Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, the Preacher of the Papal Household, delivers his third sermon for Lent 2023 to Pope Francis and Roman Curia.
By Deborah Castellano Lubov
The love of God for His people was at the heart of the third sermon for Lent 2023, delivered by the Preacher of the Papal Household, Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap.
His homily was given in the Vatican on Friday morning to the Roman Curia and Pope Francis himself.
“For your consolation and mine, Holy Father, Venerable Fathers, brothers and sisters,” Cardinal Cantalamessa began, “this meditation will be entirely and exclusively centered on God. The discourse on God, that is, theology, cannot remain extraneous to the reality of the Synod, just as it can’t remain extraneous to any other moment of the life of the Church.”
Without theology, the Franciscan Cardinal observed, “faith would easily become dead repetition and would lack the main tool for its “inculturation.”
The closeness of God
However, to fulfill this task, theology itself, he suggested, “needs a profound renewal.”
“What God’s people need is a theology imbued with life, which does not always speak of God ‘in the third person,’ with categories often borrowed from the philosophical system of the moment, incomprehensible outside the small circle of ‘insiders.'”
Instead, he urged, we must see God in a close, relatable way.
“But I apologize for breaking my initial promise,” he said, “It is not a discourse on the renewal of theology that I intend to develop here. I wouldn’t have the qualifications to do it. Rather, I would like to show how theology, understood in the sense just outlined, can contribute to present the Gospel message in a significant way to today’s humanity and to give new life to our faith and our prayer.”
God loves you
The most beautiful news that the Church has the task of proclaiming to the world, the one that every human heart expects to hear, is: “God loves you!”
This certainty, he underscored, must eradicate and take the place of the one we have always carried within us: “God is judging you!”
The truth that “God is love,” he insisted, must accompany, like a bass note, every Christian proclamation, even when the practical demands of this love must be recalled, as the Gospel does.
The Cardinal then elaborated on mysteries of faith, and on the depth and meaning behind the Trinity, Incarnation, and Passion, and said we have to see what the truth that we have contemplated in these mysteries changes in our lives.
This transforming of our lives, through the mysteries, he argued, constitutes the “good news” that is “never missing when we try to deepen the treasures of the Christian faith.” He added that “The good news, thanks to our incorporation into Christ, is that we too can love God with a love worthy of Him!”
“The good news, thanks to our incorporation into Christ, is that we too can love God with a love worthy of Him!”
Overflow of Divine Love
“The love that has been poured into us is the same with which the Father has always loved the Son, not a different love!” he continued. “It is an overflow of divine love from the Trinity to us.”
God communicates to the soul, writes St. John of the Cross, “the same love that He communicates to the Son, even if this does not happen by nature, as in the case of the Son, but by union.”
The consequence, he noted, is that we can love the Father with the love with which the Son loves Him, and we can love Jesus with the love with which the Father loves Him.
All this, he said, is thanks to the Holy Spirit who is that very love.
“What, then,” the Cardinal asked, “do we give to God of our own when we say to Him, ‘I love you’? Nothing but the love we receive from Him! So absolutely nothing on our part? Is our love for God nothing more than a ‘bouncing’ of His own love towards Him, like the echo that sends sound back to His source?”
“Not in this case!” he stressed. “The echo returns to God from the cavern of our hearts, but with a novelty that is everything for God: the scent of our freedom and our filial gratitude!”
All this, he highlighted, is accomplished, “in an exemplary way,” in the Eucharist. In it, he noted, we offer to the Father, as “our sacrifice,” what the Father has first given us, that is, His Son Jesus.
“We can say to God the Father in our prayer: “Father, I love you with the love with which your Son Jesus loves you!” And we can say to Jesus: “Jesus, I love you with the love with which your heavenly Father loves you!” And know with certainty that all this is not a pious figment of our imagination!”