Posts Tagged ‘Christ’

Father Cantalamessa on Following Christ

Pontifical Household Preacher Comments on Today’s Readings

ROME, SEPT. 9, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of a commentary by the Pontifical Household preacher, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, on the readings from today’s liturgy.

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If anyone follows me …
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Wisdom 9:13-18b; Philemon 9b-10, 12-17; Luke 14:25-33

The Gospel reading for today is one of those that we would be tempted to smooth out and sweeten because it seems too hard for men of today: “If anyone follows me without hating his father, his mother.”

Let us immediately make one thing clear: It is true that the Gospel is sometimes provocative, but it is never contradictory. A little further on in the same Gospel of Luke Jesus firmly re-emphasizes the duty of honoring father and mother (Luke 18:20), and in regard to husband and wife he says that they must be one flesh and that man does not have a right to separate that which God has joined together. How, then, can he tell us to hate father and mother, wife, children, brothers and sisters?

We need to keep in mind a certain fact. The Hebrew language does not have comparatives — it is not possible in Hebrew, for example, to speak of loving something “more” or “less” than another thing. It is only possible to speak of loving or hating. The phrase, “If anyone follows me and does not hate father and mother” should be understood in this way: “If anyone follows me, without preferring me to father and mother.” To see that this is so we only need to look at the same matter in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus says: “Whoever loved father and mother more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37).

It would be a big mistake to think that this love for Christ enters into competition with the different human loves: for parents, husband and wife, children, brothers and sisters. Christ is no one’s rival in love and he is not jealous of anyone.

In Paul Claudel’s play “The Satin Slipper,” the female protagonist, a fervent Christian, who is deeply in love with Rodrigo, exclaims to herself, almost finding it hard to believe: “Is it permitted, then, this love between creatures? Truly, God is not jealous?” And her guardian angel answers: “How could he be jealous of what he himself has made?” (Act 3, Scene 8).

Love for Christ does not exclude the other loves, but rather orders them. Indeed, it is in him that every genuine love finds its foundation and support and the necessary grace to be fully lived out. This is the meaning of the “grace of state” that the sacrament of marriage confers to Christian husbands and wives. It assures that in their love they will be sustained and guided by the love that Christ had for his Church.

Jesus does not disappoint nor deceive anyone; he asks everything because he wants to give everything; indeed, he has given everything. Someone might ask themselves: “But what right does this man have, who lived 20 centuries ago in an obscure corner of the world, to ask this absolute love of everyone? We do not need to look too far to find the answer, which is in his earthly life about which history tells us: It is because he first gave everything for man. “He loved us and gave himself up for us” (cf. Ephesians 5:2).

In the same Gospel Jesus reminds us what the benchmark and sign is of true love for him: “taking up your own cross.” Taking up our own cross does not mean seeking out suffering.

Jesus did not seek out his cross; he took on himself in obedience to the Father what men put on his shoulders and with his obedient love transformed it from an instrument of torture into a sign of redemption and glory.

Jesus did not come to make human crosses heavier, but rather to give them meaning. It has been rightly said that “whoever looks for Jesus without the cross will find the cross without Jesus,” that is, he will certainly find the cross but not the strength to carry it.

 



Pontifical Household Preacher Comments on Sunday’s Readings

ROME, JUNE 8, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of a commentary by the Pontifical Household preacher, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, on the readings from this Sunday’s liturgy.

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Do This in Memory of Me
Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Genesis 14:18-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Luke 9:11b-17

In the second reading of this feast, St. Paul presents us with the most ancient account we have of the institution of the Eucharist, written no more than about 20 years after the fact. Let us try to find something new in the Eucharistic mystery, using the concept of memorial: “Do this in memory of me.”

Memory is one of the most mysterious and greatest powers of the human spirit. Everything seen, heard and done from early childhood is conserved in this immense womb, ready to reawaken and to dance into the light either by an external stimulus or by our own will.

Without memory we will cease to be ourselves, we will lose our identity. Those who are struck by total amnesia, wander lost on the streets, without knowing their own name or where they live.

A memory, once it has come to mind, has the power to catalyze our whole interior world and route everything toward its object, especially if this is not a thing or a fact, but a living person.

When a mother remembers her child, who was born a few days ago and is left at home, everything inside her flies toward her baby, a movement of tenderness rises from her maternal depths and perhaps brings tears to her eyes.

Not just the individual has memory; human groups — family, tribe, nation — also have a collective memory. The wealth of a people is not so much measured by the reserves of gold it holds in its vaults, but rather by how many memories it holds in its collective consciousness. It is the sharing of many memories that cements the unity of a group. To keep such memories alive, they are linked to a place, to a holiday.

Americans have Memorial Day, the day in which they remember those who fell in all the wars; the Indians have the Gandhi Memorial, a green park in New Delhi that is supposed to remind the nation who he was and what he did. We Italians also have our memorials: The civil holidays recall the most important events in our recent history, and streets, piazzas and airports are dedicated to our most eminent people.

This very rich human background in regard to memory should help us better understand what the Eucharist is for the Christian people. It is a memorial because it recalls the event to which all of humanity now owes its existence as redeemed humanity: the death of the Lord.

But the Eucharist has something that distinguishes it from every other memorial. It is memorial and presence together, even if hidden under the signs of bread and wine. Memorial Day cannot bring those who have fallen back to life; the Gandhi Memorial cannot make Gandhi alive again. In a sense, the Eucharistic memorial, however, according to the faith of Christians, does do this in regard to Christ.

But together with all the beautiful things that we have said about memory, we must mention a danger that is inherent to it. Memory can be easily transformed into sterile and paralyzing nostalgia. This happens when a person becomes the prisoner of his own memories and ends up living in the past.

Indeed, the Eucharistic memorial does not pertain to this type of memory. On the contrary, it projects us forward; after the consecration the people say: “We proclaim your death, O Lord, and confess your resurrection, until you come.”

An antiphon attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas (“O sacrum convivium”) defines the Eucharist as the sacred feast in which “Christ is received, the memory of his passion is celebrated, the soul is filled with grace, and we are given the pledge of future glory.”

Pontifical Household Preacher Comments on Sunday’s Readings

ROME, MAY 18, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of a commentary by the Pontifical Household preacher, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, on the readings from this Sunday’s liturgy.

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You Will Be My Witnesses
Ascension of the Lord
Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:17-23; Luke 24:46-53

If we do not want the Ascension to be a sad “farewell,” but rather a true feast, then we must understand the radical difference between a disappearance and a departure. With the ascension, Jesus has not departed, he has not become absent; he has only disappeared from our sight. Those who leave are no longer here; those who only go out of our sight, however, can still be near us — it is only that something prevents our seeing them. Jesus does disappear from the apostles’ sight at the ascension but he does so to be present in another more intimate way.

He is no longer outside them but within them. This is similar to the Eucharist. So long as the host is outside of us we see it, we adore it; when we receive the host we no longer see it, it has disappeared, but it has disappeared to be within us. It is present in a new, more powerful way.

But it will be asked: If Jesus is no longer visible, how will men come to know of his presence? The answer is that he wants to make himself present through his disciples! In his Gospel and in the Acts of the Apostles, the Evangelist Luke closely links the Ascension with the theme of testimony: “You are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:48).

The “you” indicates in the first place the apostles who were with Jesus. After the apostles, this “official” testimony — official because it is connected to their office — passes to their successors, the bishops and priests. But the “you” also regards all the baptized and believers in Christ. “Each individual layman,” says a document of the Second Vatican Council, “must stand before the world as a witness to the resurrection and life of the Lord Jesus and a symbol of the living God” (“Lumen Gentium,” 38).

Pope Paul VI has famously said that “the world needs witnesses more than it needs teachers.” It is relatively easy to be a teacher. It is much less easy to be a witness. In fact, the world is full of both true and false teachers, but has few witnesses. Between the two roles there is the same difference as that between saying and doing. “Actions,” an English proverb says, “speak louder than words.”

The witness is one who speaks with his life. A believing father and mother must be “the first witnesses of faith” for their children. (The Church asks this for them from God in the blessing that follows the rite of matrimony).

Let us give a specific example. At this time of year many children are preparing for first Communion and confirmation. A believing mother or father can help the child review the catechism, explain the meaning of the words to him, and help him memorize the responses. Such parents are doing a beautiful thing and if only there were more who did this!

But what would a child think if after all that his parents said and did for his first Communion, they never go to Mass on Sunday, they never make the sign of the cross and never pray? They have been teachers, but they haven’t been witnesses.

Naturally, the testimony of the parents must not limit itself to the time of the first Communion or confirmation of their children. With the way they correct and forgive the child and forgive each other, with the way they speak with respect of those who are not present, with the way they conduct themselves before a poor person begging for alms, with the comments they make in the presence of the children when they are listening to the news, parents have the possibility of bearing witness to their faith every day.

The souls of children are like sheets of photographic film: Everything they see and hear in the years of childhood leaves a trace and one day the “film” will be “developed” and will bear its fruits — for good or for bad.