Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of May 10, 2009
5th Easter Sunday
(Year B) 1st reading: Acts 9:26-31, Psalm 21, 2nd reading: 1 Jn 3:18-24, Gospel: Jn 15:1-8
St. Paul's birthday is celebrated in 2009, for this reason it has been called the Pauline Year. We do not know the exact year of his birth, but according to recent in-depth studies it is placed between year 6 and year 10 AD, then it was chosen, by convention, the beginning of 2008 and the end of 2009. For me it is a pleasure to take the opportunity for the celebration of the Pauline year to focus my attention on this apostle and donate you things you may not know.
The Acts of the Apostles are not concerned with St. Peter and St. Paul's biography, but tell the story of the Church related to these two apostles who, in God's plan, have pursued a mission of evangelization, the first one as pope, the second as an apostle of the Gentiles and pagans. It was a broad and catholic evangelization mission in the universal sense.
When reading the earlier part of today's Acts of the Apostles there is a feeling that the time between Paul's conversion and his journey to Jerusalem is a matter of weeks, but it is not so: Luke the evangelist does not follow chronologically the two events and we draw precise information on the apostle's life from what he says in his letters to the faithful with whom he came in touch.
In the letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote that he received the episcopate after his conversion, certainly not from Ananias, who was not a bishop, but a faithful layman, head of the synagogue, who converted in Damascus. After conversion, which saw him becoming an ardent believer in Christ, his life was at risk and was forced to flee and got down the walls of Damascus in a basket. Thereafter Paul stopped for three years in the wilderness to meditate and prepare for his mission.
I think that in such a long period of study, meditation and prayer, he enjoyed the visits of Jesus to the point of being ordained bishop by God. When I asked Jesus who had ordained St. Paul bishop, He replied: "Who do you think did it? I have ordained him bishop".
I think that even the Mother of the Eucharist contributed to Paul's formation. She, Mother of the Church and Mother of the Apostles, took under her maternal wing this last apostle who, unfortunately, did not have the chance and opportunity to enjoy a direct training and formation by Jesus himself, because God's plan was different from the others. It was Our Lady to go in bilocation to the disciples to encourage and give them confidence and serenity. As she is the Mother of the Church and Jesus has given her to men, especially to John as loving and watchful guardian, it follows that Mary has turned her motherly nature to all the apostles. Our lady was Paul's spiritual teacher and she trained him together with Jesus. This is why this masterpiece came out of him!
Still nowadays the Mother of the Eucharist fulfills her mission as a teacher. I invite you to think about things and see them regardless of what men can tell. God reveals Himself to the humble, the simple and to the little ones who sometimes manage to understand more than the great theologians and scholars.
After three years Paul went to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles. He met only Peter and James, as the other, by now, had departed from Jerusalem to spread the good news. Peter and James, at first showed some concerns, because Paul had many people imprisoned and killed, had many families grieving and now he emerged as a missionary.
God chooses the men to place on the path that He wants to draw, like Barnabas, who initially had the role of underwriter, guarantor. Barnabas enjoyed immense trust; for us he is an almost unknown character, but in the early church in Jerusalem he was equated, in importance and influence, to the apostles. In the liturgical calendar, next to the name Barnabas, is the word apostle, because, for what he did, for the reputation and the influence he had at that time, played a role equal to that of the apostles, even if he is not an apostle in the sense of called and sent directly by Jesus. So Peter and James welcomed Paul, but fighting and mistrust were still around him.
Mistrust, at times, is worse than fight because a fight can be addressed openly, while mistrust is like a poisonous atmosphere surrounding us, but we cannot get rid of it. It hurts to breathe the poison in the air, but we are unable to get rid of it; on the contrary, if a person would try to harm us, we could defend ourselves from it. Slander begun to creep into the early Church and this poisonous atmosphere steeped in wickedness, malice, slander and defamation continues still today.
It is natural to compare the early Church with the present one. The Church was then at peace throughout Judea, Galilee, Samaria, it was strengthening and spreading, walking in the fear of our Lord by observing the commandments and living the Gospel preached by the Apostles, comforted by the Holy Spirit. We know that the Holy Spirit, if present, enlivens, strengthens and consoles the Church, but if it is not there, all malicious actions that occur today happen. We can use the public revelation, the official one, as a text describing the early Church, and make use of the private revelation, just as important, for it is always God as the source, to know the current situation of the Church. God the Father, Jesus and Our lady say that the Church is falling into pieces and continues to worsen.
What should be done to restore its strength and brightness, so that men get confidence in it? The answer lies in the passage from the Gospel of John, we have just read, connecting to all the letters from God brought by the Mother of God of the Eucharist; such passage talks about love:
"Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: if our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.
And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God's commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us" (Jn 3:18-24).
Today we understand what St. John is saying and that was heard hundreds of times from God, Jesus, Our lady and St. Joseph. Today people speak about love, write about love, with words only. Whoever is talking about love, but is not really living it, is a hypocrite, in whatever situation he finds in the history of the Church and in the ecclesiastical hierarchy (deacon, priest, presbyter, bishop).
The Church is going backwards because they only talk about love, but they do not live it. If love would be lived - St. John says - it would have two wonderful effects: those who truly love are in the truth, additionally we can ask God everything and He will grant it to us.
Today there is no love and those who do not love, regardless the rank of ecclesiastical hierarchy they belong to, are not in the truth even if, with their lips, they raise prayers in public. God cannot give them anything because He is deaf with people whose hearts are hardened and far from Him. They are like dead branches, detached from the vine and do not bear fruit. They serve only to be burned. The branches united to Christ are those who love, who have the nourishment that starting form the vine penetrates the branches. The vine is the grace that is love.
Today, the Mother of the Eucharist has reiterated that love is all inclusive, all embracing. The one who love is sincere, generous, a person of prayer, pure, obedient, docile; if there is love there is everything, but if there is no love there is absolutely nothing. Then we have to convert, directing our whole life on these teachings and get on our knees before God, not just us who have welcomed Him, but those who have not done so, rejecting His works and His actions. For them there is no possibility of salvation. Only if they repent there may be a chance of salvation, but if they do not repent they will not be saved.
I doubt that people who stubbornly contrasted God for so many years may eventually be saved, for their heart is hardened and not beating, is dead, still, empty. Is it worth winning everything and lose our own soul? We can see these characters standing proud and satisfied on their thrones, but today Our Lady reminded us that God brought down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. Who are the lowly ones? Those who love. Who are the pure in their hearts? Those who love. Who are those who believe in the Eucharist? Those who love. Who are really docile, obedient? Those who love.
Are they condemning us for being disobedient, heretics, a sect? We do love and it would be nice if they could love a fraction of what we manage to love.
Thos who love can hold their head high. I have always placed myself in a position of lowliness before God, as Mary said: "He looked at the lowliness of his servant" (notice the use of the word lowliness). Be satisfied with this qualification because, after all, it is one of the best qualifications of Jesus: the Servant of Yahweh. We can be servants of Yahweh in order to share the love, the mission and the will of Christ.
Anyone who raises himself will be humbled, those who are humble will be exalted. I want to believe that the implementation of this divine statement is not far off, and, when it comes, we can say one thing only: "Despite everything, my God, I loved you and I love you".
The answer we will receive will be one only: "You are my beloved Son, you are my beloved daughter, in whom I am well pleased". When God is well pleased in us, the men judgments are dust, we are not interested. May God have mercy and compassion for us, in the sense of being at our side to help us, and near all the people we indicate, at this time, in our hearts. Christ is God and I hope you will sing it at the end of the H. Mass: Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat.