Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of December 16, 2007
1st reading: Is 35:1-6, 8, 10; Psalm 145; 2nd reading: Jas 5:7-10; Gospel: Mt 11:2-11
The three passages of Scripture are highly interconnected and one is the development of the other, so, by following this development, we can apply to ourselves the deep meaning of the passages. We start from the first reading from prophet Isaiah: he addresses the people of Israel and in particular those who have remained loyal and maintained a good relationship with God although they had had to endure many years of exile and isolation. Isaiah announces a miraculous event, in other words the return of the exiles, even if there were no good prospects because the then current social and political situation was in contrast to what the prophet announced.
"The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God.
Strengthen you the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say to them that are of a fearful heart, be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you.
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: and a highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called the way of holiness".
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Is 35:1-6, 8, 10)
All nature participates and rejoices in the return of the people of Israel from exile and the prophet is happy in explaining God's intervention so great as to overcome any obstacle: the sick can walk, the deaf can hear and the blind has his sight restored; this is the first meaning to be given to the passage.
Let us now ponder on the Gospel passage speaking about the beginning of Jesus' public life.
"Now when John heard in prison about the things the Christ was doing, he sent word by his disciples to Jesus, asking, "Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?" Jesus responded: "Go, report to John what you hear and see. Those who were blind are able to see. Those who were crippled are walking. People with skin diseases are cleansed. Those who were deaf now hear. Those who were dead are raised up. The poor have good news proclaimed to them. Happy are those who don't stumble and fall because of me".
When John's disciples had gone, Jesus spoke to the crowds about John: "What did you go out to the wilderness to see? A stalk blowing in the wind? What did you go out to see? A man dressed up in refined clothes? Look, those who wear refined clothes are in royal palaces. What did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. He is the one of whom it is written: Look, I'm sending my messenger before you, who will prepare your way before you".
"I assure you that no one who has ever been born is greater than John the Baptist. Yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" (Mt 11:2-11).
John the Baptist, as master, had around him several faithful and affectionate disciples. He is very familiar with Jesus and refers to Him as "the Lamb of God" and he stands before Him in a subordinate position, saying: "One stronger than I am is coming after me. I'm not even worthy to bend over and loosen the strap of his sandals" (Mk 1:7).
John, despite being the same age as Jesus, is aware that is going to die because is imprisoned by Herod in the dungeons of fortress Machaerus; yet during his imprisonment he is concerned in addressing his disciples to Christ. This is an act of love to them, for they are very attached to him, he knows that they would hardly leave him. In fact, at that time, it was difficult for a disciple to pass from one teacher to another, so John sends his to Jesus, putting in their mouths some questions present in today's Gospel passage; these questions do not serve to clarify his doubts, for he is absolutely certain that Jesus is the Messiah, but to dissolve the questions and clarify uncertainties of his disciples.
Jesus answers these questions by referring to Isaiah prophecy, giving it the exact interpretation, namely that the Messianic time is fulfilled, and is characterized by the strong presence of God. When John's disciples turn away from Jesus to return to their master, Jesus, addressing those present, says: "Truly I say to you, I assure you that no one who has ever been born is greater than John the Baptist. Yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" (Mt 11:11).
These two statements seem contradictory, but can be understood if placed in the fullness of the messianic era. Indeed, John the Baptist is the last and the most important representative of the Old Testament where there was still no redemption and forgiveness of sins; he had a special gift from God from the first moments of his existence. In fact, during the Visitation of Mary to St. Elizabeth, the Messiah, present in Mary's virginal womb, sanctifies John the precursor who was in his mother's womb.
Instead, those who belong to the New Testament, and we are part of it, receive from God gifts and graces that those from the Old Testament did not have. Redemption makes us children of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and gives us the grace that makes us similar to God and the theological virtues give us the possibility to love, believe, hope and to have an unlimited faith in the Lord, always with His help. The Word of God, clearly and unequivocally revealed to us in the years of Jesus' public life and together with all the graces that flow from Redemption, mean that even the most modest and little person, by virtue of the richness of gifts and graces received, has greater spiritual greatness compared to those who were part of the Old Testament. This is the correct meaning of the statement of Christ: "The least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he (John the Baptist)" (Mt 11:11).
However I want to go further. Isaiah speaks to the people of his time, infusing them with the hope of the end of exile and the radical change of the present situation in Jerusalem and surrounding areas thanks to divine intervention: "Here is your God, he comes to save you" (Is 35:4). Jesus too applies these words to His historical context and to His mission when he says that His coming into the world has brought an outpouring of grace with the messianic signs prophesied by Isaiah: "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing" (Is 35:5-6). Remember that the expression "coming of the Lord" in both the Old and New Testament means an extraordinary intervention of God.
Now we reflect on the second reading taken from the Letter of St. James, where there are some hints on how to prepare for the final coming of the Lord and that you can also adapt to our situation.
"Be steadfast, my brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Look at the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth until it receives the early and late rains. Be consistent even you, strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.
Do not complain, brethren, against one another, not to be judged; behold, the Judge is at the door. Brothers, take an example of suffering and of patience the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord" (Jas 5:7-10).
In fact, we are also looking forward to an extraordinary intervention of God, so today I borrow the words of the apostle James that he addressed to the faithful of his time and I address them to you with the same right and giving them the just interpretation.
The first exhortation is constancy; if the wait is not supported by the virtue of perseverance it does not allow us to go forward because there are many weak moments where fragility is overwhelming us: exhaustion is imprisoning us, doubts may haunt and disapprovals, wickedness and persecution by men can weaken us to the point to forsake the mission. This has happened to many people who went by this place, but now they are elsewhere slandering and defaming. Our Lady has always emphasized these as the causes of their detachment. Instead to you, who have remained and continue to express confidence in God primarily and also to the one who modestly is representing Him, I say again: "Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord" (Jas 5:7).
The Apostle James teaches us that the best way to wait for the intervention of God is not to complain, disapprove or offend, but you have to love with a true feeling and someone, unfortunately, as Our Lady said, is still limping in this virtue.
Is it so difficult to have a calm, respectful and loving attitude for all the people? Why, after so many teachings, prodding and exhortations to love there are still resentful and irritated attitudes? Why is there a temper leading to conflicts? This is not the best way to wait and prepare for the coming of the Lord: "Do not complain, brethren, against one another, not to be judged; behold, the Judge is at the door" (Jas 5:9). The expression "behold, the Judge is at the door", does not specify the imminence, but the security and certainty of divine intervention. So I say it again: courage, the Lord is about to begin His work, I do not know when and how, but I can tell you that the victory He promised us will be gained even if we do not know how it will be or how we will get there. We know it will happen, that's why I say to you and myself to have courage, to look forward and to continue to have unlimited confidence in our Lord who will realize his promises. To those who are sometimes spiritually nearsighted I say to wear his glasses and see things in a totally different light.
We do not know how God is working, but He is working and today He gave you proof of it. You could see me as an art critic giving you an interpretation of a painting, I assure you that more than a few things are moving. Remember the letters of God where Our lady told us that there are now more than fifteen people, including cardinals and bishops in addition to some parish priests in Rome, who have strayed from the triad: Ratzinger, Bertone and Ruini, who have unjustly condemned me. Our Lady often said: "Your bishop, when he has to, speaks to you clearly"; these honest cardinals, bishops and priests said exactly this: "We have read in internet, we have got information and arrived at conclusions: why is the situation not reviewed since we are faced with facts that clearly indicate the presence of God?" Even some cardinals made these claims, but some of these were deprived or limited in their jobs and some even lost altogether the job they had.
Now you understand why Our Lady is saying we are going backward. Our Mother also added that lately our sister Marisa is suffering a lot and is being consumed by a terrible secret concerning the Church that not even I know of because it was not disclosed to me. You need not have a morbid curiosity, but a very big concern on how the Church is reduced.
Now you better understand the prayer for the Church that I formulated in August this year and that you recited every day before the celebration of the Holy Mass. You must continue to recite it not only when you are present here, but also when you participate in the Mass in other churches, in your parishes. If someone were to ask for it, give it, and if someone were to show some perplexity then do explain what is happening. The Church cannot collapse, for Christ is supporting her, but God can allow it to be wounded, sacked and offended, as it is happening now.
I hope that what I call the electric brooms, may clean up the Church as soon as possible, without delay. I think, keeping within this example of the brooms, that we are just waiting for God to insert the plug so that these brooms may begin to clean. If the plug is not inserted into the wall socket, the broom will not work, and so we too, without the order from God, can do nothing, we would only go and meet an assured defeat.
That's why I ask you to continue to always and insistently pray for the Church. If you love Jesus the Eucharist, if you love the Mother of the Eucharist, if you love the Church of God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, and, I might add, if you love the Bishop ordained by God, pray a lot for the Church.
We must accelerate, if possible, God's interventions and ask the Lord, with this prayer, to give strength and courage to honest and good men. They only need to hear of someone to guide them, and, at the head of this army, he may defeat, with God's help, the devil and all his vassals and emissaries.
We must live a Holy Christmas thinking about what I have said today. I entrust this intention to your prayers, your sacrifices, your fasting and your little sacrifices so we can finally get back the face of the Church without spots or wrinkles. Praised be Jesus Christ.