Extracts from the Homily of Father Raniero Cantalamessa, ofmcap.

preacher of the Pontifical House.

Celebration of the Lord's Passion: Friday, April 10, 2020

"I HAVE THOUGHTS OF PEACE, NOT OF UNHAPPINESS"

 

St. Gregory the Great said that Scripture “grows with its readers”, cum legentibus crescit.[1] It reveals meanings always new according to the questions people have in their hearts as they read it. And this year we read the account of the Passion with a question—rather with a cry—in our hearts that is rising up over the whole earth. We need to seek the answer that the word of God gives it…

The cross of Christ has changed the meaning of pain and human suffering…
What light does all of this shed on the dramatic situation that humanity is going through now?

The pandemic of Coronavirus has abruptly roused us from the greatest danger individuals and humanity have always been susceptible to: the delusion of omnipotence… As a psalm in the Bible says, “In his prime, man does not understand. / He is like the beasts—they perish” (Ps 49:21). How true that is!

God does this with us sometimes: he disrupts our projects and our calm to save us from the abyss we don’t see… God is our ally, not the ally of the virus! He himself says in the Bible, “I have . . . plans for your welfare and not for woe” (Jer 29:11). The one who cried one day for Lazarus' death cries today for the scourge that has fallen on humanity … God participates in our pain to overcome it. What is happening today is the fruit of human freedom, God lets it freely run its course "by making it serve its plan".

… The other positive fruit of the present health crisis is the feeling of solidarity. When, in the memory of humanity, have the people of all nations ever felt themselves so united, so equal, so less in conflict than at this moment of pain?... Let us not allow so much pain, so many deaths, and so much heroic engagement on the part of health workers to have been in vain. Returning to the way things were is the “recession” we should fear the most.

They shall beat their swords into plowshares

and their spears into pruning hooks;

One nation shall not raise the sword against another,

nor shall they train for war again. (Is 2:4)

This is the moment to put into practice something of the prophecy of Isaiah whose fulfilment humanity has long been waiting for. Let us say “Enough!” to the tragic race toward arms. Say it with all your might, you young people, because it is above all your destiny that is at stake. Let us devote the unlimited resources committed to weapons to the goals that we now realize are most necessary and urgent: health, hygiene, food, the fight against poverty, stewardship of creation. Let us leave to the next generation a world poorer in goods and money, if need be, but richer in its humanity.

The word of God tells us the first thing we should do at times like these is to cry out to God.: “Help us! / Redeem us in your mercy” (Ps 44, 24, 27). “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mk 4:38) …  

There are things that God has decided to grant us as the fruit both of his grace and of our prayer, almost as though sharing with his creatures the credit for the benefit received.[6] God is the one who prompts us to do it: “Seek and you will find,” Jesus said; “knock and the door will be opened to you” (Mt 7:7).

Let us gaze upon the one who was “lifted up” for us on the cross. Let us adore him on behalf of ourselves and of the whole human race.. We too, after these days that we hope will be short, shall rise and come out of the tombs of our homes. Not however to return to the former life like Lazarus, but to a new life, like Jesus. A more fraternal, more human, more Christian life!

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[1] Moralia in Job, XX, 1.
[2] John Paul II, Salvifici doloris [On the Meaning of Human Suffering], n. 23.
[3] https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/coronavirus-a-spiritual-message-from-brooklyn (Yaakov Yitzhak Biderman).
[4] See St. Augustine, Enchiridion 11, 3; PL 40, 236.
[5] Giovanni Pascoli, “I due fanciulli” [“The Two Children”].
[6] See St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologicae, II-IIae, q. 83, a. 2.