Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of December 14, 2008
(The Bishop wanted to read the passage from Luke instead of today's Gospel from Jn 1:6-8, 19-28)
1st reading Is 61:1-2, 10-11; Psalm Lk 1; 2nd reading 1 Thess 5:16-24; Gospel: Lk 4:16-22
There is perfect harmony between the first reading from Isaiah and the Gospel passage from Luke, but despite being the same words, there is a different interpretation. We start from prophet Isaiah.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations. (Is 61:1-2, 10-11)
In order that you may understand the meaning of the passage you have just read and heard, you have to take into account the historical context in which it was written and the prophet intention to talk about the mission that God entrusted him with. A prophetic mission that occurs and is celebrated in a happy and favorable occasion because, unlike those arguing the opposite, in this case Isaiah is referring to a condition which sees the return of the refugees, the Jews, who were deported to Babylon. It is legitimate to ask, as the refugees were back, what is the reason for this sadness. In fact he speaks of slaves, oppressed and joyful announcements. The reason is that we must also consider another historical circumstance: the Jewish people celebrated the jubilee every fifty years as it was their intention, in some way suggested by God too, to rest the land for a year by not submitting it to plowing, digging, planting and fruit production. At the same time the Jewish people had to praise God, Creator of all. To this primitive economic and social meaning it was also added another moral meaning, that is to say: in the jubilee year freedom was to be returned to all Israelite slaves who, for various reasons, had lost it and, at the same time, the alienated or mortgaged land had to be returned to their legitimate owners. Although it is a social reality, the need for truth and love is also present. While reading Isaiah, once the historical context is described, you will understand how the prophet is conscious of having been called. It is so conscious to attribute to God the anointing that he has to perform, by the Jewish people, the task and office of a prophet. The anointing, which was reserved for priests and kings, accurately indicates the call of a man to perform a specific mission. Christ or Messiah means "anointed one".
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor". Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them: "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing". All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. "Isn't this Joseph's son?" they asked. (Lk 4:16-22)
I wanted you to read the passage from the Gospel of Luke because the passage from Isaiah has a meaning purely and exclusively messianic. In fact, Christ takes possession of it by attributing it to himself. It was common by the Jewish people that not only the rabbis, but also other people who won some attention, some interest, could read the Bible. What happened at that time is, in a similar manner, what occurred in Catholic liturgies: the Old Testament was read in Hebrew, but the people spoke Aramaic hence each verse was read then translated to those present so they could understand. Jesus, then, cleverly opens the parchment scroll where was written the passage from Isaiah and reads it by giving it a purely messianic meaning and returns the volume soon after the reading. St. Luke writes that everybody kept their eyes set on Him because they were attracted by His word, His majesty, His ability to play the role of Master. We do not know everything Jesus said on that occasion but surely He had made a clear, important and long speech which resulted, initially, in the admiration of His listeners. We can say our Lord officially introduced Himself in his country, in his hometown. Jesus will then feel a gradual increase of the opposition against him and eventually will say: "No prophet is accepted in his hometown" (Lk 4:24). Indeed you know that when the Jews understood that He was referring to them in his reproach, they wanted to stone him and bring him to the ravine where the city stood and throw him down. Jesus got out from this murder because, being God, knew that his time had not come.
The word of God is still relevant, it is present and real even in historical contexts going beyond it and occurring after the facts and the words spoken by Jesus.
To respect the truth and to honor the will of God I must add that in addition to the version given by Isaiah and Jesus to the passage, we can analyze a third version that does not disavow neither the first nor the second. This additional version of the mentioned passage is concerned with the two prophets that God has chosen to ensure that in the Church the triumph of the Eucharist and of the Mother of the Eucharist would take place. These two triumphs have already taken place while the one concerning the Church has not yet occurred. If anyone still harbored any doubts as to why God reserved for Him my Episcopal ordination, there is now a new explanation that we can provide in this regard. He reserved it for Himself because He wanted me, unworthily, weakly but authentically, to carry out, in the Church and along with Marisa, the role of the prophet. The divine origin of the Episcopal ordination can also be interpreted from this point of view. I am unable to live this passage as deep as Isaiah or Jesus did, instead I live it as Jeremiah and Job did, and you will I understand the reason why. It is true, the Spirit of the Lord is really upon me, for it gave me strength, even if I was sorrowful, sad and worried, so that I may carry out the missions He gradually entrusted me with, entrusted us with. Who can say it better and with more strength than me: "The Lord consecrated me by anointing"? There is human activity, human endeavor and human call in my Episcopal ordination. This great gift of God surprised and dismayed me and triggered awful reactions from those who perceived the risk of seeing their power waning. God, what wanted me to do? To announce to the poor, to those who had been kept away, deprived of real food in a position of weakness. God willed that I would get to the point to give again the Heavenly Bread that Christ had given, offering Himself to men and proclaiming freedom for the slaves. In this case, the slave is the one who is subject to devil and sin. Many people, hundreds, thousands, millions, and it is not a statement of mine, have been freed, freed from the slavery of sin, and our Lord has used these two instruments for their freedom, thus arousing anger, hatred and resentment in the devil who tried several times to suppress us and arousing the same reaction from the devil's allies who, even today, have not ceased to carry out attacks to eliminate us. Regarding "The release of prisoners" mentioned by Isaiah, the prisoner is someone who has the constraints holding him still and God, instead, has given us full freedom because Jesus says: "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (Jn 8:32), falsehood, on the contrary, makes us slaves. Now let us consider the part in which I certainly do not recognize myself: "I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God". Today I do not feel this sentiment, no, my God, I have experienced it in the past, but presently, unfortunately, I am not nurturing it, so I can turn to You with Jeremiah's words: "You deceived me, Lord, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed" (Jer 20:7), or with Jacob's words, who swears, in a sense, against the misfortunes that crushed him. Right now this is the situation of the Bishop ordained by God, not because of rebellion, anger or resentment, but because of exhaustion, bitterness and disappointment and today new gall was added to our chalice because the news you have heard, from the letter of God, are sad and disturbing. How is it possible that shepherds do not love at all their sheep and they lost interest to the point of not even raising a recommendation or a short prayer to God? This is sad, we cannot rejoice when faced with this reality. If you are sympathetic with our pain and our suffering, you too, for these very reasons, cannot rejoice at all. You cannot rejoice when pain is striking. Pain will tear you down and exhaustion will oppress you, and by just looking around, you see once more that the poor, the lowly and the weak suffer and the rich, the powerful, on the contrary, continue to live as the rich man (Lk 16:19-31). I know that for the rich man there was condemnation and hell, and for them there will be condemnation and hell, but in the meantime? It is this word "meantime" that is disturbing me. My God, why should the innocent cry, the weak moan, the poor sigh? God could answer: "What would have happened because of men, for their selfishness and their stealing has not occurred, geological and technical conditions would have allowed it, but God meant that the worst did not happen and, once again, the worst would have only hit the poor". God intervened for the prayers of the Mother of the Eucharist, our Mother, and now let us support her powerful prayers with our weak and poor prayers.
"You have realized that the purification is here and it is not over. Who went to pray? Who prayed to God to end this difficult time? Poor families were on their knees to pray, but those who should have set an example did no do it: neither priests nor nuns, nor those who call themselves committed Christians. You, perhaps, have not believed in the purification. There will be more rain, but I will try to stop the hand of God, as I did in these days, otherwise there would have been a major disaster and always the poor would have paid for it". (Letter of God, December 14, 2008)
Our Lady spoke about the present awful time and we cannot remain unconcerned in hearing what was said; woe to those who after this Eucharistic celebration, coming out of this door and past the gate, will forget all this, for it would mean that you are worthy of the shepherds God has put on your side, but the sheep, at times, must have more wisdom than the shepherds. Let us go on with the example of the sheep: you know that when they are sick, instinctively seek the herb that can help them feel better and heal. The herb is not given by the shepherds and today I see and describe this herb as grace, support and power from God. The poor people are weeping, the sick are begging, children and elderly lacking in everything are crying, but in their hands turns up only what comes from God's heart, from men's heart nothing comes, for there is hardness and selfishness in their hearts. They love to keep and not to give, they want to appear and not to be, they dominate and serve not; woes to them because they will be hit by the justice of God, no one can escape His judgment. We adopt those who are facing the worst, we pray for them and this will be the outfit we could arrange for Jesus who says: "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me" (Mt 25:40). I wanted to celebrate the novena in the typical Christmas spirit, unfortunately, we are living it in the typical spirit of Lent. Prudence advises me not to start the novena because I know that in the days to come heavy showers will hit, especially in Rome. I say this with sadness because it is the novena I care in a special way, but cannot be done, it is a deprivation we offer to our Lord, for reasons concerning our house too and I believe you understand what I mean, but as we did for the feast of the Immaculate Conception, we can have a Triduum, at least. I know it's a sacrifice, but let's do it for these brothers of ours and we will finish on Tuesday and then resume in the New Year with the Eucharistic day which could also be extended for those who work, beyond the celebration of the Holy Mass. I hope I was clear, that all of you have understood, I hope and I wish you to respond to the call of God and of the Mother of the Eucharist that I have endorsed and reported to you.
Praised be Jesus Christ.