Massimo Coppo: reflections and solutions for our times
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! Maranàtha! 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.