There's a Special Kind of Faith That Makes Us Happy

Father Cantalamessa Gives 2nd Lenten Sermon

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 1, 2011 ( There’s a special kind of faith: a faith-astonishment, an «incredulous faith,» a faith that makes us happy. And this, says the preacher of the Pontifical Household, is faith in God’s love for us.

Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa made this reflection today when he gave his second Lenten sermon in the presence of Benedict XVI and members of the Roman Curia.

The preacher continued with the series he began last week on love, considering «two very different meanings» of the expression «love of God»: «one in which God is object and the other in which God is subject; one which indicates our love for God and the other which indicates God’s love for us.»

The preacher then outlined the objective revelation of the love of God in history, looking at the love of God in the Trinity, then the love of God in creation, in revelation and in the Incarnation, and finally, the love of God poured into our hearts.

But the Capuchin concluded his sermon with the question: «What will we do, what will we say after having heard how much God loves us?»

«A first answer,» he said, «is to love God in return! Is not this the first and greatest commandment of the law?» That, he said, is secondary. Another step — «to love one another as God has loved us» — is also secondary, the preacher contended.

«[F]irst there is something else to do,» he explained. «To believe in the love of God! After having said that ‘God is love,’ the evangelist John exclaims: ‘We believe the love God has for us.'»

This, then, is a call to faith, Father Cantalamessa noted, but «it is a question of a special faith: faith-astonishment, incredulous faith — a paradox, I know, but true! — a faith that does not know how to equip itself with what it believes, even if it does believe it. How is it possible that God, supremely happy in his quiet eternity, had the desire not only to create us, but also to come in person to suffer among us? How is this possible? Look, this is faith-astonishment, the faith that makes us happy.»

What the demons got right

The Capuchin went on to refer to the drama presented by C.S. Lewis in «The Screwtape Letters.» The author depicts the demons discussing among themselves how it could be that God can really love «the human vermin.»

«They are sure it cannot be,» Father Cantalamessa recounted. «There must be a fraud, a trick. […] The love of God for his creatures is, for them, the mystery of mysteries. And I believe that, at least on this, the demons are right.»

Indeed, the preacher proposed, belief in God’s love for us is «perhaps the most difficult thing that there is also for us human creatures.»

«Do we really believe that God loves us?» he asked. «[…] If we believed, life, we ourselves, things, events, pain itself, everything would immediately be transfigured before our eyes. This very day we would be with him in paradise, because paradise is but this: to enjoy in fullness the love of God.»

Father Cantalamessa lamented that «no one — I say no one — among the philosophers, or among the religions, says to man that God loves him, he loved man first and he loves him with a love of mercy and of desire: with eros and agape.»

He said that we are invited to do what St. Paul did: «to see our life, exactly as it presents itself, to bring to the surface the fears that nest in us, the sadness, the threats, the complexes, the physical or moral defects, the painful memory that humiliates us, and to expose everything to the light of the thought that God loves me. He invites me to ask myself; what in my life attempts to depress me?»

Like Paul, Father Cantalamessa affirmed, «we can look at the world that surrounds us, which makes us afraid. What Paul calls the ‘height’ and the ‘depth’ are for us now infinitely great on high and infinitely small below, the universe and the atom. Everything is ready to crush us; man is weak and alone, in a universe so much greater than him and become, in addition, even more threatening, following the scientific discoveries that he has made and that he does not succeed in controlling, as is being dramatically demonstrated by the atomic reactors in Fukushima.»

«Everything can be questioned,» the preacher asserted, «all of our safety measures can fail, but never this: that God loves us and is stronger than everything. ‘Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.'»

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