Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of December 21, 2008
1st reading: 2 Sam 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16; Psalm 88; 2nd reading: Rom 16:25-27; Gospel: Lk 1:26-38
After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, he said to Nathan the prophet, "Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent". Nathan replied to the king: "Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you". But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying: "Go and tell my servant David "This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies. The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. I will be his father, and he will be my son. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever""
Today I invite you to pay special attention to the first passage of the Holy scripture we just read, so you may be persuaded that even a passage about a historical fact that from a spiritual point of view is not conducive to reflection and meditation, instead it offers us, for it is God's Word, the possibility, if we are we capable and well-led, to deepen the meaning and to receive useful concepts for our existence, practical advices for a better spiritual life. I would point out one thing: the ark stood under a tent made of canvas; the reference to our tent, the one we pretentiously call basilica, is, at least for us and for our friends in Heaven, is straightforward and gives us joy. This allows us to understand that God needs nothing, as long as men come to Him with sincere heart, with open mind, with sincerity, humility and love. The Lord does not care to live in a rich cathedral or in a small and modest church as our church covered with canvas is, or even in a hut made of straw or wood. We must give God the most of ourselves, as He wants us to understand that what He is specifically asking is our utmost commitment in the spiritual life. God needs no artistically beautiful churches, rich with decorations or artistic works, if those who participate in the liturgy or those who have to care its cult, namely the priests, have an empty, tasteless and graceless heart. From this simple reflection you understand what is really God's idea, thought and direction. Up to now David has been presented as the founder of the lineage from which Jesus, Mary, the mother who gave him a body, and Joseph, the legal father were born, normally we do not go any further. Instead I would submit some further reflections and make you progress beyond the concepts so far developed: Jesus, son of David, named in this way in the Gospel too, is of regal and Davidic descent as was Our Lady. If we are, spiritually at least, children of Our Lady, then as a consequence we can also claim to have a Davidic descent. You see, my beloved, as there is in this passage a strong presence of Christ's messianic idea from a purely spiritual standpoint, not political. David is the king who attained the maximum extension and military power of the kingdom, he is a great prophet and is one who raised several psalms to God who beloved him, in spite of some pronounced weaknesses on which it is not appropriate for the moment to dwell, and in order to show his power and his kingship he built a luxurious and beautiful palace and instead of simply enjoying its comfort, he had the thought we just heard: I am a creature and I live in a palace, instead the ark of God is under a tent made of cloth and it is right I build a shrine, a temple to accommodate also the ark of God and have its presence among us. We are dealing with a beautiful thought and Nathan, the prophet with whom he used to talk, was also partaken, and encouraged him in this plan. The next day, however, God tells the prophet to go to David and tell him that He liked his initiative but he will not be the one to complete this work. As we have talked about him, I would like you to think now about this prophet. In front of charismatics, prophets and seers we have to place ourselves not with the cult of the person, thus offending God, but simply with respect, and we do not have to consider every word they speak as coming from High Above, instead, they use the gifts they receive to the advantage of others in the moment God deems fit. You have surely perceived it because Nathan, for example, approves and agrees with David's desire while the next day refers to the king that God is thinking differently. David reigned during the eleventh century BC, and then he indicated his son Solomon as his heir and successor even though he was not the firstborn. Solomon then, ascended the throne and had to build a wonderful temple, endowed with fine and artistic works rightfully representing the pride of his kingdom. It was built in seven years, around 960 BC. If you knew the historical events of the Jewish people and compare them with what Nathan the prophet, on behalf of our Lord, is referring to David, you would be confused and amazed because God says one thing but another is implemented. Through the prophet, the Lord says to David: "I will give you rest from all your enemies and when your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you". In this passage He is speaking in the singular but it is a collective singular, a whole series of descendants and does not mean specifically and only Jesus but all those who succeeded Solomon until we come to Jesus. "I will be his father, and he will be my son. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever". If you knew the historical event you would feel baffled because this wonderful temple, built around 960 BC, in 856 BC, about seventy or eighty years later, will be destroyed. Also the palace built by David and extended by Solomon will be destroyed and part of Jerusalem will be demolished by the Babylonians, who will carry into exile in Babylon the most representative people of David's kingdom. At this point one may wonder why God says one thing and then another occurs. Men are accustomed to read historical events from their point of view, but God reads them in a different way and then He let us understand them. At that time there was still the idea of a political and social Messiah. Also later it will be like that, even up to Christ's incarnation; instead the exact concept is that of a spiritual Messiah sent for men conversion and redemption. The Jewish people did not understand the true meaning of Messiah, but kept the concept from the political point of view; this people continued to ponder on its own historical events, longing to be freed from the different peoples who, unfortunately, occupied Palestine until the last Roman domination. The Lord makes it clear for us in the Gospel passage, when the angel turns to Mary saying: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you" (Lk 1:35) and before "You will conceive a Son, He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of David his Father, and he will reign for ever" (Lk 1:32). In this case the adverb "forever" should be construed as "exclusively" and is the confirmation of what I have said, namely, that He will reign from a spiritual point of view. For this reason, we can define and present ourselves as authentic descendants of Mary, therefore also of Jesus and hence His subjects: this is an innovative concept in the culture, mentality and heritage of the Church. But in order to consider ourselves His descendants and subjects, we must recognize that there is an affinity between us and Him, and then we can say we all are of Davidic descent. Who better than us? Today, in the Letter of God you have had a confirmation when the Mother of the Eucharist said: "You have been chosen". Let us not be proud or become proud of it but this is just the truth. He could have chosen others, as He did, but they declined. To remain humble let us always remind the parable of the king's son wedding.
A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready'. But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him: 'I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused'. And another said: 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused'. And another said: 'I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come'. So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant: 'Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame'. And the servant said: 'Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room'. And the master said to the servant: 'Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet'. (Lk 14:16-24)
The most influential and qualified representatives of the Kingdom are invited first, but because they gave up, the lame, the blind and the crooked are invited instead, and we are these ones, but pay attention, to be admitted to the banquet they were cleaned up, dressed elegantly, hence transformed. Our initial position was one of fragility, weakness and sin; today we strive, we are committed and try to live in the love of God and with His grace. For this reason, although we start from a position of weakness and fragility, we have reached such a reality that we can clearly say with confidence that God called us, He called each of us, each of you and the merit lies in the answer to His call. The wealthy and powerful people have been called, sometimes the clerics too, but they did not accept it and for this they will have to answer before God; the humble, the weak, the poor and the helpless have responded to God. Because of His intervention we are no longer poor or fragile or weak, as He gave us the grace, love, sacraments and His Word, and we strive to make them present in our life; we were in certain path and now we are in another. The guarantee that we continue to be part of David's true descent is the flow, within us, of the blood of Christ through the Eucharist: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus. It depends on us to keep this descent unchanged, keep it or reject it; it depends on us to be justly and lawfully proud to be with God or do the opposite and stay with His antagonist. It costs to be with God; Christ paid to redeem us and we too are paying too much, or rather, there is someone among us who is called to pay more than others, but all those who are part of this community must be ready and willing to make their own contribution. The real reason why so many have left our community rests on the fact that they did not want to contribute. I certainly can promise you the Eternal Kingdom and I dare believe even one hundred percent on this Earth, these are words of Jesus to whom we have to blindly believe. The sorrows of life are haunting us, the promises that are postponed and brought forward in time make us tired and all of us are like that, someone more, someone less. But if you look at the Christmas crib, even the one so beautiful and expressive before me, we find everything: Bethlehem "house of bread", the cave reminding us of the tabernacle where Jesus is present in Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity and here too Jesus is present in Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity; in the cave there is Mary and here too Mary is present, you have listened to her many times. Let us try to follow the shepherds' example, with their simplicity and let us go to the cave, to the Eucharist, to the tabernacle, to the altar. They offered some simple gifts but received much more; they received graces, help and spiritual gifts. We too, every time that we approach the Eucharist, receive something great, immense and infinite and from it we have to draw. When we are tired, disheartened and discouraged, let us cling to the Eucharist; no one can say not to be tired, depressed or discouraged for he would be lying or he would not be living in a true way this spirituality and commitment. Human fatigue and the power of God can co-exist, but remember that one hundred plus infinity is equal to infinity. This thought may help, support and comfort us. Let us try to live Christmas by opening our hearts to hope and enriching it with faith. The year of hope has ended, the year of faith has begun and to live what I have said, believe me, requires a lot of faith and then, together with the apostles, let us say to Jesus the Eucharist: "Jesus, increase our faith". We need to be supported by God because with our own strength we could not proceed. I hope this is the last year of trial; I want to hope and believe it because now there is every indication that God is not far from realizing His plan. I know that I am exposing myself to a problematic situation but I hope that these words, like all those that preceded that were inspired by God, may find this time too His approval. Praised be Jesus Christ.