Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of December 8, 2008
1st reading Gen 3:9-15, 20; Psalm 97; 2nd reading Eph 1:3-6, 11-12; Gospel Lk 1:26-38
We are not yet in the condition of angels and saints in Heaven who, as sent by God, can see the people with whom they come in touch in their deep spiritual identity. I have already explained because, in turn, Our Lady explained it to me, that for them it is an ordinary experience to see the people soul. Now I ask you to make an effort with imagination, heart and intelligence to firmly place your gaze upon the soul of the one we celebrate today: the Immaculate Conception. Some of you may say: "But how is that possible? We are not yet in the condition to be able to see, admire and be amazed by Our Lady's soul". Then I say to you: pay attention, in the Word of God, in the Scripture we always find the possibility to understand the truth, at least in the manner and to the extent needed by our human situation. This passage from the letter of St Paul to the Ephesians is providential (2nd reading):
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will, to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.
I have already got you accustomed to see that all that is within us, given to us by God, is to be multiplied by a huge number when we refer to Our Lady. When Paul says: "He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing", means that if God gives generously to his children gifts, charismas, help and spiritual support, the same are given to Our Lady in a perfect and complete manner. If there is any doubt, please read again what Paul says later on: "He chose us before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless". God chose every creature. Those who choose Christ, and through Him they submit to the Father by accepting the work of redemption, may become holy and blameless. So if they wanted to, all men might be such before God and the Immaculate par excellence is Our Lady.
Imagine a landscape or a masterpiece that surely we cannot yet perceive in its depth and greatness. What we cannot see in Mary should push us to rejoice, as God rejoiced, in front of this masterpiece. My dear friend, Mary is the most noble, most holy, most perfect masterpiece that flowed from His Omnipotence; God could not grant a creature more than what was given to Our Lady. In our litanies we invoke her: "Mother and Teacher of all virtues", and she is Mother and Teacher of total abandonment to God and today we, at the beginning of the Year of Faith, take her as a shining example to follow. Who more than Mary received from God the gift of the theological virtue of faith? No-one. For you know that the amount and height of each theological virtue "faith, hope and charity" depends on the amount of sanctifying grace which is in the soul that loves, hopes and believes. Since Mary is in this immense grace, her faith is immense; this is why I put you in front of this masterpiece and to you I say: look at, love and imitate Our Lady's faith because this year we really want to talk about this virtue.
When a few days ago, Our Lady in a message said: "You wanted the year of the fulfillment of the promises, but the Year of Faith is more appropriate. The choice is up to your Bishop", she knew that I would have opted for the Year of Faith for a good number of reasons. In the past days I did a research work and only in the New Testament I found almost forty citations and they are not all. I left out the Old Testament because it was a research work that would have required more time than I had available. This should already make people think. If God, and the word of Scripture is of God, spoke so often about faith, it means that God confers supreme importance to this theological virtue. First of all, let's say it clearly, without faith we will not reach God. Paul is stating it in different ways, but basically the concept is as follows: faith is a virtue that probably requires some work, a special effort, it is a virtue that sometimes is offended by our frailty, and for this we fall. The last recommendation Jesus made to Peter and the apostles was really about faith. At the Last Supper these are Jesus' words to Peter: "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back (He knew, for he was God, that Peter would have denied Him), strengthen your brothers" (Lk 22:31-32).
Jesus spoke about love and spoke about faith. Today we want to focus our attention on the discussion of faith. We are in the same situation as Simon Peter: for us too it is difficult to keep our faith, not so much for what main dogmas and truths are concerned because I would definitely hope that there is complete and total adherence from each of you. Where I want to pose our attention is to believe in everything God has promised and shown us in all these long, tough and painful years, or directly, as today, or through the Mother of the Eucharist. I find myself in the position of having to play Peter's part for the function I exercise, for the fullness of priesthood that was given to me directly from God, in fact I must and I try, believe me, to confirm each one of you in the faith. Your own faith must harden through mine; your faith must grow through my obedience to God. You know this is the will of God, for Our Lady recently and repeatedly spoke of this ordination from God, the same ordination that Jesus, who is God, granted to Peter and the apostles. This role that I have to exercise toward you, believe me, is not easy. For all of us there are moments of darkness, exhaustion, weakness and when suffering seems to crush us under a weight beyond our strength, then it is natural that I, before you, successor and as the apostles ordained directly from God, pray for me and for you: Lord, increase our faith. We need to grow in our faith because I believe that God reveals and makes Him understood in a perfect manner by those who go to Him with the lamp of faith in their hand and as the lamp brings light to the path by rejecting darkness, so this light will be our faith. We have this light with us and within us and will help us move quicker on the path by allowing us to see and avoid rocks, potholes and directions that could cause us to trip and may hinder the smoothness of our walk.
St. Paul in his letter to the Romans (10:17) says: "Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ" then there can be no faith without announcement, catechism, Bible study classes. Today I thank Our Lady who wanted to emphasize that my preaching has helped you to grow. It's true, I taught you all that could be taught and there is still more to add, but, believe me, I've always done it by feeling as a tool and megaphone, as our Lord's microphone. I do not aspire to titles that I have not, but I recognize the importance of the mission that God has entrusted me and that I am humbly trying to carry on. How do you grow in faith? In societies that have had an origin, a beginning and a history based on Christianity, because of a weakened preaching, faith has decreased. On the other hand you have complained that the preaching of priests in your parish, your town is poor and when you listen to homilies you think: "What have they said?" The Word of God is so rich that it is not an effort to present it, but it is a commitment for the priest to prepare and grasp it, and then give it to the faithful. "The message is heard through the word about Christ ", don't you see the clarity of Holy Scripture? I should pause for some time on each of these quotes, but I will have them written in the next issue of our house organ. They will be only presented for I cannot explain them all, but at least you will have the opportunity to know them.
I told you that I feel like God's microphone, so I'm going to step back and as teacher of this decision I have St. Paul who, in the first letter to the Corinthians chapter 2, says:
So it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God's power.
There is no preacher who can stand back from his task of preaching citing his inability. Every minister of God receives from Him light and wisdom, if he accepts them in his heart, in order to be a tool effective and credible, and I underline these two words, with his brothers. Paul, a man gifted with great intelligence and a deep knowledge of Holy Scripture, introduced himself as a person who is conscious of his own weakness, full of fear and wavering. He did not care to emerge, as unfortunately many of the clergy crave and desire, but wanted to exalt Christ's stature, the knowledge of the Gospel and the study in depth of the law: love and charity that he mentioned many times. If indeed every priest would strive to be this instrument of preaching, at the end of his life he could go to meet God with joy, peace, serenity, without any fear, conscious of being able to repeat the same expression of Paul, when near the end of his life, he wrote giving teachings to one of his two closest disciples, Timothy, saying: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2 Tim 4:7). In distress, trials, shipwrecks, flagellations, imprisonments, in spite of all this, Paul says: "I have kept the faith". This will give me the chance to go to meet the Bridegroom, the Divine Friend and when He will knock at my door and say: "Here it is, I am coming to take you to the other side", there will be an answer full of enthusiasm: "Here I am, my Lord, I will be happy to be able to follow you into eternity".
You know that when there is the Word of God I would never stop commenting and reflecting on it, but now is time to finish and I would do it by switching on again, if possible, faith within all of us, all over the world. We really have to wait like the wise virgins, with the torch of faith in our hand, the coming of our Lord, our Friend. We know He will, but we do not know when. A few days ago I said, and I say it again today in the presence of you all, that my wish, my hope, and hope means to be certain, is that within the year starting today it, the beginning of the promises of God would be realized, at least. I want to hope so, I must hope so and I feel I should also put this hope in your heart, for it is since a long time we are waiting and we can say to our Lord, not only during Advent: "Maranatha", which means "Come, Lord Jesus". Let's get used to repeat this invocation and cry also after Advent: in the morning and when the day comes to an end and we are going to take a well earned rest, let's go to bed by repeating this invocation: "Come, Lord Jesus". Let's say it again together: "Come, Lord Jesus".
Praised be Jesus Christ.