Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of October 26, 2008
I have personally chosen the readings that have been read out today and you will find that I made a good choice. The first reading is the one you probably least understood, there are in fact symbols and metaphors to explain.
"Like a grapevine I put out shoots of love; my blossoms gave way to rich and glorious fruit.
I am the mother of beautiful love, of fear, knowledge, and holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue.
Come to me, all you that want me, and eat your fill of my fruit. You will remember me as sweeter than honey, better than honey from the comb. My memory is for the generations of all ages. Eat me, and you will hunger for more; drink me, and you will thirst for more. Obey me, and you will never have cause for embarrassment; do as I say, and you will be safe from sin" (Sir 24:17-22).
First of all it is necessary to identify the subject of the reading and it is the one who says, "Like a grapevine I put out shoots of love". The Book of Sirach praises the Wisdom coming from God, then the person we are talking about is the personification of Wisdom. The great gift of God's Wisdom is granted to men in different ways, more abundant in some and less in others, but it has nothing to do with cleverness. Wisdom, in fact, is the ability to understand everything about the mystery of God, from the interpretation of His Word to the knowledge of the person of God as far as humanly possible, since it is infinite. To understand God, man must be enlightened by God himself, this is Wisdom, without it, we men could, at best, stammer out some generic and empty statements. This passage refers to Wisdom, but I prefer to see it personified in the one who received this gift from God in the largest, extensive and wider sense: Our Lady. In our litany there is an invocation that is by now familiar: "Human creature endowed by God with supernatural, preternatural and natural gifts". Wisdom is one of the gifts that God has given to His Mother, so if we can talk about the personification of Wisdom, then this is a better reason to refer to Our Lady, the one who received this gift at such a high level that no creature can ever match. To understand this passage we must replace the subject, that is, put Our Lady in place of Wisdom, so every word, every expression can perfectly refer to her.
The expression "Like a grapevine I put out shoots of love" immediately brings to mind the image of Jesus who in his preaching presented himself as the vine: "I am the vine, you are the branches" (John 15:5). In this context we can say that, in turn, Jesus is the fruit of the vine that is Mary. Our Lady could then apply to herself the concept of "vine" before Jesus. We are the first to say this with all due respect to Jesus and surely with His greatest joy. The expression: "I put out shoots of love" indicates that Mary's most beautiful bud is Christ. The infinite grace is God who, by incarnation, has taken up the human nature and chose this exceptional, particular and sublime creature, to become - and I quote Dante - "daughter of your Son".
The passage goes on: "My blossoms gave way to rich and glorious fruit", the flowers are all of Mary's children, hence we too. In a metaphorical language every parent can say to his own child: "You are the flower I have generated, I have formed"; we, spiritually speaking, are Mary's flowers, for we are her children under the cross in this mission willed directly by God. Christ is the Son of God, He Himself is God and Mary's motherhood is universal, embracing all men of all time. Then Our Lady can say about herself to be the mother of mankind. These fruits are good because to be grafted to Mary means to be grafted to Christ and He said: "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing" (Jn 15:5). Therefore there is a complete match between the Old and the New Testament. When Jesus said He was he vine, He certainly had in mind this passage from the Old Testament: in fact these words come from God and He is God. Jesus knew that what had been announced long before would be realized in an even greater and beautiful way in His Person and also in all those people who would have listened and followed Him.
"I am the mother of beautiful love, of fear, knowledge, and holy hope". This sentence is wonderful. Mary is Jesus' Mother, fair Love is God and God is Love, but Our Lady is also the Mother of fear; this relates to us humans, because we are not perfect, we are weak and frail, sustained by the grace and love we have for God. Fear should not be construed as fear of God, but as respect, consideration, and even as confidence in Him. Mary is "The Mother of Knowledge and Holy Hope", in fact, Jesus revealed God to men and allowed Him to be known through preaching. "No one has ever seen God, but the only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known" (Jn 1:18); so the term Mother of Knowledge is equivalent to that of Mother of the Word, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (Jn 1:1). All was revealed to us, it is enough to carefully interpret His Word and be enlightened by God. "The Holy Hope" is Christ who, posing as Savior, instills in us the certainty to save us. Only those who follow Christ and accept His teaching can be saved.
The expression "In me is all grace of the way and of the truth", is once again a wonderful match with the New Testament: thus is angel Gabriel greeting Mary: "Hail Mary, full of grace".
The sentence "In me is all hope of life and of virtue" shows that Mary generated Hope with capital "H" and she is also giving it to her children. She is teaching us that to get to Heaven and become saints we must follow his Son Jesus who presented himself as Way, Truth and Life. She herself gave her human body to the One who presented himself as Life, hence through her we have the possibility to turn on the true Life of God within us.
I'm sorry for the little dear children who are listening, for it is difficult for them to follow and understand these very beautiful concepts, at a later time your parents will explain them to you. In order to understand the next verse: "Come to me, all you that want me, and eat your fill of my fruit", just think of the mosaic in our little chapel. In this image, Our Lady with one hand calls us to her, as if to say: "Come to me" and with the other she shows where she will accompany us, to His Son, Jesus the Eucharist. "All you that want me", each of us wants to have a beautiful and wonderful relationship with a Mother so sublime and holy. "Eat your fill of my fruits": the best fruit we can nourish with is Jesus the Eucharist. This is Mary's fruit. She gives us her Son because He is the true bread coming down from Heaven; whoever eats His Flesh and whoever drinks His Blood will never die.
In the next sentence: "You will remember me as sweeter than honey, better than honey from the comb" we find our prayer Jesus, my sweet Master; if the Son is sweet, his Mom will be just as sweet. To be sweet does not mean to be mellifluous, but to be pleasing with everyone, regardless of individual ability. The only condition that God requires is that we receive Him in a state of grace. Some people have more grace, some have less, but the important thing is that grace is present in each of us. A small vase can be filled as a much as a bigger container, size is not important, but that the container is full, in fact, God grants to each of us something different.
"My memory is for the generations of all ages. Eat me, and you will hunger for more; drink me, and you will thirst for more"; we recite the Magnificat: "Henceforth all generations will call me blessed" (Luke 1:48), after several centuries Mary would turn to God uttering the same words. At this point it is necessary to make a clarification on the sentence: "Eat me, and you will hunger for more; drink me, and you will thirst for more" that could be misinterpreted as food that does not feed and drink that does not quench our thirst, but just the opposite is true. The Mother of the Eucharist, as Jesus said, has given us many teachings, so beautiful, attractive and desirable that we want more. We would like to always enjoy Mary's presence coming to our aid and when there will be no more apparitions none of you will be happy. When Our Lady's apparitions will cease with Marisa's death, we could still enjoy the wonderful teachings by reading again the letters of God that Our Lady brought us. This sentence shows the concern and desire to always have this food, for the palate likes it and is good for the whole body.
"Obey me, and you will never have cause for embarrassment", just today we have repeated exactly what is written in the Letter of God: "God does not disappoint". The Virgin Mary knew that she would have become the Mother of the Crucified, but also that she would be the Mother of the Risen Christ; God has actualized the mystery of passion and death, but also the reality of Resurrection, and Mary, as Mother, is the first not to be disappointed. In fact, his son, the Son of God, is dead, but He conquered death; He died to defeat the spiritual death and rose again so that we too could resurrect like Him and with Him.
In the last verse: "Do as I say, and you will be safe from sin", Mary is presented as an example to follow. If we do, we will not sin because we will act exactly like she does. The sentence: "Do as I say, and you will be safe from sin", means "Whoever loves me will have salvation", for our salvation is Christ. To be with Mary means to be with Christ; there is no division between the two, so those who follow Mary, will follow Christ too. Mary's real true children are also real brothers of Jesus Christ, united in the love for the Father and in the love for the Mother.
All that I have said was too important and very simply I say that all this comes from God. Today someone, during the apparition, asked for something beautiful and good or bad and Our Lady said: "No little Marisa, something bad God will never give, something nice, yes". Not even I, when I heard this sentence, thought that something nice was in fact this homily. I am, and I repeat it with simplicity, a simple microphone; whatever God inspired in my heart and my mind I gave it to you: this is the good we were waiting for. For now I think we can be happy with all that.
Praised be Jesus Christ.