Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of October 1, 2006
26th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (YEAR B)
1st reading: Num. 11:25-29; Psalm 18; 2nd reading: James 5:1-6; Gospel: Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
The first reading, taken from the Old Testament, and the Gospel passage that everyone knows to belong to the New Testament, are like two sides of the same medal. Even though it was written in different times and in widely separated centuries, the word of God, in both cases, reveals a truth that affects the whole Church and us too. We need to deepen the concept emerging from these two readings. God, in giving his gifts, his charismata, acts independently of human will or rules. This is clear and it sharply appears from these two readings: in fact, God gave his gifts also to people who did not fall into certain schemes, such as the two belonging to the Jewish people, while still wandering before entering Palestine; in fact, as they did not enter the tent as prescribed, they should not be among those who were subject to God's gift of prophecy. What's the surprise? God favors them too even if they did not go prophesying in the name of the Lord. Others, instead of experiencing joy, expectation and serenity because God acts freely and without any constraint, were envious. And it is the word of Moses that comes to us and makes us understand: "I, if anything, should be envious because others have the gift I have and participate in the gift I have, why are you envious, since you do not have this gift and others have?" Here comes envy, the desire for things of others, and since one does not have those gifts, he regrets, gets upset, sometimes he may become nasty, and against whom is his nastiness hurled? Against those who have these gifts. Envy is not hurled against those who do not have what you want, but against those who have what you want, and from this, you see, from this law, from this statement you can make all the deductions you want and you will certainly reach the same conclusions. If God's teaching in the Old Testament were not enough, we meet again the Word of God in the New Testament. Those who have chosen these readings have made a truly intelligent, luminous and providential choice. Here we find ourselves with the apostles and the central character is John who feels this sense of belonging. John feels part of a well-defined group whose members were all, one by one, called by our Lord. John experienced, in some missions, the power of the Word of God. He and the other apostles had cast out demons and, in the name of Christ, they did wonders as well. And what is his surprise, on which envy lays heavily? It is to note that another person who does not belong to his group, who is not part of his circle, who is not one of the twelve, all called in the name of Christ, is exerting a certain power, not in his own name, but in the name of Christ, of the Messiah. In the name of the One the apostles have recognized as Messiah and Son of God. We do not know the identity of this person but probably did not belong neither to the circle of disciples nor to the circle of the Lord's sympathizers, He was an outsider but to him certainly came the voice that Jesus did wonderful things, worked miracles, cast out demons, saying: "I command you, come out of this man". And then, in good faith, this person, who remains unknown, did the same thing, but I repeat and emphasize it, he did so by quoting the authority of Christ and in the name of Christ. The apostles are astonished by all this. John is the one who has a little more confidence, so goes directly to the Lord and tells him about it with astonishment, and with a little bit of envy; the Holy Spirit has not yet descended, they are not yet full of divine light and grace, they are still in the stage of preparation, teaching and maturation. How does Jesus react? Jesus does not defend John, does not give him reason, yet he is the disciple He loves, but Jesus gives reason to the other, for He makes a very clear speech, a clear discourse that looks like this: if that person hunts the demons in my name and authority, certainly he could not talk badly about me because it would be a contradiction. First in the name of Jesus he casts demons and then offends this name? Do you understand, then, the Lord's talk? And what is the conclusion? Whoever is not against us is with us, with me or against me, but with the Lord we can remain in different ways, it is not compulsory to always go the same way, the only way. What I will say now will probably be considered an heresy by some conventional thinkers who are not sitting among you but elsewhere, but do you believe that salvation, going to Heaven, is the prerogative of Catholics only? No! All people, even if they are not Catholics, or Christians who honestly live their religion, their faith, and thus honor the natural law and the positive law, even though it is made by men, and do not go against the natural law, will go to Heaven, and many times I had confirmation of this; the last time was when I drew up the list of people who, from Purgatory, will go to Heaven when the Lord will call Marisa to Him. Among these people, I know it with certainty because so I was told, there are not only Catholics, but there are Muslims too; if the one who, in a short while, will be at the window in St. Peter would hear it... There are also people belonging to other religions, for God reaches where men do not reach: "With me or against me". If one is not clearly and neatly lined up against Christ, and then strives to remain honest, righteous, working not to make others suffer, he can be saved. So the Decalogue includes laws that belong to all races and all religions. If one does not make others suffer, if one behaves rightly, if one carries out the duty of husband, wife, father, mother, son, unmarried, any other confession one may profess, if one has done well all this, why shouldn’t he go to Heaven if he is not a Christian? Why shouldn’t he go to Heaven if he is not Catholic? Sure he will go! That's why I say: I wish that all this could be heard by the one who soon will be at the window in St. Peter. God is love and has no limits, God is freedom and has no laws that can paralyze Him. God called in the Old Testament, God called at the beginning of the New Testament, God keeps on calling in the New Testament, and who are you to oppose the call of God? God calls regardless of culture, wealth, race, and religion. God calls those He wants and those who are appointed to lead and rule, if they cannot understand it or do not accept it, they are out of the truth, for they fight the truth, and they even fight against God because to fight against the works of God, is the same as fighting against Him. So, for these people, regardless of the degree of authority they exercise, the powers they have and the offices they hold, the dreadful and topical invectives of Apostle James against the rich are echoing here: "Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you". Now you can replace these expressions with similar ones: the powerful, those who have power, those who abuse their power, those who accumulate money and goods, exploiting their power to get rich, well then, even their riches will rot, even their power will be destroyed. They had to give to the poor and did not do it, they had to exercise their power in defending the weak and the persecuted and did not do it, and then, for them, the sentence of condemnation is assured and cannot be covered by the fact that they are priests, bishops or cardinals. To stand against the man and, above all, to fight against the man who is called by God to carry out a mission within the Church is equivalent to stand against God, and for them, regardless of the color of the cloth they wear, the dreadful words of God resounds: "Woe, woe to them, woe to them". Here it is, it is better to be small, for the little ones are defended. Who are actually those causing scandal? Normally are the big ones, the rich, the powerful, the power holders. What does to cause scandal mean? Preventing others, especially with authority and using authority, from doing good, preventing others from taking advantage of the works that God fulfils directly or through His called ones. For them, the words of the Lord frightfully resound: those who scandalize one of these little ones who believe, and the children Jesus talks about are not children but disciples, those who follow Christ, who have no power, money, culture or important friendship ties. These are the little ones, we are the little ones. Well, for those who prevent us from doing good, the words of our Lord frightfully resound: "It would be better for them if a millstone were hung around their neck and were thrown into the sea". These are the words of our Lord, these are the words of the head and founder of the Church, these are the words of the Son of God; these are the words of God, I'm not making them up. All those you have met on your way and have disheartened or prevented you from following the Lord's way are in this situation. Unfortunately, many have been scandalized, they sustained a scandal, they were freely prevented, with their consent, from following Christ. Those who have done this, who have caused a scandal, will receive from God a reproach, and, God forbid, a condemnation. Certainly those who prevented them from approaching God will be condemned and exposed to a dreadful punishment, a punishment called hell, the Gehenna "where the worm eating them will not die and the fire will not extinguish" (Mk 9:48).
Let us once again clarify that these are images our Lord took from situations that were in everybody’s eyes: Gehenna was a valley where waste was thrown, waste that was repulsive, with bad smell, and to prevent decomposition of what was thrown, it was burnt; then it was a disgusting, revolting, and really repugnant site. But hell is something more terrible than fire, hell is the free conscious refusal to adhere to Christ, to adhere to God, and this rejection generates a suffering that has no equal and that we cannot imagine, and I wish you not to experience it. Don’t you want to experience it? Then follow Christ, follow His teachings, follow those who truly love in the name of Christ, and then your path will be straight and will lead you directly to God's embrace.
I cannot end without recalling, even for us in this community, a beautiful, sweet and important anniversary: I do not use the conditional, maybe others in my place would say: "If grandmother Iolanda were alive today, even though the feast is tomorrow, but we remember her today, today she would be a hundred year old". I say: "Grandmother Iolanda is alive and today her centenary is celebrated". You have heard her, God promised she would have spoken, today I asked this to God, this at least, and today is for us a tough and difficult moment and you also heard it in the message. There is a time when, over and above the past tiredness, past bitterness, past suffering, we have again more worries, concern, uncertainty, inability to make a decision, and this is cause for suffering. You have heard Our Lady asking for prayers for Marisa, so she may have the strength to carry on with her hard and terrible mission, and to pray for the Bishop; well then, do it, today it is imperative to do just that. I am in your hands and in your hands I also put Marisa, and we all entrust her to grandmother Iolanda, she is our mother, our grandmother, she is the one who is close to us every day. I can tell you that yesterday, she and the Mother of the Eucharist, who are really next to us, and are constantly manifesting, cried several times and for a long time, cried for Marisa, cried for the Bishop; this is to tell you that there is no exaggeration, I'm not begging for useless things, I'm opening my heart, I'm telling you how things are, and if Our Lady who is here, if grandmother Iolanda who is here, have cried, it means that the situation is really heavy, it is a situation that seems to never end, it is a suffering that has caused more suffering, and is unstoppable. Our Lady said yesterday, "You are called to this", but we are also tired. I know God never gives anything that is superior to our strength, but when you have the terrible feeling of having no more of it, being almost paralyzed by exhaustion, believe me, then it becomes difficult to go through the day. Anyway, let's do as Our Lady told us, we raise our eyes to the Father, shouting to come to our aid. Also this year when I said: "My God, my God, where are you?" He replied: "I'm near you and you do not notice it". Our Lady said the same: "I'm near you, I'm at your side". Sometimes it is terrible to have the feeling that God is not here, that Our Lady is not here, that grandmother Iolanda is not here, that Jesus is not here, instead they are here; God the Father and our Mother were also close to Christ in Gethsemane, but He cried and shouted: "Take away this cup from me". He is God and always added: "Let your will be done, not mine". For me, to say this requires a massive effort, yes, I say: "Your will be done" but, believe me, it costs me a lot and it is very heavy on me; That's why I need your prayers, we need your help, we also need to hear from you, to feel close to us, but not through human or telephone means, this is not what we need, to feel your closeness means to meet a smiling person uttering a friendly word, or doing something. Here it is, do it, for we need it.
Praised be Jesus Christ.