Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of February 25, 2007
1ˢᵗ Sunday of Lent
1st reading: Dt 26:4-10; Psalm 90; 2nd reading: Rm 10:8-13; Gospel Lk 4:1-13
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: man shall not live on bread alone”. The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: worship the Lord your God and serve him only”. The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written: he will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone”. Jesus answered, “It is said: do not put the Lord your God to the test”. When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. (Lk 4:1-13)
My dear, I beg you to follow carefully these reflections that I have made before the Lord and, in His light, have struck me and will certainly strike you as well. Probably today you will be able to understand with greater depth and richness this passage that you read many times in the past. For this, we must be grateful to God who is revealing and letting us know the truth as we place ourselves in a situation of humility, docility and listening. Jesus is at the beginning of His public life and, shortly after receiving, by His will, the baptism, he retires to pray in the desert. We too must cultivate prayer and penance in order to have the safety and guarantee to arise victorious from the devil’s assaults. Every single word of the Word of God must be understood, every single word needs to be deepened.
"Jesus full of the Holy Spirit": probably for many this is not meaningful, but filled with the Holy Spirit makes the difference between those who are in God's grace and are assailed by the devil’s temptations and those who are not in God’s grace. Jesus, true God and true Man, is our example, has a perfect humanity, intact and immune from sin; in him, reason submits all senses in a serene and balanced way, in Him, there is no defection nor inclination to evil, but a serene and balanced dominion of reason and intelligence on everything concerning the emotional sphere, the sphere which is below intelligence and will.
"Full of the Holy Spirit": it means that in Him, true Man, grace is infinite and that He will never be defeated by the devil. The Father allows the Son to be tempted to teach us what is the best way and behavior in order to resist evil. If grace is present in us, the temptation and assault of the devil, permitted by God for our further purification and growth in holiness, will come to the danger point that God wants. God will never allow the devil to go beyond the limits that He sets. This is already a marvelous truth, as it gives us guarantee and safety. If we are in a state of grace, God guarantees us victory. Christ is God and therefore He is the history master, the creator, the ruler and before Him the devil must recognize his own inferiority and dependence. As long as we are children of God and grace is present in our soul, we can gain victory because, beyond our commitment, the Lord will give His assistance therefore it is sure and guaranteed, if we wish, to be successful and victorious. In this way the fear of not overcoming the various temptations falls, for God is with us and gives us everything we need to obtain this victory, but prayer and mortification are necessary. You surely remember how many times Our Lady invited us to prayer; in her messages the invitation to prayer is continuous, strong and repeated because without prayer we cannot have the necessary strength. Mortification and penance do not weaken the body and in return strengthen the soul. Today God allows us to understand this concept that we absolutely must make our own. When we reflect on the Word of God, especially on the Synoptic Gospels, we must compare them by integrating facts and news that are present in one and missing in others. Matthew the Evangelist says clearly that the Lord did not eat anything for forty days and forty nights, for he is attentive to Jews and to Jewish culture; in fact, in the oriental world, fasting was practiced from dawn until sunset, at night you could eat. Today, some religions, especially one, still practice this kind of fasting, but the fasting practiced by Christ for forty days and forty nights was an absolute penance; Jesus’ humanity was supported by divinity because such a prolonged fasting is not possible. Worry not, we are not asked to do this, I think once a week is already enough. Luke the Evangelist by writing: "He did not eat anything" highlights the deprivation of food that Christ imposed on himself, for the Lord does not need to do penance, but He always imposed on himself the suffering. I would like this concept to be clear: all the sufferings that Christ experienced, He lived them because He is the One who wanted them. Even at the moment of Passion, if Christ had wanted, that intensity and vehemence of punishing suffering could, by a single act of His will, be softened, appeased or even almost disappear because He is God and can do what He wants. A single drop of His blood, a single suffering, even the smallest one, has an infinite value because accomplished by God; also from this we see how much He loved us, He went beyond necessities, He went beyond what was due, He applied to himself the hardest and most disconcerting rules to say: "Behold, I love you, I make you mine because I have not spared myself anything, neither in suffering nor in penance, nor in fasting". Once more we know and remain astonished and amazed at the love of God, incomprehensible to us because we trivialize everything; sometimes even Passion or death, read so many times in the Stations of the Cross, leave us indifferent because we are accustomed to see him on the cross and now this image does not inspire any emotion within us. We need to refresh and deepen the concepts, for this reason, every so often, the Lord gives us wonderful reflections. The demon is stunned, confused and wonders if Jesus is really the Messiah, the son of God. He feels something but is not sure; he is intelligent, he has a higher intelligence and God likes to confuse his ideas, so the demon, subtly and with deception, starts the attack. What the devil says is a continuous deception, and the dialogue with which the temptation begins to transform the stones into bread: "Tell this stone to become bread" is a dialogue that he makes to clarify to himself the identity of Christ, but he does not succeed because Jesus confuses him further: "Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God" and the devil knows the Word of God, he even quotes the Word of God, but the light of God is not with him so he cannot deepen it, the Word remains a stranger to him. He has the knowledge, the same knowledge of the Word of God of many priests or bishops who when speaking about the Word of God explain it from a human point of view but cannot go beyond, to draw and touch on divinity. The devil insists, he wants to know: "He led him up", there was no physical contact, this must be clear; the devil did not take Jesus in his arms and did not carry him, it is absurd to think about it, such a thing is inconceivable, those who explain it in this way have no true faith in Christ. Christ does not allow the devil to touch him. Let us apply it to our experience, to our reality. Ecclesiastics who know the Word of God but do not put it into practice and are unable to apply it to themselves and to others, have said that the blood effusion of June 11, 2000, which took place during the celebration of the Holy Mass and after the consecration, is an intervention of the devil, but it is absurd to think that the Eucharist could be touched on by the devil. God's intervention in the transubstantiation so that what is bread becomes Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ cannot coexist with a diabolical action. Those who explained it in the most modest human sense and those who rejected the Eucharistic miracles by giving them the meaning I have spoken to you have been ridiculed. And now comes the highest lie, which unfortunately has entered the common thought. When from a height the demon shows Christ the reality before him and utters the words: "I will give you all the power and glory of these kingdoms because it was placed in my hands and I give it to whomever I want", he is saying a lie; God has not placed power and might in the devil’s hands and has not given him kingdoms or nations. The word Satan means accuser, liar, in fact the devil is saying a big lie, he is lying before the truth, because Christ is God and is truth. He has no power, power and authority belong to God, it is absurd to think that the devil can give and offer something to men, only God can give and offer, the devil can only offer hatred, falsehood, lie and nothing else. With men too he uses the same tactics, same lies, same falsehood and shows things that are not true and then he hits. The good comes from God and evil comes from the devil, this must be clear, security and certainty must be within us. "If you worship me, it will all be yours" and Jesus replies: "It is written: worship the Lord your God and serve him only", that is to say that to God alone the recognition of full and total holiness goes because to worship means to recognize divinity; only before God, One and Triune we must have an attitude of adoration. And last, the devil cites the Sacred Scripture and invites Jesus to throw himself down because "He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully", and also: "They will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone". The devil knows the Scriptures but does not know how to apply them, he does not know how to live them because he is constitutionally incapable of living the truth. He can tell the truth, also St. Thomas Aquinas reminds us about it, but he does not live in the truth, he cannot be truth. He can tell the truth and thereby deceive men, but we are able to recognize whether the truth comes from God or comes from the devil. The truth coming from God is a bright, consoling truth, but the truth that coming from the devil, those few times he says it, is a truth steeped in lies, he tells lies and truth together to confuse men so that those following him can almost find a justification, and those who participate in the exorcism sessions know it quite well. The conclusion is that we must be sure, calm and serene because we are under God's protective wing. The devil tried everything but has been forced to move away, because in the end he was more confused than he was at the beginning, but also because He felt something strong bursting out of Jesus pushing him back and carrying him away. He went away in anger, with a spirit of revenge, with the most shameless and most negative anger and made sure that these low feelings would be satisfied in the moment of Passion. So he gave vent by using people who were on his side because in sin and because they were unfaithful to the law of God and made them instruments of ferocity, of atrocious persecution, of unspeakable suffering with regard to Christ. Once again, however, he proved to be stupid because God, through these sufferings, can continue to cry out to man: "I saved you, I love you, you are Mine, as long as you want it you will be in My heart".
Ponder on these words, think and meditate on what you have heard and once more let us thank God for holding us close to His heart and in His arms.
I allow myself to close by raising to God a heartfelt prayer: "O Daddy God, intervene as soon as possible and save Your Church that is shipping water all over. The helmsmen, the pilots of the ship, who represent the Church, want to lead it on routes where they can accumulate power and wealth, they do not think about the poor, the little ones, the needy and suffering people, they think only of themselves. O God, we know that sad and painful moments will come, but rebirth and Resurrection go through purification and test, then make, O Daddy God, the test shorter, intervene as soon as possible because to know that today, in your Church, there are so many Judas is hurting us, is making us sad and suffering. We know, O God, that victory belongs to You and no-one can defeat You because You are victorious, You are God, You are our Father, to Your Glory, for the salvation of souls and for the rebirth of the Church.
O Mother of the Eucharist, do bring this supplication to the throne of God".