Friday 29 March 2024

On Good Friday, papal preacher says Jesus died for everyone, none excluded

Papal preacher: The Lord's power is his love, rejection of revenge |  America Magazine

In a service Friday commemorating Jesus’s suffering and death on the cross, papal preacher Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa said his sacrifice was for everyone, no exception, and was illustrative of God’s true power, found not in might, but in loving sacrifice.

Speaking during a March 28 Good Friday Passion service in St. Peter’s Basilica, Cantalamessa, 89, noted how Jesus in the Gospels told his disciples, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”

This invitation is ironic, he said, as Jesus throughout his ministry was rejected, mocked, and finally, condemned to death.

Yet despite all this, Jesus tells the people to “Come to me, you who are old, sick, and alone, you whom the world lets die in poverty, hunger, or while under bombardment; you who languish in prison cells because of your faith in me, or your battle for freedom, come to me, you woman victim of the violence.”

“In short, everyone, excluding no one: Come to me, and I will give you rest! Didn’t I promise you: ‘When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself,’” he said, quoting scripture.

A Franciscan who has served as papal preacher since 1980, Cantalamessa has preached for three popes, and got his red hat from Pope Francis in 2020.

As papal preacher, Cantalamessa preaches to members of the Roman Curia during the liturgical seasons of Advent and Lent, and he annually gives the sermon during the papal Good Friday Passion service, the only Holy Week liturgy in which, traditionally, the pope does not give the homily.

Pope Francis, who was seated in a chair on a platform beside the main altar, listens to the sermon and afterward leads attendees in the Good Friday tradition of the “veneration of the cross,” in which faithful process to a crucifix and kiss the wounds of Jesus on the cross.

Later Friday evening, Pope Francis is expected to lead the traditional Via Crucis prayer at Rome’s Colosseum, which he wrote the meditations for himself for the first time in his 11-year papacy.

In his homily for the Passion service, Cantalamessa pointed to a passage in the Gospel of John in which Jesus says, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM.”

Notably, Jesus doesn’t say “I am this or that” as he did in previous biblical passages, saying he was the bread of life, or the light of the world, giving his declaration “an absolute, metaphysical dimension,” he said.

He noted that Jesus’s declaration that he is “I am” comes after the statement, “when you lift up the son of man.”

It was as if Jesus were saying, “What I am – and, therefore, what God is! – will only be manifested on the cross,” he said.

“We are faced with a total reversal of the human idea of God and, in part, also of that of the Old Testament,” he said, saying Jesus “did not come to improve and perfect the idea that people have of God, but, in a certain sense, to overturn it and reveal the true face of God.”

Cantalamessa said this is a challenging message for anyone, including those in Jesus’s time and in the modern world.

“Unfortunately, in our unconscious, we continue to carry on this very idea of God that Jesus came to change,” he said, saying God is unquestionably “all powerful,” but his power is different.

Before humanity, God is devoid of any ability to impose himself on those in authority, forcing his own will on them. Rather, God “cannot but respect, to an infinite degree, the free choice of human beings,” he said.

God, Cantalamessa said, reveals his true omnipotence in Jesus, who kneels and washes the feet of his disciples, and who is reduced to the powerlessness of the cross but who continues to love and forgive, without condemnation.

“It takes little power to show off; It takes a lot of power to put oneself aside and to conceal oneself,” he said, saying, “God is this unlimited power of self-concealment! What a lesson for us who, more or less consciously, always want to show off.”

Pointing to Jesus’s resurrection, Cantalamessa said it shows the nature of God’s omnipotence, “but in a very different sense than what we usually think.”

Jesus, he said, did not rise from the dead with a show or with a massive victory campaign, but rather, his triumph over death “occurs in mystery, without witnesses.”

While Jesus’s death was public and took place in front of the highest religious and political authorities, when he resurrects, he only appears to a few people,” Cantalamessa said.

“In this way he wanted to tell us that after having suffered, we should not expect an external, visible triumph, such as earthly glory,” he said, saying “The triumph is given in the invisible and is of an infinitely superior order because it is eternal!”

Noting that Jesus appeared to select individuals after his resurrection, Cantalamessa said these apparitions laid a foundation of faith for believers, but were not intended to be an act of revenge or a humiliation of those who wronged him.

“Any such revenge would be incompatible with the love that Christ wanted to bear witness to in his passion,” he said.

Just as with his death on the cross, Jesus in his resurrection “behaves humbly,” with his primary goal being “not to confuse his enemies, but to go and reassure his dismayed disciples and, before them, the women who had never stopped believing in him.”

Cantalamessa urged believers to accept Jesus’s invitation from the cross, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest,” which he said is directed to all of humanity, without exclusion.

He pointed to a passage in scripture where it is written that, “the weakness of God is stronger than human strength,” saying Jesus’s promise with his death and resurrection is, “I can console and give you rest even without taking away the fatigue and tiredness in this world.”

“Ask those who have experienced it!” Cantalamessa said, closing by quoting St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, in which he says, “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”