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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

JANUARY 1
MARY, MOTHER OF GOD
Today we begin our new year at the Eucharistic Celebration. We thank God for Mary, Jesus' mother, who brought the Savior into the world. Because she is the mother of Jesus, God's Son, she truly is the Mother of God.

JANUARY 2
ST. BASIL AND ST. GREGORY NAZIANZEN
Sts. Basil and Gregory were born in Asia Minor in the year 330. This area is modern-day Turkey. Basil's grandmother, father, mother, two brothers and a sister are all saints.

JANUARY 3
ST. GENEVIEVE
St. Genevieve was born around 422 in Nanterre, a small village four miles from Paris. While still very young, she desired to devote her life to Jesus.

JANUARY 4
ST. ELIZABETH ANN SETON
St. Elizabeth was called "Mother Seton" by everyone knew her by when she died on January 4, 1821, in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

JANUARY 5
ST. JOHN NEUMANN
St. John Neumann was not only quiet, he was short-five feet, two inches tall. His eyes were very kind and he smiled a lot.

JANUARY 6
BLESSED ANDRE BESSETTE
St. Alfred Bessette was born on August 9, 1845, not far from Montreal, Canada. He was the eighth of twelve children.

JANUARY 7
ST. RAYMOND OF PENYAFORT

St. Raymond was born between 1175 and 1180 in a little town near Barcelona, Spain. He was educated at the cathedral school in Barcelona and became a priest. .

JANUARY 8
ST. THORFINN

St. Thorfinn's life were discovered in details long after his death. He died in 1285, in a monastery in Belgium. Fifty years later, his tomb was accidentally opened during some construction work.

JANUARY 9
ST. JULIAN AND ST. BASILISSA

St. Julian and St. Basilissa were husband and wife. They lived in the early part of the fourth century.

JANUARY 10
ST. WILLIAM

St. William came from a wealthy French family. Even as a boy, he did not waste time fooling around or being idle.

JANUARY 11
ST. THEODOSIUS

St. Theodosius was born in Asia Minor in 423. As a young man, he set out on pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

JANUARY 12
ST. MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS

St. Marguerite was born in Troyes, France, on April 17, 1620, but spent most of her eighty years in Montreal, Canada.

JANUARY 13
ST. HILLARY OF POITIERS

St. Hilary was born into a pagan family on 315 in Poitiers, a town in France. His family was rich and well-known. Hilary received a good education.

JANUARY 14
ST. MACRINA

St. Macrina and her husband learned the high price of being true to their Christian beliefs.

JANUARY 15
ST. PAUL THE HERMIT

St. Paul was born into a Christian family in the year 229. They lived in Thebes, Egypt. Paul's parents showed him by their own lives how to love God and worship him with one's whole heart. Paul

JANUARY 16
ST. BERARD AND COMPANIONS

Six Franciscan friars accepted from St. Francis of Assisi an assignment to go to Morocco. They were to announce Christianity to the Muslims.

JANUARY 17
ST. ANTHONY OF EGYPT

St. Anthony was born in 251 in a small village in Egypt. When he was twenty years old, his parents died. They left him a large estate and placed him in charge of the care of his young sister.

JANUARY 18
BLESSED CHRISTINA

Blessed Christina lived in the sixteenth century. She was born in Abruzzi, Italy. Her baptismal name was Matthia. As she grew up, Matthia felt the call to a life of prayer and penance.

JANUARY 19
ST. CANUTE

St. Canute was a strong, wise king of Denmark. He lived in the eleventh century. Canute was a great athlete, an expert horseman, and a marvelous general.

JANUARY 20
ST. FABIAN AND ST. SEBASTIAN

St. Fabian was a pope who died a martyr in 250. It was during the persecution by Emperor Decius.

JANUARY 21
ST. AGNES

St. Agnes was a Roman girl who died in 304. She was just twelve years old when she suffered martyrdom for her faith.

JANUARY 22
ST. VINCENT OF SARAGOSSA

St. Vincent was martyred in Spain in 304. This was the same year that Agnes was martyred in Rome.

JANUARY 23
ST. JOHN THE ALMSGIVER

St. John was a dedicated Christian nobleman. He used his wealth and position to help poor people. After his wife passed away, John became a priest and bishop. In 608, he was consecrated the patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt.

JANUARY 24
ST. FRANCIS DE SALES

St. Francis was born at the de Sales castle in Savoy, France, on August 21, 1567. His wealthy family provided him with an excellent education. By the age of twenty-four, Francis was a Doctor of Law.

JANUARY 25
CONVERSION OF ST. PAUL

St. Paul lived at the time of Jesus but as far as we know they never met. Paul was first called Saul. As a young man, he was a very bright student of the Hebrew religion.

JANUARY 26
ST. TIMOTHY AND ST. TITUS

St. Timothy was born in Lycaonia in Asia Minor. His mother was a Jew and his father was a Gentile.

JANUARY 27
ST. ANGELA MERICI

St. Angela was born in the small Italian town of Desenzano, Italy, around 1474. Her parents died when she was ten. She and her only sister, who was three years older, loved each other very much.

JANUARY 28
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS

St. Thomas lived in the thirteenth century. He was the son of a noble family of Italy. He was very intelligent, but he never boasted about it. He knew that his mind was a gift from God.

JANUARY 29
ST. GILDAS

St. Gildas was born around the year 500 in Britain. He set out as a young man to practice a self-sacrificing lifestyle.

JANUARY 30
ST. BATHILDIS

St. Bathildis was a frightened, Christian English girl could have never imagined what her future would be like.

JANUARY 31
ST. JOHN BOSCO

St. John Bosco was born in Turin, Italy, on August 16, 1815. His parents were poor farmers. When John was two, his father died. John's mother struggled to keep the family together.

 
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“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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