Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of January 27, 2008
1st reading: Is 8:23b-9, 3; Psalm 26; 2nd reading: 1 Cor 1:10-13, 17-18; Gospel: Mt 4:12-23
Today let’s analyze the proposed Scriptures, starting from the Gospel and coming to St. Paul; you will see that also this time a speech that has strength, clarity and special insight will be shown to you.
When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned”. From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near”. As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. (Gospel)
Jesus had just learned that the Baptist, the precursor, was arrested and, as a man, and rightly so, feared that Herod would imprison Him too, since it was now clear to the population that Jesus, although not recognized as God, was the Master continuing John's preaching and, at the same time, continuing to strongly oppose the priests, the powerful, and all those who do not respect the law of God and offend it. It is human prudence: Jesus is God and man, has human will and divine will, so in addition to human science He also owns the Divine science. As He was saved from Herod’s killing, grandfather of actual King Herod, so He now escapes from the danger of being killed. He will ascend the Golgotha, will be crucified and will die on the cross only at the time established by God. Jesus is teaching us, in this case too, to be cautious, to always evaluate situations, to not unnecessarily expose ourselves to dangers and then demanding the intervention of God. Let’s try to use the intelligence our Lord has given us to be able to manage, in the best way, the situations in which we are forced or decided to dive in.
Jesus retreats in His region, Galilee. Here there is an extremely important incident: "He left Nazareth". Usually, each one retreats into an environment familiar to him where he can find support and comfort, this means that Jesus, on the contrary, did not have anything of this in His hometown. The Gospel, in another passage, properly says that Jesus left Nazareth and did not operate there because his fellow-citizens were envy and jealous, which was already mentioned by Our Lady in the letters of God: "I suffered a lot because of my relatives". If she suffered, certainly Jesus too suffered and while going away He will say: "no prophet is accepted in his hometown" (Lk 4:24), in His family, among His people. Once again we see a disappointed Christ. Jesus also experienced disappointment, bitterness, and anguish just as it happens to us. With all these feelings the Messiah left Nazareth and went elsewhere to make the great announcement: "The Kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the Gospel", for the kingdom of God is near. We must be cautious when we talk about the "Kingdom of God"; we should not consider this expression by limiting it to the concept of Church, the community of baptized and guided by the hierarchy, formed by believers and led by ministers. "Kingdom of God" means the salvation coming from God and that is given by His free and gratuitous initiative to all people. The Church is the concrete representation of the Kingdom of God. Let's look at the Church, this Community where the great announcement of Salvation and Redemption is fulfilled through the sacraments. How did Christ establish the Church? How Christ wanted the Church to be? One, unity. How many times Jesus spoke about this unity to His followers, and He knew, because He is God, that it would be put to hard test, for He knew that there would be divisions within it. He was already aware that among Christians there would be those who call themselves His followers and believe His word but do not believe in His real presence in the Eucharist, he knew that there would be Christian communities who would not accept His word. To Peter He said: "I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it" (Mt 16:18). Anyway, it did happen that men were divided and proclaimed themselves head of certain churches and the plan of God, which He saw and wanted as a united Church, was shattered because of unworthy ministers. The plan of unity, the bond of union, collapsed. The most bitter, most tragic, most awful thing is that the Church has experienced divisions from the beginning of its history. We just finished a few days ago, exactly on January 25, the octave for Christian Unity. It is on the initiative of two Anglican ministers (Spencer Jones, English, and Paul James Francis Wattson, American, editor’s note) who deeply felt the ecumenism and urged all Christians, regardless of whether they belong to a given creed, therefore all Catholics, Protestants, Anglicans, Orthodox, to pray for the fulfillment of Christ’s plan, His aspiration: one flock and one Shepherd. Instead we see, and I say this with bitterness, that they organize summit meetings, including so-called great theologians, the so-called great bishops, but they are not motivated by the desire of unity but to prevail on each other. Neither academies nor empty liturgical rites can be useful to achieve unity. It is useless for the leaders or representatives of church leaders who have no union and no communion, to come together and pray if there is no love, respect and mutual acceptance. In this case too it is necessary to reiterate the great teaching of our Lord: "First learn to love, then pray". Every year, around this time, the press, especially Catholic magazines, when dealing with the above topic, show pictures where people have big smiles, but is God happy about this? If you do not love your brother, if you do not respect him, if you do not accept him as he is, it is useless to shake hands and exchange the hug of peace. Union is an asset, one of the great assets of the Church, which must be guarded in the shrine of love and charity, if love and charity are missing then division takes over. Human experience teaches us that in smaller situations, when there is no love, divisions take over in families. And this is what is constantly repeated: "I do not love you anymore, then I split up, I leave, I go with another person". As long as there is love, there is unity. When love is taken over by selfishness then there is division. Paul, our great Paul, wanted to warn Corinth, one of the churches that cost him a large effort, against these divisions; there he stopped to evangelize for about a year and a half. He tried to keep constantly in touch with all the churches and with this one in particular, as he addressed two letters out of fourteen to the Corinth community. Paul knew of these divisions from Chloe’s family, a rich merchant lady, whose family, which included slaves, freedmen, real and natural children, saw some conversions and, as a consequence, there were some Christians. Paul's heart was broken; he suffered tremendously in learning of such disruptions and immediately tried to take measures with his strong, authoritative and indisputable word. There is no question on the Word of God, and Paul is aware that it is God to inspire him at what he is going to say and the warnings and reproaches that he will have to give.
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollo”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. (Second reading)
"I appeal to you", this verb is collecting all of Paul’s anxiety, are words expressing his state of mind facing such serious, imminent and dangerous evil of division. The apostle begins almost in a begging position; begging for listening to prevent the situation from deteriorating. Knowing that Christ's authority is far superior to his, Paul's appeal is in the name of the Lord, that is, for the authority, for the law of Christ who died, suffered, rose again, and paid with His life the Kingdom of God, donated and offered to us. For the Lord who suffered, Paul says: "You should definitely try to achieve unity, unity and harmony". Divisions are immediately seen when we speak, not in our thoughts, as we keep them within us, but the talking goes outwards; the evil of division originates from the polluted, wicked and selfish word. This is why Paul writes: "All of you must talk in the same way". The way Paul is referring to is respect, trust, consideration, sensibility for the others. You can avert divisions if the talking really takes place in this manner. If you read the Church history, you would realize that over two thousand years, separations, divisions, condemnations, estrangements and parting took place all the time. Oh, the Church history is very sad! You probably do not know it as much as I know it because I've read and studied. I am not making an unnecessary and stupid show, I'm talking with extreme suffering. What limited testimony we have given to the world because we have not shown to be united and solid! The division, remember, comes from evil, sneaking, separating, cutting and splitting. Be then in a perfect union of thought and feeling. The talking shows what is present inside a man and Jesus already said: "Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them" (Mk 7:15). Paul stigmatizes and identifies the beginning of evil in people. Who are the hypocrites? Who are the ones or people Jesus considered hypocrites? The Pharisees, for they lived to show off, showing off as devotees and praying where they could be noticed and throwing alms, consisting mostly of loose change, into the temple treasure, so that it could resonate when falling into the treasury; they were fasting, taking up a suffering and sad face, so others could understood they were fasting. Jesus said: "But you, when you pray, enter your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret" (Mt 6:6); "Be sure that you not do your charitable deeds before men to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father who is in heaven" (Mt 6:1). Judgments, and this is my addition by extrapolation from Scripture, are completely different: man’s Judgments differ from God’s Judgments. What we must seek is the inner union, union of heart, union of thought and think in the same way, not because our consciences are coerced but because we configure and compare with the highest thought, the one from Christ. If I think like Christ, if my brother and my sister think like Christ, then I think as my brother and my sister, it is a very clear and logical deduction. Paul heard that to give substance to these divisions the Corinth community was referring to prominent figures: Apollo, Cephas, Paul, and even Christ. I think that, in this case, Christ might not mean Jesus, but someone who has taken the name of Jesus Christ; this could be one of the interpretations. We talk about St. Peter, St. Paul, but they are not responsible for divisions, the people who hide behind these names, to give authority to their group, are responsible. You have to scold those who rise up, for their own interest, the banner where is written Cephas, Paul, or Apollo but they have no bearing on these separations. At this point Paul vehemently wonder: "Is Christ divided?" The apostle is referring to the mystical body of Christ, not to His physical body. You know that Paul has been the greatest theorist and expounder of the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ. If one member suffers, all members suffer, there cannot be suffering of the one and indifference from the others. Paul says that the Mystical Body, even in the plurality of members, forms a profound unity, for it is absurd to think that a body is divided into its members: there is unity, there is harmony and there is service. The arm can serve other members of the body, just as other members of the body can serve the arm. "Have you been baptized in the name of Paul?" The apostle, who is also clever, used this sentence as an open question, as he is entrusting the reply to the people he is writing to. At that moment he is just interested in the affirmation: "Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel", this is his task. The Apostle wants to say: "I was called to teach catechism, to announce to you the salvation, if you do not listen to my preaching, reject and deny my mission, you do not love me or respect me" because divisions are clearly against Paul’s preaching and teachings. Consider, now, one last, great affirmation and then we have finished enjoying, once more, the Word of God: "I must proclaim the Gospel", Paul writes, but not with wisdom of words, not with human wisdom. Now it is necessary to address a criticism to the so-called scholars, theologians, who presume to illuminate the Word of God with their own culture, with their intelligence and their studies: dreamers! The Word of God is infinitely greater than the preparation of the greatest theologian of all times, no one can add anything with their studies to the Word of God; we must simply present it and understand it, not to illuminate it with our own presumption and pride. There is no contempt for human wisdom but it is just not necessary to explain the Word of God. If we had this in mind, all quarrels, all conflicts, which also the newspapers talked about recently, on the relationship between faith and science, would collapse. The Word of God is explained by the Word of God, the Word of God is presented with the wisdom of God, we taste it with the grace within us, with the presence of the Holy Spirit within us allowing us to enjoy and savor every word of Holy Scripture. Paul writes: "For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power". "The Cross," says Paul, "For to those who are perishing, the preaching of the cross is foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Cor 1:17-18), then Salvation is acceptance of the mystery of Incarnation, Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ: the Kingdom of God is within it. The cross is representing and manifesting the power of the Kingdom of God. There is the Kingdom of God, there is Salvation, Grace and the Word of God, for the Son of God went up on the Cross, died on the Cross, suffered for the triumph of the Cross. This, my dear, is the science of God, the theology of God. I am interested in the theology of God, not that of men because even the best scholars do not exhaust our desire to discern, to know and, above all, to love God, despite sometimes we feel resentment and rebellion against Him, for He is truth and love.