Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of October 11, 2009
28th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B)
First reading: Wis 7:7-11, Psalm 89. Second Reading: Heb 4:12-13; Gospel: Mk 10:17-30
Looking around myself, as Jesus did, I wonder, with some bitterness, but the others, where are they? Why didn't they come?
My dear, here we come because God is here. Here God manifested in many ways! There is the real (and physical) presence of the Mother of the Eucharist not only during the H. Mass, but also in the prayer meetings. The bitterness of the moment, however, is overcome by the assurance that when there are just two people praying, God is always present. And we are more than two! This means that the presence of God is certain and guaranteed. If our story had followed the normal course, we would have started the Bible session on October 7, but God's plan are not ours: "As the Heavens are higher than the earth", Isaiah says, repeating what God said to him, "so my thoughts are different than yours". (Isaiah 55:8-9)
We may think we are in a critical situation, difficult and impossible to manage because if the bishop is not here, unfortunately all activities come to a standstill. Actually, his presence is not essential: God can even do without; it is simply necessary a presence, whatever it may be and, in a sense, we create a compensation because we had to start the Bible session on the Word of God and today's letter of Paul gives us the opportunity to do it:
"The word of God is alive, effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, it is piercing to the point of division of soul and spirit, down to the joints and marrow, and it is discerning the thoughts and intents of our heart. There is no creature that can hide from God, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of the One to whom we must give account". (Hebrews 4, 12 - 13)
The second reading, taken from the letter to Hebrews, is a short passage, but deeply theological and of very clear sharpness and depth. Paul, sometimes using the oriental form, and it cannot be otherwise because son of his time, his country and his culture, describes the power of the Word of God, saying: "The Word of God is alive".
What does "is alive" mean? To be alive means to generate certain actions. Men can do good or evil, both expressions of our life. Well, Paul sees before him the clear difference between the human word and the divine Word. The Word of God, that is the Holy Scripture, has the effect of what it is saying; the human word, even from the greatest writer, philosopher or thinker, is a 'dead letter': can not raise life when life is not.
The Word of God is alive and bears fruit.
Why Our Lady has said over and over again for an unlimited number of times: "Read and ponder the Gospel"? For this very reason. By taking possession of the words of the Holy Scripture, you will also take possession of the efficacy that this Word contains.
For example, when the apostles asked Jesus: "Teach us to pray", Jesus uttered the wonderful prayer of Our Father; they acknowledged in their hearts something beautiful and special: the beauty and uniqueness of God's Word. We too, when reading that passage and listening to what Jesus told the Apostles, feel its efficacy: we can enjoy and taste the prayer. Even the H. Rosary, of which many are complaining about its repetitiveness, cannot be a burden or nuisance because it is a prayer of pure and intense contemplation.
The Word of God is effective. I anticipated what Paul says next: the specific exclusive ability of God's word to render real what is written, operative what seems abstract, wonderfully incisive in life what may seem rather distant from it.
The Word of God is sharp because there are no obstacles. If we put ourselves in an attitude of listening, the Word of God comes directly within us, inside our heart, our soul and comparing it with our thoughts, our actions and our feelings, it will helps us judge if they are good or bad.
We all need the Word of God: those who, with expression of pride and impudence, say: "I know the Gospel, I do not need to attend the Bible sessions" say a big foolishness, for the word of God is inexhaustible. Even in a thousand years time, when meditating the Word of God, we will find ideas and thoughts different from all those that preceded them. What is then the invitation I am addressing to you? Set aside, at least once during the week, a little time to devote to the reading of the Gospel or the letters of the Apostles or some other piece of your interest. Set aside a time slot to meet with the Word of God. Before the Word we find ourselves in a situation to be known by God: in fact, between verse 12 and verse 13, there is a change of the reference point; in verse 12 the reference is the Word of God, while in verse 13 is directly God. Because - Paul says - there is no creature that can hide before Him. The Word of God is generated and comes from Him, and, if we know it, is forcing us to give account to Him of what we do, the actions we have performed in total silence, those action that no man can know because we did them when we were alone; these actions are known to God and to Him we are accountable.
And now a thought on the passage of the Gospel.
"At that time, As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher" he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?". "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered, "No one is good - except God alone".
You know the commandments: "You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother". "Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy." Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," He said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven; Then come! follow me!" At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!" The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God". The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other: "Who then can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said: "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God". Then Peter spoke up: "We have left everything to follow you!". "Truly I tell you", Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields - along with persecutions - and in the age to come eternal life"". (Mk 10: 17-30)
It is one of the most beautiful and meaningful passage where Christ shines in his dual nature, divine and human, true God and true man. The rich young man (whom we meet in the other Synoptics) throws himself on his knees before Jesus. This attitude does not mean that the young person has acknowledged his divinity because the action on his knees, in the East, showed respect and reverence toward a particular the person subject to this tribute; this act shows no recognition of the divinity of Jesus, but the young man recognize Christ for what He is. It is the only time, I believe, that in the Gospel next to the expression 'master', there is the adjective 'good'. Christ was often called 'master'; He called himself 'master', but 'good' was never said by anyone.
Although this young man is not conscious of the divinity of Jesus, in the depths of his soul there is a truth, goodness is an attribute of divinity. The absolute goodness, total and complete is God's own attribute. We may have goodness as participation to the goodness of God or as an imitation of the goodness of Christ. Seeing how He behaved, so we behave ourselves. Christ loved, prayed, suffered; following his example, we may be able to love, pray, serve, suffer and, consequently, participate and imitate his goodness.
The young man's question is extremely important: "How can I have eternal life?" Among the Jews the afterlife was clear and this young man is eager to have an indication from a master who, at that moment, was the best. He alone is able to calm him and make him act the right way to reach eternal life. Jesus shows in this case to be really the Master. The teaching of a good teacher is one that takes into account the training and culture of the students by giving them, gradually, the knowledge of things. Jesus is using exactly this gradualness. He knows very well, He is God and reads in our hearts, that what He is about to say has already been acquitted by the young man, but what He says is the basis you cannot do without in order to be saved. To say 'eternal life' means the possession of Heaven, the possession of God. But the gradualness is different: some in heaven are closer to God, some are further away, some are already in the Heaven of beatific vision and some are still in the waiting Paradise; there are even those who are still in the time of purification, in Purgatory. Those who are in Purgatory, had respect for the Commandments, and if they had offended them, they confessed and returned to the state of grace; nobody can do without respect and observance for the Commandments. To holiness and perfection come those who look more like Christ. The obstacle that the rich young man must overcome in order to embark on the spiritual life is not to live in chastity, it is not to respect and give laborers a fair wage, it is not to worship or honor father and mother, but the excessive attachment to his wealth. And here Jesus performs an act of love: He is trying to remove from the young man the obstacle and He is inviting him to deprive himself of what may prevent the complete, final and perfect access to Heaven and God. Such a sentence from God was erroneously interpreted as too harsh and instead it is full of love. On the other hand, if a parent notices that there is an impediment in his child's path, doesn't he rush to remove it? Jesus does the same thing: He is trying to remove the obstacle that prevents the young man to achieve what is really important, which is holiness and the union with God and the intimate life in God.
In the same time Jesus is clashing with Jews' mentality, where the riches were a sign of God's blessing. Those who were rich were blessed by the Lord and enjoyed his kindness. Jesus takes this opportunity to resize the truth and says to him: "Sell everything and give to the poor." Faced with this perspective, the rich young man falters. Try to imagine: his eyes lowered, his heads bowed and shoulders hunched, he goes away because he was rich, but even worse, was too attached to his wealth. So Jesus warns not so much the apostles, but all Christians about the danger of possessing and to have a morbid attachment to wealth, excluding the poor from it and, as we are Christians it is our duty, indeed our obligation, to help them.
What is one of the biggest grieving that Our Lady has told us while reflecting on the Church situation? The attachment to wealth. I am convinced that if all the ecclesiastical hierarchy, from top to bottom, would put into practice the advice Jesus gave to that rich young man, enormous and unfathomable sums of money would be made available that could be used to help and do good to the poor. But this, unfortunately, has not been done, as yet. You will remember, and I quote a personal example with some reserve and some embarrassment, that when I asked you not to give me gifts and to donate what you would have had to spend, I put into practice what Jesus said. Our Lady appreciated this gesture and said: "If only the others would do the same". Wealth, its disordered use and the feeling of attachment takes men away from God. When a man is rich, he feels all-powerful, secure and pays handsomely for everything he needs just to have everything he wants and is not concerned with the hungry brother. That's why the statement: "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God."
Peter's question is beautiful: "So, who can be saved?" It is not said explicitly, but it is understood that Jesus also condemns the desire of riches. Peter is pondering about this: even to desire riches becomes a negative element, a hindrance to the pursuit of holiness. Jesus reads in the hearts and reads in Peter's heart what is unstated and replied: "What is not possible for men is possible for God." You have to have the strength to break away. We must not deprive us of everything, but at least, let us give in proportion of what we have to the poor and the needy. The widow was praised because she gave a few pennies, but those who have much money and give a few pennies are not praised by Jesus. You are not saved by giving a handful of pennies. No, you have to give in proportion.
This is the teaching of the Gospel. This is something new: I think these considerations have never been made before and are substantiating what I said at the beginning: that we find in the Gospel always the possibility of new thoughts and further meditation.
Peter gathers his courage and with frankness and freedom, maybe rubbing his hands a little, turns to Christ, saying: "We have left everything and followed you", as to imply, "We have a right to a reward". Jesus answers that they will have a reward on Earth, but above all they will have it in Heaven and he is saying it with that passing sentence "with persecutions", which leaves a little of a bad taste in our mouth. Let's see some tangible examples: Padre Pio and Don Bosco started with no money, but the first built the Hospital "Casa di Cura Sollievo della Sofferenza", while the second had school for young people, orphanages and so on. What is the teaching? If I give everything to Jesus, He gives me back so much that is not aimed at my pleasure, but to love and charity. This is a wonderful finding that is inherent in Jesus' reply.
I too can testify it in our situation: Marisa and I started this mission relying only on my meager teacher's salary. We did not have anything else. She was not working and had no money, I taught at school and I only had that one. Now look around. We started from scratch, I gave everything I could and now here I am with the implementation of the promises that were made, but not for me or for my own enjoyment, but to welcome you and pray properly, so that you can listen to the Word of God in a calm and pleasant way, so you could meet, through Marisa, I would say almost physically, Our Lady. We have transformed this garden for you, not for our interest. In addition, we should build the Mother of the Eucharist Church with adjoining hospital, meeting rooms, canteen, and more, will we do it for our interest or to our advantage? No! In this project you can also put... remember what? 'Villa Paradiso'!
This means, my dear, to meditate the Word of God, enjoy it and take possession of it. Thank God for what has been said today, I reiterate, it has been stated for the first time in the Church history. We have the privilege to do that earlier. You will recall that Our Lady said that priests and bishops have to think about souls and follow not their own interests. Not long ago, during an Episcopal ordination of Benedict XVI, exactly the same concepts were uttered. So, what is being said here, is spreading in all directions. I recall a sentence from Isaiah that I read long ago expressing the following idea: God says that the Word He is sending to Earth goes around all places, makes them fertile, and then comes back to Him. Here the same thing happens: what God said in the messages directly, personally or through Our Lady, S. Joseph, the Apostles, is going all over the world. In a message Our Lady has even quantified that it is repeated a quarter of what I say. What matters is that other people acknowledge and repeat the same things exactly. They grabbed a bit of everything, even the title 'Mother of the Eucharist'. There are churches outside Italy, in Africa and Latin America, new congregations of nuns dedicated to the Mother of the Eucharist, the Daughters of the Mother of the Eucharist. Let us thank God for what He is lavishing upon us and for what He is giving us. For our Lord the number of people is not important. Our Lady said again and again: "I will come here and always will appear and reveal myself as long as your sister is alive, even if only the Bishop and the Seer were to remain!"
We are in a situation where by my side there are others: of course Mary, who assured us of her presence every time I celebrate the H. Mass. Please be aware that this is for you, for I can have Our Lady at other times ready to help me, to hug me, to give me strength and courage. You can enjoy this every time you come here and attend the H. Mass. Our Lady never comes on her own, but takes with her the bridegroom, grandmother Iolanda and especially for me, Marisa. It is a truly a beautiful and wonderful meeting so much that if, theoretically, the Pope, whoever he is, would ask me to come and celebrate together, but would ask me to give up the presence of Our Lady and the others, I would say, "Your Holiness, please remain in San Peter". For me it is much richer and gives me a great force the presence of the Mother of the Eucharist, the Guardian of the Eucharist, the Victim of the Eucharist and the lover of the Eucharist (thus we will call grandmother Iolanda from now on, which is the truth after all).
Praised be Jesus Christ.