Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of February 21, 2007
1st reading Gal 2:12-18; Psalm 50; 2nd reading 2 Cor 5:20, 6:2; Gospel Mt 6:1-6, 16-18
Today, Ash Wednesday, we celebrate the solemn beginning of Lent. I have always wondered why the faithful, beginning with us ecclesiastics, priests and bishops, must assume a sad and almost suffering attitude. Instead, in the Gospel it is written: "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (Mt 6:16-18). These are the words of Jesus, the words of God, of the Son of God, but human behavior is completely different. If you go to the churches in Rome or Italy, you will see that everything is set on suffering and sadness, but this is completely wrong. Must we always be the pioneers? Yes. Here we have said and realized many things that have now become Church patrimony; today they still do not recognize their paternity, but time will come.
Let's go back and talk about Lent. We do not only make a destructive criticism but also a constructive one. So how should Lent be lived? You will remember a message from Our Lady when she told us about her journey on the Calvary next to her Son, in the last part of his earthly existence so full of tension and suffering. Our Lady affirmed: "I had a peaceful face" and almost encouraged others, with her attitude, to accept the death of the Son, as efficient cause of salvation and redemption. If there had not been that death there would not be our life in grace that I define life in God, life of God and life for God.
Lent is liturgically defined as a strong moment, but for what reason? Why do we have to scourge and fast? Those who want to do the fasting can do it also during the year. Why so strong? Lent is a strong moment because the creature must try, as far as possible, to be more in contact with God. The best way is to be united with God in the Eucharist under the various forms: participating in the H. Mass, making Eucharistic adoration and trying to prolong, as much as possible, the thanksgiving even after the H. Mass. This is the best way to live Lent and then it can be defined in this way: "Eucharistic Lent".
As I have already said on other occasions, we must create more opportunities to be with God, with Jesus the Eucharist: this means to live the Lent as a precious moment for us. We must listen and meditate on the Word of God. It is a strong moment of spiritual training, because we must look, observe and examine our defects in depth, trying to remove and replace them with opposing virtues. Spiritual work must be intensified to empower any virtue within us, so when Christ will resurrect we may be next to him. In fact, you know that every divine action has the characteristic of being present at all times, so on Easter Sunday we too, together with the Mother of the Eucharist, could stand next to the raising Christ and show Him the flowers, that is, all our positive qualities and virtues. We have cultivated these flowers for His love and we offer them to Him as a tangible and sensible sign that His redemption has worked within us.
So, to remember this concept, between the night of Holy Saturday and the Sunday dawn of Resurrection, we should choose a suitable moment when we will give Jesus a wonderful bouquet of flowers to indicate the virtues that we have cultivated during Lent. I will repeat it also during the next meetings: this sign will have to be done even in one hundred years when neither I nor you will be here, but there will be Christ the Eucharist and the Mother of the Eucharist, as redeemer and co-redemptrix. Their redemptive suffering brought a radical change in the world and society: from sin to grace, from darkness to light, from egoism to love.
I want to extend this initiative to all communities referring to the Mother of the Eucharist, in every part of the world. You cannot figure out how much the Mother of the Eucharist is working to make herself known and accepted; she is more loved and followed outside Italy. This is truly a triumph that goes from one continent to another.
Lent, a strong moment of spiritual growth, can be compared to those in the gym who strive to improve their body, tone up the muscles and eliminate excess fat. Behold, we too must try to nourish our lives with more strength and vigor coming to us only from Him.
We do not have the strength and ability to stand all fights. Therefore, from Ash Wednesday we begin a favorable period through which we will grow in the love of God. When you come to the altar and I will put the ashes on your head, think that you are starting a happy period because you will meet Jesus Christ, God. It must not be with a sad, gloomy or somehow worried attitude, but calm, I would say almost hilarious, because every time we are in contact with God we must rejoice. This means we appreciate the meaning of Lent, if then there are difficulties put them in God's hands and ask Him to help us to overcome them, this means to experience God in the way He wants to be called, Dad.
You see, it is beautiful this additional initiative coming from Above! As from today we no longer turn to God with fear, terror or with concern, but with the freedom and serenity of children, with the joy of children who see their dad coming back home and go to meet him, opening their arms. This is what we must do regarding God. For Him we are all children, not matter the age but the relationship and God comes to meet us by opening His arms, but above all by opening His heart. Daddy God is holding us, is plunging us, is placing us inside his heart. Worry not, we all will get in, billions of people, for He has an infinite heart and love and so everyone can feel His strong heartbeat of love and feel like protected children. If I had understood all this before, how my life would have been different! I got it now when God wanted; little by little He showed to us and made himself understood, so it had to be for me, for you all and for those who will come. Today we are a small group, but remember: you are the yeast in the Church and to knead even a large amount of flour it takes little of it. Remember, if you wish, you are the yeast of the Church. But be careful, the yeast can also rot and then let us try to keep it always alive, fertile and always ready.
Have a good Lent, a good encounter with God, a good encounter with Jesus the Eucharist. And now let's start the rite of imposition of ashes.