Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of February 18, 2007
1st reading: 1Sam 26, 2:7-9, 12-13, 22-23; Ps 102; 2nd reading: 1Cor 15:45-49; Gospel: Lk 6:27-38
At that time, Jesus said to his disciples: "But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you". (Lk 6:27-38)
Today, to begin this homily, I repeat to you the same words with which Jesus opened a revolutionary speech: "To you who are listening". You are listening to me so that I may give you a better understanding of the word of God. I prayed that in everything I would have said nothing of mine would be there, so that every reflection, exhortation or explanation would be coming from the word of God. Imagine the people who at that moment were around Christ. With such solemn beginning, if they were a little tired, sleepy or distracted, they certainly would wake up and pay attention to the words the Master was going to say. The beginning is so impressive and solemn that it explains what He would have said later, for this reason there is a very strong attention. I would like you to pay the same attention, not because I speak to you, but because what I am telling you is extremely important and the importance comes from the source from which these words come. Jesus places himself in history as the greatest revolutionary, but do not associate this expression I attribute to Christ to other historic revolutionaries you have known, for there is a great difference. The latter preached revolutions marked by violence, abuse, killing and wars. Christ is revolutionary because He changes completely the way of seeing, of reasoning, of thinking of men of that time and of those who would have come later, so every word that came out of the mouth and especially from the heart of Jesus was like a stone, a boulder that had to make its way through an awful encrustation of places, thoughts and common reflections. Today, in our society, someone different begins to be accepted and respected, whatever the diversity he may belong, but in antiquity, in the historic period when Christ lived, the different, whoever he was, was always regarded as an enemy from which to beware and possibly to defeat and subjugate. Even the Jewish people, the repository of divine revelation, would consider the enemies, that is, those who did not belong to the Jewish people, as persons from where a legal impurity could even arise, should they come for any reason in contact with a Jew. I want to emphasize this cry of the Lord because it has a power, a vehemence that has eradicated roots that were castled in the ground for centuries and which have produced bad and poisonous fruits. In fact, when there is oppression and violence, when there is a clash and the delivery that sees a winner and a loser, in any nation and in any religion this concept takes root, we always have situations where some people suffer. Instead Christ preaches such a reality that if they would listen, the suffering caused by men’s behavior would have no reason to exist.
Jesus said: "Love your enemies", for in love we reach dialogue, respect, acceptance of diversity and other people diversity. He who follows the way of the Lord and hears His commands does not declare war to another. This is peace, harmony, serenity, but not even today men understand it and to realize how true this is, turn TV on now and then and read the newspapers because what I am telling you, unfortunately, has a continuous and impressive cadence.
"Do good to those who hate you", hatred is the worst poison that can be present in the human heart, for before poisoning the one against whom I throw my poison, I am poisoning my existence, disfigure my image.
"Bless those who curse you", even in this case, if we examine ourselves thoroughly, we realize that in the heart of each of us there is touchiness, which is an appalling flaw because it breaks dialogue, prevents understanding, allows neither hope nor room for the possibility to reach common understandings and objectives. Let's begin then to fight and eradicate touchiness in each of us and only then can we understand each other better. If we all would struggling together to achieve this goal, having struggled and extirpated touchiness to a large extent or completely, the result is that we would be able to understand and have better talks without suddenly and impulsively build barriers, digging ditches and allow misunderstanding to take over.
"Pray for those who mistreat you", in this case there wouldn’t be the so-called passive resistance, but a reaction to God. This is one of the highest expressions of love and charity, for it anticipates what is said immediately afterwards and must not be taken literally at all. "If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also", "If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them". These expressions cannot and should not be taken literally, because it is foolish to think of showing a cheek after the other has been hit. Christ does not mean this, because if that were the case, we should also put into practice the other exhortation saying: "If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out" but I do not know of anyone who torn his eye out and became a saint, nor have I ever heard of saints who have become such because they got rid of a hand or a leg ("If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off"). In Jesus’ expression "If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also", there is a very high teaching and it means that if someone offends you, if someone hurts you, you must get free from the desire of revenge, grudge or resentment. Once you are freed from these paralyzing and poisonous faults, you will be able to make a proper fraternal correction to your brothers. Fraternal correction is one of the most difficult tasks to carry out and fulfill. In a sense it is easier to offer our cheek than to give another slap. To recall a brother to order, instead, means to stay at his side, trying to change him and not make him fall into the same mistakes, this costs a greater effort, a greater strain, but it is much more appreciated by God. This is why I recognize Christ as the greatest revolutionary ever. He has subverted all the canons of existence of that time and today’s as well, has changed the past and present lifestyles, has replaced struggle, conflict, diversity and opposition with unity, union and love. Where Christ is present, perfect understanding is achieved. In families sometimes quarrel or argumentation takes place because husband and wife, if they do not have children, or father and mother, if children are present, do not love as Christ taught. A family where love is present is united; a family where love is missing goes towards its breakup and goes through a series of successive stages that lead to mortification and total defeat, that is, separation and divorce. The lay cantors of freedom state that this is an effect of a manifestation of freedom, but freedom cannot be seen as disregard for the others, but respect. If two people are committed to love each other, and I do not enter the sacramental field but remain within the scope of the contract, if one of them fails, he is responsible and guilty of gross failure by not respecting the agreement. That's why only in the love coming from God can the family exist and if this concept were present there would not be any need today to continually write pages in newspapers, to make television services, to listen, from TV news, different and conflicting opinions about some relevant laws that they are trying to elaborate in the Italian legislation. It is the victory of relativism, of anarchy, of the most unrestrained egoism. In our society, the person who loves is fertile, the one who is selfish is sterile and, in his selfishness, he even expect the others to justify his behavior and actions. "Love", is the comet behind which all men must take place and, as the comet led the Magi to the grotto in Bethlehem, love will lead man to the realization of self, of their own intentions, to the wider and complete realization of the family. "Love" is Christ who takes place among us and I would like you to see Him here with the eyes of the soul, saying before you: "love and be happy, love and you will be realized, love and you will reach the maximum of humanity". With God's help this is possible, without God's help, it is impossible and now I leave these considerations to your reflection, your meditation; make them your own, but above all, incarnate them in your life and in your existence.
Praised be Jesus Christ.