During his first Lenten sermon in 2023, Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap., the Preacher of the Papal Household, spoke about the importance of the newness of the Spirit and the need for constant renewal and conversion, both at the individual and Church level.
He emphasized the problem is not the novelty itself, but how we handle it.
According to the Cardinal, the Holy Spirit is the Church’s unfailing guide towards a path of life and enlightenment.
He emphasized the Lenten series for this year aims to promote the integration of the Holy Spirit into the Church’s overall existence, particularly in the ongoing synod.
The Cardinal suggested that the Church should seek guidance from the Spirit, just as the early Christian community did in all aspects of their lives.
He emphasized the Second Vatican Council’s efforts to revitalize the Church’s teachings, particularly with regard to the participation of lay people.
Additionally, he acknowledged that synods or decrees alone cannot solve Church issues, as the acceptance of these teachings often involves finding a balance between a desire for continuity and a desire for innovation.
Biblical history demonstrates the important role of the Holy Spirit in the formation and expansion of the early church, contributing significantly in various ways.
Firstly, the Holy Spirit empowered believers during Pentecost, enabling them to preach the gospel with courage and speak in tongues.
The Holy Spirit continued to empower believers to perform miracles, heal the sick, and even raise the dead throughout the book of Acts.
Secondly, the Holy Spirit provided guidance to the early church in important decisions such as choosing leaders and accepting Gentiles into the church.
Acts 15 highlights the council at Jerusalem where the Holy Spirit guided the apostles and elders in making a critical decision that would shape the future of the church.
Thirdly, the Holy Spirit comforted and strengthened early Christians, especially during times of persecution and adversity.
Acts records instances where the Holy Spirit provided encouragement and comfort to believers experiencing challenging circumstances. Finally, the Holy Spirit unified the early church by bringing together people from different cultures and backgrounds.
The Holy Spirit facilitated understanding among people speaking diverse languages during the Pentecost gathering.
In summary, the Holy Spirit played an indispensable role in the development and advancement of the early church, by empowering, guiding, comforting, and unifying believers across language and cultural barriers.
Cardinal Cantalamessa emphasized the significance of the Holy Spirit in steering the early Christian community’s actions, particularly in making communal decisions.
The early Christians put their trust in the Holy Spirit to direct them in every aspect of their lives, including settling conflicts and reaching crucial verdicts like admitting gentiles into the Church.
The Cardinal recommended that the contemporary Church should similarly seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to make significant ecclesial decisions.
The Cardinal also praised the Second Vatican Council’s efforts to renew the Church’s teachings, particularly regarding the role of lay people.
The Council emphasized the importance of the participation of lay people in the life and mission of the Church, recognizing their unique role as baptized members of the Church.
The Council’s teachings opened up new possibilities for lay people to participate in the life of the Church, including in areas such as liturgy, evangelization, and social justice.
However, Cardinal Cantalamessa noted that issues in the Church are not resolved solely by synods or decrees, but by the reception of those teachings.
The teachings of the Church need to be received and embraced by the faithful, which sometimes requires compromises between a desire for continuity and a desire for novelty.
The Church must balance the need for continuity with the need for renewal, ensuring that it remains faithful to its traditions while adapting to the changing needs of the times.
In essence, the Cardinal emphasized the importance of the Holy Spirit in guiding the Church’s decisions and the need for constant renewal and conversion.
He suggested that the Church should embrace the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and strive to integrate them fully into its life and mission.
He also emphasized the need for the faithful to receive and embrace the teachings of the Church, recognizing that compromise and balance are necessary to achieve this.
He recalled the role of St. Peter in mediating between competing concerns in the early Church, a role that is continued by the Popes as Peter’s successors.
In conclusion, Cardinal Cantalamessa emphasized the importance of kindness and being good to others while being strict with oneself.
He proposed looking at issues from other people’s points of view as a remedy to polarization and division in the Church.
The Cardinal suggested that instead of judging others with condemnation, we should remove the poison from our judgment and turn it into an act of love, thanks to the gift of the Spirit.
He concluded his sermon with the prayer “Make me an instrument of your peace,” sometimes ascribed to St. Francis of Assisi.
This Lent, and in all seasons, let us listen to the Holy Spirit.
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