By Vatican News staff reporter
After reflecting on the humanity of Christ in last week’s sermon, Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa focused on Jesus’ divinity in his third sermon for Lent 2021.
This year’s series of sermons to the Roman Curia have been reacting to a tendency to speak about the Church “as if Christ did not exist,” the Cardinal explained. However, he said, “we have been meaning to react to that in an unusual way: not by trying to convince the world and the media of their mistake, but by renewing and intensifying our faith in Christ.”
The dogma of the divinity of Christ
As earlier with the teaching on the humanity of Christ, Cardinal Cantalamessa grounded his reflection on the dogma of Christ’s divinity. This dogma was proclaimed already in the earliest years of the Church, and confirmed at the Council of Nicea.
During the Protestant “reformation,” this dogma was left intact, and in a sense, enhanced in its central role. However, the focus of protestant leaders on Christ’s benefits for the individual paved the way for a distinction between the objective and dogmatic truth about Christ, on the one hand, and the subjective and intimate knowledge of Christ on the other.
Subsequently, Cardinal Cantalamessa explained, the Enlightenment rationalism led to an emphasis on Christ as a moral teacher, and an effective denial of his divinity.
“Who do you say that I am”
The Cardinal notes that Jesus is primarily concerned, not with what the world thinks of Him, but with how His disciples view Him. In the Gospels, Jesus asks of His disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” This, said Cardinal Cantalamessa, “is the very question we try to answer in the present meditation.”
Every page of the Gospels, he said, “literally exudes the divine transcendence of Christ.” It is in the Gospel of John, however, that the divinity of Jesus is “the primary aim… its all-encompassing theme.” Cardinal Cantalamessa spoke of how he was profoundly affected upon hearing the great “I AM” statements of Jesus in John’s Gospel. “It was simple emotion of faith and nothing more, but one of those which, once gone, left an indelible mark.”
Restoring faith in the divinity of Jesus
The Cardinal emphasized that this profound experience of Christ’s divinity is necessary now more than ever. This can help us see how the objective truth that Jesus is God can enhance the subjective and functional view of this teaching. Faith, he said, must begin in the heart, even before it is professed.
Cardinal Cantalamessa insisted, “The divinity of Christ is the highest peak, the ‘Everest’ of faith.” And today, he said, we must “recreate the conditions to restore the faith in the divinity of Christ, to replicate the outburst of faith which gave rise to the dogma of Nicaea.”
No one today doubts the humanity of Christ. Instead, what separates believers from non-believers is the belief that Jesus is also God. “Christian faith,” said Cardinal Cantalamessa, “is the divinity of Christ.”
The meaning of life
Concluding his sermon, Cardinal Cantalamessa turns once again to the modern concern about the subjective benefits of believe in this dogma. Modern man, despite assertions to the contrary, still grapples with questions of the meaning of life – questions that have come to the fore even more prominently in a time of pandemic.
Belief in the divinity of Christ, he said, allows us to resist the modern temptation to believe that life has no meaning. “Precisely because Christ is ‘the true God,’ He is also ‘eternal life’ and gives eternal life.”
The full text of the Third Sermon for Lent 2021 can be read on Cardinal Cantalamessa's website.