Prophecies - Prophet of Assisi
Massimo Coppo: reflections and solutions for
At the conclusion of the "Courtyard of the Gentiles" which was held again in Assisi - after that one of 2012 - with the name of "Courtyard of St. Francis", an evaluation is necessary in the light of what Saint Francis really was and preached.
The intent of this
meeting organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture for the dialogue between
believers and non-believers, is the research of a common agreement on some
"values" - basically those proclaimed by the antichristian french revolution: liberty, fraternity and equality - around which people of different faiths or ideologies can gather for a better human society. Not by chance the programmatic title of this event was the word "humanity".
But what moved St. Francis in his tireless preaching, walking barefoot trough countries near and far, such as Syria, Egypt, Spain...? Not the simple desire for dialoguing with others, but rather (as a participant of the meeting, Massimo Cacciari, though unbeliever, has rightly stressed in one of his books) the fiery, impatient, irrepressible passion for souls, that the Saint wanted to bring to salvation and to the love of Christ, for the poor and for the Church. "My brothers, I want to send you all to Heaven!" he exclaimed elated, returning to Assisi from Perugia, after having obtained from the Pope a plenary indulgence for those who would come penitent to the Porziuncola of Santa Maria degli Angeli.
But these words:
salvation, eternal life, Heaven ... have been conspicuously lacking in the five
days of "the Courtyard of St. Francis" in Assisi. Yes, the very "words of
eternal life" that St. Peter ascribed as unique prerogative to his Master, when
he said to Jesus: "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life!"
Even less the "eternal death" has been mentioned, that hell about which Francis
so often spoke in his sermons, and whose tragic reality appears even in his
marvelous Canticle of the Creatures where it is called "second death", as it is
defined in the book of Revelation. If you miss the eschatological perspective of
each of us individually and of the entire world, you miss the very essence of
the Gospel. Pope Francis some time ago reminded us that a Church without
prophecy lacks the very life of God. "Why do you say: the
word of the prophets is like the wind that has passed?" So it is written in one
of the two prophecies on Rome of Marcello Ezekiel Ciai (To the Pleasure Seeking
City, 1995), "why do you say: peace, freedom and well-being, when these things
are not there and will not be there? ...I have created the sowing and the grape
harvest; but you are only able to get drunk on your own ideas. Your wicked
thoughts have ruined all the beautiful things created by me, for you ...You
don't seek the ancient ways, and prepare for yourselves your tombs!
"I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the ignorant: hence my eagerness on my part to preach the Gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith ... "(St. Paul to the Romans 1:14-16). The Apostle of the Gentiles knew the risk he was running in going to preach the Gospel in Rome, and in fact there eventually finished to be beheaded under Nero's persecution. I really like this fearless assertion of the apostle, that is a counterpoint to the severe warning of Jesus: "Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels "(St. Luke 9:26). And I often quote this other sentence of St. Paul: " Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ! "(Galatians 1:10). This is why I feel very uncomfortable in some interreligious prayer meetings, like the one that took place not long ago in Assisi in the Basilica of Saint Francescis: aside the Bishop of Assisi, there was an exponent of Judaism and an Islamic imam. Jesus assured that when two or three agree to ask anything in His name, they will be fulfilled. But in these prayer meetings, in whose name do we pray, if the majority of the Jews believes that Jesus was a false Messiah, while Muslims even deny that He died on the cross? "Name" means "identity, authority, power." The Jesus in whose name a Christian prays God the Father, is the Son of God, true God from true God, the only Savior and Judge of all. He died on the cross for the sake of all, He is risen to give, with the Holy Spirit, the strength to keep those commandments of justice and love that basically none of us - neither Jews nor Muslims nor Catholics - can put into practice by ourselves. We do not help our Jews or Muslims friends if we conceal this beautiful, saving news, for fear of meeting their dissent. Indeed, the Lord will ask us account for this. The Apostles went to die martyrs to evangelize the world known at their times...
these days, 66 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the
United Nations, from the Homeless Shelter (there are 50,000 poor and homeless
people in New York), where I was accepted during the twelve days of my mission
to New York, walking about twenty minutes I arrived at the United Nations
headquarters, to see the ancient manuscripts about St. Francis, on display at
the UN. Opposite to the entrance of the UN, there is a staircase flanked by a
wall on which there are engraved the words of the prophet Isaiah (2.4): "He
shall judge among the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples. They shall
beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation
shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more ".
The UN was established in 1945 on the ruins and the horrors of World War II with
a mirage of peace and harmony between peoples, but how many wars were following
But yet the promised peace anticipated by biblical prophets will be achieved, but only by the hands of the One who after his resurrection reappeared to his disciples greeting them like this: Peace be with you! The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 in the first article is talking about freedom, equality and brotherhood, so manifesting to be inspired by the atheist and Enlightenment principles of the French Revolution, and not of the word of God that in every human being sees a creature of God, created out of love in His image and loved until the sacrifice of His Son, and therefore covered with a precious and priceless dignity.
Two prophecies of Marcello Ciai "The Mantle" and "To the pleasure seeking City" came to my mind, where one reads among other things: Why do you say: the word of the prophets is like the wind that has passed? Why do you say: "Peace, freedom and well-being", when these things are not here and will not be? War, oppression and hunger, I will send then upon your nations.
Among the ancient manuscripts about Saint Francis, exposed for about a month, I searched in vain if there was an old copy of the letter that St.Francis addressed to all the rulers of the earth.
That letter seems utopian in front of the secularism that is the basis of an organization such as the United Nations, because in the letter, completely different from being nondenominational, St. Francis urges the leaders of nations to follow the commandments of the Lord, to take devoutly the Eucharist, and to banish every night among the people a time a thanksgiving prayer to God for the benefits granted.
And the greeting that recurred frequently on the lips of St. Francis "The Lord may give you peace" wanted to remember just this: only Jesus can give it!
We are in the times of the "Tau", this mysterious sign with which St. Francis, signed his letters, the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Francis took it from a vision of the prophet Ezekiel who predicted the national disaster of the people of Israel and the destruction of Jerusalem. "Thus says the Lord God to the land of Israel: The end!", so this prophet had to report to a people who - just as so many religious and "believers" of today - didn't believe in the implementation of the divine visions, and in any case thought that they would be realized who knows when, in a very remote future. "This Word of the Lord was directed to me, Son of man, behold, the children of Israel are saying, The vision which that one sees is for the days to come, he predicted for times far away. Well, tell them: Thus says the Lord God: every word of mine won't be delayed any longer..." (Ezekiel 12: 26-28). The Tau, a sign of impending judgment of a by now near end, but also a sign of salvation for all those who were branded on the forehead by the angel that preceded the exterminator, so that they could sigh and cry for all the abominations that they saw around them. We are in the end times, Jesus returns, returns! But we sleep, dreamy, just as the Lord says that it was in the days before the flood, and before the destruction of Sodom: "They didn't notice anything!" (Matthew 24:39) We are in the end times! Eight centuries after St. Francis a man of the land of Assisi, Marcello Ciai, had received visions that had led him to faith, repentance, and a suffered prophetic ministry. The first of these visions was just about the prophet Ezekiel, of which this man did not even know the existence! The spirit of prophecy bounces over the centuries and warns: the end is near! Jesus returns!
In an e-mail arrived to me from England I was requested to explain what is the central message of the prophecies of Marcello Ezekiel Ciai to which I often refer in the mission that keeps me in Assisi night and day.
The core of Marcello's prophecies - one, "The Mantle", of 1981, the other four of 1995 - are recurrent extremely serious calls to repentance and conversion, in a world that is under the wrath of God, and in the approaching of the "great day" when, as one reads on the first prophecy of Marcello ( the Lord is the one who speaks for himself):
"Here I am at your pride, at your presumptuousness, at your greed, at your overbearing nature and arrogance, at your lust, at your promiscuity, at your opportunism, at your hypocrisy and falsity, at your avarice, at your corruption. All the money spent in vanity and accumulated in the world up to this day, will not be sufficient to bribe my justice. Each single word of Mine will be carried into effect and then there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (The Mantle, 1981)."
And also in the second prophecy addressed to Rome (To the pleasure seeking City, 1995) this warning resounds:
"Listen, oh earth, where is your salvation? On Papeete, or in the Pope perhaps? I make it rain according to the seasons, I have created the sowing and the grape harvest; but you are only able to get drunk on your own ideas. Your wicked thoughts have ruined all the beautiful things created by me, for you. Therefore misfortune and terror will come upon you. You don't seek the ancient ways, and prepare yourselves your tombs. Oracle of the Lord".
Judgement will fall also upon many religious who don't talk and don't care of
the Lord's return:
" My son prophesy against the priests...they say in their hearts:
-The Master is coming late - and they also begin to enjoy, to eat, to drink, to make love, to sleep, to buy and sell and argue. But tell them, so says the Lord: When you least expect it, the Master will return, and then you’ll want to hide yourselves in your soutane and in the altar, but my fire will unmask you and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Oracle of the Lord".
Like all the prophecies of God - who is a God of love -the aim is to save men, and that's why a heartily plea recurs: "Repent while you have time ! My wrath is upon the earth and my rage burns.... Come! Come and ask !
while it is still morning ! The cries of the
vespers frighten me, its mourning makes me pine".
And God who is concerned not only with the final salvation of his creatures but also with their earthly life, inspired Marcello also to write prophecies unequivocably fullfilled, concerning events of our times such as the earthquake of Assisi of 1997 and the global collapse of world economy. But all in the perspective of that time, liberatory and glorious for those who love God, when:
desert shall be transformed then and thence in garden.
In a book finally they will read.
Humility will listen, justice will see.
The mocker and the jolly fellow will disappear
and nobody will be able anymore to ruin the other for nothing.
The messengers of peace will not choke themselves
and the heralds will welcome them.
The garden shall be transformed into a park
and the book into doctrine.
The Spirit of the Lord will embrace the earth
and the dead then will love one other" (Listen Assisi!, 1995).
"Do not deceive yourselves, there is a vice that is the arrogance that leads to hell ...": so one day Marcello refers to a couple of persons who had lived long years in a life of prayer, renunciation to the world and service to the Church and to the people. Marcello does not say that from himself, and would not want to say it, but the Lord had revealed it to him in a vision for the two religious, and a prophet must refer what he receives from God for the others, whether they hear or refuse to hear.
But how God can be so severe? One is reminded of what happened to a monk of the desert, that after many years of asceticism asked the Lord to know how He saw him. It was revealed to him to visit in a nearby town a man whose way of life was comparable to that of the monk. Arrived to the house, the monk saw two guards coming out having arrested that man, since he was a thief!
How many surprises on the day of
judgment, about how God sees each one of us! Only God knows the hearts, and our
salvation is not as obvious as we like to believe ...
"I want the maximum punishment," said Carlo Lissi, the author of yet another incredible tragedy of these our days, after having confessed to have killed his wife and his two children, before he went to follow with friends the match Italy-England of the world Cup. But the maximum punishment is not an even long imprisonment. It is this eternal hell, from which there is no escape ever, for eternity! Unfortunately, many ministers of the Church and culpably do not talk about this anymore, but it is an integral part of the Gospel: "weeping and gnashing of teeth" how Jesus calls it, who suffered for us just to save us from that "unquenchable fire ... where their (the damned) worm never dies and the fire is never quenched (St. Mark 9:48). A terrible reality anticipated by the prophets of the Old Testament, and represented by the Apostles in the New Testament with unequivocal words: "wrath and fury for those who are self-seeking and who obey not to the truth but wickedness. Tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil ... "writes the Apostle Paul to the Romans (2:8-9)." But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the abominable, the murderers, and fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. This is the second death "warns St.John in Revelation (21:8). And of this "second death” also St. Francis talks in his Canticle of the Creatures (the "morte secunda”) and all the saints before and after him have believed so, and the Church in 6 Councils reiterated this chilling eternal condemnation, in which so many "believers" today do not believe any more, or are ashamed to talk about it. But Jesus warned: "Those who are ashamed of me and of my words ... of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed"
(St. Mark 8:38).
Here, the prophet with the authority of the Holy Spirit bursts into the stage of the "religious normality", and with his provocative words and actions wants to make people return to God and His everlasting Gospel. Of contemporary prophets I can say I know only one, Marcello Ciai, who brought me back into the Catholic Church. When I met him in Perugia, many years ago, I was a convinced "evangelical", and held Bible lectures to university students. He was a former accountant and businessman, but had "seen" Jesus and had started to follow Him without “discounts”. We remained to talk for a whole night. I perceived that I was facing a man of true faith, he really knew that Jesus of which I merely preached, and badly; and he spoke of Him with the authority of the Spirit ... He than became and still is my spiritual guide.
With regard to this also Pope Francis has said: "Where there is no prophecy in the Church, the very life of God is lacking and clericalism prevails"
“Listen, oh earth, where is your salvation? On Papeete, or in the Pope perhaps? I make it rain according to the seasons, I have created the sowing and the grape harvest; but you are only able to get drunk on your own ideas. Your wicked thoughts have ruined all the beautiful things created by me, for you. Therefore misfortune and terror will come upon you.”
I thought about this passage from one of the prophecies of Marcello Ezekiel Ciai, of 1995, in the aftermath of the immense tragedy of the Philippines. Words that seem too harsh, by a God Father who, as Jesus said, feeds the birds of the sky, and not a sparrow falls without His will (St. Matthew 6:26; 10:29). Yet, Jesus himself, speaking of the upheaval that will precede his return, says that there will be "distress among nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting for fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the earth" (Luke 21:25-26).
Unfortunately, it is so: tragic events of "misfortune and terror" are occurring more and more frequently on this our world, but we do not want to face the fact that we are in the last times. We are afraid of the prophecy, of the very prophecies of the Word of God, and yet more of those that the Spirit may inspire to some prophet of our time, like the one I mentioned, in which among other things one reads: "the Spirit says specifically...why do you say: the word of the prophets is like the wind that has passed?...My prophetic word is forgotten, denied and shunned…But each single word of Mine will be carried into effect and then there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” A topic of extreme importance, now more than ever, on which I intend to return.
At Assisi, there is great expectation for the coming of the first Pope in history who has taken the name of Francis. From the Town-hall Square, I feel to add two considerations on this "epochal" visit. Pope Francis is incarnating the "minority" choice that St. Francis made, putting himself with decision on the side of the poor, starting with the name itself - "minores = minor" - name with which he wished to be called, he and his friars. The choice of field made by the Pope is indisputable, and has certainly brought the Church near to the common people, and also to a large part of the "layman" world.
But the other disruptive aspect of the preaching of St. Francis, is his constant referring to the reality beyond the world that awaits every man, both as compensation and consolation of the sufferings of this life if supported "in peace", as Saint Francis writes in the Canticle of the Creatures, and on the other hand as "woes" that are waiting for "those who die in mortal sins", always to quote the Canticle, in which the Saint explicitly speaks about the "second death", the everlasting Hell!
At the side of the open letter addressed to the Pope, in particular on the question of whether those who do not believe and do not even search faith can be saved from the judgment of God, there is a reflection imposing itself on the last words of the mandate given by Jesus to his disciples before ascending to heaven. After having said that who would believe in their preaching and through baptism join the Church, would be saved, the Lord added: "Those who will not believe will be condemned". But these very words solemnly proclaimed by Him who is the Truth, Jesus himself, many in the Church do not believe in them, or do not have the courage to profess them. Well-considered, the Gospel is a great good news, but only for some: for the poor, for example, to which Jesus ensures that the kingdom of heaven is theirs (Matthew 5:3): but not for the rich and the pleasure-seeking of this world, whom Jesus warns: in the next life they will suffer hunger, they will mourn and weep (Luke 6:25).
There, Jesus has not only come to bring the so sweet words “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened... and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11: 28-29), but also the very harsh words directed to the faithless society of his time: "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! Tyre and Sidon at the judgment will be treated more bearably than you. And you, Capernaum… will go down to Hades!” (Luke 10:13-15) And the disciples of the Lord wherever they preached first of all brought a greeting of peace, but if they were not welcomed they had to shake the dust from their feet, as an eloquent last warning of the judgment that hung over those who did not listen to their words (Saint Matthew 10:12-14).
I write these lines from the Town-hall Square of Assisi, where by now I am staying since a long time in penitence, waiting for some outcome from my open letter adressed to the Pope, so that he might clarify his statement, "God forgives those who follow their conscience", which has disconcerted not only me, but many other believers.
My penitential manifestation is for the love of the Church and the Pope, whom I love deeply, and of the truth of the Gospel, which has the power to save those who believe and repent. Well, this unusual sign of penance in the heart of Assisi is seen with a smile of sufficiency and pitying from so many that pass by, even priests and friars… Even if a few evenings ago, here in Assisi and in the other 7 dioceses of Umbria, a meeting of evangelization was held inspired by the itinerant preaching of St Francis and the first Franciscans "Woe to those who don’t do penance...they run toward their destruction!". But: do we really believe this?
It 's written that "those who are perishing....refused
to love the truth and so be saved" (2nd letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians
2:10). Yes, we must open our hearts to the love of the truth to be saved, rather
than close it for fear of the truth and be damned for eternity.
The fear of the truth arises from the fright that our saying things as they are will make us less happy, or unhappy, or more unhappy....and yet just confessing and professing the truth we can taste the love, joy and peace of Christ in our hearts. Of course, in confessing my sins I have to face the suffering of humiliation, penance and reparation for the harm done. As well as professing to belong to Christ I expose myself to the misunderstanding, mockery - if not persecution - from the world.
But the "love" of the truth gives us the strength to bear the "cost" of the truth. And the truth ultimately is not a virtue opposite to the sin of falsehood, but a person: Jesus Christ, who said of himself: I am the truth! Yes, He is the absolute and eternal truth, and the Christian faith is not a "religion" but a "relation" with the Risen Christ. Being a Christian, before a matter of moral conduct, essentially means to live in a relationship of love and obedience with Jesus: "He is the true God and the eternal life!" exclaims St. John at the end of his first letter (5:20).
And the living person of Jesus Christ is the true grace, of which St. Clare wrote: "Ever since I knew the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, no pain has been worrying to me, no penance too heavy, no infirmity it was tough. to me".
The recent railway disaster at Santiago de Compostela, where the derailment of a high-speed train has caused so many casualties even among pilgrims coming for the feast of St. James the Apostle, leads inevitably to wonder how the will of a God that Jesus has taught us to see and pray as “our Father", can conciliate with such tragic events. The saying “not a leaf stirs bur God will” has a solid biblical foundation in what Jesus said to his disciples, encouraging them to go in the midst of a hostile world like sheep among wolves. “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father's knowledge. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore: you are of more value than many sparrows!” (Matthew 10:29-31). Nothing escapes the eyes of God, but God gives freedom to his creatures, and lets them suffer the consequences of so many wrong choices and behaviors, as it is to realize trains running at crazy speed without even adequate security mechanisms. He does not want that a train derails and mows down victims, but not even "wants" to intervene to avoid the inevitable, unless He sees, in the midst of a humanity which has broken away from him and his Son, the savior, someone who turns to him with a humble and fervent prayer for his loving protection: "Your will be done" which is always good and always victorious over the evil "on earth, as it is in heaven".
The recent judgment of the Supreme Court of the United States to legalize marriages between same-sex couples, with the exultation of Obama for this "historic step towards equality", made me think back to the second psalm of the Psalter of the Holy Bible, a psalm concerning the "world" and his attitude towards God "Why do the nations conspire, why do peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth brace themselves and the rulers together take their stand against the Lord and his anointed: - Let us break their bonds! Let us cast away their chains! - " one reads. Yes, we are witnessing to the final shove that the world is giving to God and his holy law. People have relativized religion and the very notion of God to something that everyone can - if he wants - construct at his will, as long as it does not interfere with the quiet life of a world that has to think only about money; but now here we are to face up with the very natural principles written in the conscience of every man, as the reality of male-female couples and of the family. But this Psalm continues, "The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord looks at them in derision. Then in anger He speaks to them, terrifying them in the fury of his wrath". And this is just what’s happening on this earth, God is manifesting his judgments, and his wrath ...
I write these things because maybe my readers have suffered ther separation - and death ultimately means "separation" – from some loved one. My wife GIoia has deceased and was interred in the small cemetery of the near village, Petrignano of Assisi. Former evangelical, like me, she rerturned back with me in the Catholic Church 33 years ago, after having met the founder of our lay - community of benedictine inspiration, Marcello Ciai.
The last words "cried out" from my wife were, "Take off my shoes, take off my shoes!" Yet she was already without shoes. But she was presenting herself to her redeemer and judge, she was entering a "holy land”, as it was for Moses, who approaching the blazing bush, heard the voice of God calling him and saying to him: " ....Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground "(Exodus 3: 4-5). And how one can appear before the Lord if not with the humility of who, conscious of his own misery, hopes only in God’s immense mercy? But yet Gioia had some merits, even if she herself wasn’t aware of them. For many years she was in charge of the Reception Center of the Association IACA, at Gaiche of Piegaro, meeting difficulties of any kind, for the behavior of some people housed, the scarcity of resources, periods of time, sometimes long, passed in loneliness. But all these difficulties she has overcome with her faith, her prayer and the strict and humble dependence on her community.
Before the coffin with the body of my wife was covered with earth, it I felt, while throwing above a handful of earth, to repeat to those who were attending, and to myself first of all: "let us remember that we have been taken from the earth, and to the earth we will return!" But then those words seemed to me too limited. He who pronounced them to the first couple, Adam and Eve, after their sin (pride, transgression, fear and hiding, justifying oneself by accusing the other: the same our sins ...) was their Creator, who had created them to share with them the joy of being, and of being in His likeness: He who certainly was not bored, in his eternal and blissful trinitarian existence! But at the very moment in which were uttered these harsh words, One of the blessed Trinity decided that he would become man to share up to death and burial the tribulations of the fallen humanity, and redeem it reporting those who trust in him to an existence incomparably more beautiful than the one in which He created us. Glory to you, Lord Jesus, who have triumphed over death, and have opened to us the way to the Kingdom of Heaven, and are accompanying us in it!
The recent visit of Shimon Peres in Assisi - where he received the honorary citizenship - made me reflect on God’s design and times towards his people Israel, the Church and the world. "Pray for us all," the Israelite President had asked the day before Pope Francis. This made me feel closer that day when, as the Apostle Paul writes in Romans, "all Israel will be saved" because it will recognize Jesus as the so long-awaited Messiah. Through the ages God is faithful to the promises made to his chosen people Israel, just as He is to the promises made to his Church that the powers of evil will not prevail against it. It's up to us to be faithful and save us from eternal condemnation, and enjoy eternally with Him what of unimaginably beautiful He has reserved for those who love him.
From Easter to Pentecost
named Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified by his own people by the
hands of Roman soldiers, really resurrected!
From this, which is the "mother" of all the good news - and today we are so much in need of some good news - many other comforting truths proceed. I report here one, on which we should never cease to meditate: we too will resurrect, yes, each one of us, including me and you, whoever you are, whatever your belief or unbelief may be. We will rise with a real body like that of the Risen Christ. Jesus said it unequivocally: "do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out - those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned" (Gospel of St. John 5:28-29). Yes, we will have a new body condition with which the saved will enjoy those ineffable delights of the kingdom of heaven of which the Holy Scriptures speak, such as when the Apostle Paul writes: "what no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived - these things God has prepared for those who love him" (1st Corinthians 2:9). But even with their resurrected body the damned will suffer eternal torments of hell, where, and these are the words of the Risen Christ and therefore words of truth, "the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:48).
This is the Gospel. Words of unspeakable joy and hope of eternal life, but also words of a tremendous prospect of eternal perdition. But courage, the Risen Lord is near to us, and calls us to love God with all our heart, and do good to our neighbor. And, resurrected, we will be with Him forever in the everlasting glory!
He’s risen! Really! Historically, in time and space. Do you doubt? Don’t you believe this? He resurrected the same. This means that we too will resurrect. Yes, but for eternal life or eternal death. He said so, the Risen Lord (St. John 5:23). And if we truly believe in Him, we are freed from the fear of all fears: that of dying. Death becomes a "passage to a better life" because we're going to be with Him, the Living one.
He really resurrected and truly He will come back to re-create an unimaginably beautiful world of love, joy and peace prepared for those who love Him. He is risen! At this very moment I can turn to Him sure to be heard and tell Him: thank you that you have died and risen for me, I come to You, save me! Come quickly Lord Jesus! Maranŕtha! Hallelujah!
The Lent began this year before Ash Wednesday, because two days before the news of a truly "epochal" event has run across and stunned the world: Pope Benedict XVI announced to leave the pontiff throne and the guidance of the Catholic Church at the end of this month of February. A Pope aware of the historic significance of his gesture, which would no longer leave things as before, but who knows to put his resignation in the hands of the... Heavenly Father, "the most Holy Father." Last year I wrote some “lenten” thoughts starting from an exhortation made by Pope Ratzinger to the parish priests of Rome, who should speak more to the faithful of that sad and unfortunately unavoidable truth beyond this world that is Hell. Also in this Lent I want to share with God's help, some thoughts that may help to take seriously not only this Lenten period, but also the times in which we live.
A few days after the Pope’s announcement, another epochal event: a meteor shower injured, in Russia, more than a thousand people. "The stars will fall from heaven" Jesus forewarned us regarding the apocalyptic events that precede his return, "and the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory...." (Matthew 24:29-30). There are still some devotees who, convinced reciting the "mea culpa", beat their breast, as in a much more harsh way many did in the past. But the day will come - and it's close, in which the whole world - a world that globally has closed heaven to the face of God and his Christ - will beat its breast, but it will be too late: Those instead that have persevered in recognizing themselves as sinners amending, will raise the arms toward that Jesus who is coming, so much awaited because so much loved; and it is written – The first letter of St.Paul to the Thessalonians, Chapter 4 - they will take off in flight to meet Him in the sky. Let us profit by this Lenten time in this period of the story that foreshadows the return of Christ, to return to him with all our heart to be able to exclaim convincedly: Maranatha, come Lord Jesus, come soon!
"I will get up
and go to my father, and I will say to him: Father, I have sinned
against heaven and before you ..." (Luke 15:18) - so we read in the
stupendous Parable of the merciful father - we knew it as "the parable
of the prodigal son": it is the turning point of a young man who, after
having squandered everything in a distant country and having reduced
himself to hunger and to pasture the pigs, decides to return to his
father. A detail of this parable makes it feel actual for us more than
ever: there we can read that in this "far" country a great famine had
come. It 's our world: far from God, and an economic collapse that will
make return hunger even in our western countries. "Why do you say: Peace,
freedom and well-being, when these things are not here and will not be?"
- Is written in the second prophecy on Rome ("To the Pleasure seeking
City") received years ago by Marcello Ciai - "War, oppression and hunger,
I will send then upon your nations." The drama of many people who have
lost their jobs, and many families who don’t arrive at the end of the
month, is growing at an impressive rate: described in detail and in its
tragic consequences in one of the other prophecies of Marcello Ciai (Prophesy!),
this unstoppable economic collapse will put one against the other. The
way out? To do as "the prodigal son": return to ourselves, and to our
dignity as children of God the Father Almighty, leaving a world that
rotates around itself and the money and has closed heaven to the face of
God and of his Christ. To return to say with St.Francis when, stripped
naked in everybody’s presence, gave his clothes back to the miser earthly
father: from now on I will not call any more "my father Pietro da
Bernardone" but I will say: "Our Father who are in heaven".
These are days of special spiritual engagement for those who believe in the passion, the death and the resurrection of the Son of God. The church helps us with its rituals, in many places there are solemn commemorations of the Passion of Christ, but it may happen that the memory of what he suffered for us can make us lose sight of what He still suffers for His Church and this our poor humanity. Yes, after the torment of that interminable night of torture and outrages, and those endless hours nailed on the cross, high in the heavens, where He is now seated at the right hand of God the Father, Jesus continues to suffer, particularly in and for his faithful. St. Paul understood this when, on the road to Damascus where he went to jail and kill Christians, a voice from heaven said, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?" And since then he became the most tireless of the Apostles, he longed to participate in the sufferings of his Lord, he wrote: "We are joint heirs with Christ, if in fact we suffer with Him, so that we may also be glorified with Him." (Romans 8:17) Often we know above all the more hagiographic and miraculous aspects of the Saints, but when we come to know of so many of their penances, and all their macerating in their body and in their spirit, we do not understand them, or we have even a sense of rejection. We ask ourselves: why so much suffering? Because the true love is the one that Christ manifested on the cross, the love that suffers, and in His great love Jesus continues to suffer for us, we make Him suffer with our sins, with the unrepentant hardness of our hearts. While we retrace his last most painful earthly events, the Risen one sees us and interpellates us: "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24) But he who really does so, discovers with joyful astonishment that the "yoke" of Jesus is sweet, and its "load" is light!
As in the days
of John the Baptist
There are many similarities between our times and those in which "John the Baptist appeared to preach in the wilderness": because also today there is wilderness all around us, an advancing spiritual wilderness. The crowds who came to be baptized by John, asked him. "What shall we do?". In times of loss, fear and bewilderment as these in which we live, where nothing seems any more secure, we need that God may speak to us, we are in need of Prophecy. In his prophetic ministry John the Baptist spoke of the divine justice that hung on his contemporaries, if they would'nt repent. But in addition to divine justice, he also spoke of human justice: the tax collectors hadn't to collect more of what they should, and people had to learn the true solidarity: "whoever has two coats must share one with anyone who has none, and whoever has food must do the likewise". But it is unfortunately true that "nobody takes to heart the cause of the poor", as it recurs in the prophecy "To the pleasure seeking city" - Rome - received years ago by Marcello Ezekiel Ciai: a true prophet that God has raised up in the land of Assisi to whip the hardness of hearts and the human pride, and herald the imminence of God's final justice, next to be realized with the second coming of Jesus to this earth: "the great day is near! ... Repent as long as you are in time!"
Christmas, the feast of feasts, as it was called by Saint Francis. Gift of God, these festivities, a gift to all, good and bad, just and unjust, believers and not: it is because out of that manger by a God who became humble to the point of being born in a barn from a poor family, echoes extremely the invitation: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28); "and you who have no money, come, buy and eat without money and without price ... " (Isaiah 55:1); "Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." (John 6:35). In the confusion of Christmas festivities, blessed is who knows how to gather and make his own that heartfelt invitation to go to Him, the true bread which came down from heaven, the true gift of God for this our poor humanity, in these last times of Divine patience. Then he, Jesus, will return: how many Christmases we have yet to celebrate? Many signs, beginning with those of which the Lord has spoken in His prophetic discourse, indicating His return in a near future: blessed are those who, while celebrating His first coming, are waiting with trepidation for His return: Maranatha, Come, Lord Jesus!
In times in which the catastrophic events that follow one another, and the new front of war between Israel and Palestine cast fear and terror among the people, more than ever there is current and pressing the call of Jesus in the Gospel to pray without ceasing. In Assisi there is a new "Place of Prayer", and here's how it is risen: all nights I stay under the portico of the Basilica of Saint. Francis, where people come to see me to share and pray. Late in the night also Marcello Ciai arrives, the man who thanks to God in 1980 founded the community of which I was part from the beginning, and then in 1991 the association Iaca. Because of his precarious health and the rigor of some winter nights, we addressed question to the City council to have a small space where we could withdraw to pray: a plea for help for a sick person, which was accompanied by an attentive gesture of the municipal administration. We have restored with diligence the old and unhealthy abandoned ex-urinal, which certainly bore no luster to that suggestive stretch of San Gabriele dell’Addolorata Street, under the “Piazzetta delle Erbe”. We transformed it into a small but suggestive chapel, certainly not worrying about the non-noble origin of the place: our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory, was born in a stable! To our surprise, this place has attracted and attracts the attention of many tourists and /or italian and foreign pilgrims: they photograph it and shove tickets with prayer requests in the slot that we prepared on purpose in the wooden door, demands that we honour praying there in the night . So much interest and appreciation is evidenced by the many letters, messages and e-mails we receive from many parts of Italy and the world. This place of prayer, therefore, is proving to be a blessing to many, furthermore creating a very special new spiritual attractiveness of this our land of Saint Francis.
God has operated in the life of Marcello Ezekiel Ciai, "the prophet of Assisi" -
to which among other things the Lord gave to write a vibrant and detailed
prophecy on the earthquake of 1997 - doesn’t finish to surprise me.As I compare
his extremely singular spiritual path with the life of St. Francis, I find
amazing "similarities", showing how God continues to intervene in a most
particular way in the seraphic, mystical and mysterious Assisi, spiritual
fortress and bastion of the Church.
Francis signed himself with the "Tau", last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. St. Bonaventura so writes in his biography of St. Francis: "The Saint had great reverence and affection for the sign of the Tau: he often recommended it in his words and wrote it by his own hand in the letters he sent, as if his mission consisted, according to the prophet’s saying, in marking the Tau on the foreheads of those who moan and weep, earnestly converting themselves to Christ " (see Franciscan Sources, 1079). The biblical "prophet" from which Francis took this sign is Ezekiel, where one reads that with the "Tau" were marked those who should escape from the extermination hanging over the idolatrous and rebellious city of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 9.4).
Eight hundred years after St. Francis - it was about thirty years ago -, the Lord began to manifest Himself to Marcello Ezekiel, who lived in a secluded house on the slopes of the Subasio Mountain, with nightly visions. In the first of these visions - quite amazing for its content - he heard a voice telling him he had to follow the revelations of the prophet Ezekiel: "I didn’t know that name and knew nothing about the prophet Ezekiel", Marcello wrote later in reporting this irruption of the Supernatural in his life (see the book "Marcello Ezekiel Ciai, Prophecies," published by the Association Iaca in 2010).
So here is mysteriously reappearing, in Assisi, eight centuries later, the prophet Ezekiel!
But there's yet more!
In his "Major Legend" St.
Bonaventure sees in St Francis the Angel of whom one reads in the Book of
Revelation that, at the opening of the sixth seal, rises from the East carrying
the seal of the living God. In my book “From the Land of Assisi the Spirit of
prophecy on the collapse of economy” I related what a humble farmer of the land
of Assisi, who often went to pray with Marcello, told me that he had dreamed
regarding him: that is, in a dream he had met and had asked him: "But you
where do you come from?" and there came a voice that replied "He is coming from
the Smoking East! ". Therefore even Marcello, as the Angel of the sixth seal,
“comes” from the East!
And there is still more. To Francis who certainly hadn’t followed courses in theology - in reality had not even completed the normal studies that his companions were doing - God revealed the Tau, the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, as a symbol of his mission of salvation. Today, there are many tourists and pilgrims in Assisi, who in many shops where you can find it, take and also put on their neck a wooden "Tau", perhaps without knowing his last and extremely serious meaning. Yes, because also on this idolatrous world of ours, rebellious to God and his Christ, the extermination hangs over. Jesus spoke about it clearly, in the Gospel: “For in those days there will be suffering, such as not has been since the beginning of the creation that God created until now, no, and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, ha has cut short those days”. (Mark 13:19-20)
And from this extermination all those who have the Tau in their heart will escape. All those who "moan and cry" for their sins and all those who do not get accustomed to the evil that they see around them.
So there, also to Marcello Ezekiel - absolutely ignorant to theological things - the Lord reveals some of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet ("HE", "HET", "BETH") that lead him to the Psalm 118 (119), and from there to the reading of the entire Bible. One in particular of these letters remains impressed to him, the 'HE', , a symbol of a man who prays and sings with raised hands - Hallelujah! In the prophecies of Marcello, the call to conversion is reinforced by the knowledge that we are in the last times: the seventh seal by now has been opened and we are experiencing the last events of human history; the day of the Lord, the return of Jesus, is approaching fast. For many, unfortunately, it will be a "Dies Irae” , a day of anguish and affliction, a day of darkness and obscurity; as already announced by one of the oldest prophets (Zephaniah 1:15). But all those who "await with love the manifestation of Jesus" (so Paul to Timothy, 4:8), at the return of the Lord will arise their head towards Him, as Jesus says in the gospel; and exclaim with raised arms, as prefigured in the mysterious "HE" revealed to Marcello: "Hallelujah! Come, Lord Jesus!"
The persecution of Christians is increasing in various parts of the Islamic world, and at this point an explanation about the inter-religious dialogue is necessary.
The visit of St. Francis to the Sultan of Egypt is invoked by many as an example of this "dialogue" between the various denominations, so much researched as widely unsuccessful.
Reading the writings of St. Francis and the other "Franciscan Sources", it is clear that St. Francis to the Sultan of Egypt didn't go so much for a dialogue, but with the hope of converting him: faithful executor of the mandate of Jesus - whose Words St. Francis wanted to accomplish "sine glossa": "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature: he that believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned" (St. Mark 16:15-18).
These words do not sound "ecumenical", and for a false research for "good peace" with other religions, many Christians are ashamed to pronounce them. But Jesus warned: "Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth: I didn't come to bring peace but a sword. ... I have come in fact to separate..." (Matthew 10:34-35). Oh yes, the Gospel separates those who accept it from those who do not want to believe. And according to the words of Jesus, "anyone who rejects the Gospel will be condemned".
"I am not ashamed of the Gospel", wrote the apostle Paul to the Romans (1:16), and we ourselves are not ashamed to profess the Gospel in its entirety, according to which Jesus, when he returns, will judge "the living and the dead" (He will judge also Mohammed, Buddha, Confucius, but that's another truth that many would rather not talk about).
"You seek for glory in political and religious alliances; you talk about ecumenism; but can one put together a rotten pomegranate with unripe lemons to make a sweet?" So the Lord inspired Marcello to write at the end of his first great prophecy ("The Mantle") adressed to Rome and the Church.
"Christian Integralism"? Yes, in a certain
way, but professed by those who are willing to offer their lives to martyrdom
for the love of those to whom they are proclaiming the Gospel, as it happened to
the apostles, who all died martyrs, except St. John, in various parts of the
world then known; and how it happened to the first franciscan martyrs in Morocco.
Now that we are in the time of Lent, I felt to write - from here until
Easter - some considerations on this unavoidable - and undoubtedly uncomfortable
and most unpleasant - reality that is hell, of which the Holy Scriptures speak
clearly and at length, and in wich all the saints of our Church have always
believed; a truth reaffirmed over the centuries by the Church itself in not less
than six Councils.
April 2, 2012 – “Holy
Week", “different" from all the other 51 weeks of the year: because in this
week, in a special way we "announce the death of the Lord and proclaim His
resurrection", as the faithful say in the Holy Mass after the consecration of
the Host, adding: "Waiting for His coming”. But right this "waiting" for
Christ’s return - now always closer - should give a particular tone to this very
Here in Umbria there are so many commemorations of the "passion" of Jesus, in period costume and with great involvement of the crowd: but if we participate without the perception that He, once and for all risen and ascended to heaven, from there searches our hearts and our feelings; and if we do not keep alive in us the expectation of His imminent return so, as it is written: "we will not be humiliated at His coming" but full of love and joy go towards Him in heaven, as St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: well, then those commemorations will remain for us only sterile folklore.
To the women who along His "Via Crucis" beat their breasts, the Lord said: "Weep for yourselves and for your children" (how many would have died during the destruction of Jerusalem!), then projecting his prophetic vision on our times, in which a world castled in his ethical and religious relativism will live His coming with surprise and dismay and, as we read in the Gospel "will beat their breasts", but too late, "all the tribes of the earth."
So that this Holy Week should not elapse in vain: the memory of the passion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus should move us to convert ourselves sincerely with love and fear to Him who will soon return to separate the sheep from the goats, in an indisputable judgment that will destine some to condemnation ant others to eternal joy.
March 12, 2012 - Many are trying to escape in all possible ways the indisputable statements of the Scriptures that there is hell, and unfortunately many are those who you will be imprisoned there forever. And then there are those who, shaking off with conceit their shoulders, say: "Well, no one has ever came back from the afterlife to tell us about it", although almost 2000 Easters have passed in which the Church has celebrated the resurrection of Jesus who from "there" has really returned, and has told us clearly how things are. Others, insisting that God is love, even affirm that in the passages of the Gospel dealing with Hell Jesus is speaking through hyperboles, or maybe He has never said those words, interpolated by someone who has manipulated the texts perhaps to frighten and keep good the people ...
The reality is that if we reread a
gospel underlining with a blue color where it speaks of Heaven and with the
red where it speaks of Hell, we shall be surprised by how much that gospel
will be coloured in red! And Jesus expects that the witness of the Holy
Scriptures with regard to Hell be sufficient to convince those who have
ears to hear. So, in the story of the rich man and Lazarus, when the rich
man, between the flames of Hell, asks Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his
brothers, that they may not finish like him in the torments, Abraham
answers: "They have Moses and the prophets" - that is, the Holy Scriptures -
"they should listen to them…. If they do not listen to Moses and the
prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the
Yes, Hell is there, and one can’t escape from it, for all eternity. And, Jesus said, there are many who enter through the wide gate and take the easy road that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13). It’s something that makes us shiver. From here the urgent call of the Lord, "Strive to enter through the narrow door ... (Luke 13:24) "For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Matthew 7:14). St. Gregory the Great, the great Pope of the end of the 6th century, one of the four fathers of the western Church, addressing to the crowd of the faithful who heard his homilies, admonished them clearly more or less in these terms: "How many of you are here in this Basilica! But how many of you will be saved?"
But how many in the Church today have the courage to speak like that?
February 27, 2012 - My eyes fell recently on an old newspaper article that reported an exhortation given by Pope Benedict XVI to the clergy of Rome, that they may speak more of hell, a reality often totally neglected in the homilies of the priests. "You have words of eternal life", said Peter to the Lord Jesus, at a crucial moment of his ministry, when after a very strong speech on what it meant to follow him, most of the disciples had abandoned him. Addressing the twelve apostles, Jesus had provoked their faith and loyalty, asking them: "Do you also wish go away?" And Peter, speaking on behalf of all, quickly responded: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life ...". Yes, the Gospel proclaimed by Jesus is a "good news" primarily because it promises eternal life to those who follow the Lord, offering salvation from an eternal damnation hanging over a world hostile and rebel against God, "He that believes on the Son has eternal life" - is written in the Gospel of St. John, (3.36) - "whoever disobeys to the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him". If you do not start from the vision of a world that, not having accepted Jesus, is already under the judgment of God, and therefore oriented towards eternal damnation; if you do not acknowledge that "the whole world lies under the power of the evil one" (Ist Epistle of St. John 5:19) and is going to perdition, then the intervention of Jesus in the history, the very words "salvation" and "savior" lose their consistency, their deeper meaning, and the same happens to that "fear of God" that the Bible indicates as "the beginning of wisdom", starting point to really know God and receive the redemption that He offers us in Christ.
Books on a prophetic work risen in Assisi more than thirty years ago, that will involve the world.