Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of March 9, 2008
1st reading: 2 Tim 1:6-14; Psalm 116; 2nd reading: 2 Cor 11:16-33; Gospel: Jn 1:35-51
First reading: 2 Tim 1:6-14
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life - not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.
What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you - guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.
The three readings that you just heard were not chosen at random, for this is not our style; every time we make a choice we ponder everything to be able, with God's help, to arrive at the best one. We have chosen the first reading because it has a bit of the flavor of a will. In this passage, Paul comes to the inhabitants of Corinth and having familiarity with them, he lets himself go to confidences, telling all the efforts, sufferings and struggles he faced to spread the Gospel. The Gospel passage, on the other hand, follows the call of the Apostles. Jesus calls the Apostles and continues to do so in time and centuries; He called me too, to whom He gave, though unworthy, the gift of priesthood.
Obviously I can't stop extensively on all readings, but let's start with the first. When Paul wrote this letter, he was a prisoner in Rome for the first time and did not know what was the outcome of the trial that he would have undergone shortly. He probably thought it would come to a conviction, hence he turns to his beloved and dearest disciple Timothy to leave some written recommendations, not only addressed to him, but also to others who were participating in the priesthood as priests or as bishops. I have chosen this passage because now I can borrow from Paul his exhortations and adapt them to you. As Paul turned to his disciple, so I humbly turn to my disciples, and you are the ones closest to me, sharing with me all these joyous and painful moments.
"For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands" (2 Tim 1:6). This verse refers to the Episcopal ordination made by Paul to Timothy and does not concern you. However here I am replacing the charisma of Episcopal ordination with the charisma of vocation, which concerns you. Indeed, each of you must feel called individually and personally by the Lord, to give testimony by coming to this place. It is a difficult testimony and needs therefore a spirit of power, love and self-control. You too have been called to bring your testimony out of this thaumaturgic place, even going to talk to priests in Rome and outside Rome. Don't be impressed by their reactions, but look at the results in the light of God: what today seems negative, in six months, a year or longer, could instead have a striking and inspiring brightness. However it takes courage to give testimony. What God reproved the good priests, and we thank God that in the Church there are many, even among those I know who have studied with me, is the lack of that sprint to reach perfection, holiness, the courage to bear witness in what they believe. Courage means also not to be intimidated by blackmail, threats or sanctions that might hit us. They may affect the body but, as Jesus said, the soul is immortal and will receive from God the reward for martyrdom, in fact, sometimes you can really talk of martyrdom. With all due respect to the character of Don Abbondio, the Church does not need these people, but courageous priests who know how to assert themselves to defend the truth at any cost and, above all, know how to invoke God’s rights. It is said that the red color of the dress that Cardinals are wearing symbolizes also the vocation of possible martyrdom, however today I don't see among them candidates for martyrdom. There are also some who follow us with respect and attention, but then they get damned scared and do not take any step forward. Unfortunately, there is the risk, and this was evidenced by God, to take steps backwards. In fact, God the Father had shown me some priests that I should have ordained bishops in the future, but unfortunately, due to their lack of courage, they will be no more.
"So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord" (2 Tim 1:7). To bear witness is not just about what Jesus said, but also how Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit work. "My Father has been working and continues to work", then the actions of God must be accepted in human history with respect, especially by members of the clergy and later by the faithful: this is testimony. Some people who have visited this place have fallen very low, they witnessed the great Eucharistic miracles and received graces of healing, but then they turned their backs to God. How can God be merciful to them since they acted like newly Judas?
"So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner" (2 Tim 1:7). I too, as I said at the beginning, turn to you: "don't be ashamed of me too, your Bishop". If you are ashamed of me, God will not be pleased. How many times God the father, Jesus and Our Lady said: "Woe to those who will slander my Bishop". I know, it takes courage, but courage comes from God, just pray, ask for it and exercise it, so you too can bear witness. Thank you anyway for all the times you have already given testimony, for all the times you were in difficult situations, even clashing with the priests of your churches, your parishes, and haven't bowed your head, for your head must be bowed only before God. As St. Paul said, everyone must kneel before God but not before men. I am not referring to physical genuflection but to the priority that absolutely must be given to God. If, as it has happened, God were only on one side to argue a point, while everyone else were otherwise, we must not follow the majority, the sheep, but the pastor. That's why I say to you: "take courage", now I can give you courage both with the word and by example, but it won't be always so. The story goes on, days go on, year after year, only the soul is immortal. Nothing remains on Earth forever, but before getting to death, God may decide to move me from one place to another, but this is no reason why everything that was born and built here with fatigue and suffering will have to collapse. So be conscious, responsible, mature and adults, even when neither the seer, who will depart earlier, nor the Bishop, who will reach shores that God knows, will be here.
"Join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God" (2 Tim 1:8). Can a father say to his son to suffer? Yes if it involves loyalty; a good parent cannot avoid suffering for his son, thus causing him to grow in deception and lie. It is best for the son to suffer, thus living in truth, operating in truth and acting in truth.
"He has saved us and called us to a holy life, not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace" (2 Tim 1:9). None of us can boast of being called by God for our own merit. Let the Pharisees boast of having accomplished this or that. Remember the parable of the Pharisee and the publican praying in the temple: "The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people - robbers, evildoers, adulterers - or even like this tax collector" (Lk 18:11), but who are we to show this silly and stupid ostentation? You should also be aware of the parable of the rich fool, who after accumulating wealth said to himself: "And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?" (Lk 12:19-20), that is to say, out of all this luxury, all this trouble to reach for big and small thrones, offices and power what will you do? When we go across to the other side God will judge us on love and charity: "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" (Mt 25:35-36), but if they did not exercise it, for them these dreadful and terrible words will resound: "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (Mt 25:41). I can't say you otherwise because this is the Gospel.
"That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame" (2 Tim 1:12). Sometimes shame freezes, paralyzes, stops, but we must not be afraid of the reactions of others; of course, you need to be careful, calm and poised, not always we can act as Savonarola; but above all, as Paul himself said, you need self-control. Woe to those who do not exercise fraternal correction for they feel ashamed! Remember the teaching present in the Scripture, in the Old Testament: "Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt" (Lv 19:17) that is to say "If you don't scold your brother on the mistake he did, God will also impute to you your brother’s mistake of because you have not intervened and did not correct". Let us move on to the second reading of which I only have chosen a few gems.
Second reading: 2 Cor 11:16-33
I repeat: Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then tolerate me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting. In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool. Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast. You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or puts on airs or slaps you in the face. To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that!
Whatever anyone else dares to boast about - I am speaking as a fool - I also dare to boast about. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.
I too can say with Paul, as it was said many times by Our Lady: "Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches" (2 Cor 11:28). I can say that our wearing, mine and Marisa’s, partly depends on the suffering we feel for the Church. I'll tell you an episode in this regard. Last year, before the summer holidays, God the Father, during a Theophany, said to me: "Don Claudio, I forbid you to talk to priests and to think about priests". I think you understand the meaning of these words... And with Paul I cannot but repeat this statement: "If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness" (2 Cor 11:30), which hints at the disproportion between Paul’s humanity and our Lord's call, the vocation. In fact, our Lord’s call is vastly superior to human forces and qualities; if Paul had not been supported by the grace of God, he would have crushed. We too can say we are proud of our weaknesses because the goal that God is showing us and the mission He has entrusted us is so high, great, important and difficult, that no person, however humanly strong or powerful, would be able to accomplish.
We talked about missions and we close by indicating a new mission, it looks a little one, but it is very important. Just yesterday Our Lady spoke to us about it, but the initiative has come directly from God and it is for a liturgical innovation during the celebration of Holy Mass. As you all know, the consecration is the main and most important moment in the celebration of Holy Mass. Its formulation must be uttered by priests in a soft-spoken and calm manner; the priest must be collected and immersed in the mystery he is celebrating, to instill the same faith to the faithful. To achieve this, since many years, following God's indication, we accompany the elevation, and in particular when the priest stops to show the faithful the host and wine just consecrated, with two very brief prayers; all this to reflect and live with recollection the mystery by which bread and wine become body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ. This is the main mystery of our faith: unity, trinity of God, passion, death and resurrection of Christ. In a choral manner the priest and the faithful assembly must enjoy, through silent and personal adoration, the moment of consecration. And God asked, through Our Lady, that after completing the elevation, I would, for an instant, have a moment of silent adoration on my knees without returning quickly to a standing position, so you too may join me in worshipping God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit really present in the Eucharist. God wants that after the host and chalice elevation we would remain kneeling silently in adoration for a longer or shorter moment, but we can't do without it. This initiative must spread throughout the Church to prevent it from continuing to celebrate in such hurried and distracted manner, but rather in a devoted and recollected manner, understanding and experiencing what is being celebrated: death and resurrection of Christ.
This is what God the Father wants. We will start it and for how long we will be alone in this we don't know, but in the future, God willing, this will be done in the whole Church and our little ones will experience this better than we do. Today we launch this new initiative in the Church, soon we will be in adoration and with us there will be the Mother of the Eucharist and all the Heaven: all this is very nice. We begin this in the presence of God accompanied by all the Heaven. Who is more fortunate than us? We praise and thank God.