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Pontifical Household Preacher Looks at This Sunday's Gospel

ROME, MARCH 11, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is the commentary by Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher to the Pontifical Household, on the Gospel passage for the upcoming Second Sunday of Lent.

* * *

2nd Sunday of Lent
(Genesis 22:1-2,9a,10-13,15-18; Romans 8:31b-34; Mark 9:2-10)

Listen to Him!

"This is my beloved Son; listen to him." With these words, God the Father gave Jesus Christ to humanity as its sole and definitive Teacher, superior to the laws and the prophets.

Where is Jesus speaking today, so that we can hear him? He speaks to us above all through our conscience. It is a sort of "repeater," set within us, of the very voice of God. But conscience is not enough on its own. It is easy to make it say what we like to hear.

Thus it needs to be illuminated and supported by the Gospel and the teaching of the Church. The Gospel is the place par excellence in which Jesus speaks to us today. But we know by experience that the words of the Gospel can also be interpreted in different ways.

It is the Church, instituted by Christ precisely for this end, which assures us of an authentic interpretation: "He who hears you hears me." Because of this it is important that we endeavor to know the doctrine of the Church, to know it firsthand, as she herself understands and proposes it, not in the interpretation -- often distorted and reductive -- of the media.

Almost as important as knowing where Jesus is speaking today is to know where he does not speak.

Needless to say, he does not speak through wizards, fortunetellers, necromancers, horoscope orators, alleged extraterrestrial messages; he does not speak in spiritualistic sessions, in occultism.

In Scripture, we read this warning in this regard: "Let there not be found among you anyone who immolates his son or daughter in the fire, nor a fortuneteller, soothsayer, charmer, diviner, or caster of spells, nor one who consults ghosts and spirits or seeks oracles from the dead. Anyone who does such things is an abomination to the Lord" (Deuteronomy 18:10-12).

These were the pagans' typical ways of referring to the divine, who read the future by consulting the stars, or animals' entrails, or birds' flight. With that phrase of God -- "Listen to him!" -- all that came to an end. There is only one mediator between God and men; we are no longer obliged to move "blindly" to know the divine will, or to consult this or that source. In Christ we have all the answers.

Lamentably, today those pagan rites are again fashionable. As always, when true faith decreases, superstition increases. Let us take the most innocuous thing of all, the horoscope.

It can be said that there is no newspaper or radio station that does not offer daily its readers or hearers their horoscope. For mature persons, gifted with a minimum capacity for criticism and irony, it is no more than an innocuous joke, a kind of game or pastime.

Meanwhile, however, let us consider the long-term effects. What mentality is formed, especially in children and adolescents? A mentality according to which success in life does not depend on effort, diligence in studies and constancy in work, but of imponderable external factors; being able to acquire certain powers -- one's own or others' -- for one's own benefit.

Worse still: All this leads one to think that, in good and evil, the responsibility is not ours, but of the "stars," as Don Ferrante thought, of Manzonian memory.

I must allude to another realm in which Jesus does not speak and where, however, he is made to speak all the time: that of private revelations, heavenly messages, apparitions and voices of various kinds.

I do not say that Christ or the Virgin cannot also speak through these means. They have done so in the past and they can do so, of course, also today.

It is only that before taking for granted that it is Jesus or the Virgin, and not someone's sick imagination, or worse, of fraudsters who speculate with people's good faith, it is necessary to have guarantees.

In this area, it is necessary to wait for the judgment of the Church, and not precede it. Dante's words are still timely: "Christians, be firmer when you move: do not be like feathers in the wind."

St. John of the Cross said that ever since the Father said about Jesus on Tabor: "Listen to him!" God made himself, in a certain sense, dumb. He has said it all; he has nothing new to reveal.

Those who ask for new revelations or answers, offend him, as if he has yet to explain himself clearly. God continues to say to all the same word: "Listen to him, read the Gospel: You will find there, no more and no less, all that you seek."

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