Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of January 15, 2006
1st reading: 1 Sam 3:3-10, 19; Psalm 39; 2nd reading: 1 Cor 6:13-15, 17-20; Gospel: Jn 1:35-42
If we want to distinguish this Sunday from the others that preceded it and from those that will follow, we can identify and define it as that of the call, of the vocation. In fact, the first passage taken from the Old Testament and the one taken from the Gospel of John speak distinctly and clearly of a call. The author of the call, both in the first and in the second situation, is always God who turns to men asking for their collaboration in carrying out his mission. God continues to call men to collaborate with him in the work of redemption, even if he does not need anyone to carry out his plans and his intentions, as he is infinitely omniscient and omnipotent. Therefore, God does not call us because he needs men, but because he is a loving father, he wants his children to be able to collaborate with him. From God this is a sign of love, trust and respect for men. To make it clear, I want to reiterate that God continues to call and will call until the end of time and those he calls are referred to as prophets. I also want to reiterate once again that in the Christian and in the biblical conception, the prophet is not so much the one who has the task of announcing or let it transpire, in some way, future facts and events, even if sometimes he does just that, as for example when Isaiah indicated the servant of Yahweh, but the prophet’s precise task is to enforce and indicate what the will of God is, that is, what God wants over the centuries and in the course of history. Whoever does this is the true prophet. There are people who accepted and then refused the mission, because the assignment is always combined with a strong dose of suffering, but there were also prophets, and for this we must be grateful to each of them, who, despite suffering, have carried out the mission entrusted to them with an enthusiasm that never failed.
Samuel, in the Old Testament, is the one who, in a certain sense, represents all the prophets. He is young and enthusiastic and ever since he was in his mother's womb he was consecrated to God by his mother who, as you know, in no way could have children but with God's help and his intervention, she gave birth to Samuel. Here, then, is the enthusiasm: "Speak, O Lord, your servant listens!” with this I would like to imply and indicate the attitude of all those who hear what the prophet says and in this case each of you is involved. When the prophet speaks, people must listen with the same enthusiasm with which the prophet listens to the voice of God. The people to whom the prophet talks must know how to welcome, with the same enthusiasm, what comes from God, even if it goes through a human instrument. “Speak, O Lord, your servant listens!” This should be our inner attitude that we should always have for the word of God, especially for the Sacred Scripture and for the Gospel because it is God who speaks, teaches and places himself as a teacher for his own children.
The great calling of the first apostles is described in the New Testament. You have to imagine the scene by the Jordan. John the Baptist continues his work in baptizing and you know that his Baptism simply has a meaning of purification, recognition of sins and detachment from sins; it is not the sacrament of Baptism instituted by Christ. John is working with more enthusiasm because he knows that his mission is about to come to an end. His mission was to point out and prepare the way for the Messiah. The precursor had almost completed his task with an even greater enthusiasm than he had in the previous days, he is continuing his mission with an even stronger courage than he showed in opposing the priests and Pharisees when he called them a race of vipers and whitewashed tombs. John is happy because his mission is about to come to an end, he is the one who said: "I must decrease and He must grow", and showed his complete adherence to Christ by speaking to his disciples, always with enthusiasm.
Now we need to make a small clarification. The rabbis, the masters, in Israel were different from each other and each of them had a more or less significant number of disciples following them. The disciples were so attached to their master that they would never have made a different choice by becoming disciples of other masters because each master would try to keep them tied to him. Instead, John did not do all this, in fact, he said: "I must decrease and He must grow" he also manifested it when he was talking with his disciples and when he indicated, in this young man, whom he baptized, the Messiah awaited by the people. So John has completed his work and, when he raises his eyes, try to imagine this scene, and sees again, after a few days after he baptized Jesus, the Messiah approaching, he gives the indication: "Here is the lamb of God". This is the reason why his disciples, John and Andrew, go immediately after the Christ who has not called them as yet, but they follow him immediately because it was John the Baptist who prepared the meeting and invited them to follow the Master. John’s two disciples go immediately after the Christ and, try to imagine this scene too, the Lord is happy because he begins to call the first apostles. The Lord sees clearly these two followers of the Baptist who are following him, he knows very well that John and Andrew will become his disciples and that one of these, John, will be loved with a particular love. John is the youngest of the apostles, the pure one, because until then he had not had, nor will he ever have, the opportunity to get married. Jesus goes on and these two disciples go after him and at a certain point he says to them: “Who are you looking for? What do you want?” It is a fairly clear question but the answer does not seem to be directed to Jesus' question, in fact they ask him: “Master, where do you live?" Then they are answering with another question. “Come and see” Jesus tells them. The two future apostles from the rear position are now standing beside the Lord and go on forward. Jesus, as he will later do with all the other apostles, begins to speak to his two future disciples. In fact, the light of his word becomes strong and all-pervading in them, so they decided to stay with him for as long as possible and, in these future apostles, something was highlighted that we were already able to grasp in the shepherds. In fact, the shepherds who go to Bethlehem see, as the angel told them, the baby in a manger and go back home praising the Lord and talking about it to everyone. Therefore, even the shepherds were touched by the enthusiasm and, in the same way, the two future apostles, John and Andrew too had such great enthusiasm because they believed in the words of John the Baptist who had indicated Jesus as the Messiah but above all because they listened to Jesus and were convinced that he was the Messiah. That is why they go to their respective brothers (John to James, as it is told in the Gospel, and Andrew to Simon Peter) and say to them: "We have met the Messiah".
Now we focus on Peter’s character. Peter for sure, like every Jew, was waiting for the Messiah and this wait, which had lasted for several centuries, is becoming extremely long. When Peter hears his brother saying that he met the Messiah, he does not ask questions or makes objections and also in this we see the usual Peter, whom we will meet in other episodes, full of enthusiasm: Peter runs and goes, because by now he too had been struck by the light of the Lord that entered his heart. Just imagine what Peter's attitude must have been when he was told: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church", imagine how Peter, or rather, Simon, may have felt at that moment. The enthusiasm, adherence, faith and acceptance of Christ was total, he did not raise any difficulty or objection, he did not ask for explanations but he completely accepted what the Master, with a penetrating gaze, was saying to him, that same gaze where, from time to time, its beauty and greatness are highlighted in the Gospel, as in the case of the rich young man: "He looked at him and loved him".
This greatness of the Lord's gaze stays on, his gaze was not exhausted during his earthly life but continues to operate and to be felt and manifested even now. During the celebration of the Holy Mass, every time we face the Eucharist, we meet the gaze of our Lord and we feel a force, springing from the corporeity of the Christ, probing us. Let us be clear, my dear, maybe we don't think about it or we have never thought about it in depth but every time we kneel in adoration before the Eucharist we get up richer and more different because the presence of the Lord in the Eucharist in body, blood, soul and divinity is so great and so generous that the Lord, every time we meet him, leaves in us the sign of his presence. It might be a grace, a strength, an illumination because the more we are in contact with Jesus the Eucharist, the more we will be able to be better. This is the reason why our whole life as Christians must revolve around the Eucharist, because without it there is no holiness.
I just mention it, because time goes so fast, but everything stated by the other great apostle, our friend, that we have acquired through the knowledge and reading of his wonderful letters, everything that Paul says to the Corinthians will be observed, that is the importance of respecting one's body and treating one's body as a temple of God and of the Holy Spirit because it is a member of the body of our Lord. In fact, this body, which will feel the sting of death but will be awakened to a particular splendor by the power of God, will be able to live and always be in compliance with God's law only if the Eucharist is present in us in a particular way. And you know that the Eucharist is the root and source of our future resurrection, the Eucharist gives us the opportunity to live according to God's law, to behave like angels and to be, before God, pure and respectful towards the others.
My dear, all this comes from the Lord and so let us thank him because he has given us the possibility of reaching holiness that was not even conceivable in the Old Testament for the simple reason that holiness is the presence of God's grace within us. The holiest person is Mary, the full of grace, the one closest to God, we cannot reach her spiritual height, but we can place ourselves behind her and, by taking her as an example, try to move forward and get to that holiness which is the call for everyone.
Today we said at the beginning that it is the day of the call, but today we can also say that it is the day of the call to holiness. We all are called to become saints, some may be called to become priests, others to become a religious person, and others may be called to a married life, still others to a celibate life. They are different calls but we all are called, equally, to become saints and we can do it. Nothing is impossible to God and if he tells us that it is possible to become saints, then we must believe in it and we will be able to grasp the certainty of this when we will be together in Heaven where we will remember the wish that the Lord has given: "Be perfect as your heavenly Father who is in Heaven is perfect”.
To the glory of God, for our salvation and the rebirth of the Church. Amen.