and also Lent lasts forty days. You see how this biblical number always returns, I would say it is extremely significant.
As I just explained to you, Jesus can be tempted, as a man, by Satan. Satan is the typical expression that Mark uses to indicate the devil. Satan means adversary, therefore the struggle between the two contenders continues and intensifies: Jesus Christ on one side and the adversary, who is the devil, on the other. If you remember the temptation as described by Matthew, you can reach this conclusion: Jesus as a man, and I still have to reiterate it, had two paths open before him: follow the path of triumph, through power, or the path of humiliation and the cross. The devil urged him on the path of triumph and Christ defeated him by choosing instead the path of humiliation, the path of suffering. Today the gospel becomes a little bit clearer to you than in past.
The humanity of Christ becomes for us a living example: "he was with the wild beasts"; the Gospel of Mark has the characteristic of highlighting some details: why was he with the wild beasts? Doesn't this image remind you of Heaven on Earth? When Adam strolled peacefully in Eden surrounded by lions, tigers and all other wild animals, they respected the man. What broke this relationship of coexistence? Sin. Sin is always the source of struggle, division, tension and war. Pay attention, all wars, from the beginning up to the present day, always have sin as their source: the pride of the king, the emperor, the dictator, the government; there is always this diabolical manifestation of overpowering the weak to make him servant and slave, this is war. “He was with the wild beasts”: in this scene God wants us to understand that if sin is canceled, as Paul says, all creation will benefit from it. In fact, with the redemption, not only man, but all creation has had notable benefits. “And the angels served him”, another detail, God is served by angels; therefore, you see how in the person of Jesus Christ, human and divine nature coexist. Jesus as a man suffers, but as God he has the right to be served by the angelic creatures.
I have always told you to read the Word of God with intelligence and attention. “After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee preaching the gospel of God” (Mk 1:14), here the gospel says that John was arrested; however, the Greek verb is more precise and the correct translation is: "arrested for treason". Did you know that John the Baptist was betrayed? How do we know that he was betrayed? Because he was imprisoned by Herod in a territory over which he had no jurisdiction. So not having jurisdiction how did he manage? Herod, "that fox", as defined by Jesus, is cunning and will have used some trick to jail him.
Just as there is a betrayal at the beginning of Christ's passion, so also at the beginning of John's drama there is a betrayal. The precursor resembles the one who has to announce. So it happens that ′′After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said, “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mk 1:14-15); the gospel is mentioned twice: "Proclaiming the good news" and when Jesus says: "Believe the good news", what do the words "good news" mean here, what is the theological concept? In this case "good news" is the revelation of God's plans for salvation operated through Christ, in a nutshell, redemption. “Believe the good news” means "Believe in Me redeeming you, believe in the redemption that I accomplish" but be careful, to believe and accept Christ the Redeemer, you need to change your mind, "metanoeite" say the Greeks, that is, change your way of thinking. What is conversion? It is the transition from one way of living, of reasoning, of being to another way. I recognize, I accept Christ as redeemer if I change my way of being, living and reasoning.
To get closer to Christ we must reason as He reasons, we must strive to live as He lives and then in this way we can realize that "The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is near", that is, redemption.
The Kingdom of God is the redemptive work of Christ and at this point Lent begins for us. We cannot retire into the desert, even if it could be so convenient for me: I would pray more and rest. We cannot retire into the desert, but remember that the world we live in is already a desert, in fact we always suffer temptations. In the bible mentality the desert is a place where man can meet God, it is the place where prayers can be raised more easily to God, it is the place where penance and fasting can be lived in a more precise and attentive way. However, it is also understood that our desert is this world, there is no need to go to the Sahara or the desert of Judah where Jesus went. This world is the desert for us, we have no excuses, we have no justifications. Therefore we can, being in the world, approach Christ with prayer and penance, no one is exempt from all this.
Therefore we all are in the same condition and if we want we can reach Christ and receive the benefits because we belong to his Kingdom, that is to say, we are his conquest.
Everything that has been said today is beautiful, you have grown up in theological culture and religious formation, but all of this requires a commitment. I can make an effort to make you understand some realities, but you must conquer them with your commitment, with your dedication and testimony. As I said on Ash Wednesday, Lent is a strong liturgical and favorable moment when man can draw closer to God.
What is the difference between Jesus and us? He is in the desert and we are in the desert; the wild beasts didn't bother him, but the wild beasts of our desert bother us. What are the wild beasts that annoy us? The mentality of the world, its ideas, values and interests. This is why Jesus made that wonderful prayer to the Father: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it" (Jn 17:15-16). We can and must live immersed in this society, but let’s try to detach ourselves from what pollutes the society where we live.
The world is heading, and Our Lady said this many times, towards its own self-destruction. The world is falling apart, you've heard it, but these shocking and dramatic truths are under our eyes every day. Newspapers, television and magazines report the troubles of our society: murders of innocents, unjust wars, pedophilia, victims of all forms of abuse, including sexual abuse. It is enough to open the newspapers and you always have an ugly vision of our society.
Jesus lived with wild beasts because they recognized his power. We can modify, transform the environment in which we live by changing ourselves only. Who said: "For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified"?Jesus did(Jn 17:19). Then the holier we are, the more committed we will be, trying to make God's grace flourish within us and the more we will be benefactors of society. The benefactors of society are not those who donate money to build beautiful or deserving things: hospitals, schools, leper hospitals and so on… The true benefactors are those who, through their holiness, attract graces from God onto the world where they live.
It is not true that only benefactors of material goods offer benefits to humanity. Remember the evangelical episode of the widow who donated a few coins; she was praised by Jesus. In the treasury of the temple she donated what was necessary for her living, even if just a few coins, it was not her superfluous. Instead, the Pharisees, that cunning lot, would toss a lot of small coins, in this way the noise was so loud that when people passed by they praised them for their generosity. It's the same Pharisees who would start praying in the squares and when they fast they transfigure their look, donning sadness.
When we do good, we must do it without interest, without anyone remembering it. It shouldn't matter to us if men don't remember. Only God's judgment counts and God is not wrong even if at times his way of working seems unfathomable to us.
This is a demanding lent, I tell you that it is the most important of all the previous sixteen Lents, not because it is the last, but because I feel that something is steeping, something positive and beautiful will blossom. I feel this, I want to feel it. And so I ask you to collaborate with the Bishop and with the Seer because we really have to wrest from God the famous word: "Enough!" Will we make it? It depends only on us, it depends only on you, and therefore every day of Lent, in prayers, in the Holy Mass, in the thanksgiving after communion, in the rosary, in fasting, in vigils, even at night we must continually insist and say: "Lord, hurry up and say enough".
Do you remember last year what Jesus said on June 29? “I, Jesus, tell you: courage, Don Claudio, courage, Excellency. Did you want a little word that was close to “Enough”? Here it is: "Soon!" Then we can ask Jesus, with insistence and perseverance: "Isn't it time to say enough?"
I want to hope that these words are followed by facts and actual things because believe me, for me speaking to you, for so many reasons that you know and others that you don't know, it would be sad and dramatic if God were to move forward once again his "Enough".
Praised be Jesus Christ.