Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of November 16, 2008
1st Reading: Pet 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31; Psalm 127; 2nd Reading: 1 Thess 5:1-6; Gospel: Mt 25:14-30
Through proper meditation and deep reflection on the Word of God, we can better understand our times and to live as God wants. The Word of God is still now remarkable and impressive, in particular I refer to the letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians, written around the years 51-52, that is about two thousand years ago. In it we find, in advance, a description of our situation that we are living as a community. This means that the Word of God is alive and, as Paul says, effective.
The Church of Thessalonica earned Paul considerable suffering. The Apostle had arrived at Thessalonica at the beginning of his second apostolic journey, more or less around year 50. He began to preach to the Jews in the synagogue, but they did not allow him to continue, persecuting him so hard as to force him to turn to Gentiles. Nevertheless, the harvest was abundant, also leading to conversion of people belonging to the nobility and aristocracy of the city. However, in the face of these conversions, the Jews, instead of abating, resumed again and with greater vigor the persecution against Paul, to the point of forcing him to flee. The same faithful of Thessalonica helped him to run away in order to escape this persecution that could have lead to imprisonment or even to his death.
The Apostle had a special relationship with this church going as far as sending Timothy on his behalf, one of his beloved disciples, to get informed on how this young community was walking. The situation was greatly improved although Paul was forced to stop preaching: the number of believers grew and was, therefore, a strong Church. After the encouraging news reported by Timothy, Paul wrote this letter to encourage them to go on and complete their Christian formation. In fact, this young Church, as had happened to Paul, met with persecution and hostility waged in a particular way by the Jews.
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying: "There is peace and security", then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.
In the face of this persecution, Paul made a speech of unique beauty and I think we can also apply these words to our situation. When the enemies of the cross believe that had gained victory and the followers of Christ, instead, seem crushed and defeated, at that very moment the "day of God" will come. The expression "day of God", you know it, indicates a particular action that our Lord works in history. What Paul is referring to, occurred historically about twenty years later, in year 70, with the occupation of Jerusalem by the Romans and the destruction of the Temple. This resounding defeat marked the decline, almost disappearance, of the persecution of the Jewish world against Christians.
I believe that, without misusing its text, we can take possession of this passage and apply it, word by word, to our situation. God is Omniscient and in a single glance embraces past, present and future; so it is not difficult for God to inspire a sentence in such a way that, after many centuries, the same can be read again with the warmth and color of the present time. You will realize, in fact, that this reading, with no effort, can be attributed to our situation.
"Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you". You know what are the "times and seasons" concerning us, namely, what was promised to us directly by God through Our Lady. Our hope is the belief that will come true what God has committed to achieve and promised many times in so many ways and at different times; so "you have no need to have anything written to you" meaning that there is no need for me tell you about it, for God himself did it already many times and the Mother of the Eucharist too; I am referring not to the faithful of Thessalonica, but to you members of this community and to all the people who, in Italy and throughout the world, are related to us by solid and secure spiritual ties.
"For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night" and a few days ago, if my memory serves me well, the Mother of the Eucharist said exactly this: "When you do not expect it or less expect it, God will intervene". Our Lady has a deep and thorough knowledge of the Word of God, so she made this statement keeping in mind what we have read today.
In the bible classes we already meditated and pondered this passage from the letter to the Thessalonians: "The day of the Lord" is God's intervention. God is patient and is asking his sons to contribute to reverse the negative and hostile situations existing in the world. He is waiting patiently even if converting a single soul would cost suffering and tears to his children. In fact, He is asking them a testimony of love, suffering and tears just to save a single soul, for his love is immense and difficult to understand at the moment.
Jesus taught us all this in the Gospel: "Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance" (Luke 15:7).
It is easier to understand the Word of God bearing in mind all that He has revealed at different times and in different ways. The noun "people" includes all the enemies of God and of the cross, all the enemies of the Eucharist and of the Church. Unfortunately, today we must painfully admit that the enemies of the Church are inside it.
When the great Pope Paul VI said: "The smoke of Satan has entered the Church" (June 29, 1972) meant what I have just said and what Jesus himself said recently: "What the great Paul VI said today is still going on"; according to the situations God is disclosing to me, I can add that the smoke of Satan has become more widespread and more dangerous than ever before.
Do you remember the part of the third secret of Fatima, where it mentions those who kill the Bishop dressed in white with arrows and guns? I have already explained the meaning: the Church in all ages has undergone several persecutions and threats especially from inside it, that is, caused by its own children, by those who were part of it in the past and are still part of it nowadays.
We must not forget, and it is history telling us, that from the beginning, the greatest dangers the Church had known sprang forth from inside it: heretics and schismatics are an example. In fact, those responsible of the division in the Church between Orthodox and Catholic Christians were bishops. I have no time to tell the whole story in detail, those who know it will concur with what I am saying.
Well, the noun "people" refers, as mentioned directly from High Above, both to the inside and outside persecutors of the Church, and I say it again: the inside persecutors are not only those of the past but also those who now occupy important positions of power and centrality and have ecclesiastical responsibility at a very high level. This really is the worst danger lurking within the Church and it will be eradicated completely. Using a metaphor, the one whom God has chosen for this mission should be armed with a good broom to clean up the Church that will be reborn. Unfortunately, the hardest and more serious knocks, right at its heart, were inflicted from within, not from outside. While in front of an external attack there is a strong reaction to fight, when the blows came up from within everything is more difficult. To use an historical image, Julius Caesar tried to react when he was hit and stabbed, but when he saw that also his adopted son was stabbing him, he covered his face and let himself die.
When the Church, and by saying Church I mean the whole community of baptized, realizes that some blows are inflicted by those who have the duty to defend it, then confusion, bewilderment and even worse detachment take over. Remember the prayer we recite before Holy Mass: "From the ship many passengers fall into the sea continuously, for they are left alone, without guidance", the ship symbolizes the Church and the people falling are Christians going away from the Church because they have been disappointed by the shepherds.
"While people (God's enemies) are saying: 'Peace and safety!'". This expression shows the joy, delight and tranquility of God's enemies because they believe they have already gained the victory. When the mercenary shepherds sitting on thrones copiously dripping with blood and dirt, will feel sure they have won by congratulating themselves and each other, then at that moment God will intervene to heal the wounds of the Church and give new vitality to the Mystical Body pierced by its own unfaithful shepherds. In the Gospel we find the same situation: "The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself: 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' And he said: 'I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul: "Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry'. But God said to him: 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:16-21). At the very moment when the rich man was pleased to have gained an abundant harvest and to have built roomiest new barns, here comes the voice of God: "Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?"
Here I do not want to instill fear but infuse security. At present we must admit to be pretty heartbroken, tired, embittered and partly also disappointed because of what the Bishop and the Seer had to suffer and still suffer. You too have had some blows that caused some wounds somewhat less deep, less extensive than those of the Bishop and the Seer but make you suffer all the same. Unfortunately they were not the atheists, unbelievers and pleasure-seekers raging with these blows but those who wear purple, red and black robes. "Then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape", surely the judgment of God will come to them, not just post-mortem, but also during their earthly life and they will not be able to escape.
"But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief", meaning that you who know the light, and Christ is the light, you have to fill your soul with it. Christ is life and resurrection, but also passion and death. Paul, while addressing the inhabitants of Thessalonica who were persecuted, encourages them to escape from darkness and walk the path illuminated by the light of Christ. Today again, I utter the same call to you: you know how to walk with Christ to Heaven, you, my dear, are children of light, you belong to daylight, then you do not belong to darkness, evil and sin that draw you away from God. We belong to the light, hence let us go on with good deeds, which increase the grace more and more, for the more we have the grace, the more we will succeed to have the light for us and for the others.
I close by using another gospel image: "No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light" (Luke 11:33); and the light is placed in a position such that the house dwellers may see it well. Each of you must be light, a lighthouse within this community and within your families; just a little light is enough to light up a room and all the people in it. If you keep your commitment to be light, sooner or later those who are close to you will recognize the good examples you give and the testimony you practice so that they too will follow Christ.
My dear, let us walk behind Jesus and Mary so we may never lose sight of Heaven, nor we will go astray. The only path is Christ, all other paths are against Him.
Praised be Jesus Christ.