Cardinal Cantalamessa: brothers in faith and in the blood of Christ


Good Friday Worship at the Vatican (April 2, 2021)
Good Friday Worship at the Vatican (2 April 2021) (Vatican Media)

On Good Friday, April 2, Pope Francis presided at the St. Peter’s Basilica in commemoration of the Passion of the Lord. Traditionally, the sermon was delivered by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, a preacher of the Papal House.

Sofia Khalkhodzhaeva

The preacher began his reflections with the fact that on October 3 last year, His Holiness Father Francis signed an encyclical on brotherhood Fratres omnes, which in a short time awakened in many people the desire for this universal human value. Touching upon many spheres of life – religious, social, political, – the document is addressed to practically all of humanity, and not only to Christians. But for Christians, the origins of human dignity and brotherhood are found in the Gospel: it is from it that for Christian thought and the activity of the Church the paramount importance of relationships, meeting with the sacred secret of a neighbor, communication with all mankind as a vocation for all flows, Cardinal Cantalamessa noted.

The mystery that we glorify today prompts us to focus on this Christological foundation of brotherhood, because the solemn beginning was laid on the Cross, the preacher of the Papal House explained: “In the New Testament, ‘brothers’ means in the original sense of the word people born of one and the same father and mother. The second meaning of the word “brothers” indicates belonging to the same people and nation. We can call every person a brother. ” A brother is what the Bible calls “neighbor.” “Whoever hates his brother …” (1 John 2: 9) means: who does not love his neighbor. When Jesus says: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Mt 25: 40), He means every person who needs help.

Good Friday Divine Service at the Vatican

Good Friday Divine Service at the Vatican

But in addition to all these ancient and well-known meanings, in the New Testament the word “brother” more clearly denotes a certain category of people. Brothers among themselves are Jesus’ disciples who accept His teachings. “Who is My Mother? and who are my brothers? […] Whoever will do the will of My Father in Heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother ”(Mt 12: 48-50).

In this sense, Easter marks a new decisive stage, the cardinal continued. Thanks to this, Christ becomes “the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29). The disciples become brothers in a new and immeasurably deeper sense: they share not only the teachings of Jesus, but also His Spirit, the new life of the Risen One. It is significant that only after His resurrection Jesus first calls his disciples brothers, the cardinal noted: “Go to my brothers,” the Lord says to Mary Magdalene, “and tell them: I ascend to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God” ( Jn 20:17). “Both he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all of the One; so [Христос] he is not ashamed to call them brethren ”(Heb. 2:11).

Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa

Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa

The word “brother” also refers to a brother by faith, a brother by the blood of Christ, continued Cardinal Cantalamessa:

“This makes the brotherhood in Christ something unique and transcendental compared to any other type of brotherhood and is due to the fact that Christ is also God. It does not replace other types of brotherhood based on family, nation or race, but is their crown. ” All people are brothers, creatures of one God and Father. To this the Christian faith adds a second decisive reason. We are brothers not only in creation but also in redemption; not only because we all have the same Father, but because we all have the same brother, Christ, ‘the firstborn among many brothers.’

Good Friday Divine Service at the Vatican

Good Friday Divine Service at the Vatican

Ecumenical brotherhood begins for us with brotherhood in the Catholic Church, the prelate emphasized, noting that Christ’s tunic was torn apart by divisions between the Churches. “I am, of course, talking about their human element, because no one can ever tear apart the true robe of Christ, His mystical body, animated by the Holy Spirit,” Cardinal Cantalamessa clarified. “In the eyes of God, the Church is ‘one, holy, universal and apostolic,’ and she will remain so until the end of the age.”

Father Raniero Cantalamessa sees the most common cause of disagreement among Catholics not in doctrine, sacraments or ministry, but in political decisions, when they prevail over religious ones and become overgrown with ideology: “This means that the ‘kingdom of this world’ has become more important for man than the Kingdom of God. It is a sin, in the strictest sense of the word. I believe that we are all called to seriously test our conscience in this and to be converted. This is the work of the one whose name is ‘diabolos’, that is, the divider, the enemy that sows strife, as Jesus calls him in His parable (see Mt 13:25). “

“We must learn from the gospel and the example of Jesus,” continued the papal house preacher. – There was a strong political polarization around Jesus. There were four parties: the Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, and Zealots. Jesus did not take sides and resolutely resisted attempts to lure Him to one side or the other. The early Christian community faithfully followed Him in this decision. ”

Good Friday Divine Service at the Vatican

Good Friday Divine Service at the Vatican

This is an example, first of all, for pastors, who should be shepherds for the entire flock, and not for any part of it, the cardinal emphasized. They should be the first to seriously test their conscience and ask themselves where they are leading the flock entrusted to them: to their side or to the side of Jesus.

If there is a special gift or charisma that the Catholic Church should develop for the benefit of all Churches, it is the gift of unity. The recent trip of the Holy Father to Iraq showed what it means for those who are oppressed or survived wars and persecution to feel like a part of the universal body: after all, someone can convey their cry to the rest of the world, reviving hope. This visit became another fulfillment of Christ’s command to Peter: “Confirm your brothers” (Luke 22:32), said the cardinal at the end of the sermon, calling:

“To the One who died on the Cross, ‘so that we may gather together the scattered children of God’ (John 11:52), let us offer on this day ‘with a contrite heart and a humble spirit’ the prayer that the Church turns to Him at every Mass before Communion: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles: I leave peace to you, My peace I give to you. Do not look at our sins, but on the faith of Your Church and, according to Your will, to pacify and unite it. You who live and reign forever and ever. ‘ Amen”.

Memorial service of the Passion of the Lord at the Vatican (April 2, 2021)

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