By Christopher Wells
Although Pope Francis is in Iraq for his 33rd Apostolic Journey abroad, the annual Lenten reflections for the Roman Curia and the Pope’s closest collaborators continue in the Vatican.
The Preacher to the Papal Household, Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., is devoting this year’s meditations to the Person of Jesus Christ. Too often, in a world that acts as if God does not exist, Christians run the risk of acting as if Christ does not exist.
Cardinal Cantalamessa notes that Pope Francis has pointed out four “coordinates” for the Church – faith, communion, the Eucharist, and prayer – which he says can be reduced to only one: “remaining anchored in Christ.”
With that orientation, Cardinal Cantalamessa offers a reflection that focuses on helping make Jesus “ever more truly the Lord of our life.”
Jesus Christ: True God and true man
As a foundation for his meditation, Cardinal Cantalamessa recalls the Council of Chalcedon’s dogmatic teaching that in Jesus Christ two natures – perfect divinity and perfect humanity – are united in one Person and one hypostasis.
Starting from this framework, the Cardinal focuses on Jesus’ perfect humanity. Chalcedon defended the dogma that Jesus is true man, and this truth being secured, Cardinal Cantalamessa says, allows us to focus on the Gospel view of Jesus as the new man, “the human being that all other human beings are to look like.”
The holiness of Jesus
While it is absolutely necessary to affirm the full and true humanity of Jesus, Cardinal Cantalamessa says the Bible emphasizes Jesus’ holiness. The Gospels show us Jesus’ holiness as lived out in every moment of His life. “The Beatitudes… are not just a beautiful plan that Jesus sketches for others; it is His own life itself and His experience as it is revealed to the disciples,” said Cantalamessa. “The Beatitudes are Jesus’ self-portrait.”
Holiness is a gift
But what does this mean for us, the Cardinal asks. It is not so much that we are called to be holy, as Jesus is holy, but that “Jesus communicates, grants, gives us His holiness for free!” says Cardinal Cantalamessa. “He is holy, and makes us holy; He is the Son of God and makes us children of God."
We are able to embrace this gift, he continues, first of all through faith, “the faith through which we make our own what Christ had won for us.” Then, having appropriated this life, having “put off the old self” and “put on Christ,” we are called to imitate Him.
What would please Jesus?
Noting that there “are many other opportunities to hear of the duty to imitate Christ,” Cardinal Cantalamessa concludes his sermon with “one small practical resolution: “Let us try and ask ourselves as often as we can, before any decision to make and answer to give: ‘What is it, in the present case, that would be pleasing to Jesus?’ and do that without delay.”