Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of March 4, 2007
2nd Lent Sunday (Year c)
1st reading: Gen 15:5-12, 17-18, Ps 26, 2nd reading: Phil 3:17-18, 4:1, Gospel: Lk 9:28-36
Today, you have realized, there has not been the apparition or message because Marisa is in a situation of particular exhaustion. She is exhausted because this night we experienced, in our small way, suffering, sorrows, loneliness and a sense of abandonment similar to those of Gethsemane. You have to try these experiences to understand the devastating reality and, believe me, I have made a huge effort to stay here, but I have done it for you. To send you away without the H. Mass would not have been nice, the pastor must be able to sacrifice himself up to the end. I said to myself: "I'm going to celebrate Mass for my brothers, but will I have the strength to speak?" It is comforting for me to read in the Gospel that episode in which the apostles, though overwhelmed by lack of sleep, remained awake; well, we too have lived this experience. Believe me, we have lived many sleepless nights, but it is the way we live certain nights that leaves its mark.
Certainly, in those moments, God the Father, Our Lady and grandmother Iolanda were close to us, but they did not manifest themselves. Jesus in the Gethsemane shouted dramatically: "God my God, why have you forsaken me!", and His experience and ours are similar. If God the Son utters these words to the Father in the most dramatic moment of His existence, the same can utter the children who are living a dramatic and atrocious trial that has been going on for several years and seems to never end causing further weariness.
Yet, Jesus, from that painful experience, has risen and has faced the Passion. He went up the Calvary and, I do not find a more meaningful verb but I think it is the most suitable, ascended on the cross. When we meditate on Jesus’ Ascension to Heaven after resurrection, we are used to see Him glorious and triumphant. Today, however, I would like you to set your attention on another ascension, the one on the cross.
Christ ascended on the cross, because He said: "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself" (Jn 12:32), so the cross is also a true ascension, because from this bloody immolation arise and derive all other ascensions, even ours. In fact, we ascend and raise ourselves to the love of God during our earthly life and in the glory of Heaven after death, exactly because Christ has ascended on the cross.
I had never thought about this concept: ascend on the cross. This ascension is painful, but effective, propitious and fertile so if, despite everything, I am here to speak and you are listening to me, this is due to the ascension of Jesus on the cross. You see, this is the meaning of the expression "ascend on the cross", it is an experience of life. During this period of Lent let us ponder this new concept, it will be the best way to live what we introduced years ago: "the Eucharistic Lent". I have told you that, by now, this last idea has entered the Church because I hear the echo of this expression from one parish to another, from one diocese to another and, as I have already told you, even in the words of the one who currently occupies the highest place in the Church.
Thanks to this expression "Eucharist Lent", the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, actually present in the Eucharist, are magnified and find new nourishment. Believe me, the Eucharist gives strength, in fact, last night I had communion twice because I needed it, I had to draw strength from the One who could give it to me; it seemed to me that He had hidden and I had not noticed instead that he was next to us, so Marisa and I fed on the Eucharist and, as far as humanly possible, we continued the night hoping that dawn would come soon to put the word end to all this suffering. Therefore, if I am here before you and I am speaking to you, it is because of Jesus the Eucharist who gave me strength. Some wonderful words have resounded in me that, years ago, as you know, Jesus told me: "When you are in trials, when you are in suffering, cling to the tabernacle, feed on Me the Eucharist and you will find again the strength to go on". After some hard blows, after some painful experiences, if strength and grace coming from God are not present, believe me, it is not possible to get up again, as Christ did in Gethsemane to continue His passion. Without Christ we cannot make a single step, but with His help and with His grace everything is possible, even while moaning because a human venting is legitimate, even if with tears because they are experiences that everyone has made, including St. Paul.
As we read today in the letter to the Philippians "Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ" (Phil 3:17-18). He speaks of himself with tears in his eyes; you are accustomed to see Paul as a strong, overwhelming, courageous person, but he is also a person with a rich sensitivity and knows how to express his emotion and feeling.
The week that is about to begin is very important: God the Father and Our Lady spoke about it and then let us live up to the importance of this week, which opens under the banner of Gethsemane and we hope that next Sunday will be under the banner of transfiguration, that is, of change, which can only be performed by God.
Christ gives us another great example: he prayed and during His prayer the transfiguration took place and therefore the same law must also apply to us: it is in prayer that we transform ourselves and from weak we must feel strong, from disheartened we must feel confident, from losers we must feel winners. In fact, God's help is assimilated during prayer and we experience His love and, above all, His power.
Remember, without prayer there is no spiritual path; remember the famous prayer of the footsteps on the sand, this morning I recited it together with Marisa: let's look at the footsteps Jesus leaves on the sand as he goes on, the soul follows and traces in His footsteps. From a certain point, however, the soul footsteps are no longer visible, but only those of Jesus, why this? Here is the answer: "Because I have taken you in my arms, so you cannot see your footprints anymore, because it is I who took you and held in my arms".
Today this is what my heart has told you with simplicity and frankness, they are equally valuable concepts, for they are the result of a deeply lived experience.
Praised be Jesus Christ.