Cantalamessa: Following the Spirit means being open to novelty
By Christopher Wells
In his first sermon for Lent 2023, the Preacher of the Papal Household, Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap., focused on “the newness of the Spirit” and the need for constant renewal and conversion, both individually and in the Church as a whole.
The problem, he said, is not novelty per se, but how we deal with it. “Every novelty and every change is a crossroads; it can take two opposite paths: either that of the world or that of God; either the path of death or the path of life.”
Cardinal Cantalamessa went on to say that in the Church, “we have an infallible means to take the path of life and light every time: the Holy Spirit.” He explained that this year's series of sermons for Lent are aimed at “encouraging us to put the Holy Spirit at the heart of the whole life of the Church,” and especially in the work of the ongoing Synod.
For his first sermon, the Cardinal looked to the lessons taught by the early Christian community. In its earliest days, he said, the Church was led by the Spirit, guided by Him in matters large and small.
This method of turning to the Spirit to make ecclesial decisions – as the Church did with regard to the question of admitting gentiles to the Church – can also be seen in the efforts of the Second Vatican Council to renew the Church’s teaching about Herself, and especially the role of lay people.
It also helps us to see that questions in the Church are not resolved solely by synods or decrees, but by the reception of those teachings, which can sometimes require compromises between a desire for continuity and a desire for novelty.
Cardinal Cantalamessa then recalled the role of St Peter in mediating between competing concerns in the early Church, a role that is continued today by the Popes as Peter’s successors.
Concluding his sermon, the Preacher of the Papal Household emphasized the importance of kindness, of being good to others, while being strict with oneself. As a remedy to polarization and division in the Church, he proposed trying to look at issues from other people’s points of view.
Instead of judging others with condemnation, Cardinal Cantalamessa said, “it is not a matter of eliminating judgment from our heart, but rather of removing the poison from our judgment.”
“The strength of Christian love,” he said, “lies in the fact that it is capable of changing judgment from an act of non-love, turning it into an act love,” thanks to the gift of the Spirit.
Cardinal Cantalamessa concluded his sermon with the prayer “Make me an instrument of your peace,” sometimes attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.
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