The Light of Our World

“We are sanctified in Christ Jesus.”

The Gospel of the Fourth Sunday of Lent, from John the Apostle, contains a promise: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. The light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.

For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God. 

To reflect on these words, I share again excerpts from the second sermon for Lent 2021 by Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household:

First, the good Cardinal asks a question. “Which Christ do we want to talk about? There are indeed various ‘Christs’: there is the Christ of historians, of theologians, of poets, and even the Christ of atheists. We wish to speak of the Christ of the Gospels and of the Church, more precisely, of the Christ of the Catholic dogma defined by the Council of Chalcedon of 451 . . . We can use the image of a dogmatic triangle on Christ: the sides are the humanity and the divinity of Christ and the summit is the unity of his own person.”

Christ is a perfect man. According to Cardinal Cantalamessa: “During Jesus’s life on earth nobody ever thought of questioning the reality of the humanity of Christ, his really being a man like others. When the New Testament refers to Christ’s humanity, its interest focuses more on its holiness than on its truth or reality, that is more on its perfection that on its ontological completeness. This is the first ‘extreme close-up’ on Jesus we want to use in this meditation: letting ourselves be fascinated by the infinite beauty of Christ, ‘the most handsome of the sons of mankind.”

Christ is holy. The papal household preacher says: “Observing the Gospels shows us that the holiness of Jesus is not only an abstract principle, or a metaphysical deduction, but it is genuine holiness, in its being lived out moment by moment and in the most concrete situations in life. The Beatitudes, to give an example, are not just a beautiful life plan that Jesus sketches for others; it is his own life itself and his experience as it is revealed to the disciples, by calling them to access the same sphere of holiness. The Beatitudes are Jesus’ self-portrait.

We are sanctified in Christ Jesus. According to Cantalamessa:

“It is not so much that Jesus is the Holy one of God, or that we too are meant to be holy and immaculate. No, the happy surprise is that Jesus communicates, grants, gives us his holiness away for free! It is that his holiness is also ours. Even more: that he himself is our holiness.

Every human parent can hand on to their children what they have, but not what they are. If they are artists, scientists, or even saints, not necessarily are their children born artists, scientists or saints as well. Parents can teach those skills or give them an example, but not hand them over as a sort of inheritance. Yet, Jesus, in our Baptism, does not only hand on what he has, but also what he is. He is holy and makes us holy; he is the Son of God and makes us children of God.”

The Cardinal quotes Saint John Chrysostom: “Our swords are not stained with blood, we did not take part in the fight, we did not suffer wounds, we did not even see the battle, and behold we obtain a victory. The fight was his own, the crown is our own. And since we too have won, let us imitate what soldiers do in these cases: with joyful voices let us extol his victory, let us sing hymns of praise to the Lord.”

Cantalamessa ends with what he describes as a small practical and helpful resolution: Jesus’ holiness consisted in always doing what pleased the Father. He said: ‘I always do what is pleasing to him’ (Jn 8:29). 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. Knowing what Jesus’ will is turns out to be easier than knowing in abstract terms what ‘God’s will’ is (even though the two in fact coincide). To know Jesus’ will we have to do nothing but remember what he says in the Gospel. The Holy Spirit is there, ready to remind us.”


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