Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of January 5, 2007
1st reading: 1 Jn 3:11-21; Psalm: 99; Gospel: Jn 1:43-51
For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.
Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: if our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God. (1 Jn 3:11-21)
I would like to ponder with you this passage from St. John’s first letter, for in it there are many realities in which we have come across and it clearly states, as the word of God always does, the true and imperative principles, yet, they preserve unaltered their liveliness, truth and vivacity even if centuries go by.
John is the apostle of Love, the disciple Jesus loved, the one who collected the last breaths at the cross and Our Lady’s tears. Having experienced and lived in love and having been the object of love, together with the great Paul, he is the apostle of Love. I believe he spoke better than everyone else about love.
"For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another" (1 Jn 3:11)
John is addressing all the faithful, without distinction, not only those of a particular Church. In fact, being an apostle, he has authority over all the Churches and his jurisdiction, like that of other apostles, is not limited to a territorial region, but embraces the whole world. For you to understand, every apostle is like the Pope and if the Pope's authority is on the whole world, the same applies to the apostles.
The message that John has always announced is just this: the love of God. He, until the end of his life, now old, tired and weary, did nothing but repeat to the end these words: "Let us love one another". Love is the beginning and the end of all his preaching, and the message is to love one another. Unfortunately many Christians, and even ministers, have betrayed Christ’s teachings, and where there is no love there is no Christ, where there is no Christ there is no Church and where there is no Church there is no possibility of announcement.
"Unlike Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother" (1 Jn 3:12)
I have not talked about revenge, about abuses, or about undue statements, but about love. In fact, Cain represents everything that goes against love and that offends love: living in anger, resentment and revenge is to live like Cain who was restless and destroyed by envy towards his brother. Every baptized person, faithful or minister of any degree in the ecclesiastic hierarchy, if he does not love and if he has aversion or resentment towards one of his brother, is a Cain, then he is reprehensible in God's eyes. He is in a situation of total detachment from God, therefore even if he occupies a high place in the ecclesiastic hierarchy, he cannot be followed, nor obeyed, nor respected and much less accepted because he is a Cain. Why did Cain kill his brother? "Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous" (1 Jn 3:12). This is Life and situations recur. Why today, in the Church, are people who have been declared holy by God and who have received from God some tasks and missions, condemned? Those who condemn these new Abels are the same ones who killed the first Abel, so the sad, painful and dramatic situation is recurring in the Church: Cain killing his own brother.
"Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you" (1 Jn 3:13).
Here by "world" we mean all those who are far from God; in the Gospel of John there are two categories: those who follow God and love him and those who do not follow him and do not love him. John warns: those who hate God, with their lives and their actions, consequently they come to hate those who love him. Unfortunately, those who hate their brothers belong to those who really should announce and preach it.
"We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other" (1 Jn 3:14).
Many would stop here wondering: what is John saying? Why did we go from death to life? What is death? It is hate. What is life? The life of God. God himself is love, so we pass from death to life because we love our brothers. If we do not love our brothers before God, we are like dead bodies, therefore incapable of acting. The corpse is rotten, stinking and with difficulty you can stand near it; in the same way those who are in sin, hate, rancor and death are not loving, they stink, are revolting and disgusting. John makes a strong statement: "Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer" (1 Jn 3:15). We are used to classifying people according to ideas and biases, and only someone who physically kills someone is a murderer; but it is not just that, even those who hate their brother, husband, wife, son, relative, subordinate or confrere belong to the category of murderers. We marvel at the reference to certain "illustrious" characters, but if you read some pages of ecclesiastic history of the Middle Ages or Renaissance, you would be scandalized for how ugly, nefarious and despicable the stories go. Today it is worse because the satanic hate has reached the top. When the great, great Paul VI (I cannot wait for him to be declared a saint, he suffered so much, he was destroyed by those snakes close to him) said: "The smoke of Satan has entered the Church", at that time nobody understood, but today we understand it; the true diabolical smoke, the evil true stench is hate, and has entered the Church. No murderer has eternal life within himself, because he is dead, so what life can he have? God is love and the opposite is hate, God is life and the opposite is death, so whoever hates is in opposition to God. I wish you would fully understand this concept, that's why at the beginning I said that I had to talk, I could not keep silent. As I listened to this reading, my brain was briskly working and I was thinking of sharing my thoughts with my brothers as well. "This is how we know what love is" (1 Jn 3:16), but this can be said by any Christian, "Jesus Christ laid down his life for us" (1 Jn 3:16). Today, during the letter of God, you did not hear it, Our Lady, while speaking of Jesus the Eucharist, said: "In every Holy Mass Jesus lives and renews His Passion". We have known Christ, his great suffering, but from his death on the cross, life has sprung for us and the Eucharist.
Today, I thank all those who have collaborated to form this wonderful basket that we have given to Jesus with your offers. I willingly gave up Christmas gifts and presents because I thought of the humble and the poor. I gave what I could, but there are many that could give more and for them there is absolutely no possibility of salvation. The word of God says: "If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?" (1 Jn 3:17), and if, in the powerful and big men of the Church, there is no love, compassion, respect, concern for the poor, how can they love God? If they do not love God there is no salvation for them. What was the use of accumulating power and wealth and losing one's soul? Then you understand why God forgives sin for a work of mercy! We, as Christians, have underestimated both the spiritual and corporal works of mercy; perhaps we have reserved them for some moments in our life, for example at Christmas, when also the big shots of the show business go to orphanages, hospitals and long-stay hospitals. Every day we should do spiritual and corporal works of mercy, so the world would be a place with less sadness and less suffering. It is easy to say to pray and help those affected by war, disaster and hurricanes through a microphone or by appearing at the window. But what have they done in real terms? "Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth" (1 Jn 3:18).
See how clear and immediate the word of God is: let us work through deeds and in the truth. Do you remember the teaching of Jesus: "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me" “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me". (Mt 25:35-40) Is it so difficult to put this evangelical teaching into practice? I tell you, and believe me I do not want to be neither ironic nor irreverent, it is useless to write a document of any kind, to boast that a million and a half copies have been sold, translated into fifty languages, but then what did you do for your brother? A calendar?...This just slipped out...
"This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence" (1 Jn 3:19-20).
We are at rest if we have done good and we have loved; we can die happier, for we will certainly be rewarded, this is the secret: let us be free from hate, from resentment and help others according to our own possibilities.
"God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything" (1 Jn 3:20).
Also this expression is beautiful! We just manage to get to so much, but He overcomes us and attaches us to His love and His heart. The final exhortation is: "If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts" (1 Jn 3:21). We see the bad guys who have everything: glory, honor and success, but all this is only appearance. Newspapers say that they sleep soundly, but someone, secretly going to their apartments, and you have understood what I mean, has noticed that in the evening, when they are alone, are assailed by fear and cannot sleep. Do you want to sleep peacefully? Unless the Lord wants you to spend the nights as we do, and I do not wish this to you, go to sleep with love in your heart. This is the great teaching that Our Lady addressed especially to couples: "If there is anything, do not go to bed without having clarified, without recovering your smile, without rediscovering the desire, the longing, the joy, the happiness to be together."
We have talked about love, this is love that saves, redeems, raises and makes us Sons of God. As Paul says, co-heirs of Christ, heirs of Heaven: "Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory" (Rom 8:17).
Love each other, love, and everything else will be given to us in abundance, but remember that sentence: "Love is the ticket to Heaven".