Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of February 5, 2006
1sr reading: Jb 7:1-4, 6-7; Ps 146; 2nd reading: 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23, Gospel: Mk 1:29-39
The passages taken from Paul and the Gospel of Mark must be intrinsically and intimately united and you will see that from the reading of one and the other, something extremely important emerges and, even today, retains its profound relevance throughout the Church. Let's start with the Gospel passage, Probably up to now only the thaumaturgic activity of our Lord has been highlighted. Many people had come to know about the miraculous healing of Peter's mother-in-law, so much so that relatives and friends of many sick and possessed people took their loved ones to Jesus to heal them. Jesus meets the needs, sufferings and torments of these people by healing them and casting out demons. Demons try to break that messianic silence that Jesus imposed on Him and on the apostles. Messianic silence meant that the time was not yet ripe for Christ to present himself as the Son of God. For the Jewish mentality, this affirmation will be the very cause for the condemnation of Jesus by the high priests and the Sanhedrin. This statement was, in fact, incomprehensible, it was even considered a blasphemy. Well, the demons show themselves and say: "You are the Son of God", beware, not as an act of homage to Christ but to confuse people and set them against Him. This, in fact, should not be seen as a positive affirmation that even the devil recognizes Jesus as the Son of God, but as an intelligent and diabolical attempt to create confusion around Christ. If Christ had consented and allowed these demons to continue to affirm "You are the Son of God", even the disciples, who were just at the beginning of their formation, would have had some problems to understand and they would have been confused.
Many sick people are healed, but it is not on this aspect that I intend to fix my and your attention, rather on what happens the day following the many miraculous healings performed by our Lord. What would another person instead of Christ, have done? By now his fame as a great thaumaturge was established and a multitude of people were joining him and many others would have come to him, if he had continued his thaumaturgic work. The Lord, on the other hand, escapes this affectionate but somewhat interested embrace; from this, we priests, who have the mission and mandate to proclaim the Gospel, must take the example with humility and gratitude. Jesus is God, he can work miracles at any occasion and whenever his will decides. No disease can be in the condition of not being able to be eradicated by the Lord. Jesus can do everything but he wants us to understand that more than physical healing and liberation from demons, what matters to him is preaching. In fact, Jesus says: "I must also preach elsewhere". This is the mission of Christ: preaching and redemption. We have always said that redemption consists of passion, death and resurrection because this is the Eucharistic sacrifice, but to this we must now add preaching. There can be no redemption, Eucharistic sacrifice and communion if there is no preaching. This is what the Lord wanted to highlight and we priests have often set aside in our homilies because we focus on what most affects people's intelligence, sensitivity and imagination. Look also at our experience and compare it with others where, as it happened in this thaumaturgic place, there were manifestations of the presence and action of God. Here, our Lord, directly and through His Mother, has spoken a great deal and this is what bothered. We have filled volumes and volumes of messages where the Most Holy Trinity, the Mother of the Eucharist, the Apostles, St. Joseph and other saints spoke. This is the word that God continues to give to men, not to make up for his teachings but to make them accept and understand what men have not yet understood, including those who are above. For example, we know how much Jesus and Mary have always been strongly united and it is not possible to think that the Son has forgotten the Mother; the Mother of the Word and the Eucharist have always been intimately united by love and respect.
Let’s return to the central point: our Lord wants us to understand that his job is to preach. Between preaching and healing, it is the first that must prevail, between proclamation and miracle, it is the proclamation of the Word that must have priority. Unfortunately, we have confused the Christians, having placed the attention and emphasis on miracles, because they attract. A heart that opens to the word of God and is transformed by it is not noticed while a sick person who heals is more striking; for God it is more important for a person to open to his Word rather than regain health thanks to his intervention. The Word is for eternal life while health is for earthly life, but the latter is limited in importance to the cycle of natural life.
Among all the people, the one who was closest to Christ, even though he did not meet him during his earthly life, is Paul. And here is Paul, in this passage, reminds us of what Christ said: "It is necessary that I preach elsewhere", and he maintains to have the compelling duty to preach. It is not a glory to preach but a duty of every priest, bishop and of the Pope who should always proclaim the Gospel and the word of God. Before making abstract speeches or speeches of too earthly content, the true priest has an urgent duty, because this is evinced by the word of God, to preach and announce the Gospel. This is done by all who are truly united with God.
Nobody can accuse us of not giving the Word of God the right importance: bible meetings, catechesis and homilies are always nourished and based on the word of God, quotations outside the Sacred Scripture are rare. I have a duty to preach, woe to me if I don't preach the Gospel! Why is all this not really felt by priests? If every priest had done it, the situation in the Church would be different. It is sad to have to acknowledge that, even today, learned people, according to human culture, are profoundly ignorant according to Christian formation. I remember, and it was a painful and negative experience for me when, in those moments when public attention was focused on this place and many reporters from various newspapers came to get an interview, how they lived in ignorance. I spoke and they did not understand, I described the events and they were unable to write so much so that, more than once, I said: "I beg your pardon, but why don't they send people with whom it is possible to talk?" Even though they sometimes went to church and continue to attend it, they knew almost nothing.
The beautiful thing that Paul points out is that I, as a priest and bishop, must preach and I must not expect a reward from this because it is my duty as Christ has called me and has given me this assignment and, since it is not my initiative, I cannot expect a reward of any kind.
Now let's stop for a moment and talk about those to whom the Word of God is announced. By now, you have a certain preparation and, therefore, you are able to follow me even with a certain ease, but both for you, to renew your commitment, and for others you invite to know Christ, what can we say, what can we do? Listen to the Gospel attentively, silently and with respect. How many times has the Mother of the Eucharist invited us to read it because there we find everything. Instead, it happens that we read everything, sometimes even silly magazines, but it is rare to find people who, in the intimacy of their own home or in the silence of the Church, have the Gospel in their hands and read it. I understand that they may find difficulties, they may be in a position not to understand, but what are the priests doing there? If you go to them and they refuse to help you, you can quote just this passage from Paul to the Corinthians where he says that it is their duty to announce the Word of God and make it known; but this is not done by anyone, for reasons of convenience and for reasons of lack of commitment. Just know that if so far we have highlighted the duties of the announcer, now we are talking about the duties of the listener. You have the duty to be informed and to be placed in the condition of knowing the Word of God in the most suitable way. If priests don’t do this, you have the right, in their regard, to make the so-called fraternal correction. It is the priest’s duty to do it and if he doesn’t God will ask him to account for having refused to fulfill a specific task of his. If, despite everything (I am not talking about you attending a place where the word of God is loved and respected), others who are not in the same situation and condition as you are, even after asking and denouncing, find their requests unheeded, all the same invite them to read the word of God. When there is no human help, the Lord, if so he wishes, can intervene directly and make people understand what is being read in the Gospel. Today, you have heard of that moment and the wonderful experience by the Jordan. Behold, this is what Jesus does: he takes you by the arm, places his arm on your shoulders (because he is tall, beautiful, imposing), he holds you tight, almost making you feel the beat of his heart and speaks to you. Here is what you have to think. It is up to you to curl up in his arms, look into his eyes, listen to his Word which is the same that he spoke two thousand years ago and which is perennial, eternal and valid until the end of time. Love the Word, love the Scripture, love the Gospel, know it, put it in practice and only then will you be able to state: "I am truly a disciple of Christ". When you know Christ you love him, if you don't know him you don't love him. But remember that just as love is inexhaustible in its continuous ascent, so too the knowledge of the Lord is continuous. I can say that today I know Christ better than last year and next year, God willing, I will know him more than today. Knowledge of the Lord, also through the reading of Scriptures, increases and is qualified over time, in succession, in the cadence of time when there is love, union with him and with the support from the Holy Spirit.
This is the warm advice that I offer you, the strong recommendation that I make to you because this is our life, our style: to know Christ in order to come to love him, to come to know him as Word, thus to be able to love him as Eucharist.
Praised be Jesus Christ.