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FATHER CANTALAMESSA COMMENTS ON EASTER

“If it were up to me, that is the only thing I would do. I quit teaching the history of Christian origins 30 years ago to dedicate myself to proclaming the Kingdom of God, but now when I am faced with radical and unfounded denials of the truth of the Gospels, I have felt obliged to take up the tools of my trade again.”
Father Raniero Cantalamessa, Pontifical Household Preacher, comments on the readings for Easter Sunday Liturgy.
Below is a translation of his commentary by Zenit.

* * *

He is Risen!
Easter Sunday
Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-9

There are men -- we see this in the phenomenon of suicide bombers -- who die for a misguided or even evil cause, mistakenly retaining, but in good faith, that the cause is a worthy one.

Even Christ's death does not testify to the truth of his cause, but only the fact that he believed in its truth. Christ's death is the supreme witness of his charity, but not of his truth. This truth is adequately testified to only by the Resurrection. "The faith of Christians," says St. Augustine, "is the resurrection of Christ. It is no great thing to believe that Jesus died; even the pagans believe this, everyone believes it. The truly great thing is to believe that he is risen."

Keeping to the purpose that has guided us up to this point, we must leave faith aside for the moment and attend to history. We would like to try to respond to the following question: Can Christ's resurrection be defined as a historical event, in the common sense of the term, that is, did it "really happen"?

There are two facts that offer themselves for the historian's consideration and permit him to speak of the Resurrection: First, the sudden and inexplicable faith of the disciples, a faith so tenacious as to withstand even the trial of martyrdom; second, the explanation of this faith that has been left by those who had it, that is, the disciples. In the decisive moment, when Jesus was captured and executed, the disciples did not entertain any thoughts about the resurrection. They fled and took Jesus' case to be closed.

In the meantime something had to intervene that in a short time not only provoked a radical change of their state of soul, but that led them to an entirely different activity and to the founding of the Church. This "something" is the historical nucleus of Easter faith.

The oldest testimony to the Resurrection is Paul's: "For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: That Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose again according to the Scriptures; and that he was seen by Cephas, and after that by the eleven.

"Then he was seen by more than 500 brethren at once, of whom many are still with us and some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen by James, then by all the apostles. And last of all, he was seen also by me, as by one born out of due time" (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

These words were written around A.D. 56 or 57. But the core of the text is constituted by an anterior faith that Paul himself says he received from others. Keeping in mind that Paul learned of these things immediately after his conversion, we can date them to about A.D. 35, that is, five or six years after the death of Christ. It is thus a testimony of rare historical value.

The accounts of the Evangelists were written some decades later and reflect a later phase in the Church's reflection. But the core of the testimony remains unchanged: The Lord is risen and was seen alive. To this a new element is added, perhaps determined by an apologetic preoccupation, and so of minor historical value: The insistence on the fact of the empty tomb. Even for the Gospels, the appearances of the Risen Christ are the decisive facts.

The appearances, nevertheless, testify to a new dimension of the Risen Christ, his mode of being "according to the Spirit," which is new and different with respect to his previous mode of existing, "according to the flesh." For example, he cannot be recognized by whoever sees him, but only by those to whom he gives the ability to know him. His corporeality is different from what it was before. It is free from physical laws: It enters and exits through closed doors; it appears and disappears.

According to a different explanation of the Resurrection, one advanced by Rudolf Bultmann and still proposed today, what we have here are psychogenetic visions, that is, subjective phenomena similar to hallucinations. But this, if it were true, would constitute in the end a greater miracle than the one that such explanations wish to deny. It supposes that in fact different people, in different situations and locations, had the same impression, the same halucination.

The disciples could not have deceived themselves: They were specific people -- fishermen -- not at all given to visions. They did not believe the first ones; Jesus almost has to overpower their resistance: "O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe!" They could not even want to deceive others. All of their interests opposed this; they would have been the first to feel themselves deceived by Jesus. If he were not risen, to what purpose would it have been to face persecution and death for him? What material benefit would they have drawn from it?

If the historical character of the Resurrection -- that is, its objective, and not only subjective, character -- is denied, the birth of the Church and of the faith become an even more inexplicable mystery than the Resurrection itself. It has been justly observed that "the idea that the imposing edifice of the history of Christianity is like an enormous pyramid balanced upon an insignificant fact is certainly less credible than the assertion that the entire event -- and that also means the most significant fact within this -- really did occupy a place in history comparable to the one that the New Testament attributes to it."

Where does the historical research on the Resurrection arrive? We can see it in the words of the disciples of Emmaus: Some disciples went to Jesus' tomb Easter morning and they found that things were as the women had said who had gone their before them, "but they did not see him." History too must take itself to Jesus' tomb and see that things are as the witnesses have said. But it does not see the Risen One. It is not enough to observe matters historically. It is necessary to see the Risen Christ, and this is something history cannot do; only faith can.

The angel who appeared to the women Easter morning said to them: "Why do you seek the living among the dead?" (Luke 24:5). I must confess that at the end of these reflections I feel that this rebuke is also directed at me. It is as if the angel were to say to me: "Why do you waste time seeking among dead human and historical arguments, the one who is alive and at work in the Church and in the world? Go instead and tell his brothers that he is risen."

If it were up to me, that is the only thing I would do. I quit teaching the history of Christian origins 30 years ago to dedicate myself to proclaming the Kingdom of God, but now when I am faced with radical and unfounded denials of the truth of the Gospels, I have felt obliged to take up the tools of my trade again.

This is why I have decided to use these commentaries on the Sunday Gospels to oppose a tendency often motivated by commercial interests and help those who may read my observations to form an opinion about Jesus that is less influenced by the clamor of the advertising world.



 
LIVES OF THE SAINTS

DECEMBER 1
ST. EDMUND CAMPION
St. Edmund lived in the sixteenth century. He was a very popular young English student who was a great speaker. 

DECEMBER 2
ST. BIBIANA
St. Bibiana's father Flavian had been prefect of the city of Rome in early Christian times. 

DECEMBER 3
ST. FRANCIS XAVIER
St. Francis Xavier, the great missionary, was born at Xavier Castle in Spain in 1506.

DECEMBER 4
ST. JOHN DAMASCENE

St. John lived in the eighth century. He was born in the city of Damascus of a good Christian family

DECEMBER 5
ST. SABAS

St. Sabas, born in 439, is one of the most famous monks of Palestine.

DECEMBER 6
ST. NICHOLAS

St. Nicholas is the great patron of children and of Christmas giving.

DECEMBER 7
ST. AMBROSE

St. Ambrose was born around 340. He was the son of the Roman governor of Gaul.

DECEMBER 8
IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF MARY

Our first parents offended God by sinning seriously.

DECEMBER 9
BLESSED JUAN DIEGO

St. Juan Diego is well-known because the Mother of God appeared to him.

DECEMBER 10
ST. JOHN ROBERTS

St. John was born in Wales in 1577. Although he was not a Catholic, he was taught by an elderly priest.

DECEMBER 11
ST. DAMASUS I

ST. Damasus was born in Rome and lived in the fourth century-exciting times for the Church.

DECEMBER 12
OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE

We celebrate the event of Mary's appearances on Tepyac Hill in Mexico.

DECEMBER 13
ST. LUCY

St. Lucy, the beloved saint, lived in Syracuse, Sicily. She was born toward the end of the third century.

DECEMBER 14
ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS

St. John was born in Spain in 1542. He was the son of a weaver.

DECEMBER 15
ST. NINO

St. Nino was a Christian girl who lived in the fourth century.

DECEMBER 16
ST. ADELAIDE

St. Adelaide was born in 931. At the age of sixteen, this Burgundian princess was married to King Lothair.

DECEMBER 17
ST. OLYMPIAS

St. Olympias was born around the year 361. She belonged to a great family of Constantinople.

DECEMBER 18
ST. FLANNAN

St. Flannan lived around the seventh century. He was the son of an Irish chieftain named Turlough. Flannan was educated by the monks.

DECEMBER 19
BLESSED URBAN V

Blessed Urban's name before he became pope was William de Grimoard.

DECEMBER 20
ST. DOMINIC OF SILOS

St. Dominic, a Spanish shepherd boy, was born at the beginning of the eleventh century.

DECEMBER 21
ST. PETER CANISIUS

ST. Peter, a Dutch man, was born in 1521. His father wanted him to be a lawyer.

DECEMBER 22
ST. CHAEREMON AND ST. ISCHYRION AND OTHER MARTYRS

The third century was marked by Roman persecutions of the Church.

DECEMBER 23
ST. JOHN OF KANTY

St. John, the Polish saint, was born in 1390, the son of good country folk.

DECEMBER 23
ST. MARGUERITE D'YOUVILLE

St. Marguerite was born in Quebec, Canada, on October 15, 1701.

DECEMBER 24
ST. CHARBEL

St. Charbel was born Youssef Makhlouf on May 8, 1828, in a mountain village in Lebanon.

DECEMBER 25
CHRISTMAS, THE BIRTHDAY OF JESUS

The time had come for the Son of God to become man for love of us.

DECEMBER 26
ST. STEPHEN

St. Stephen's name means crown. He was the first disciple of Jesus to receive the martyr's crown.

DECEMBER 27
ST. JOHN THE APOSTLE

St. John was a fisherman in Galilee. He was called to be an apostle.

DECEMBER 28
THE HOLY INNOCENTS

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the Wise Men came from the east to worship him.

DECEMBER 29
ST. THOMAS BECKET

St. Thomas Becket was born in 1118, in London, England.

DECEMBER 30
CST. ANYSIA

St. Anysia lived in Thessalonica toward the end of the second century.

DECEMBER 31
ST. SYLVESTER

St. Sylvester dates back to early Christian times, to the reign of Constantine.

 
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Tour of the Relics of the Passion
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REFLECTIONS

“Jesus’ Baptism”

Why did Jesus, the sinless one sent from the Father in heaven, submit himself to John’s baptism? John preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3). In this humble submission we see a foreshadowing of the “baptism” of Jesus bloody death upon the cross. Jesus’ baptism is the acceptance and the beginning of his mission as God’s suffering Servant (Isaiah 52:13-15; 53:1-12). He allowed himself to be numbered among sinners. Jesus submitted himself entirely to his Father’s will. Out of love he consented to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins. Do you know the joy of trust and submission to God?

 
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