Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of December 9, 2007
1st reading: Is 11:1-10; Psalm 71; 2nd reading: Rom 15:4-9; Gospel: Mt 3:1-12
Today take a flight with the imagination and imagine seeing, here before you, three major characters: Isaiah, Paul and John the Baptist. All three of them have been called to accomplish the same mission, albeit with different style: to proclaim Christ and speak of the Kingdom of God. Isaiah uses poetic and surprising images, when he speaks of the coexistence of animals that, by their nature, are fighting against each another.
Let's talk now about Adam and Eve, if they had obeyed God, they could have lived a quiet, serene, blissful, joyful life, without struggle, without worries and without anxiety. God had placed in their hands the possibility to realize this opportunity, which seems unattainable, but it could be realized. They would not obey the Lord, and so they had to face the consequences. Christ, with his incarnation, passion, death and resurrection, has put us back in the condition to live peacefully and joyfully. The Redeemer has defeated sin and gave us the grace, giving back to man the opportunity to make his life a succession of joys and happy experiences. Redemption involves also this aspect, we should not just consider it strictly in moral and spiritual terms, but it must also be considered under the complete reality concerning whatever is related to man. Think about how our lives would have been different if we had listened to all the teachings of Christ, if we had accepted redemption, applying it to our lives. Like Adam and Eve, each of us, with our own sins, has said no, not only to God, but also to the ability to lead a happy life on Earth. And then I wonder: what are we complaining about? It is our fault if we do not lead a happy existence.
John the Baptist, in accusing the ruling class of his time, defines them with the sentence 'brood of vipers'. Well, after two thousand years, the same reproaches are repeated in the letters of God where the same words are used when speaking of the powerful, big men of the Church and of the environment where they live and work; we find such expressions as: "nest of vipers". Today our Lord, referring to the big men of the Church, repeats the same words of John the Baptist. Let us not complain, we are responsible for it. And what should be done? Follow John the Baptist and see how he behaved.
John the Baptist was a contemporary of Jesus, and had the courage to lash out against the powerful and even scold the most powerful of all, the King. In fact, his tragic death is a direct result of his courage.
Who, in our time, has the courage to act as the precursor? Certainly I am not addressing you, what can you do? Instead, I wonder why those who are very high up in the church hierarchy and who realize that the Church is falling apart, keep quiet; they should reprimand instead, and help change the confreres who make mistakes. Why do they sneak away and have no courage to say: "You're wrong, you're scandalizing the people of God"? Remember that when you read the prayer for the Church at the beginning of the celebration of the Holy Mass, you are reading the exact picture of what the Church reality is today. Fortunately, the situation will change, not because of us, but thanks to God.
After Isaiah and John the Baptist, let us talk about Paul who, more or less, reiterates the same concepts. The letter to the Romans that the great Paul wrote, shows the loyalty that was there in the Roman community. The Christian community was made up of pagans and Jews. Then there were different religious backgrounds and it was easy for resentments, contrasts and conflicts to be present. The Jews, in fact, being much attached to their own tradition, wanted to preserve the rite of circumcision and all other provisions. Those who came from the pagan world, however, were reluctant to accept certain constraints that were considered as a typical characteristic of a nation they did not feel to belong to. And then, to avoid riots bursting between them, Paul writes them inviting to reconciliation.
The apostle of the peoples, for this purpose, uses a beautiful expression: "Do accept each other as Christ has accepted you". Recently the marriage rite has been changed and, at the moment of consent, a spouse says to the other: "I accept you". The great Paul uses this term because to accept means accepting the other as he is, with his limitations, his flaws and his vulnerabilities, but with the intention to be one for the other a tool of growth and an aid to change, improve and transform.
Paul's teaching is the teaching of Christ. Terms "accept" and "Love" basically mean the same thing. Those who loves are fond of the loved ones as they are. The term 'Accept each other' specifies a dynamic attitude, meaning the effort and commitment, for to love is not easy at all. In fact, Jesus himself says: "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Love your enemies". To love your enemies and accept them is really hard. To accept the enemies means also to tell them the truth and not to escape our own commitments and responsibilities. It means to have the courage not to lower our head, but to stand in front of them and say: "I'm defending the truth, and even if I had to pay by giving up honors, or with condemnation, slander and even death, I will not step back an inch, for God will give me strength to carry on with my mission".
When Our Lady, during Advent, is saying: "Prepare the layette for Jesus", it is not meant to excite us, since it is a poetic and moving sentence, but she wants to say that in our lives we have to behave as God has taught us.
Today, the second Sunday of Advent, the Lord calls us to behave in a certain way. This teaching comes to us through Isaiah, John the Baptist and St. Paul.
In this period is not enough to recite the Holy Rosary, a few prayers, or to prepare the crib and the Christmas tree. To be true children of God is much more, it means to look inside ourselves and change, it also means to look around and help others to change, even if it is going to cost some unpleasant and nasty reactions. Has Jesus ever stopped in front of these unpleasant reactions? No, never! He went on and on. Has Our Lady ever stopped in front of some touchiness or hesitation that we have shown towards her maternal admonishments? No, today too, although fortunately our failings are small, she stepped in 'to soften 0ur minds' so that at Christmas we can come before Jesus, not only with the layette, but with a more beautiful and untainted vest. So to have an untainted vest means to have more grace, more strength and more courage.
Our Lady gives us some maternal admonishments because she loves us and because she wants to take us to holiness. Then please embrace these teachings and let them flourish in your heart, trying to put them into practice. If you do this, the next one will not be the usual traditional Christmas, but it will be a different event, with conversion and inner growth.
Remember that the Church is reborn, changed and transformed through the individual. If each of us is willing to implement our own inner change, the entire Church will benefit. The Church is already changing and the only in this way we can remove wrinkles and cobwebs imprisoning her light. This is the real image I guarded in my heart these days. The image of a Church enveloped by cobwebs and disgusting spiders, freed by the powerful breath of the Holy Spirit. These cobwebs can also be removed with the broom that each of us can use. Saint Bernadette says: "I am like a broom that is used to clean up the house and when is no longer needed it is placed aside and stored. Nobody remembers the broom any more, but God will remember". This image is not humiliating, actually it is very nice. So we try to be the brooms of God to help Him in the cleaning and let us try to be always ready and strong. We could just do everything with the commitment and with the love of God. My dear brooms, let us try to do a well done job, and I am not saying it while smiling, but I am saying it with deep respect and belief. I wish we had many of them.
Praised be Jesus Christ.