(Vatican Radio) The preacher of the Pontifical Household, Fr Raniero Cantalamessa gave the first Lenten sermon on Friday for Pope Francis and other Vatican officials gathered in the town of Ariccia for their annual Lent retreat.
The Capuchin friar will be giving another four reflections for the Pope and members of the Pontifical Household on the Fridays leading up to Holy Week. This year the theme of these Lenten homilies is the work of the Holy Spirit, based on the biblical verse from St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 12, verse 3: ‘No-one can say “Jesus is Lord”, except by the Holy Spirit.’
In an interview with the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, Fr Cantalamessa explains the two reasons why he wanted to focus on the Holy Spirit for both Lent and for last year’s season of Advent.
Firstly, Fr Cantalamessa says, he chose this subject because the real novelty of the post Vatican II period is a clearer understanding of the role of the Spirit in the life and theology of the Catholic Church. Secondly, he says 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement, which has spread to include millions of people all over the globe. Pope Francis, he notes, will be celebrating the anniversary, with a particularly ecumenical focus, around the feast of Pentecost this year.
The first two sermons, Fr Cantalamessa continues, explore the question of who Christ is, not just as a historical figure, but who He is for me and for the world today. The mystery of Christ’s death and Resurrection, he says, is the most important question for Christians today and will be at the heart of these reflections in light of our rediscovery of the role of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit, Fr Cantalamessa insists, is not merely an abstraction or idea, but a living reality, represented in Scripture by the symbols of wind, fire, water, fragrance or a dove. In our technologically driven era, we try and teach a computer to think, yet no-one has conceived of a computer which is able to love. The Holy Spirit, he concludes, is the purest source of all love and is the only thing which can bring humanity’s parched soul back to life again.