Preacher: Don't Imprison Holy Spirit in Your Heart

Says Christ Knocks at the Door to Get Out

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 26, 2010 ( Christ is knocking at the door of our hearts, to get into some, and to be allowed out of others, said the preacher of the Pontifical Household.

Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa stated this today in his third Lenten sermon of the year, given in the presence of Benedict XVI and the Roman Curia.

The Capuchin is focusing his homilies on the priesthood in this Year for Priests. In Advent he meditated on the priest as servant of Christ, in the power and the unction of the Holy Spirit. During Lent, he is looking at the priest as steward of the mysteries of God.

The priest spoke about the message of repentance that «concerns us closely, that which resounds within every one of the seven letters to the churches of Revelation,» which is addressed to «persons who have lived for a long time in the Christian community.»

The letter to the church of Laodicea «ends with one of the absolutely most touching images of the Bible,» he said, «‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock.'»

Father Cantalamessa pointed out that for some, especially priests, «Christ does not knock to enter, but to go out.»

He explained: «When it is a question of the first conversion, from incredulity to faith, or from sin to grace, Christ is outside and knocks on the walls of the heart to come in; when it is a question of successive conversions, from a state of grace to a higher state, from lukewarmness to fervor, the opposite happens: Christ is within and knocks on the walls of the heart to go out!»

The priest affirmed that «in baptism we received the Spirit of Christ; it remains in us as in his temple, as long as it is not chased away by mortal sin.»

«But it can happen that this Spirit ends up being imprisoned and walled up by the heart of stone that is formed around it,» he added.

«It does not have the possibility to expand and permeate the faculties, actions and feelings of the person,» the preacher noted.

When we read this phrase of Christ, he said, «we should understand that he does not knock from outside, but from within; he does not want to come in but to go out.»

Kingdom of God

Father Cantalamessa offered a mental image: «At times one sees on the sides of streets big trees (in Rome they are generally pines) whose roots, imprisoned by the asphalt, fight to expand, raising segments of the cement itself.

«Thus we must imagine the Kingdom of God in the heart of man: a seed destined to become a majestic tree on which the birds of the sky rest, but for which it is difficult to develop if it is suffocated by terrestrial concerns.»

He noted that there are «different degrees in this situation,» as «in the majority of souls committed to a spiritual path Christ is not imprisoned in an armor-plate but, so to speak, in guarded liberty.»

«He is free to move but within very precise limits,» the priest explained. «This happens when he is tacitly made to understand what he can and cannot ask us.»

«Prayer yes, but not if it compromises sleep, rest, healthy information; obedience yes, but only if it does not abuse our willingness; chastity yes, but not to the point of depriving us from some relaxing entertainment, even if daring; in sum, the use of half measures,» he asserted.
The preacher highlighted the example of St. Teresa of Avila as «the most instructive example of the second conversion, that of lukewarmness to fervor.»

In her self-examination and conversion story, he noted, many priests could discover «the profound reason for their own dissatisfaction and discontent.»

Father Cantalamessa recalled that «it was contemplation of the Christ of the Passion that gave Teresa the decisive push that made her the saint and mystic that we know.»

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