Saturday, December 13, 2008

Father Cantalamessa's 2nd Advent Sermon

"Called by God to Communicate With his Son Jesus Christ"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 12, 2008 ( Here is the Advent homily Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household, delivered today in the Vatican in the presence of Benedict XVI and the Roman Curia.

This is the second of three Advent sermons the preacher wrote on the theme "'When the Fullness of Time Had Come, God Sent his Son, Born of a Woman: Going With St. Paul to Meet the Christ Who Comes."

The last sermon will be given Dec. 19.

* * *

In order to remain faithful to the method of "lectio divina" so recommended by the recent synod of bishops, we listen above all to St. Paul's words, on which we wish to reflect in this meditation:

"But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith; that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own" (Philippians 3:7-12).

1. "That I may know him"

Last time we meditated on Paul's conversion as a metanoia, a change of mind, in the way of conceiving salvation. Paul, however, did not convert to a doctrine, be it also the doctrine of justification through faith; he converted to a person! Before a change of thought, his was a change of heart, the encounter with a living person. Often used is the expression "stroke of lightning" to indicate a love at first sight that sweeps away every obstacle; in no case is this metaphor more appropriate than for St. Paul.

Let us see how this change of heart shines from the text just heard. He speaks of the "surpassing worth" (hyperechon) of knowing Christ, and it is known that in this case, as in the whole Bible, to know does not indicate only an intellectual discovery, having an idea of something, but a vital and profound bond, an entering into relation with the object known. The same is true for the expression "that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings." "To know sharing in sufferings" does not mean, obviously, to have an idea, but to experience suffering.

It so happened that I read this passage in a particular moment of my life in which I also found myself before a choice. I was concerned with Christology, I had written and read so much on this argument, but when I read "that I may know him," I understood all of a sudden that that simple personal pronoun "him" (autòn) contained more truth about Jesus Christ than all the books written or read about him. I understood that, for the Apostle, Christ was not an ensemble of doctrines, heresies, dogmas; he was a living person, present and very real who could be designated with a simple pronoun, as is done, when one speaks of someone who is present, indicating him with the finger.


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