Cardinal Cantalamessa delivers his third Advent homily to the Pope and Roman Curia Cardinal Cantalamessa delivers his third Advent homily to the Pope and Roman Curia 

Cardinal Cantalamessa: Mary places Jesus in our arms at Christmas

Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa delivers his third Advent Sermon to Pope Francis and the Roman Curia, and encourages us to welcome God’s love in Jesus into our lives during this Christmas Season.

By Devin Watkins

The Preacher of the Papal Household brought his series of Advent Sermons to a close on Friday, offering the Pope and the Roman Curia a reflection on “The Gate of Charity”.

Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., began his sermon by noting that the ancient pagans—as expressed by Aristotle—understood God to be active and effective only to the extent that he (or they, in their view) received the love of human beings.

The New Testament, said the Cardinal, completely reversed this to make our ability to love dependent on God’s own love, as expressed in His Son, Jesus Christ.

“In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as expiation for our sins... We love because He first loved us” (1 Jn 4:12.19).

Welcoming gift of love like children

The theological virtue of charity is therefore a participation in God’s gratuitous love, rather than the result of our own efforts.

“Opening the door of love to Christ, therefore, means a very specific thing: welcoming the love of God, believing in love.”

Christmas, said Cardinal Cantalamessa, offers us a chance to receive “the infinite gift of God’s love” with “amazement and gratitude”.

He added that we must become like children to believe in love, since life’s disappointments tend to make us cautious and even cynical about love.

“Children believe in love, but not based on reasoning. By instinct, by nature. They are born full of confidence in the love of their parents,” he said. “They ask parents for the things they need, perhaps even by stamping their feet, but the unspoken assumption is not that they have earned it; rather that they are the children and that one day they will be the heirs of everything.”

The Holy Spirit, noted the Cardinal, allows us to welcome God’s love, since He is the love shared between the Father and the Son.

The Third Advent Sermon was held in the Paul VI Hall
The Third Advent Sermon was held in the Paul VI Hall

Humanity’s unique ability to love

Cardinal Cantalamessa went on to note that charity forms an essential part of the nature of the Church, which St. Augustine called the “communion of saints”.

After everything disappears, in St. Paul’s telling, “charity remains”, as if the scaffolding were taken down and the building “appears in all its glory.”

Charity, added the Preacher of the Papal Household, builds up both the Church and civil society, recalling that “social sentiment was born on the soil irrigated by the Gospel”.

As we interact with others, love for God and neighbor remains the unique ability of the human person, something which cannot be replaced by Artificial Intelligence or any technological advancement.

“We can conceive of an artificial intelligence: but can we conceive of an artificial love? Perhaps it is then precisely here that we must place the specific of the human and the inalienable attribute of him or her.”

Welcoming Jesus into our hearts

In conclusion, Cardinal Cantalamessa recalled that the Child Jesus comes to the door of our heart this Christmas to knock, offering Himself and God’s love as His gift.

He concluded with a story to illustrate how the Virgin Mother seeks to offer Jesus to the world and how we need to become children in order to receive Him.

A legend says that among the shepherds who went to see the Child on Christmas Eve, there was a shepherd boy so poor that he had nothing to offer his Mother, and he stood aside in shame. Everyone competed to give Mary their gift. The Mother could not hold them all, having to hold the Child Jesus in her arms. Seeing the little shepherd next to her with empty hands, she then takes the Child and puts Him in his arms. Having nothing was his luck. Let's make this luck be ours too!

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16 December 2022, 11:00