Homily of H.E. Mons. Claudio Gatti of May 28, 2006
1st Reading: Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 46; 2nd Reading: Eph 4:1-13; Gospel: Mk 16:15-20
Today you will allow me to address, almost exclusively, Jacopo. It is his day and the fact that I came down from the altar to be closer to him also means exactly that the shepherd's attention today is directed in a particular way to one of his youngest lambs. I felt tenderness when I learned that from the central position you wanted to move, as if to have protection, towards your parents. Well, dear Jacopo, this gesture that served to overcome your shyness, once you have overcome it, must continue, that is, always seek in your parents that support, that protection, that love that you will certainly be able to find elsewhere, but not with the same intensity as in your parents.
Today is, inappropriately, your First Communion because, as we will see as we continue with the homily, today is something even more important for you. You, from an early age and in the first years of your life, when you still did not have the use of reason, you received Jesus the Eucharist, as if, first of all, the good things had to enter your heart in order to be able to reject and be ready to reject everything evil that in various forms tries to appear in your young existence. In the years of your childhood you lived a unique experience, not only by receiving Jesus the Eucharist, but, as many of you who have spent a few years in this community will remember, at about nine months you began to be the extraordinary minister of 'Eucharist. It is significant, it is important, and if you close your eyes and go with your mind to the past, you will see this nine-month-old baby in the arms of his father and mother taking fragments of hosts that Our Lady and Jesus had brought and give them in communion to those present. This is why for you today is not the day of your First Communion, but it is an even more important day, because today you show your intention and will to follow Jesus the Eucharist before the whole community. It is a commitment that you undertake, it is not simply receiving the Eucharist, a gift that you have already experienced many times, but also to profess to Jesus the Eucharist a choice of life that must accompany you for the rest of your years and this also happens in a particularly important liturgical moment, in fact today is the Ascension.
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:1-11).
Upon a somewhat superficial and hasty reading of the first passage of the scripture that we have just heard, we almost get the impression that on the day of the Ascension Jesus greeted his apostles and disciples exclaiming: "Goodbye, we will see you at the end". No, this did not happen, because Jesus, ascending and returning to the Father to sit on his right hand, as the Son of God, left something important and above all fulfilled his promise, that is, "I will not leave you orphans". This constitutes a different presence unlike the one that was experienced by those who saw and heard him in Palestine, it is an equally great reality showing how Christ continues to be present in his Church as head and founder. He has not abdicated his role as head, but continues to exercise it while remaining present, albeit in a mysterious way, in the midst of the Church. Jesus first of all left his word, the importance of Scripture, because it gives us the opportunity to put his teachings into practice; he left us the sacraments, which the Church has the task of administering, including the sacrament that you today will receive; Jesus left us the Church, this huge community that overcomes divisions, conflicts, diversity of languages and unites everyone to form a single body where you are a small member. But above all, Jesus left Himself, He left His presence in a different and, as I said, mysterious way; it is the same Jesus who caressed children, who healed the sick, who preached to crowds, who performed miraculous works, is the same Jesus who will soon be present in body, blood, soul and divinity on the altar under the appearances of bread and wine and within a few minutes will enter your innocent and pure heart again with joy and infinite love. So, you see, Jesus left Himself in the Eucharist, you commit yourself to love the Eucharist and these two faces, which seem different, but form a single medal, stand side by side to form one whole. The Eucharist, love for the Eucharist, must be the element that distinguishes the true disciple of Christ from false disciples and above all from those who, while worth of respect, practice and follow other religions. The Eucharist is not an empty rite, it is not a symbol, it is not something that can be experienced simply as emotion and devotion, but the Eucharist implies, the Eucharist shows what you are experiencing, that is, a relation with Jesus the Eucharist. Faith must be nourished, love must grow and to do this, my dear, only Jesus the Eucharist is needed.
Today you love a limited circle of people, starting with your family, grandparents, uncles, cousins, but you will realize that, as you grow up, the landscape of love will increase more and more and embrace more and more people and then you will not have to see the others as strangers, different from you in the life you lead, but in every man, in every woman you will have to meet a brother and a sister. Christian love is this, this is true love, as Our Lady repeated today we must love those who are strangers to us, even those who are indifferent to us, even worse, from a human point of view, those who are hostile to us and have made us suffer. Only love can change hearts, bend characters, renew the Church and improve society. It is useless for us to complain about bad or unpleasant situations that we may encounter in life, each of us must make a commitment and this is the first day in which this commitment of yours must be brought to its highest realization. Everyone must commit to modifying, improving or at least striving to improve the environment. The Mother of the Eucharist, who wished you well, will certainly accompany you throughout your life and then, with Jesus in your heart, and enjoying Our Lady’s protection, you will be able to go forward peacefully and serenely. You will have to prepare yourself for the responsibilities and tasks of your future that only God well knows, starting today and giving your maximum commitment in your life as a little boy. Giving also means collaboration, giving means ensuring that the approval is not only limited to the hours you spend at school, but can also include the hours you live outside of it. This is the moment when you must ask the Lord, who enters your heart for the umpteenth time, that strength, that courage and above all that perseverance to achieve, every day, something more, every day a higher step, every day an improvement in your character. This, dear Jacopo, is my wish to you, on behalf of each one of us. I will accompany you for the rest of my life because, God willing, it is logical that nature wants me to leave first and you to leave much later, but I will assure you the same love I've always had.
At this moment I am reminded of an image that has remained in my heart, when you were just over a year old and you began to walk with some uncertainty here, in the house hallway. Sometimes we played that little game that is typical of all children: I would get on my knees, you would take a run and you would come towards me, I would hug you, I would hold you, then you would free yourself and start the second and third run again. Here, the moment I embraced you, I prayed to the Lord that the embrace I gave you, almost as a protection, would be his embrace and today you feel this embrace. We men can be there and we may not be there, but the one who will always be at your side, remember, is Jesus. Then for this you will be calm, you will be balanced, for this reason your wisdom will increase more and more until it is also given to others. "When I was a little child", says our friend Saint Paul, "I behaved like a child", but you have to look ahead and when you are an adult you will have to behave like adults, and you are lucky enough to have before you models of good, wise and honest adults. You have models, so take these people as models who are part of your life and truly know how to love in the best way, in order to take this torch and carry it forward, because love is light, love is strength, love is joy.
Now me let us be in the situation of showing what we want to ask the Lord for this boy, because from today he is no longer a child, but a boy and you too must no longer call him a child, but a boy, because he is a responsible person, capable of taking on his own responsibility. The conclusion of the final prayers will be the prayer that you recite and that you have written; I don't know it, but, knowing you, I know it will certainly be a prayer full of meaning and filled of emotions.