Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of February 17, 2008
Second Sunday of Lent (Year A)
1st reading: Gen 12:1-4; Psalm 32; 2nd reading: 2 Tim 1:8-10; Gospel: Mt 17:1-9
Today, the second Sunday of Lent, is the Sunday of the calling. When we talk about calling, we must give this word different meanings. It is always an initiative of God and then the calling to salvation is the first meaning to be given to this term. I won’t dwell on this subject, because I have been talking about it since several Fridays during meditation and explanation of the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans: God calls everyone. For you this is now clear because it was said by Saint Paul in every way and was repeated by me in all different shades.
Let's move on to another meaning of the word calling: call to holiness. This meaning is also a clear truth that is written in the Gospel: "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:48). To help us understand how to get to a community holiness, Jesus presented and explained the beautiful and comprehensible parable of the vine and the branches. As long as we are united with Christ there is grace within us and, therefore, holiness. At a time when we detach ourselves from Christ with sin, grace is no longer with us, there is no holiness. It is a clear and simple concept on which we paused several times.
Now about the third concept of calling: that of priesthood and consecrated life. Also on this issue we have been talking a lot, especially when we analyzed the encounter between Jesus and the rich young man. When Jesus met this young man, looked at him, loved him and called him to follow him. The young man, who was rich, did not follow him. A glance, an act of love from God, and the words that Jesus said to Peter: "from now on you will fish for people" (Lk 5:10), this is the call to priesthood that compared with other calls, sees, among the called, a smaller number of people.
There is also a fourth type of call that sees the creatures involved in an even smaller number and consists of a special mission that God entrusts only a few for the good of the whole Church. They are the prophets. There have been prophets in the past, they are nowadays and we cannot rule out, we cannot irrevocably say it because everything depends on God, that there will be prophets in the future. These are people who are called by God to carry out a particular task. An example of a prophet is St. Margaret Mary La Coque who from the silence of cloister monastery spread throughout the Church the devotion to the Sacred Heart and the practice of the First nine Friday of the month. Other prophets are Fatima’s little shepherds, and I do not mean so much Lucia, who died almost a century old, but Jacinta and Francesco who despite being very young, have spread throughout the world the devotion to the first five Saturday of the month. I would also like to mention the merciful love of a humble and sick nun, Sister Faustina Kowalska who, during her life, was entrusted with humble and modest tasks. Faustina is another prophet chosen by God to bring to the Church the love and, above all, the concept of merciful love.
So, in the Church, there were prophets in the past as there are in the present time and they all have in common those traits that today the Holy Scripture has clearly put before our eyes.
Abraham is, in my humble opinion, the representative of the fourth call, that of the prophets. First of all God separates them from the situation, from the condition and environment in which they live because, to use a clear image, He wants to burn the bridges behind them. It is a concept, an image that wants to mean the fact that according to the plan of God, the prophets have to go on no matter what, fulfill their mission, and for them there's no turning back. This sometimes has been achieved but not on other occasions because of human weakness and frailty. God, when gives a mission, does not withdraw it and if this does not go forward and is not completed it is because men do not answer. Abraham receives the invitation to break away from the environment where he lives, but this detachment is rewarded by God with something great. In fact, the Lord makes him, in his old age, the founder of peoples as numerous, and maybe more, as the number of stars in the sky, through his wife, she too now in her old age. When God calls, he reserves exclusively to himself, to his service, the called person and no one can arrogate to himself or claim for himself the dignity, the office, the task of prophet, if he were not really called by God. Jesus, in the Gospel, warns Christians by saying "Watch out for false prophets" (Mt 7:15). Here there is a clear warning, but unfortunately, in the world and in the Church, there have been many false prophets who have sown confusion, have caused division and who also had followers and recognition. But God was not at all with them. Often, if not always, to the true prophet is reserved a difficult and complicated life because he is often persecuted. The true prophet is one who looks like the prophet par excellence, Christ; He is the one who does the will of God; and who else, better than Christ, did the will of the Father, which consisted in the salvation of men. Here, Christ is a prophet and the other prophets, inferior in dignity, in office and greatness must imitate Him in their life, commitment and often in suffering that can reach the point of martyrdom. These are the true prophets and Paul, the great Paul, is among them. Even today he has been mentioned by Our Lady. This should make you understand the fondness that Our Lady has for this apostle she surely met during her life. Paul does not explicitly mention it and the scriptures do not talk about it, but do you think that Paul, the apostle of passion, enthusiasm, love, faith and hope, has not gone to Our Lady? Certainly he met her and listened to what the heart of this Mother put at his disposal and, in turn, taught to those who were called to accomplish and continue his mission as prophet. As it is clear from the passage taken from the second letter to Timothy, cited not by chance, but lucidly and purposefully by Our Lady, Paul says: "Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus" (2 Tim 2:3). Here, the word that scares us, that scares me, that scares any person is again mentioned. Suffer for the gospel, endure to enforce God's word, and today, I do not know if you realized it, you too are called to share the mission of the Prophet, when Our Lady said, "Do a little apostolate, let people understand what the H. Gospel is". Today, you too have received the mandate to carry out your prophetic mission which, in itself, is present in every baptized person but today it has been expressed to you all. In fact, you were called by God to give this testimony, not an easy one, not a simple one which could make you suffer, but do carry it out, not with the presumption of those who ring the doorbell claiming to impose themselves, but by presenting the beauty of the Gospel in simplicity and with humility, by making people understand that having transformed your life, it may also transform the life of others. Live humbly the task of a witness, as Paul said to Timothy who was not called because of his works, but only because God wanted it. None of us can say to be up to the task, claiming rights or merits so as to say to Christ here I am, call me because I am in a better condition than my brothers. We know, and history is teaching it to us, that true prophets have in common fragility, weakness, suffering, few followers and even little credibility because if it is difficult to accept the word of God in the Gospel it is much more difficult to accept those who proclaim it, due to envy, jealousy and misunderstanding. You prophets called by God, what do you expect? You can find the answer in the Gospel. In Scripture we speak of Jesus' transfiguration, but ours is also present. You recite the rosary, the mysteries that have been approved by the Mother of the Eucharist, and when you reach the fourth glorious mystery, you read: "Our Lady died and was immediately transfigured" and we are talking of a human being. The Transfiguration of Our Lady is that her body, as she told us, has seen death, but not corruption. Mary ascended to Heaven and her body became beautiful, wonderful and brighter than the sun because the presence of immense grace was upon her whole body. Mary's body was already quite beautiful, but became even more so. It does not exist in the English language a term suitable to represent Mary’s grandeur and beauty, for only God is able to add a level to the absolute superlative most beautiful: it is a grammatical error, but Mary’s body is very, very, very, very most beautiful. Behold, I hope I made you understand the concept I want to imply. This concept is not just about Our Lady but also about us, for we will be transfigured and will have a body, but much nicer than what we had during our earthly life. The guarantee of what I am telling you, that is, the body will have no more corruption, is given by God Himself. Have you ever wondered why God allows that the bodies of some people undergo no corruption and, exhumed after decades, are still perfectly preserved? It is neither for reason of devotion, as it has been said, nor for a pretention of holiness. There is much more to it and much better. In this way God reminds us, and wants to tell us: "As I keep this body intact, so I will take this body, together with your bodies, to a beautiful and wonderful transfiguration". You understand now what is the real reason why, when going to a church, you can see the body of a holy man or woman perfectly preserved. It is not a function of the present, but for the future. We do not care to be placed under the altar and exposed to the vision, sometimes curious, of devotees and faithful, we are interested that our body, even if it has gone through corruption, may be transformed in the resurrection and reach that beauty that God himself, by looking at us, may be pleased and say: "I did a nice thing", as he said at the time of creation, after he created the world and everything in it. Here it is, this is reality, this is the thought that today our Lord has entrusted you with. He is entrusting us with this vision of the future, where we will surely be part of it, but in the most joyful, beautiful and best way. Take courage, now we groan, maybe too much, now we suffer, maybe too much, now we wait, perhaps for too long; may God decides to do what he promised, but when fatigue, bitterness and disappointment assail us, and this can happen frequently and on a daily basis, then remember that the reality will be the one you have learned today. We think and remember that this reality will be so only for the power, intervention, love and grace of God.
Praised be Jesus Christ.