Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of March 8, 2006
Today I was not supposed to talk and I believe that Jesus' words can be applied to me tonight when he said: “I have compassion for this crowd”, a sentence he uttered after talking to people for a long time and realizing that they were hungry. I thank you all because you came at an inconvenient time for you and, if on the one hand the group of workers was favored, on the other hand, perhaps, the group of housewives or house husbands was disadvantaged. I want to thank you for this and therefore I cannot help but turn to you. I thank you above all because yours is not a formal presence but an affectionate one, and I know that you are praying non-stop to the Lord for the Bishop and the Seer, during this anniversary of my priestly ordination that, unfortunately and until now, is still suffering.
It is the forty-third anniversary of my priestly ordination, many years have gone by, and it is the thirty-fourth anniversary of the beginning of the mission. Many years have gone by, a whole life I would say. Today, clearly in my mind, the images of March 8, 1963 are back: I saw myself in the small chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Trust, where I spent a good part of that day in prayer before Jesus and Our Lady; there were no more homilies, sermons or spiritual exercises, but everyone managed the eve of his ordination as he thought best. I spent it praying for my priesthood and I asked the Lord to grant me the gift of never betraying him. With simplicity, I can affirm that I have never betrayed God and this is a comfort because I have seen my prayer answered; it didn't happen because of my strength, but because of his. Now, the very distant memories are joined by today's sensations, very painful and suffered; I was unable to hold back the tears, but I shared them with Our Lady, because the Mother of the Eucharist was with us. She didn't say a word, she always cried, she wanted to share her maternal pain with our filial pain, mine and Marisa's. Yes, it's true, we have reached a point where we candidly say to our Lord: "We can't take it anymore, that's enough, we're tired, Lord" and the prayer: "Have mercy", that prayer you recite, fully reflects our situation. "Cling to the Eucharist" Jesus told me and, in moments of trial and suffering, we did so and certainly this strength, even if it was not felt every time, was still present. In fact, this reflection will suffice: if I am here before you, if I am speaking to you, it is because of the grace of God, I can say it with Paul, was not in vain in me. If I didn't have God's grace, I wouldn't be here. You wouldn't be here either. Certainly the Lord would have carried out his plans all the same, because he does not need us men, but I must say that if it had not been for the grace, it would not have been humanly possible to climb this never-ending ordeal and reach the Golgotha. As you know, very close to the cross on which Christ was raised, there is the sepulcher and it is empty, because he is risen. On the other hand, we have a full tabernacle, because Christ is present there; this is why, despite discouragement, despondency, bitterness and disappointment, Christ united us to him. In fact, when Christ went up to Calvary, when he dragged himself, fell and was pulled up again, when he heard ironic and evil words against him, he thought of those who would accompany and follow him down the centuries. So, I believe I can affirm that, while Jesus went up to Calvary and carried the cross, he also saw the Bishop and the Seer carry their cross.
Death is not the final word for us Christians, because we know that after death there is resurrection and victory. We are waiting for it and you too; we hope it will come soon, not because the desire for revenge is strong, but simply because, even if appearances do not allow it, we still want to firmly believe in God who has made promises to us and we hope that he can fulfill them as soon as possible. Thank you for your prayers, I know that tomorrow you will pray in a particular way, because tomorrow is the anniversary of my priestly ordination. I feel much more about 9th March, perhaps because it has been long awaited, perhaps because it has been the goal of so many years, compared to 20th June, the day of my episcopal ordination because I did not expect it, I did not ask for it; there was a long wait for the priestly ordination and when this day arrived, I felt it was really mine and Our Lady was present; you know that Marisa was also present that day.
Tomorrow morning we will pray, Marisa and I, it will be just the two of us; not because we wanted to exclude you, but because we want this moment to be ours, as it was forty-three years ago. They have been spent with the company of the Mother of the Eucharist and who knows if the Head will come to infuse these tired bodies with new vigor and new energy. I look at the movie camera in front of me because I know that at this moment Marisa is seeing and listening to me from her room: Marisa, when in Lourdes I said yes holding your hand, this time I do it through a mechanical means, and again we give each other the appointment on the altar of God and we repeat our yes to God, even if we are afraid and tired.
Please, Lord, don't forsake us and never make us feel alone.