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Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa

3/22/2008 - 20:15 PST

(Page 3 of 3)

all things, endures all things" (1Corinthians 13:4ff.).

This week we have accompanied a woman to her eternal rest -- Chiara Lubich, the founder of the Focolare Movement -- who was a pioneer and model of the spiritual ecumenism of love. She showed that the pursuit of unity among Christians does not lead to a closing to the rest of the world; it is rather the first step and the condition for a broader dialogue with believers of other religions and with all men and women who are concerned about the fate of humanity and about peace.

* * *

"Loving," it has been said, "does not mean looking at each other but looking together in the same direction." Even among Christians loving means looking in the same direction, which is Christ. "He is our peace" (Ephesians 2:14). It is like the spokes of a wheel. Consider what happens to the spokes of a wheel when they move from the center outward: As they distance themselves from the center they also become more distant from each other. On the contrary when they move from the periphery toward the center, as they come closer to the center, they also come nearer to each other, until they form a single point. To the extent that we move together toward Christ, we draw nearer to each other, until we are truly, as Jesus desired, "one with him and with the Father."

That which will reunite divided Christianity will only be a new wave of love for Christ that spreads among Christians. This is what is happening through the work of the Holy Spirit and it fills us with wonder and hope. "The love of Christ moves us, because we are convinced that one has died for all" (2 Corinthians 5:14). The brother who belongs to another Church -- indeed every human being -- is "a person for whom Christ died" (Romans 14:16), as he has died for me.

* * *

One thing must move us forward on this journey. What is in play at the beginning of the third millennium, is not the same as what was in play at the beginning of the second millennium, when there was the separation of East and West; nor is it the same as what was in play in the middle of the same millennium when there was the separation of Catholics and Protestants. Can we say that the way the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father or how justification of the sinner comes about are the problems that impassion the men of today and with which the Christian faith stands or falls? The world has moved beyond us and we remain fixed by problems and formulas that the world does not even know the meaning of.

In battles in the Middle Ages there was a moment in which, after the infantry, archers and cavalry had been overwhelmed, the melee began to circle around the king. There the final outcome of the fight was decided. Today the battle for us also takes place around the king. There are buildings and structures made of metal in such a way that if a certain neuralgic point is touched or a certain stone is removed, everything falls apart. In the edifice of the Christian faith this cornerstone is the divinity of Christ. If this is removed, everything falls apart and faith in the Trinity is the first to go.

From this we see that today there are two possible ecumenisms: an ecumenism of faith and an ecumenism of incredulity; one that unites all those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and that Christ died to save all humankind, and an ecumenism that unites all those who, in deference to the Nicene Creed, continue to proclaim these formulas but empty them of their content. It is an ecumenism in which, in its extreme form, everyone believes the same things because no one any longer believes anything, in the sense that "believing" has in the New Testament.

"Who is it that overcomes the world," John writes in his first letter, "if not those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1John 5:5). Sticking with this criterion, the fundamental distinction among Christians is not between Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants, but between those who believe that Christ is the Son of God and those who do not believe this.

* * *

"On the first day of the sixth month in the second year of King Darius, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai to the governor of Judah, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, and to the high priest Joshua, son of Jehozadaků: 'Is it time for you to dwell in your own paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?'" (Haggai 1:1-4).

This word of the prophet Haggai is addressed to us today. Is this the time to concern ourselves with that which only regards our religious order, our movement, or our Church? Is this not precisely the reason why we too "sow much but harvest little" (Haggai 1:6)? We preach and we are active in many ways, but we convert few people and the world moves away from Christ instead of drawing near to him.

The people of Israel heard the prophet's reproof; everyone stopped embellishing his own house and began to work together on God's temple. God then sent his prophet again with a message of consolation and encouragement, which is also addressed to us: "But now take courage, Zerubbabel, says the Lord, and take courage, Joshua, high priest, son of Jehozadak, And take courage, all you people of the land, says the Lord, and work! For I am with you, says the Lord of hosts" (Haggai 2:4). Take courage, all of you who have at heart the cause of the unity of Christians, and go to work, because I am with you, says the Lord!

--- --- ---

[1] Cf. R. E. Brown, "The Death of the Messiah," vol. 2, Doubleday, New York 1994, pp. 955-958.
[2] St. Cyprian, De unitate Ecclesiae, 7 (CSEL 3, p. 215).
[3] St. Augustine, Contra Faustum, 32,18 (CCL 321, p. 779).
[4] St. Augustine, Sermons, 269,3-4 (PL38, 1236 s

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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Cantalamessa, Sermon, Good, Friday, Liturgy, Easter, Lent

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1 - 2 of 2 Comments

  1. julius chinama
    3 years ago

    Dear Father,
    I would like to be receiving your rich homilies.
    God bless you in all what you do.

    In the spirit of st. Francis.

    julius chinama.

  2. Paul
    6 years ago

    St. Paul compared the love of spouses to Christ's Love for his Church. I'm frankly surprised that this homily on Christian unity excludes beginning with the cement of every Christian Family!

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