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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

APRIL 1
ST. HUGH OF GRENOBLE
St. Hugh was born in 1052 in France. He grew up to be tall and handsome, gentle and courteous.

APRIL 2
ST. FRANCIS OF PAOLA
St. Francis was born in the tiny village of Paola, Italy, around 1416. His parents were poor but humble and holy.

APRIL 3
ST. RICHARD OF CHICHESTER
St. Richard was born in England in 1197. He and his brother became orphans when Richard was very young.

APRIL 4
ST. ISIDORE OF SEVILLE
This saint was born in 556. Isidore's two older brothers, Leander and Fulgentius, became bishops and saints, too.

APRIL 5
ST. VINCENT FERRER

A most wonderful Christian hero was St. Vincent Ferrer. He was born in Valencia, Spain, in 1350.

APRIL 6
BLESSED NOTKER

This Benedictine monk had once been a sickly child. He had a very noticeable speech impediment all his life. Notker was determined not to let it get in his way.

APRIL 7
ST. JOHN BAPTIST DE LA SALLE

St. John Baptist de la Salle was born in Rheims, France, on April 30, 1651. His parents were from the nobility.

APRIL 8
ST. JULIE BILLIART

Mary Rose Julie Billiart was born in Belgium in 1751. Her uncle, the village school teacher, taught her to read and write.

APRIL 9
ST. WALDETRUDIS

Waldetrudis was born in Belgium in the seventh century. Her mother, her father and her sister have all been declared saints.

APRIL 10
BLESSED ANTHONY NEYROT

Anthony was born in northern Italy in the fifteenth century. He joined the Dominican order in Florence, Italy. The prior at that time was another saint, Antoninus.

APRIL 11
ST. STANISLAUS

St. Stanislaus was born near Cracow, Poland, in 1030. His parents had prayed for thirty years for a child.

APRIL 12
ST. JOSEPH MOSCATI

His brother's death made a deep impression on Joseph. He asked Jesus in the Eucharist and Mary for answers.

APRIL 13
ST. MARTIN

St. Martin was a priest of Rome who had a reputation for being well-educated and holy. He became pope in July, 649.

APRIL 14
BLESSED LIDWINA

The name Lidwina means "suffering." Lidwina was from Holland. She was born in 1380 and died in 1433.

APRIL 15
BLESSED DAMIEN OF MOLOKAI

Joseph "Jeff" de Veuster was born in 1840, the son of Belgian farmers. He and his brother, Pamphile, joined the congregation of the Sacred Hearts.

APRIL 16
ST. BENEDICT JOSEPH LABRE

This French saint, born in 1748, led a most unusual life. He was the son of a store owner and was taught by his uncle, a priest .

APRIL 17
ST. STEPHEN HARDING

Stephen was a young Englishman who lived in the twelfth century. He was a good student who liked to learn.

APRIL 18
BLESSED MARY OF THE INCARNATION

Barbara was born in France in 1566. She was married to Peter Acarie when she was seventeen. She and her husband loved their Catholic faith and practiced it.

APRIL 19
BLESSED JAMES DUCKETT

James Duckett was an Englishman who lived during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. As a young man he became an apprentice printer in London.

APRIL 20
ST. AGNES OF MONTEPULCIANO

This saint was born near the city of Monte pulciano, Italy, in 1268. When she was just nine years old, she begged her mother and father to let her live at the nearby convent.

APRIL 21
ST. ANSELM

Anselm was born in northern Italy in 1033. From his home he could see the Alps mountains.

APRIL 22
ST. SOTER AND ST. CAIUS

St. Soter was pope long ago in the times of the Roman emperors. He was a real father to all Christians.

APRIL 23
ST. GEORGE

Pictures of St. George usually show him killing a dragon to rescue a beautiful lady. The dragon stands for wickedness.

APRIL 24
ST. FIDELIS OF SIGMARINGEN

This saint's name was Mark Rey. He was born in Germany in 1578. Mark went to the famous University of Freigburg to become a lawyer.

APRIL 25
ST. MARK THE EVANGELIST

Mark lived at the time of Jesus. Although he was not among the original twelve apostles, he was a relative of St. Barnabas, an apostle.

APRIL 26
ST. RADBERTUS

This saint lived in ninth-century France. No one knows who his parents were. They left their newborn infant on the doorstep of Notre-Dame convent.

APRIL 27
ST. ZITA

Zita is known as the patron saint of domestic workers. She was born in the village of Monte Sagrati, Italy, in 1218.

APRIL 28
ST. PETER CHANEL

St. Peter Chanel was born near Belley, France, in 1803. From the time he was seven, he took care of his father's sheep.

APRIL 29
ST. CATHERINE OF SIENA

Born in 1347, this well-known saint is the patroness of Italy, her country. Catherine was the youngest in a family of twenty-five children.

APRIL 30
ST. PIUS V

This holy pope was born in Italy in 1504. He was baptized Anthony Ghislieri. He wanted to become a priest, but it seemed as though his dream would never come true.

 
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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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