“God does this with us sometimes: he disrupts our projects and our calm to save us from the abyss we don’t see. But we need to be careful not to be deceived. God is not the one who hurled the brush at the sparkling fresco of our technological society. God is our ally, not the ally of the virus! He himself says in the Bible, “I have . . . plans for your welfare and not for woe” (Jer 29:11). If these scourges were punishments of God, it would not be explained why they strike equally good and bad, and why the poor usually bring the worst consequences of them. Are they more sinners than others?”
Vatican City, Apr 10, 2020 / 11:23 am (CNA).- Here is the full text of the Good Friday homily of Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., delivered April 10 at St. Peter’s Basilica.
April 11, 2020
J. Robin Whitley
Of all the days in Holy Week, in recent years I’ve come to believe that Holy Saturday is more important than given credit in most churches. I’m happy that at Church of the Holy Cross in Valle Crucis, we always have something to acknowledge this important day. Why? Because every day we live is a Holy Saturday – meaning, we as people of faith, are in that same place as Jesus’ disciples, family, and friends; a place of waiting and not knowing.
Sometimes, in our “not knowing” humans tend to make up things. I know I’m guilty of such challenges due to self-doubt about my being a loveable human. My life has been blessed with many loving families, friends, colleagues. However, since I know all of my faults, sometimes, when I don’t hear from someone important to me, I fear that I have done something to offend. I go through everything I said to the person or felt when talking to the person. Then there may be something that makes me wonder if I accidentally did a wrong. As the churches say, “Sins known and unknown…”
The Deacon or Celebrant says
Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor.
Silence may be kept.
Minister and People
Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.
~Book of Common Prayer, Episcopal
When I finally hear back from the person, I’m usually both embarrassed and relieved. There was a counselor once who told me I worry too much about hurting others. At the time, I was trying to get out of an abusive relationship but didn’t want to hurt the person even as I left to save my life. Though I still do not want to hurt others, at least I have learned the lesson of caring for myself enough to keep others from harming me.
Waiting, not knowing, being in isolation from others gives us plenty of time to reflect on what we have done. We must also acknowledge that there are people who hurt us in unfair and dangerous ways. Right now, lives are in danger due to inaction to intervene early enough to prevent COVID-19 from becoming a pandemic. Where the true “sinfulness” comes, however, is not that the disease exists, but that we do not care enough for each other to stay home or wear a mask.
As a person with copious allergies, asthma, and an autoimmune deficiency, I was already self-isolating to be protected from allergies and colds that occur as winter turns into fall. For once, my allergies have protected me from being sick so far. However, people continue to ignore what is happening and are going places to spread the disease up and down our coastline. Though our state, NC, has a shelter-in-place in effect, some states do not. The non-complying states are often vacationers in our area during this time of year. During a pandemic is not the time to take a vacation. This is not only dangerous for the traveler but everyone that person contacts along the way.
Holy Week focuses on how Jesus was present with us by becoming one of us. He too had to suffer because of human indifference. Jesus spoke up to those in authority on behalf of the poor, sick, and needy in his world. Jesus stood up to the religious and political leaders who were taking advantage of people through laws that could never be fulfilled by imperfect people. Also, there were moneychangers making money off of people’s fears, illnesses, and religious beliefs. Jesus was crucified because of human hubris, greed, and power-hungry religious leaders.
We who would call ourselves people of faith as exhibited by Jesus, need to remember all that this historical person stood for but also stood against! The moniker, “Christian” has been and is being misused. We MUST remember, that as a leader of faith, the historical Jesus took a stand that was in favor and on behalf of the underdog, not the head honchos of his society.
“The cross of Christ has changed the meaning of pain and human suffering—of every kind of suffering, physical and moral. It is no longer punishment, a curse. It was redeemed at its root when the Son of God took it upon himself.” ~ Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap.
We do not suffer because we are imperfect human beings. Suffering is not a punishment for who we are or because the Creator G-d is cruel and unjust. Suffering is merely a part of life. However, when WE are the ones making choices that do not consider our neighbors, those who we pass on the streets, in the grocery, WE ARE THE GUILTY ones; we are the ones passing along suffering to others.
To confess and receive forgiveness as listed in the confession above means not merely to say oops. To confess and ask forgiveness also implies not only a change of heart to care for the other, but to also change one’s behavior! What does it mean to care for my neighbor now? To stay home. What does it mean to help another in COVID? For some, they are essential workers trying not only to save those with healing knowledge but also to feed us. We no longer feed ourselves but depend upon field workers, truckers, grocery clerks. Jesus respected a short accountant in a tree. Surely, Jesus respects these people. How do we care for and respect these people? First, by staying home. Secondly, by assuring that they too are protected with proper tools and gear. Lastly, that they be paid a living wage.
“The pandemic of Coronavirus has abruptly roused us from the greatest danger individuals and humanity have always been susceptible to the delusion of omnipotence.” ~ Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap.
Our society is one of a plural need for each other. The world is not here to serve me but is here for US to share. We need each other. Fr. Cantalamessa’s message speaks to this need and time for change calling us to live differently in this time when we don’t know what’s going to happen. On this Holy Saturday, let us live differently as we wait for our world to be recreated!
“This is the moment to put into practice something of the prophecy of Isaiah whose fulfillment humanity has long been waiting for. Let us say “Enough!” to the tragic race toward arms. Say it with all your might, you young people, because it is above all your destiny that is at stake. Let us devote the unlimited resources committed to weapons to the goals that we now realize are most necessary and urgent: health, hygiene, food, the poverty fight, stewardship of creation. Let us leave to the next generation a world poorer in goods and money, if need be, but richer in its humanity.” Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap.[i]