HOMILY OF FATHER RANIERO CANTALAMESSA O.F.M. Cap. St. Peter's Basilica
Good Friday, 29 March 2013
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith in his blood. He did this to show his righteousness [...] to prove at the present time that he is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus”(Rom 3:23-26).
We have reached the summit of the Year of Faith and its decisive moment. This is the faith that saves, "faith that overcomes the world" (1 Jn 5:5)! Faith – the appropriation by which we make ours the salvation worked by Christ, by which we put on the mantle of his righteousness. On the one hand there is the outstretched hand of God offering man His grace; on the other hand, the hand of man reaching out to receive it through faith. The "new and everlasting Covenant" is sealed with a handclasp between God and man.
We have the opportunity to make, on this day, the most important decision of our lives, one that opens wide before us the doors of eternity: to believe! To believe that "Jesus died for our sins and rose again for our justification" (Rom 4:25)! In an Easter homily of the 4th century, the bishop pronounced these extraordinarily modern, and one could say existentialist, words: “For every man, the beginning of life is when Christ was immolated for him. However, Christ is immolated for him at the moment he recognizes the grace and becomes conscious of the life procured for him by that immolation” (The Paschal Homily of the Year 387 : SCh, 36 p. 59f.).
What an extraordinary thing! This Good Friday celebrated in the Year of Faith and in the presence of the new successor of Peter, could be, if we wish, the principle of a new kind of existence. Bishop Hilary of Poitiers, converted to Christianity as an adult, looking back on his past life, said, "before meeting you, I did not exist".
What is required is only that we do not hide from the presence of God, as Adam and Eve did after their sin, that we recognize our need to be justified; that we cannot justify ourselves. The publican of the parable came to the temple and made a short prayer: "O God, have mercy on me a sinner". And Jesus says that the man returned to his home "justified", that is, made right before him, forgiven, made a new creature, I think singing joyfully in his heart (Lk 18:14). What had he done that was so extraordinary? Nothing, he had put himself in the truth before God, and it is the only thing that God needs in order to act.