Posts Tagged ‘preacher’

Pontifical Household Preacher Comments on Sunday’s Readings

ROME, JULY 20, 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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The Friends of Jesus
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Genesis 18:1-10a; Colossians 1:24-28; Luke 10:38-42

“Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha was burdened with much serving.”

The village is Bethany and the house is that of Lazarus and his two sisters. Jesus loved to stop there and take some rest when he was traveling near Jerusalem.

Mary was stupefied that for once she had the master all to herself and could listen in silence to the words of eternal life that he spoke when he was taking his rest. So she sat there at his feet, as is still done today in the East. It is not difficult to imagine Martha’s half-resentful, half-joking tone when, passing by them, she says to Jesus: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”

It was at this point that Jesus said something that by itself is a mini Gospel: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

The tradition has seen in the sisters a symbol of the active and the contemplative life respectively; the liturgy with the choice of the first reading (Abraham who welcomes the three angels at the terebinth of Mamre) shows an example of hospitality in the episode.

I think, however, that the more evident theme is that of friendship. “Jesus loved Martha, together with her sister and Lazarus,” we read in John’s Gospel (11:5).

When they bring him the news of Lazarus’ death he says to his disciples: “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep but I am going to wake him up” (John 11:11).

Faced with the sorrow of the two sisters he also breaks down and weeps, so much so that those who are present exclaim: “See how much he loved him!” (John 11:13).

It is wonderful and consoling to know that Jesus knew and cultivated that sentiment that is so beautiful and precious for us men — friendship.

Of friendship we must say what St. Augustine said of time: “I know what time is but if someone asks me to explain it, I no longer know what it is.” In other words, it is easier to intuit what friendship is that to explain it in words.

It is a mutual attraction and deep understanding between two people, but it does not have a sexual component as does conjugal love. It is a union of two souls, not two bodies. In this sense the ancients said that friendship is to have “one soul in two bodies.” It can be a stronger bond than that of family. Family consists in having the same blood in one’s veins. In friendship one has the same tastes, ideals, interests.

It is essential to friendship that it is founded on a common search for the good and the true. That which binds people who get together to do evil is not friendship but complicity, it is “an association that corrupts,” as is said in judicial jargon.

Friendship is also different from love of neighbor. The latter must embrace everyone, even those who do not return it, even enemies, while friendship demands reciprocity, that is, that the other corresponds to your love.

Friendship is nourished by confidences, that is, by the fact that I confide in another that which is deepest and most personal in my thoughts and experiences.

Sometimes I say to young people: Do you want to find out who your true friends are and rank them? Try to remember what have been the most secret experiences of your life — positive or negative — and ask yourself to whom you confided them: those are your true friends. And if there is something in your life, so deep and you have revealed it to one person only, that person is your best friend.

The Bible is full of praise of friendship. “A faithful friend is a strong support; whoever finds one has found a treasure” (Sirach 6:14ff.). The proof of friendship is fidelity.

According to a popular saying, “When the money goes, friends go.” True friendship does not fade at the friend’s first problem. We know who our true friend is during the time of trial. History is full of great friendships that have been immortalized in literature. But the history of Christian sanctity also knows examples of famous friendships.

A delicate problem with friendship is whether it is possible once one is married. It is not said that one must completely cut off all the friendships one has cultivated before getting married but there must be a rearrangement if the newlyweds are not to experience difficulties and crises.

The surest friendships are those that a couple cultivates together. Among those friendships that are cultivated separately those with persons of the same sex create fewer problems than those with persons of the opposite sex.

Often in these cases the presumption that one is above all suspicion and danger is punished. Films with titles like “My Best Friend’s Bride” [Ed.N. Father Cantalamessa refers to the Italian translation given to the title of the movie “My Best Friend’s Wedding”] speak volumes about the problem, but apart from this extreme they also create serious practical problems. You cannot go out with friends every night leaving the other (usually the wife!) alone at home.

For consecrated persons, the more certain friendships are those that are shared with the whole community. In talking about Lazarus, Jesus does not say “my friend Lazarus” but “our friend Lazarus.” Lazarus and the sisters became friends of the apostles too according to the well-known principle, “My friends’ friends are my friends.” This is how the great friendships were between some saints — the one between Francis of Assisi and Clare, for example. Francis is the brother and father of all the sisters; Clare is the sister and mother of all the brothers.

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Pontifical Household Preacher Comments on Sunday’s Readings

ROME, JULY 6, 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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The Kingdom of God is at Hand!
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 66:10-14c; Galatians 6:16-18; Luke 10:1-12, 17-20

Again we will comment on Sunday’s Gospel with the help of Benedict XVI’s book on Jesus. First, however, I would like to make an observation of a general nature. The criticism that has been made of the Pope’s book by some is that it sticks to what the Gospels say without taking into account the findings of modern historical research which, according to them, would lead to very different conclusions.

What we have here is a widespread idea that is nourishing a whole literature like Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code” and popularizing historical works based on the same presupposition.

I think that it is important to shed light on a fundamental equivocation in all of this. The idea of an historical investigation into Jesus that is unified, rectilinear, that moves unswervingly toward completely illuminating him, is a pure myth that some are trying to convince people of but which no serious historian today believes possible.

I quote one of the more well-known representatives of historical research on Jesus, the American Paula Fredriksen: “In recent scholarship, Jesus has been imagined and presented as a type of first-century shaman figure; as a Cynic-sort of wandering wise man; as a visionary radical and social reformer preaching egalitarian ethics to the destitute; as a Galilean regionalist alienated from the elitism of Judean religious conventions (like Temple and Torah); as a champion of national liberation and, on the contrary, as its opponent and critic — on and on.

“All these figures are presented with rigorous academic argument and methodology; all are defended with appeals to the ancient data. Debate continues at a roiling pitch, and consensus — even on issues so basic as what constitutes evidence and how to construe it — seems a distant hope.”

Often an appeal is made to new data and recent discoveries which would finally put historical research in an advantageous place with regard to the past. But the variety of the consequences that can be drawn from these new historical sources appears from the fact that they have given rise to two opposed and irreconcilable images of Christ that are still in play. On one hand, a Jesus who “is in all and for all Jewish”; on the other hand, a Jesus who is a child of the Helenized Galilee of his time, strongly influenced the philosophy of cynicism.

In light of this fact I ask: What was the Pope supposed to do, compose yet another historical reconstruction in which all the contrary objections debate and combat each other? What the Pope chose to do was to positively present the figure and teaching of Jesus as he is understood by the Church, taking his point of departure from the conviction that the Christ of the Gospels is, even from the historical point of view, the figure that is the most credible and certain.

After these clarifications, let us turn to this Sunday’s Gospel. It is the episode of the sending out of 72 disciples on mission. After having told them how they are supposed to go out (two by two, like lambs, without money), Jesus explains to them what they must say: “Tell them: ‘The kingdom of God is at hand.'”

We know that the phrase “The kingdom of God is at hand” is at the heart of Jesus’ preaching and is the premise of each of his teachings. The kingdom of God is at hand, so love your enemies; the kingdom of God is at hand, so if your hand is a scandal to you, cut it off. It is better to enter the kingdom of God without a hand than to remain outside of it with both hands. Everything takes its meaning from the kingdom.

There has always been discussion about what, precisely, Jesus meant by the expression “kingdom of God.” For some it would be a purely interior kingdom consisting in a life conformed to the law of God; for others, on the contrary, it would be a social and political kingdom to be realized by man, even by struggle and revolution if necessary.

The Pope reviews these various interpretations of the past and points to what they have in common: The center of interest moves from God to man; it is no longer a kingdom of God but a kingdom of man, who is its principal architect. This is an idea of a kingdom that, at the limit, is also compatible with atheism.

In Jesus’ preaching the coming of the kingdom of God means that, sending his Son into the world, God has decided, so to speak, to personally take in hand the fortunes of the world, to compromise himself with it, to act in the world from the inside. It is easier to intuit what the kingdom of God means than to explain it because it is a reality that transcends every explanation.

The idea is still much diffused that Jesus expected the end of the world to be imminent and therefore the kingdom of God that he preached is not to be realized in this world but in the one we call the “hereafter.”

In effect, the Gospels contain some affirmations that lend themselves to this interpretation. But if we look at the whole of Jesus’ teaching this does not jibe. According to C.H. Dodd, Jesus’ teaching is not an ethics for those who are expecting a rapid end to the world, but for those who have experienced the end of this world and the coming into it of the kingdom of God.

It is for those who know that “the old things are past” and that the world has become a “new creation,” since God has descended as king. In other words, Jesus did not announce the end of “the” world but the end of “a” world, and in that the facts have not told against him.

But John the Baptist also preached this change, speaking of an imminent judgment of God. In what, then, consists the newness of Christ? The newness is entirely enclosed within an adverb of time: “now.” With Jesus the kingdom of God is no longer only something “imminent.” It is present. “The new and exclusive message of Jesus,” the Pope writes, “consists in the fact that he says: God acts now — this is the hour in which God, in a way that goes beyond all previous modalities, reveals himself in history as its Lord, as the living God.”

From here flows that sense of urgency that is present in all of Jesus’ parables, especially the so-called parables of the kingdom. The decisive moment of history has arrived, now is the moment to make the decision that saves; the feast is ready; to refuse to enter because you have just taken a wife or bought a pair of oxen or for some other reason, is to be excluded forever and see your place taken by others.

From this last reflection let us move to a practical and contemporary application of the message we have heard. What Jesus said to the people of his time is also valid for us today. That “now” and “today” will remain immutable until the end of the world (Hebrews 3:13).

That means that the person who today hears, perhaps by chance, Christ’s word: “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; convert and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15), finds himself faced with the same choice as those who heard it 2000 years ago in a Galilean village: Either believe and enter the kingdom or refuse to believe and remain outside.

Unfortunately, the first option — believing — seems to be the last concern of many who read the Gospel and write books about it. Rather than submitting themselves to Christ’s judgment, many judge him.

Today more than ever Jesus is on trial. It is a kind of “universal judgment” turned upside down. Scholars run this risk above all. The scholar must “dominate” the object of the science that he cultivates and remain neutral before it; but how is one supposed to “dominate” or remain neutral before an object when it is Jesus Christ? In this case one must let himself instead be dominated by, and not be the dominator of his object.

The kingdom of God was so important for Jesus that he taught us to pray every day for its coming. We turn to God saying, “Thy kingdom come,” but God also turns to us and says through Jesus: “The kingdom of God is at hand, do not wait, enter!”



ROME, MAY 25, 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.

Send Forth Your Spirit and They Shall be Created

Pentecost Sunday
Acts 2:1-11; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13; John 20:19-23

The Gospel presents Jesus, who in the cenacle on Easter evening, “breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.'” This breathing of Jesus recalls God’s action who, in the creation, “formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being” (cf. Genesis 2:7). With his gesture Jesus indicates that the Holy Spirit is the divine breath that gives life to the new creation as he gave life to the first creation. The responsorial psalm highlights this theme: “Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.”

Proclaiming that the Holy Spirit is Creator means saying that his sphere of action is not restricted to the Church, but extends to the entire creation. No place and no time is without his active presence. He acts in and out of the Bible; he acts before Christ, during the time of Christ, and after Christ, even if he never acts apart from Christ. “All truth, by whomever it is spoken,” Thomas Aquinas has written, “comes from the Holy Spirit.” The action of the Spirit of Christ outside the Church is not the same as his action in the Church and in the sacraments. Outside he acts by his power; in the Church he acts by his presence, in person.

The most important thing about the creative power of the Holy Spirit is not, however, to understand it and explain its implications, but to experience it. But what does it mean to experience the Spirit as Creator? To understand it, let us take the creation account as our point of departure. “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, and the Spirit of the Lord brooded over the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2). We conclude from this that the universe already existed in the moment when the Spirit intervened, but it was formless and dark, chaos. It is after his action that the creation assumes precise contours; light is separated from darkness, dry land from the sea, and everything takes on a definite shape.

Thus, it is the Holy Spirit who transforms the creation from chaos into cosmos, who makes it something beautiful, ordered, polished (“cosmos” comes from the same root as “cosmetic” and it means beautiful!), he makes a “world,” in the double sense of this word. Science teaches us today that this process went on for billions of years, but the Bible — with its simple and image-filled language — wants to tell us that the slow evolution toward life and the present order of the world did not happen by chance, following blind material impulses. It followed, rather, a project that the Creator inserted in it from the beginning.

God’s creative action is not limited to the initial instant; he is always in the act of creating. Applied to the Holy Spirit, this means that he is always the one who transforms chaos into cosmos, that is, he makes order out of disorder, harmony out of confusion, beauty out of deformity, youth out of age. This occurs on all levels: in the macrocosm as in the microcosm, that is, in the whole universe as in the individual person.

We must believe that, despite appearances, the Holy Spirit is working in the world and makes it progress. How many new discoveries, not only in the study of nature but also in the field of morality and social life! A text of Vatican II says that the Holy Spirit is at work in the evolution of the social order of the world (“Gaudium et Spes,” 26). It is not only evil that grows but good does too, with the difference being that evil eliminates itself, ends with itself, while the good accumulates itself, remains. Certainly there is much chaos around us: moral, political, and social chaos. The world still has great need of the Spirit of God. For this reason we must not tire in invoking him with the words of the Psalm: “Send forth your Spirit, Lord, and renew the face of the earth!”