Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of February 2, 2008
1st Reading: Mal 3:1-4; Psalm 23; 2nd Reading: Heb 2:14-18; Gospel: Lk 2:22-40
Once again, the Lord leaves us perplexed and dumbfounded because his course of action is completely different from the way men act. Today we find this concept properly described in the Gospel passage recounting the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. The entry of God in his Temple was already prophesied by Malachi with particularly triumphant tones and description.
Thus says the Lord God: "Look, I am sending my messenger who will clear the path before me; suddenly the Lord whom you are seeking will come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you take delight is coming, says the Lord of heavenly forces. Who can endure the day of his coming? Who can withstand his appearance? He is like the refiner’s fire or the cleaner’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver. He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. They will belong to the Lord, presenting a righteous offering. The offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in ancient days and in former years". (Mal 3:1-4)
This is what Malachi says, meaning that if we were to translate into reality the concepts presented in the Gospel, we would have to find a completely different description of what we read, that is, only two elderly people became aware of Jesus' entrance into the temple.
When the time came for their ritual cleansing, in accordance with the Law from Moses, they brought Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. It’s written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male will be dedicated to the Lord.” They offered a sacrifice in keeping with what’s stated in the Law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. A man named Simeon was in Jerusalem. He was righteous and devout. He eagerly anticipated the restoration of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. The Holy Spirit revealed to him that he wouldn’t die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Led by the Spirit, he went into the temple area. Meanwhile, Jesus’ parents brought the child to the temple so that they could do what was customary under the Law. Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God. He said, “Now, master, let your servant go in peace according to your word, because my eyes have seen your salvation. You prepared this salvation in the presence of all peoples. It’s a light for revelation to the Gentiles and a glory for your people Israel.”
His father and mother were amazed by what was said about him. Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “This boy is assigned to be the cause of the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that generates opposition so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your innermost being too.” There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, who belonged to the tribe of Asher. She was very old. After she married, she lived with her husband for seven years. She was now an 84-year-old widow. She never left the temple area but worshipped God with fasting and prayer night and day. She approached at that very moment and began to praise God and to speak about Jesus to everyone who was looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. When Mary and Joseph had completed everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to their hometown, Nazareth in Galilee. The child grew up and became strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favor was on him. (Lk 2:22-40)
Where are the triumph, glory and where the armies? A young mother and a young father of modest economic conditions bring their child to fulfill the prescribed law. They cannot offer much for the sacrifice, they give some doves, what their meager finances would allow. Nevertheless we are the blind ones, unable to read and see in the events the manifestation of the glory and power of God. How much difference there is between man and God! When a Bishop enters in his Church or his diocese, he is surrounded by other brother bishops, is welcomed by the highest local authorities and by a multitude of celebrating people. I attended the solemn ceremony for the beginning of the pontificate of John XXIII and was puzzled and shocked. The Pope was being conducted on the gestatorial chair with his flabella, those great fans at each side that were used by eastern rulers to be refreshed, with silver trumpets, cheers, hosannas, the corps of noblemen marching past and hundreds of bishops preceding the Pope. Liturgy itself realized that this joyful and triumphant procession could induce the newly elected Pope to manifestations of pride and arrogance and to avoid this, sometimes, during the papal procession, they would stop and raise a cotton wool soaked in spirit which was then set alight, and to the newly elected they would say: "Holy Father, thus passes the glory of the world", it is just a flame and nothing remains thereafter. I insisted on this point, to show the extreme difference between the act of us humans and God, who often leaves us perplexed and dumbfounded. Yet, that is the way He acts. Bethlehem is a clear manifestation of what I have said; thirty years of Jesus’ life when he lived in Nazareth show exactly that. Even the Resurrection of Christ underlines the teaching that God has no need of human triumph.
Instead, the eyes of the Mother saw what escaped the eyes of the people who were in the Temple. When baby Jesus, in the arms of his putative father, entered the Temple, this was filled with an exceptional divine light. The angels welcomed the Son of God by singing hymns and hosannas, the Father manifested and certainly Mary heard his voice, the same voice that at the moment of Baptism and Transfiguration will say: "This is my beloved Son, listen to him”. Probably, I wish to think so, Joseph also witnessed some of these divine manifestations, but we are not aware of this, except what we know from private revelations and from the book of "Life" titled "You are Mother of the Eucharist", that Our Lady dictated to Marisa. Light is God, enters the Temple, defeats and drives away the darkness from men who thought they were smart and self-sufficient. He made us understand that you must accept the light of God to act with an upright conscience, convert and go back to God. I wonder if this light that came with the Son of God in the Temple, is now present in His Church. John, the disciple whom Jesus loved in a special way, the one who leaned his head on His chest, in the prologue of his Gospel is saying: "The light came to his own people, and his own people didn’t welcome him" (Jn 1:11). Christ was not accepted by the Jews who lived in his time and, unfortunately, he is still not be accepted by those who should be heralds of His word and prosecutors of his mission, those who proclaim the Word of God to the world. Today the Church is again in darkness because men love triumphs and address them, solely and exclusively, to themselves. What happened during the last diocesan Eucharistic procession drove the Mother of the Eucharist to raise, with suffering, a lamentation. No "Hosanna" or "cheers" was raised when Jesus the Eucharistic was going by. When the current Pope was going by, and this also happened with previous popes, the crowd would shout: "Long live the Pope". I wonder how it is possible that that in the presence of Christ, of God, of the Most Holy Trinity, you pontiffs still allow people who should be educated and trained, to elevate to you "Cheers" and "Hosanna". This means that the Church is actually devoid of true light. Who recognized the light? Who recognized the Messiah in that small child? The representatives of the humble, the representatives of the last ones, the elderly, the weak, the marginalized. Today the same situation occurs. Only those who are represented by Simeon and Anna welcome and open to Christ, and we are among them. We welcomed Him and we have not been afraid of being hit, tried and condemned when professing worship and veneration for Him because man must recede and disappear in the presence of God. Even the highest authority, before God, must bow just like the last representative or member of the Church. This is why I say: as in the past Christ was recognized by the last ones, today Christ is welcomed and accepted by the last ones, but the time will come for His triumph.
I see a deep connection between the entrance at the Temple of Baby Jesus and the entry into Jerusalem of Jesus Messiah. On that occasion there were triumphs, cheers and "Hosanna", and this year we too will repeat such actions. Who are the characters of this triumph? Once again the small ones. Their noises bother the ruling class who asks Christ to silence them and the words of Jesus, once again, send them into a tailspin: "I tell you, if they were silent, the stones would shout" (Lk 19:40). By saying this, God implies that He does not need us, or any human triumph. The generals of the Roman Empire, after having gained victory, would return home on the chariot in a triumphant procession and leading, in shackles, overthrown rulers and losers. God does not need this. Even in the most humble and simple way, in that moment it is always God acting and the most humble, small or tiny act of Christ is infinitely greater, more powerful and more important than the most significant action of the highest authority. Once again, the Gospel is a stumbling block for those who do not accept it, once again the Gospel confuses those who approach it only with human pretensions.
The Christ sitting, thirsty and tired, near the well, the Christ who shows to be exhausted under the weight of the cross is the same Christ triumphing in the Transfiguration in the presence of three people. If we humans would celebrate our triumphs as those who have gone before us we would fall into the same mistakes, but God adapts and gets close to human mentality and promises that if we desire the triumph according to human law, mentality and customs, He will grant it. He will do so because we are men, He understands us because He created us. God does not need all this fuss, for He is infinitely superior and before Him everybody bends their knees, in silent and reverent adoration.
This is what Simeon and Anna have taught us today. Now you understand the words of Jesus: "I assure you that if you don’t turn your lives around and become like this little child, you will definitely not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 18:3). When you knock on the door of Heaven to be welcomed, the visit card to show St. Peter must include the following words only: "I am a servant of Jesus Christ", to those who have written: "I am Pope, theologian, king or Emperor", unfortunately the door will not open but sealed and sent elsewhere. Even if you are perplexed by such an act, do accept it, I am telling you this at a time when I am particularly tired and exhausted. This is, unfortunately, the way to salvation and to meet God, as all other paths will lead away from Him.
In Christ, Way, Truth and Life, we will soon meet in the Eucharist, we profess our full support and we answer as Peter did: "Lord, where are we going? You only have words of eternal life".
Praised be Jesus Christ.