Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of April 13, 2006
1st reading: Is 61:1-3, 6:8-9; Ps 88; 2nd reading: Acts 1:5-8; Gospel Lk 4:16-21
Today, Holy Thursday, the first two rows are occupied by our sisters dressed in colored robes. This is not for a folkloric reason, but to restore reality even in the details, so that the Gospel account can be more complete.
The Gospel is the teaching of Christ transmitted by the apostles but not all the details have been told. Over the centuries, from time to time, the mystery has been revealed and, through a new light, Gospel facts and events are better understood, which cheer us up and open our heart.
Let's proceed with order. Last Sunday we left Jesus as he triumphantly entered Jerusalem and now we try to follow him in his last week, the last days of his life.
After his triumphal entry, Jesus returns to Bethany, a village just three kilometers from Jerusalem, and he chose it for this very reason. He is probably the guest of some friend, perhaps at the house of Simon the leper, the place where the lunch took place during which Mary brought the ointments with which she sprinkled the feet of the Lord; or he was a guest at the home of his dear friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus. We do not know for sure, but it is certain that Jesus was in Bethany.
During the last days of his life, the early days of the last week, around Christ there was a greater tension and a growing desire to kill him. In fact, various characters, disunited from each other, had united against him to try to put him in a bad light among the people who considered Jesus a great prophet.
Anyway he gives his last teachings in Jerusalem. I want to mention just a few of them. In the temple some scribes asked him: “By what authority do you do these things? And who gave you this authority?" (Mt 21:23). And Jesus places them in a difficult position by returning another question to his adversaries: "I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I do this. John's baptism where did he come from? Was it from Heaven or of human origin?" (Mt 21:24-25) You know what the reaction was. Then there is a very beautiful and meaningful parable, that of the unfaithful winegrowers, those who kill the owner's son thinking of appropriating the vineyard. Here, prophetically, I would say very clearly, the mystery of our Lord's passion and death is announced.
Jesus, during the day, preached in Jerusalem; instead, he spent the night with his apostles, teaching them with love and authority, leaving with them the latest teachings and taking up what he had said to them during the approximately three years that have now passed of public life. Therefore the night was reserved for the apostles: this is why in the night between Thursday and Good Friday, in Gethsemane, all apostles, including the three most affectionately close to him, fell asleep; they had spent intense nights of doctrine and catechesis by the Lord. They were neither drunken nor full of food but they were just plain tired, as we all are after having spent some sleepless or partly sleepless nights.
Look at the great love of Jesus! In the last days of his earthly life he wanted, during the day, to give the men of Jerusalem the last teachings and, during the night, he prepared his apostles to be witnesses of the sacrament of the Eucharist and to receive episcopal ordination. The apostles were prepared by Jesus all along this time, it did not happen suddenly.
In fact, about a year earlier, he had delivered the discourse on the institution of the Eucharist after the multiplication of the loaves when the disciples themselves, not understanding the meaning of the Eucharistic mystery, abandoned him and left him alone. "From that moment many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. Then Jesus said to the Twelve: do you want to leave too? Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life and we have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God" (Jn 6:66-69)
The last few days have been full of doctrine and meaning. When it began to dawn, on Holy Thursday, the day of the Eucharist and the institution of the Sacrament of Orders, Jesus had a clear heart in what would happen. Did he celebrate Holy Thursday only with the apostles? No. The certainty of this affirmation is in the first lines of the eighth chapter of St. Luke: “After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means" (Lk 8:1-3). We do not speak of Our Lady because this was her choice, she wanted only the indispensable, the necessary, to be talked about her. These women, therefore, formed Jesus’ family, an extended family that saw the apostles together with the women and they too moved from Bethany together with Jesus and the apostles. Here, tonight you women, by wearing colored robes represent the pious women.
On this occasion we discover Jesus as a perfect planner. He knows that he will have to institute the two great sacraments and wants the place to be suitable, appropriate, solemn; so he sends Peter and John on an advance, to whom he recommends: "As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there. They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover" (Lk 22:10-13).
Jesus did not send Judas, the bursar of the group, the one who had the money bag, because he had already committed the betrayal: in fact, he had already made an agreement with the heads of the Sanhedrin to sell the Master to them. Here, this procession is really beautiful; it is the last one attending Jesus before starting his passion. Jesus, as usual, is in the front and close to him is the one who does not want to be named but we, out of respect for the truth, must name: the Mother of the Eucharist. I would like to invite you to almost live and contemplate this image that has been described other times by Jesus and Our Lady in the letters of God. Jesus, tall and imposing, hugged his Mother, embracing and holding her to his heart and together they walk forward, praying and talking. And what were they talking about? They spoke of the Eucharist. In fact, Our Lady knew what would happen. The apostles knew that Jesus would institute the Eucharist and that they would be ordained bishops, but they didn't know when. Our Lady, however, knew that the time had come and she began to pray, so that this great sacrament would be accepted in the best way by the apostles and pious women.
Jesus, the Mother of the Eucharist, the apostles and this group of women who had dedicated completely to Jesus, enter the room where the upper room is. Jesus and Our Lady gather in a separated room. It is their time: the time of the last exchanges, of the last words, of greetings, and of the last manifestations of affection that take place between a son who is conscious of dying shortly thereafter and a mother who is aware of having to witness his death.
In the meantime, the apostles and pious women have prepared everything necessary: chosen and cooked the lamb, prepared the bitter herbs and that particular sauce that was to be consumed together with the unleavened bread. Everything is ready for the big moment.
The Gospel tells of Jesus and the apostles, it makes no reference to Mary or women; yet, in a few hours they will be under the cross, they will go to the tomb and find it empty with the stone overturned. It is not possible that Jesus neglected these people who assisted him with affection during the time of his mission, even giving their own money to meet the financial needs of the apostles. Is Jesus capable of doing this? No. That is why I believe that, certainly, the pious women were in the same building, probably in an adjacent room.
And Our Lady? Jesus wanted her close to him. Do you think it possible that he relegated her away from himself when she officially becomes the Mother of the Eucharist and is entrusted with the care and defense of this sacrament? It would be wonderful to try to lift the veil of silence and discretion even more and enter Mary’s and Jesus hearts, to enter their souls.
Dinner begins. You know what the foods were, you know that during this supper, various bowls were passed four times, preceded by a prayer of blessing. As the moment approached, an ocean of love was released from the Jesus’ heart, as well as from the heart of the Mother of the Eucharist, and they merged together to form a single ocean of love and grace. They did not need to talk to each other because their gazes were eloquent but, above all, the heart was eloquent, the soul of Our Lady was eloquent, opening to immense appreciation and gratitude, because her son was about to give himself in the Eucharist to all men.
And there were also other moments, memories and reflections that were prompted by the situation that arose in the Upper Room: the apostles quarrel among themselves over who should have occupied the first place. All this brought to the mind of Christ all the priests, belonging to every hierarchical order, who over the centuries would have served themselves more than God, that would try to emerge rather than make God stand out, that would fight to occupy the first places, even if at the expense of more qualified people.
Well, Jesus suffers for these who will be mercenaries and not authentic witnesses of Christ, but the situation worsens even more because Judas has committed the betrayal: "Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me" (Jn 13:21). In the middle of all priests and bishops who will succeed one another over the centuries, there will be nestled many other Judas, too many, I would say. And the Eucharistic heart of Jesus and the maternal heart of Mary could only suffer in an unspeakable and awful way. Jesus saw these traitors one by one. Despite everything, he was encouraged by his mother: “Go my son, go forward, because next to Judas there will be Peter, with his frailty, who will redeem himself in tears and suffering; there will be John, the chaste and pure, the apostle of innocence, there will be Paul, there will be all the other apostles, there will be all my other children who will love you in a great, strong and powerful way. Go ahead Jesus!” And among them Jesus also saw our faces, Jesus met our souls, Jesus admired our hearts.
And here comes the most solemn moment of the evening. Imagine the apostles eating and talking; Judas has already gone away. "What you are about to do, do quickly" (Jn 13:27). Jesus remained with his intimates, with his friends and, engrossing in prayer and meditation, takes the bread and breaks it: “Take and eat; this is my body." (Mt 26:26) He too takes a piece of bread. We may wander: why does Jesus take Communion? Why not? It is the Priest taking the Victim. The second piece of bread is for the Mother of the Eucharist; this Eucharist will remain preserved in the Our Lady’s heart until the moment of Resurrection.
Jesus was killed, he suffered and died, but he is still alive in Mary’s heart. The apostles were aware of what was happening, they recollected all the teachings received, especially the last ones given to them by Jesus on the nights of Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Mt 26:28). They take the bread, they drink from the cup, and Jesus enters each of them in body, blood, soul and divinity. The apostles prayed. I would like to focus on this. They did not live the moment with distraction and wonderment. They understood what was happening. Then you must see these apostles bowing their heads, gathering in prayer, with the Mother of the Eucharist holding the Eucharist that is within her. You must imagine Jesus while praying to the Father because men by now have the way to Heaven open again.
The Mass belongs to Jesus and the Eucharist is Jesus’ Mass, it is the anticipation of passion and death, it is the bloodless sacrifice anticipating the bloody sacrifice. Who knows if the Lord will reveal to us some other details concerning this moment so great for the Church! The greatness, strength and power of the Church are born exactly in the Upper Room, in the presence of Jesus, the Mother of the Eucharist and the apostles who love Jesus the Eucharist.
The Church goes on thanks to the Eucharist, the Church goes on despite the presence, sometimes numerous, of other Judas, and she goes on because she is assisted by the one who sacrificed himself for everyone. Here, then, let us turn our attention also to pious women. Do you believe that Jesus has forgotten them? No, he made them come too and gave himself, he gave the Eucharist. Officially the Church will be born in the same room, in the same Upper Room, on the day of Pentecost, but the foundations have been laid here.
In fact, priests and bishops are present, the faithful are present and, above all, Christ is present; his Mother is present, our Mother. The Church is about to be born, it is getting ready, the birth will take place on the day of Pentecost, and it is this Church that today I entrust again to Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. I can do it, I have to do it.
It is a Church we love, for which no suffering has been spared to us; it is a Church that is being reborn thanks to the tears and blood shed by innocent souls and because her children pray, implore and wait with faith, despite the thinning lines of people, tired people move away, and even if every now and then Judas peeps out, he is recognized and kicked out.
My dear, I give you the Eucharist again: defend it, love it, carry it with you, do not be afraid, do not be frightened. John Paul II, at the beginning of his pontificate, cried: "Open the doors to Christ!" This cry is beautiful, but I take the liberty of correcting it by saying: "Open the doors to Jesus the Eucharist!", because everything is there. There is Christ who rejoices, there is Christ who suffers and dies and there is Christ who rises again. So let us love the Eucharist and, in these days, may it truly be at the center of our heart and our life.
Go to church as frequently and as long as possible and kneel in front of Jesus the Eucharist, alive. I hope you have learned that sepulchers are wrong popular expressions and, unfortunately, never corrected. The Church must purify herself and what is being done now reminds us of another meaning and another reality. The Church must bath in profound humility. She must imitate Christ, king, prophet, messiah, priest, bowing before his creatures, whose feet he washes as a sign of humility. Remember that the higher the priest, the more humble he is; the greater he is before God, the more he feels small in front of him and the more he loves God the more he loves his brothers.
The Church is love, faith and hope; the Church actualizes Christ, the Eucharist, and we are the Church. Then let’s go forward with Christ, with the Mother of the Eucharist, with Saint Joseph, Guardian of the Eucharist. Today, during the apparition, it was publicly said that I saw him, but I was so excited that I don't remember that vision well.
I hope that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, Three persons and one only God, will soon do what they promised: to restore to the Church the vitality that Christ had given her and that men have tried to kill.
Praised be Jesus Christ.