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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

JUNE 1
ST. JUSTIN, MARTYR (165).
He lived in Palestine. He was converted to the Catholic Faith by the reading of Holy Scripture.

JUNE 2
STS. MARCELLINUS AND PETER (304).
Marcellinus was a priest and Peter an exorcist (one of the minor orders), who both lived in Rome and labored there under the cruel Emperor Diocletian.

JUNE 3
ST. CHARLES LWANGA AND COMPANIONS (1886-1887).
These were 22 young men and boys, from 13 to 30 years old, who were mar­tyred for the Catholic Faith in Uganda in Africa after undergoing cruel torments.

JUNE 3
ST. CLOTILDE (545)
St. Clotilde was a queen, the wife of King Clovis of the Franks. Her husband brought the French people as a nation into the Catholic Church in 496, when he was baptized at Rheims by St. Remigius. Her husband died in 511, and St. Clotilde was left a widow for 34 years.

JUNE 4
ST. FRANCIS CARACCIOLO (1608).

He was born of a royal family in the King - dom of Naples. As a little boy he started reciting the rosary daily. Very early in his life he contracted leprosy, and was miraculously cured of it. Francis spent every possible moment of his life in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

JUNE 5
ST. BONIFACE (755).

Saint Boniface was born in England, in 680. His name in English was Winfrid, which in Latin is translated to Boniface, and means "he who does good.

JUNE 6
ST. NORBERT (1134).

He was born near Cologne, in Germany, and was educated at the court of the emperor. After a somewhat worldly life, he was struck down one day by lightning while riding on a horse.

JUNE 6
ST.PHILIP THE DEACON (FIRST CENTURY).

He was one of the Seven Deacons ordained by the Apostles, as we are told in the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 6.

JUNE 7
ST. ROBERT OF NEWMINISTER (1159).

He was an English priest from York - shire, England, who became a Cistercian monk.

JUNE 7
ST. WILLIBALD

St. Willibald was a bishop and missionary. A native of Wessex, England, he was the brother of Sts. Winebald and Walburga and was related through his mother to the great St. Boniface.

JUNE 8
ST.MEDARD AND GILDARD (558).

These two French saints were twin brothers, as we are told in the Roman Martyrology.

JUNE 9
ST. EPHREM (373).

St. Ephrem the Syrian is both a Father and a Doctor of the Church. He was born in Mesopotamia, not far from the place where Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden.

JUNE 9
ST. COLUMKILLE (597).

St. Columbkille, also known as Columba, was born in Donegal, Ireland, on the feast of St. Ambrose, on December 7. Columbkille founded many monasteries and churches not only in Ireland, but in Scotland as well.

JUNE 10
BLESSED DIANA (1236).

She was a Dominican nun, a native of Bologna, Italy. Despite opposition from her noble born family, Diana gave up the world to follow Jesus and became a nun.

JUNE 10
ST.GETULIUS.

St. Getulius was martyred with Amantius, Caerealis, and Primitivus.

JUNE 11
ST. BARNABAS (60).

St. Barnabas was the cousin of St. Mark the Evan-gelist.

JUNE 12
ST. JOHN OF ST. FACUNDO (1479).

He was born in northern Spain, in the town of St. Facundo. He was a brilliant and attractive young boy, educated in the household of a bishop, and became one of the Hermits of St. Augustine.

JUNE 12
ST. LEO III.

St. Leo III is remembered as Charlemagne's pope. The cardinal priest of Santa Susanna, Leo was unanimously elected to the papal see in 795.

JUNE 13
ST. ANTHONY OF PADUA (1231).

There is no more loved and admired saint of the Catholic Church than Anthony of Padua. Though his work was in Italy, he was born in Portugal.

JUNE 14
ST. ELISEUS (NINTH CENTURY B.C).

He was an Old Testament prophet, the disciple and companion of St. Elias.

JUNE 15
ST. VITUS (303).

Vitus, whose name can also be Guy, was a child saint, entrusted by his pagan parents to the care of a Catholic nurse, Crescentia, and her husband, Modestus.

JUNE 15
ST. GERMAINE COUSIN (1601).

She was the daughter of a poor farmer who lived near Toulouse in France.

JUNE 16
ST. JOHN FRANCIS REGIS (1640).

He was one of the greatest priests of the Society of Jesus.

JUNE 17
ST. BOTOLPH (680).

Botolph was a Benedictine, and an Englishman, with over 70 churches dedicated to him in England. An English town, origi­nally called Saint Botolphstown.

JUNE 18
STS. MARK AND MARCELLIAN (THIRD CENTURY).

They were twin brothers and deacons of the Church at Rome who were martyred under Diocletian.

JUNE 19
ST. ROMUALD (1027).

He was a Benedictine monk, and later an abbot. He was the founder of the Camaldolese Order of the Benedictines in 1024. This saint's life was written by another holy man, Saint Peter Damian, Doctor of the Church.

JUNE 20
ST. SILVERIUS (538).

This 60th Pope of the Catholic Church suffered great persecution for defending the dogmatic truths of the one true Church founded by Jesus Christ.

JUNE 21
ST. ALOYSIUS GONZAGA (1591).

He was born on March 9, 1568, and is the model of the virtue of holy purity for all young Catholic boys.

JUNE 22
ST. PAULINUS OF NOLA (431).

Paulinus was born at Bordeaux, France, of one of its noblest and wealthiest families. He was appointed by the Roman Emperor, Prefect of all France.

JUNE 22
ST. THOMAS MORE (1535).

He was the wonderful English martyr, Chancellor of the Realm, who was beheaded on Tower Hill, just outside London.

JUNE 23
ST.AUDREY (ETHELDREDA) (679).

St. Audrey was an East Anglian princess, and later a queen. Driven to do so by her parents, she first married a prince named Tonbert, who died three years after their marriage.

JUNE 24
THE NATIVITY OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST (1 B.C).

John the Baptist was the miraculous son of Sts. Zachary and Elizabeth, given to them when Elizabeth was well beyond the years of childbearing.

JUNE 25
ST. WILLIAM THE ABBOT (1142).

St. William the Abbot (1142). Of the many saints and holy people named William, none is better remembered than St. William of Monte Vergine, in Italy.

JUNE 26
ST. JOHN AND PAUL (362).

Sts. John and Paul (362). These two notable Roman soldiers were martyred under the rule of the cruel Julian the Apostate. They were executed for refusing to support Julian's defection from the dog­matic truths of the Catholic Church.

JUNE 27
ST. CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA (444).

A Doctor of the Church, St. Cyril was "the soul of the Council of Ephesus" in 431.

JUNE 28
ST. LRENAEUS (202).

This great saint was born to Christian parents in Asia Minor, and died when he was 72, the same age as Our Lady at her death. Irenaeus is one of the Fathers of the Church and is sometimes called "the father of Catholic theology.

JUNE 29
ST. PETER AND PAUL(67).

Peter the Apostle, the first Pope of the Catholic Church, was the son of a fisherman in Galilee, named Jona.

JUNE 30
ST.THE FIRST MARTYRS OF ROME(64).

On this day the Church lovingly remembers the first fruits of the martyrs of the Church at Rome.

 
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