Posts Tagged ‘joy’
Pontifical Household Preacher Comments on Sunday’s Readings
ROME, SEPT. 14, 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.
* * *
His father ran out to meet him
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-32
In this Sunday’s liturgy the entire 15th chapter of Luke’s Gospel is read. The chapter contains the three “mercy parables”: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son.
“A man had two sons”: Anyone who has even the most minimal familiarity with the Gospel on hearing these five words will immediately exclaim, “the parable of the prodigal son!”
On other occasions I have focused on the spiritual significance of the parable; this time I would like to consider an aspect that has received little attention, but which is very relevant at this moment and close to life. At the bottom of the parable is simply the story of a reconciliation between father and son, and we all know that such a reconciliation is essential to the happiness of fathers and children.
Who knows why literature, art, theater and advertisements all concentrate on a single human relationship: the erotic one between man and woman, between husband and wife? It would seem that this is the only thing in life.
Advertisements and the cinema do nothing else but cook up the same dish using a thousand sauces. But we leave another human relationship, that is just as universal and vital, unexplored, one that is another great source of the joy of life: the relationship between father and children, the joy of paternity.
The only piece of literature that really deals with this theme is Franz Kafka’s letter to his father. Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev’s famous novel “Fathers and Sons” does not actually treat of the relationship between natural fathers and children but between different generations.
If we serenely and objectively look into the human heart we will find that, in the majority of cases, a good, understanding, and untroubled relationship with his children is, for a mature, adult man, no less important and fulfilling than the relationship between a man and a woman. We know how important this relationship is for both sons and daughters and the tremendous void that is left by its disintegration.
As cancer usually attacks the most delicate organs in men and women, so also does the destructive power of sin and evil attack the most vital relationships in human existence. There is nothing worse in the relationship between a man and a woman than abuse, exploitation and violence, and there is nothing that is exposed to deformation like the relationship between fathers and children: authoritarianism, paternalism, rebellion, rejection, lack of communication.
We should not generalize. There are beautiful relationships between fathers and children and I myself have known various ones. We know, however, that there are also more numerous negative cases and difficult relationships between fathers and children. In the prophet Isaiah we read this exclamation of God: “I raised and reared these children but they have rebelled against me” (Isaiah 1:2). I believe that many fathers today know from experience what these words mean.
The suffering is reciprocal; it is not like the parable in which the fault is entirely the son’s. There are fathers whose most profound suffering in life is being rejected or even despised by their children. And there are children whose most profound and unadmitted suffering is to feel misunderstood, to not be esteemed, to be rejected by their father.
I have focused on the human and existential implications of the parable of the prodigal son. But we are not only dealing with this, that is, with the amelioration of the quality of life in this world.
The undertaking of a great reconciliation between fathers and children and a profound healing of their relationship is something that is important for a new evangelization. We know how much the relationship with an earthly father can influence, positively or negatively, one’s relationship with the heavenly Father and thus the Christian life as well.
When the precursor, John the Baptist, was born the angel said that one of his tasks would be “to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers” [cf. Luke 1:17]. Today this is a task that is more important than ever.
Father Cantalamessa on the Pearl of Great PricePontifical Household Preacher Comments on Sunday’s Readings
ROME, JUNE 15, 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.
* * *
A Woman Came With an Alabaster Flask of Ointment
11th Sunday in Ordinary Time
2 Samuel 12:7-10,13; Galatians 2:16,19-21; Luke 7:36-8:3
There are some Gospel passages where the teaching is so much connected to the action that the former cannot be fully understood if it is detached from the latter.
The episode of the sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee that will be read at Mass this Sunday is one of these. The opening scene is silent; there are no words, only silent gestures: A woman enters with an alabaster flask of ointment. She nestles at Jesus’ feet, washes them with tears, dries them with her hair, and kissing them, douses them with the ointment from her flask.
She is almost certainly a prostitute, because at that time this was what was meant when the term “sinful” was applied to a woman.
At this point the focus turns to the Pharisee who invited Jesus to dinner. The scene is still silent, but only in appearance. The Pharisee is “speaking to himself”: “When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.'”
The Gospel then takes Jesus’ word so as to present his judgment on the actions of the woman and on the thoughts of the Pharisee, and it does this with a parable: “‘A creditor had two debtors: One owed him five hundred denarii and the other fifty. Not having anything to pay him with, the creditor forgave both of them their debts. Who will love him more?’ Simon answered: ‘I suppose the one who he forgave the most.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have judged well.'”
Jesus first of all allows Simon to be convinced that he is in fact a prophet since he read the thoughts in his heart; at the same time, with the parable, he is preparing everyone to understand what he is about to say in defense of the woman: “‘For this reason I say to you her many sins are forgiven her because she has loved much. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.’ Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven you.'”
This year is the 800th anniversary of the conversion of Francis of Assisi. What do the conversions of the sinful woman of the Gospel and Francis have to do with each other? Unfortunately, when we speak of conversion our thought goes instinctively to what one leaves behind — sin, a disordered life, atheism — but this is the effect, not the cause of the conversion.
How a conversion happens is perfectly described by Jesus in the parable of the hidden treasure: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field; a man finds it and hides it again, then he goes, full of joy, and sells all he has and buys the field.” It is not said that “a man sold everything he had and then went out in search of a hidden treasure.”
We know how the stories that begin this way end. One loses everything he has and does not find any treasure. These are stories of deluded people, visionaries. No, a man finds a treasure and sells all he has to acquire it. In other words, it is necessary to have found a treasure in order to have the strength and the joy to sell all.
This is done with a heart “full of joy,” like the man about whom the Gospel speaks. This is how it happened for the sinful woman of the Gospel and for Francis of Assisi. Both had met Jesus and it is this that gave them the strength to change.
The point of departure of the sinful woman of the Gospel and Francis seems to have been different, but this difference was an appearance, external. Deep down it was the same. The woman and Francis, like all of us after all, were searching for happiness and they saw that the life they were leading did not make them happy, but rather it left dissatisfaction and an emptiness in the depths of their heart.
I was reading recently the story of the famous convert of the 19th century, Hermann Cohen, a brilliant musician, idolized as a the young prodigy of his time in the salons of central Europe: a kind of modern version of the young Francis.
After his conversion he wrote to a friend: “I looked for happiness everywhere: in the elegant life of the salons, in the deafening noise of balls and parties, in accumulating money, in the excitement of gambling, in artistic glory, in friendship with famous people, in the pleasures of the senses. Now I have found happiness, I have an overflowing heart and I want to share it with you. … You say, ‘But I don’t believe in Jesus Christ.’ I say to you, ‘Neither did I and that is why I was unhappy.'”
Conversion is the way to happiness and a full life. It is not something painful, but the greatest joy. It is the discovery of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price.