Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of November 4, 2007
1st Reading: Wis 11:22-12, 2; Ps 144; 2nd Reading: 2 Thes 1:11, 2:2; Gospel: Lk 19:1-10
Many times I have pointed out that every passage in the New Testament, either from the Gospels or other books, when read and meditated is not directed exclusively to one category or a few people, but the same passage can be applied to all categories and at the same time it can be applied in a precise and detailed manner to each one. The excerpt from the Second Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians can be taken as a starting point for meditation if we apply it to consecrated souls, to priests, bishops, to young people; this is because the Word of God is fertile and from it all speeches and various reflections spring forth. No one can say: "I am a bishop, this passage does not apply to me"; the Word of God is infinite, hence it includes all men of every class, race and culture. I want this account of my wish to be clear, mainly because it is perhaps the most beautiful demonstration of what is contained in the scripture. In the Old Testament and in the Gospels in particular, there are words coming from God. Only God, when speaking, may address simultaneously all men while we are limited. If I have to talk to young people it is logical that I'll have to use themes, expressions, words and concepts to suit them, if I have to talk to women only I'll use a language that is better suited for them, instead, Jesus' words can be fully injected into the heart and into the mind of every man, of every human being. This is proof that those words are spoken by God, for this I would like everything to be brought back to His Word. I still cannot understand nor accept when men entertain in dealing with the human rather than the divine word. The Church doctors are important, as are the Church fathers, the exegetes, theologians and philosophers, but it is useless to comment and explain the word of man if we do not comment and explain the Word of God; this is why we have to go back and preach it in an exclusive manner. Paul says the same thing: "I preach Christ and Him crucified"; he does not preach a particular theologian or philosopher, but is preaching Christ only. Even nowadays, you see that in the homilies, speeches and books rarely is the word of God present while on the other hand human words abound. We do not want this and I can anticipate that this will be one of the highlights of the new Church. Only in this way we will ensure fidelity to the doctrine because when Christ is talking, when God is talking to men He does not cause boredom, instead, when listening to certain dissertations where there is the manifestation of an overbearing intellectual pride it causes annoyance to me, even though those who speak belong to the category of so-called intellectuals. That said, let's proceed with the explanation of the concepts and apply what has been said so far.
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.
Paul, in the above passage, is addressing the Thessalonians, one of the churches he founded and of which he is responsible, but I could similarly say that St. Paul is addressing the Pope, bishops, cardinals, all men, women, youth and what he says is perfectly suited for everyone because people understand it: this is the way every priest and every bishop should speak. We are more concerned about making a good impression before the assembly, rather than worry about whether what we say goes in your hearts. There is an intellectual pride to strike the interest of people by citing pretentious sentences, all the more so today when it is extremely easy to do it, a lot can be found with internet and it is easy to work out anything, even an encyclical. If you have been attentive to my homilies, catechesis and bible classes, you should have realized that I mention very few human citations, not because I do not know them, but because I consider them redundant. Christ is explained by Christ and not by intellectuals. This attitude was good for the people to whom it was addressed at a time past but now, with all due respect, the writings of centuries ago, let them study in ecclesiastical universities and let us give people the Word of God. The pastor, before talking to the faithful, must get in a state of listening to God; and he should immerse in the reading of the Word and turn to God asking: "My God, what shall I say to your children, to my brothers so they may change?" This is why Paul says: "We always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling" (2 Thes 1:11). Every man is called up by God, every man has his own vocation, there is not just the priesthood or religious life, but every man is called up. There is a call to form a family, to consecrate themselves to God, to exercise a profession. God tells us what goal we have to reach, but when we start our path, some difficulties may arise and that is why Paul encourages us to proceed with ups and downs and even though at times you stop a little more, if you will, God will be the One to work and toil for us so we may become a good family father or mother, a good priest, a good bishop, a good Pope, a good professional and a good head of government. If there is no God's help we cannot get to the point to accomplish what He has called us to do; even if they are not very engaging things, exposing us to little responsibility, they can be achieved with grace and with God's help because God is irreplaceable. Some might think that their own intelligence, commitment and will is enough, but it is not so. How many times, and now I turn to mothers, you felt disheartened in your role, and is a natural commitment, inherent in the human nature. How many dads grunted, reaching exasperation by showing very questionable attitudes because they were tired of not being able to carry out their duties; these moms and dads and sometimes even priests would have been able to live better their vocation with the grace and help from God. It is not true that intelligence and desire is enough in life because if it were true, then it would be incomprehensible how great artists, writers and celebrities who seemed to have everything, have taken their life. They had not experienced the call of God as it should have been done. "May God make you worthy of his call", everything I told you is in this sentence, "...and may He bring to completion, by His power, every good resolve". Within us it is inherent the desire of good, to become a saint, to become a good professional, to start a family and have children, they are all beautiful things, but the aid to ensure that everything comes to fruition can only be given by God. We are in need of God, it is not Him in need of us. But you must not think that you are worth nothing, and indeed you are worth a lot, so much before God that He himself is concerned to give us help. I love you, I respect you, I help you because I know that without God's help, you would not have got where you are now; I too would have never succeeded to live this equally great, important and heavy vocation of mine if I wouldn't have had His help and the Eucharist. Jesus himself said to me: "When you're anxious, tired or feel down, cling to the Eucharist and I will give you the strength to continue your mission". Every father, every mother can take a cue from this statement that is good for them too. How many people today are sad, dragging, have no more ideals because they lack the inner strength that only God can give, allowing you to accomplish what needs to be done. "With his power, every good resolve and work of faith from you", meaning your commitment in the natural and supernatural dimension. The canonized saints were tried and then their effigies were unrolled on the drapes in St Peter. The Saints are the most industrious, most active and most dynamic people even if they have chosen the path of immolation, of silence and prayer because even in a cloistered life they work a lot. The founder of the monks, St. Benedict, who called for and led a life of prayer, meditation and praise to God from dawn to the end of the day, said: "Ora", meaning pray, but added: "Et Labora", meaning that there must be a commitment, however preceded by prayer, to go and meet God because he gives you strength. If, every day, I had not the help and strength coming from God, I would not make it to the end of the day and at times, when tragic and terrible moments of fatigue and tiredness increase, the Lord placed Our Lady, St. Joseph and sometimes even grandmother Jolanda steadily at my side, so I may carry out this mission that without His help I would not be able to continue. This is the biggest test showing that we were really called up by God, that He has really operated in this place, otherwise no person could resist more than thirty-six years of this life and on this path. It is needless to say of me: " But he has strength, has character, is tough"; thirty-six years spent in this way would not have been bearable and last Sunday I compared St. Paul's ups and downs with the list of our troubles and believe me, I thought that our list was longer. I speak from my heart and I tell you that to realize my vocation and carry out my commitment is necessary so the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and of God may be glorified, but not finalized to your or my personal glory; by pledging to be a good priest, I give glory to God with my ministry. It does not matter that people praise me, what matters is that I make everlasting praise to God and His Son Jesus Christ. This duality is always present in Paul: the Father and the Son, the Son and the Father and the great thing is that Jesus Christ is present in each of us with His grace, His love, His Word and we are in Him. This is the Mystical Body, He is the Head, we the members, different members for different functions, different people and different vocations. It is infinitely beautiful to get you now closer to the Word of God and understand it as clearly and as deep as possible.
And now we move on to explain the last point: "The day of the Lord" (2 Thes 2:2). I already told you that, in the Jewish mind, the day of the Lord means the intervention of God, whatever it is, then with this expression we can mean any action worked by God and here is something that is associating us. This day of the Lord, Paul says, is not imminent, we must wait for it and how many times we have heard the same concept. Every year has always been dedicated to a particular theme, the Eucharist, love, humility, and the next December 8, will begin the Year of Hope; I have always said that when we speak about hope, in a context embracing God, we mean "certainty", then this will be the year of the certain intervention of God. I do not know if it will occur later this year, but I hope so. It is a certainty, regardless of the time when they will be realized, of the interventions of God, of the graces and miracles that he promised us, certainty that I will get to where He wanted me to go, certainty that the world attitude towards the Eucharist has now changed, certainty to win this tough battle against the devil and his allies who are many. The devil has many allies, not only priests but also lay people and we too have known some of them. Look at how much you can fall down and I say this as a warning, to make you responsible; if we would stop loving and believing in God and Our Lady we could all become devil's allies. But if I do not want it, if I fight evil and listen to the Word of God, if I put into practice the letters of God and I am obedient and respectful to the Bishop, I'll never be an ally of the devil. Everything depends on us, on which road we want to go, bringing with us this warning: God does not need any of us, nor me or you, nor the Bishop or the seer, God has no need of anyone. If He is asking, it is because He wants a deep union with His Son, He asked Him to suffer to save the world, to those who love Him more He is asking to participate in His passion and suffering, all things that have in common the bitter flavor of pain. It is up to you, my dear, to say and utter your "Yes". I am the one who needs that your "Yes" is a convincing one, not God; I do not have to compromise, I do not know what to do with it. After the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, and after the big announcement of the Eucharist, when five thousand disciples abandoned Christ, turning to the apostles He said: "You do not want to leave too, do you?" (Jn 6:67). God does not want to compromise and, remember, I will call to be close to me only those that have always been close, those who were not afraid and who have shown bravery. To them, in the words of the Gospel, I will say: come in brother, come in sister because you can; instead I will not allow to come in those who have moved away or have gone away, slandering and vilifying. For them, the place is closed and an angel with a sword will prevent them from getting in. It is easier to ask for forgiveness after you have been defeated; forgiveness is sincere if it precedes the action of God but if it is a consequence and there will be no chance, for these people, of getting in. Remember what the groom said to the foolish virgins: "I know you not" (Mt 25:12). I do not want to scare anyone, I just want make you responsible. It is time to take a firm step: either with Christ, with Our Lady and with the Bishop or against. There is no alternative.
Praised be Jesus Christ.