Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of April 2, 2006
5th Lent Sunday (Year B)
1st reading: Jer 31:31-34; Psalm 50; 2nd reading: Heb 5:7-9; Gospel: Jn 12:20-33
Today you will hear again what I have said several times and therefore it is not new for you: I love Christ in a particular way when he suffers, is troubled and feels alone; these are the moments when I feel him closest to me. I cannot feel him near while he performs great miracles, while he addresses His divine word to the crowds, while he is healing, while he is transfigured before the Apostles, even less when he is lifted up on the cross or ascends to Heaven with the divine power he is participating to, as Son of God and God himself.
I am particularly fascinated by the first words of the passage from the letter of our dear Saint Paul written to the Jews and a verse contained in the Gospel of John that you have heard again today. "Christ", Paul says, "During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission" (Heb 5:7). Behold, this is the Christ that I see before me as a model and you too must see him thus, the Christ who can inspire all of us in order to have the strength to overcome our own trials and sufferings.
These verses have opened my mind and heart to some reflections: when Paul says "in the days of his earthly life", he is not referring only to a few hours before dying in Gethsemane, that is, when Christ inflicted upon himself the trial of feeling abandoned by God and deprived of his fatherly love. I believe that today, supported by Sacred Scripture interpreted and understood in the divine light of the Holy Spirit, we can state, for the first time, that this most painful trial, this unheard-of suffering where Christ felt lonely and abandoned even by the Father, was also experienced many other times and not just at the beginning of his passion.
In addition, we must, for the sake of fairness, make an addition and give an explanation. Christ, during his earthly life and therefore also when he was in the silence of Nazareth, experienced this painful trial of abandonment, because it was his will. In those moments Christ felt so alone that he did not even feel the love of his Mother because he wanted to deprive himself of that too.
Here is the Christ who groans, who suffers, who raises with a powerful voice that lament that was not only pronounced on the cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?", but he repeated it many times during his earthly existence. Who was it for? For the one who could free him from death. Christ knew what he was going to face. Then it is appropriate to make another reflection: Christ also experienced the sufferings of the Passion in advance; he did not experience it only at the moment described by the Gospels, but also before. The violent passion, the scourging, the crowning with thorns, the tiring and painful ascent to Calvary, the elevation on the cross where he was nailed with those nails that pierced his flesh, leaving his bones unharmed, to respect the prophecy of Isaiah; well then, Christ lived all this also during his earthly life.
Now do you realize what the Lord makes us slowly understand and how he is opening his heart to us? In the letters of God, some time ago, Jesus said that this year he would dictate his life to me and all I am telling you is part of his life.
In the Gospel we have everything we need, but many details, many other news are kept silent, probably ignored even by those who wrote it. Now, centuries later, out Lord opens his heart, he confides to us and reveals to us that he suffered much more than we could imagine, he reveals to us that he suffered a great deal for each of us and for all of us put together.
"For his full surrender to him, he was heard"; but what does it mean that he was heard? Was Jesus pleading for release and was he heard? We have learned this from Our Lady: ask God, open your heart to God, knock on his love, but always come to the end by saying: "My Father, not my will but yours be done". Our Lady taught us this behavior, because she learned it from her son and she was the first to behave like this. It is in Gethsemane that Christ will say: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done" (Lk 22:42), and the joy of the son is to fulfill, to satisfy the will of the Father.
This is incomprehensible according to human logic, but according to divine logic it becomes clear and it is a drive for us to behave in the same way. We can always confirm that the Lord suffered during his earthly life through the word of God; in fact, in today's Gospel passage, Christ is carrying out his public life and the beginning of the Passion is still far away, yet he says: "Now my soul is troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour!" (Jn 12:27). Troubled by what? From his perfect knowledge as a man of the cross, by what he would have to suffer. So that anxiety means suffering, it means anticipation of the passion, it means: "I am suffering, I am suffering terribly". I do not know if the Apostles, to whom these words were addressed, fully understood what the Lord meant, but on the other hand we did not understand it either, I did not understand it either until after decades of priestly life. Jesus says: "My soul is troubled", that is, it is suffering in an unspeakable way, well then, while suffering, it would be logical to say "Father, save me from this hour, prevent me from suffering". Instead Jesus says: “No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour!" that is, "I have come to suffer", but to suffer not only during the last hours of his earthly life, but also in other moments.
Here, today we have lifted the veil just a little, we have read into the heart of Christ, because he wanted us to discover what he truly lived and suffered. You will remember that I have told you many times that the Word of God, even thousands of years from now, will always cause new motivations and impulses to know other truths and teachings. This is a confirmation of what I have told you many times.
And what is the desire of the man-God Christ? It is the glorification of the Father. And what is the concept of the glorification of the Father? That the Son may listen and respect his will by climbing the cross; only then will Christ draw everyone to himself. But if we look around us, how many people are truly attracted to Christ today? If they are not so many it does not depend on Christ, it depends on the man who refuses to obey.
Just as Adam refused to obey, just as the angels refused to obey and became demons, men too have the possibility of choosing Mary's Yes or Adam's No; Mary's Yes is salvation, it is a drive to be united with God. At the moment of the Annunciation, Our Lady too was troubled: "Mary was greatly troubled at his words" (Lk 1:29) and these words are recurrent because Our Lady lives within herself the sufferings that her Son would have experienced, not only during the hours of the Passion, but also during the silent days in Nazareth and during the most tumultuous days of public life.
Behold, this is what the Lord has given us, this is what the Lord has made us understand. So as we approach Good Thursday and Friday, days very close on the calendar, but must be much closer in our hearts, you must remember this and thank the Lord who loved us so much as to make its strength and drama of his love unknown for centuries, so men are not too impressed; this is the real reason. Whoever approaches him enjoys his confidences.
We have come closer because, despite our weaknesses, despite our shortcomings Our Lady spoke of today, there is the effort from the majority of us. Then it is right that we know Christ, in order to be able to love him more and more, without hiding behind the usual cliché, but to know the truth as it is, in all the intensity of the drama of his suffering.
Christ loved us to the point that we ignore his suffering and fail to understand its intensity. I am reminded of John Paul II when during today’s apparition Our Lady said that she was close to him. The last image I have of him is that of Good Friday, when he held the cross tightly to himself. What he said to our Lord he only knows, but the gesture was extremely eloquent. Unfortunately, today the cross is used as an ornament on the chest of many people, but the cross must, above all, enter the heart. Therefore in your houses the cross must dominate, you must refer to it; follow the example of Saint Joseph who, when he entered the house in Nazareth, first went to worship Jesus in the cradle that he had made with his hands and then went to greet his wife.
Upon entering your homes, first go and kiss the crucifix and, if you can, stop for a few moments in front of it, then immerse yourself in your household chores and family activities. First of all there is Christ, the Christ on the cross, because this is the throne that he favors and prefers. The cross is his throne and from there he does not want to be nailed down, because only on the cross will he continue to attract all men and among them we hope that there is each one of us or all of us together, for the glory of God and for the salvation of souls.
Praised be Jesus Christ.