Posts Tagged ‘first’

Pontifical Household Preacher Comments on Sunday’s Readings

ROME, SEPT. 28, 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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A Rich Man who Dressed in Purple Garments and Fine Linen
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Amos 6:1, 4-7; 1 Timothy 6:11-16; Luke 16:19-31

The principal thing to bring to light in regard to the parable of the rich man in this Sunday’s Gospel is his contemporary relevance. At the global level the two characters are the two hemispheres: The rich man represents the northern hemisphere (western Europe, America, Japan) and the poor man, Lazarus, with a few exceptions, represents the southern hemisphere. Two characters, two worlds: the first world and the Third World. Two demographically and geographically unequal worlds: The one that we call the Third World in fact represents two-thirds of the world. This is a usage that is beginning to take hold. The third world is beginning to be called the “two-thirds world.”

The same contrast between the rich man and Lazarus exists also within both worlds. The rich live side by side with the poor Lazaruses in the third world — and the solitary luxury that exists in these countries stands out all the more in the midst of the miserable majority — and there are the poor Lazaruses who live side by side with the rich in the first world. Some persons in the entertainment business, in sports, finance, industry, and commerce have contracts worth millions, and all of this is in the sight of millions of people who, with their meager wages or unemployment subsidy, do not know how they are going to be able to pay the rent or pay for medicine and education for their children.

The most detestable thing in the story that Jesus tells is the rich man’s ostentation, the way he makes a show of his wealth with no consideration for the poor man. His life of luxury is manifested in two areas, in dining and in clothing: The rich man feasted sumptuously and dressed in purple garments and fine linen, which in those days was the vesture of kings. The contrast is not only between a person who stuffs himself with food and a person who dies of hunger but also between one who changes his clothes every day and one who does not own a thread.

Here in Italy there was once a piece of clothing presented at a fashion show that was made of gold coins and cost over a billion lira. We have to say this without hesitation: The global success of Italian fashion and the business it has created have gone to our heads. We do not care about anything anymore. Everything that is done in the fashion sector, even the most obvious excesses, enjoys special treatment. Fashion shows that sometimes fill television news so much that other more important news is put aside, bring to mind the scenes in the parable of the rich man.

But so far we have not touched on anything new. What is novel and unique in this evangelical denouncement has to do with the perspective from which the events are seen. Everything in the parable is seen retrospectively from the epilogue to the story: “When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.” If we put this story on the screen we could very well begin with this ending beyond the grave and then return to the previous events in a kind of “flashback.”

Many similar denouncements of wealth and luxury have been made over the centuries but today they sound rhetorical and resentful or pietistic and anachronistic. But Jesus’ denouncement, after 2,000 years, retains intact its explosive power. Jesus does not belong to either party in this matter but is one who is above rich and poor and is concerned with both — and perhaps more with the rich since the poor are less in danger!

The parable of the rich man is not motivated by any resentment toward the wealthy, by a desire to take their place, as are many human denouncements, but by a sincere concern for their salvation. God wants to save the rich from their wealth.



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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.