Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of March 19, 2009
1st reading: 2 Sam 7:4-5, 12-14, 16; Ps 88; 2nd reading: Rom 4:13, 16-18, 22; Gospel: Mt 1:16, 18-21, 24
Today, to the three titles of St. Joseph, which we repeat when we say the litany addressing Mary’s spouse, we add a fourth one. I think he has the right, as the love I feel for this saint is now well known. The title is: "Man of Sorrows". We don't know much about St. Joseph’s life, we learned something about it by reading Our Lady’s life and very little from the Gospel; I think no one has ever succeeded to enter the soul of this great saint, the greatest just after Our Lady. A man of pain because he is the father, even if putative, of the Redeemer, the husband of the Co-redemptrix and could not fail to be united to the Bride and his Son, even in pain and suffering.
Speaking of pain and suffering, we focus on what little we know, the famous doubt we have heard the story today. I believe that if we put ourselves in a situation of listening, if we ask for light to the Holy Spirit, we can also lift, just a little, the veil concerning the interior life of this great saint.
As Our Lady says in the book of her life, Saint Joseph got married around the age of 33 which at that time was already, unlike today, an advanced age. He had to fight, toil, suffer because when you make vows, you make commitments to God, you make careful and scrupulous preparations and for a long time as well. During his youth and adulthood, Joseph knew, like any good Jew, that God's greatest blessing is in marriage and children, so he must have looked around but Mary wasn’t there yet. This was already a suffering, it created a stress worsened by the fact that in meeting girls, even good ones, between him and each of these there was a huge spiritual difference and when you perceive it you can't help but feel uncomfortable. Instead, in meeting Our Lady, his heart rejoiced.
They had been married for a short time, according to Jewish custom they didn’t live together as yet, when his bride expressed the desire to undertake a long journey and only Mary knew she was pregnant by the work of the Holy Spirit because there weren’t, as yet, the early signs of maternity. This journey triggered a series of heavy criticisms and judgments from relatives, friends and acquaintances that made the bride and the groom suffer. Joseph escorted Mary, left her with Elizabeth and returned alone: once again loneliness and suffering. When he goes back to pick her up and finally brings her back to Nazareth, shortly thereafter the great suffering comes. In my opinion too much emphasis has been placed on the legal aspect of the famous paper of divorce, but no one knows in depth Joseph's great pain. He was sure, very sure of the holiness of his bride but he saw something that left him breathless, a tragedy for him. He continually wondered: "If she is Holy, and I am sure of it, how come she is a mother, since we have never had, nor will we ever have, because we have offered our purity to God, any sexual encounter and contact?" This is his great suffering, he was not thinking of himself but of his wife, because her holiness could not fail to appear, the imposing holiness of Our Lady, the greatness of this young girl. So this too was a huge suffering for him. Then again the great adventure of the journey to Bethlehem: bringing a woman, now at the end of her pregnancy, using a donkey, the means of locomotion at that time. There were no hotels and even if there had been they could not have afforded the luxury of paying for them; and also they had quite poor food because they couldn't afford more and Joseph's great suffering was not being able to give his beloved wife everything he had wanted. The anxiety of finding a home that would welcome them. Do you think that he gladly accepted the decision to take refuge in a cave? Thoughts and memories are sweet today, but how much did Joseph suffer? Certainly in those moments he felt like a failure: "I was unable to give my wife even the possibility of a roof, however small and modest." The joy of birth and then the flight. Here too we enter Joseph's soul. Do you think that he too did not have the same reactions that we could have had: "He is God, the Messiah, why is he escaping with a flight, why doesn’t he defend himself, he is Almighty! Is there a need for all three of us to embark on this long, tiring, uncertain and dangerous journey, when he could have put himself in a situation of safety and tranquility with a snap of his fingers?” God created the world and all its elements but some are not pleasant. The Ghibli, a dusty wind in the desert, is not pleasant and there too, Joseph would shield and defend the little one with his body. Then the return to Nazareth. Even there they could have spent peaceful, serene, joyful years but the disease took over, it lasted 8 years. According to what Our Lady told us, even in private conversations, Joseph experienced tremendous pain and suffered a lot. God was close by. Death comes. No one thought that it would have been better for Joseph to live than to die because by living he would have had Jesus and Our Lady at his side. When he died he did not immediately go to Heaven but to the underworld where Jesus would then go to pick him up, there is no contact with God in such a place, there is no vision of Jesus so his situation had worsened. Is anybody thinking about it? If anything, he could have lengthened Joseph’s life and die shortly before he began his public life; instead, Joseph died when Jesus was 18 years old, and only after another 17 years did he begin his public life. We know for sure that Joseph was also near the cross. Our Lady said many times that when she comes to Earth she suffers as we suffer, this means that Joseph suffered under the cross and his suffering was directed towards the Son, the one whom he loved as a son, and suffered for his wife who, while demonstrating strength and courage, was torn apart by pain. Isn't it right then to call him the man of pain, the man of suffering?
No one has ever presented Joseph’s character in this way. Why this evening? I believe because we too have matured, Marisa and I, encountering so much suffering, especially last night which I do not hesitate to define as hellish. You cannot understand Joseph's suffering, we cannot understand it but neither can you understand the suffering of the bishop and the seer last night. It seemed to us that we had to wrestle with God, like Joseph under the cross who, witnessing that awful show, must have thought that the few drops of blood on the day of circumcision would have been enough. All the suffering of Joseph, father of the Redeemer and husband of the co-redeemer, is for all men, for all of us. Last night, unlike other nights spent in pain, we felt neither help nor presence; isn't this the Gethsemane? Yet, they were all present, the same people who were on the Calvary, plus a few others like grandmother Iolanda.
There have been terrible nights in the last few days, but we knew that with us, because Marisa saw them, were present Our Lady, Saint Joseph, grandmother Iolanda, Fatina, my nephew Stefano and other people, and they were all crying. Not just that, Marisa also saw all these people going before God and on their behalf Our Lady spoke, pleading with God for these two children of hers who had been suffering and a lot for a long time. Instead last night we thought we were going crazy because we felt alone and forsaken. Our Lady showed for a moment and she said an awful thing, that is, this suffering was for the Church. Aren't we the people who have given the most to the Church? We have given our lives, renounced everything: honors, friendships, relatives, successes, I think I can say that we are the people who have given the most. Last night God made us climb the Calvary for this Church which is getting worse every day and you know it. Then you understand what Joseph said: "I saw you and I wondered: in the place of the Bishop and the seer, what could I have done?" The answer is simple and then he gave it: he would have done what he did. He has an advantage over us, our ordeal is much longer, his ordeal was shorter, harder, dreadful but certainly shorter. Joseph gave his contribution to the Redemption of men, the Church was born from the pierced side of Christ and as long as it was fed by the blood and body of Christ it went well. When men detached the Eucharist from the Church, it has begun to weaken, not to collapse or be destroyed because there is the word of Christ: "The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it", but this poor Church is occupied, mistreated, humiliated, spoiled and offended. Today your contribution is more than ever necessary to ensure that God soon decides to do what he must do. If you love Marisa, and I don't think you have remained unmoved at her tears, her supplication, her request, do not give in to false and useless doubts. She wants to leave, she is tired, she is exhausted, if you love her you cannot but ask God to take her with him and, in the future, you will bear witness to me that I have publicly asked for it several times. Joseph died and went to the underworld but he didn't enjoy it; instead, our sister will die and go to Heaven to enjoy it because she is still now enchained to this Earth which is every day more and more estranged to her; she is not happy in the world because she knows many more things than we do. A dirty world, soiled by men.
Benedict XVI, quoting Saint Paul to the Galatians, said that in the Church we devour each other. We devour each other because there is no love, there is a desire for a career, for money and the desire to experiment sexual pleasures in all ways. The Pope is now in Cameroon and the Italian newspapers have reported an investigation into the current Bishops of Cameroon, 25 more or less, led by a cardinal, whose name I don't remember. According to the investigation by Cameroon journalists, they have reached the conclusion that few bishops lead a life in line with the Gospel, most are involved in business, the proof is that the cathedral of the capital of Cameroon was not finished because tens of thousands euros disappeared. We are in Africa. It should be added, according to the news reported by these newspapers, that the majority of bishops do not even respect the vow of chastity, have regular intercourse and even some natural children. Here are the Bishop and the seer, who suffered martyrdom for this Church where there are one million Aids patients. I don't remember how much the total population is. In Africa, 25 million people have already died of Aids and there are 20 million people sick. When today I read the controversies, the criticisms regarding the Pope, at the same time a probable solution to that problem came to my mind but, for the moment, I cannot talk about it. If our Lord tells me it is right, we will have to write again to bishops and cardinals and suggest this solution. For the time being I ask for prayer and light from the Holy Spirit.
One of Joseph's three classic titles is Protector of the Church and certainly he too, seeing the Church founded by his Son, cannot help but suffer. So now I turn to God and ask him until when will he ask for suffering and martyrdom from the children who love him the most. When today St. Joseph said "My two little children have suffered and will suffer more" I was shocked because to live such a time is absurd. If you are scandalized when I tell you that in those moments death is truly a liberation, you are false, hypocrite and insensitive. I am scared, and Marisa with me, of our immediate future, that's why I offer the Mass I am about to celebrate to God, only for one single intention. I will ask him to continue to pray for the Church, but this is not the intention with which I celebrate today and offer this Mass to God. I promised it to Marisa, I'm telling you, I celebrate this Mass, I offer it to God so that he may soon make his voice resound and say to Marisa: "Come my daughter, come in the joy of your Father" and you must help me and you must be united with this single intention. I'm sure Our Lady and St. Joseph are on our side. I think I can say, and I say it with a smile, that everyone except God is on our side; let's see if we can bring Him too to our side. He is a Dad, He sees things better than all of us, and often, lately, He has repeated a sentence that made me feel a certain bitterness and anxiety: "I am God and I know what I do". At least help us understand, don't leave us in silence, don't leave us in torment, we have an intelligence. “A day will laugh those who cry”. Which day? Hopefully soon. Marisa will be able to repeat her laughter in Heaven, not on Earth. Afterwards we hope that we can go back to being serene and joyful. Suffering purifies and we see who has true intentions, who is faithful and who, among you, I'm not saying you present here but those who attend this place, is an opportunist; there are opportunists among us. Let's get rid of these opportunists and hope that finally, God will make his voice resound.
Let us repeat this invocation every day, every hour of the day, and if you love Marisa you must do it and she will be grateful to you as I too will be grateful to you: "My God, send the Mother of the Eucharist soon and all the celestial court to take this soul that by now, for too many decades, has been consuming herself without ever reaching an end to her martyrdom and existence”.
Praised be Jesus Christ.