VATICAN CITY, DEC. 9, 2005 (ZENIT.org).- The human heart is key to faith in Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God and savior of the world, says the preacher of the Pontifical Household.
Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa today preached the second in a series of Advent meditations in the presence of Benedict XVI and his aides in the Roman Curia in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Apostolic Palace.
The theme for the series is “For What We Preach Is Not Ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord: Faith in Christ Today.”
“Christ is the specific and primary object of belief,” said Father Cantalamessa. “To believe, without any other specifications, already means to believe in Christ. It can also mean to believe in God, but in as much as he is the God who has sent his Son to the world.”
In fact, “John made Christ’s divinity and his divine filiation the primary objective of his Gospel.” The evangelist adds that to “believe in the one the Father has sent is seen as ‘the work of God,’ what pleases God absolutely,” the preacher said.
“Jesus asks for himself the same kind of faith that was asked for God in the Old Testament: ‘believe in God, believe also in me,'” said Father Cantalamessa.
The Apostle John, Jesus’ beloved disciple, “has not given us a set of ancient religious doctrines, but a powerful kerygma,” a synthesis “of faith in Christ” which took place “under the influence of the anointing of the Holy Spirit, of which John himself” had “personal experience,” the priest said.
The Pontifical Household preacher noted that “Christ’s divinity is the highest summit, the Everest of faith. Much more difficult than simply to believe in God.”
And just as “whoever wants to believe in Christ is obliged to make himself his contemporary in his abasement, hearing the ‘internal testimony’ that the Holy Spirit gives us about him,” what must also be taken into account is “the relevance due to the resurrection of Christ” and “the external testimony of the apostles,” the Capuchin said.
But there is in the “testimony of the Holy Spirit … an important element of truth that we must keep in mind to make our faith ever more authentic and personal,” he stated.
Because it is “from the roots of the heart that faith arises,” as St. Augustine exclaimed, “paraphrasing the Pauline ‘corde creditur'” (belief with the heart).
Father Cantalamessa continued: “This faith ‘of the heart’ is the fruit of special anointing of the Spirit. When one is under this anointing, to believe becomes a kind of knowledge, vision, interior illumination. … You hear Jesus affirm: ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father, but by me’ and feel within yourself, with all your being, that what you hear is true.”
This illumination of faith helps, “among other things, to understand what Saul must have experienced on the road to Damascus before the light that in an instant destroyed all his interior world and replaced it with another”; but present-day history is also “full of these encounters with Christ that change life,” he said.
And they “demonstrate that Jesus is truly ‘the same yesterday, today and always,” he added, able “to capture the hearts of men of today with no less force than when he ‘captured’ John and Paul.”
Linking the apostles’ times with our own, Father Cantalamessa said that John also lived in a cultural context where cosmopolitanism was beginning to be experienced, and “the air of universalism and religious tolerance was breathed.”
But far from seeking “to adapt Jesus to this atmosphere in which all religions and cults were accepted, as long as they agreed to be part of something greater,” without arguing against any one “he simply proclaimed Christ as supreme gift of the Father to the world, leaving every one free to receive him or not,” he said.
“Jesus was born ‘by the power of the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary,'” stated Father Cantalamessa. “The Holy Spirit and Mary, in different capacities, are the two best allies in our efforts to come close to Jesus, to make him be born, through faith, in our lives this Christmas.”