In silent procession, wearing red vestments, Pope Francis made his way down the nave of St Peter’s basilica as the sunset over the dome on Friday evening. There before the High Altar, he lay prostrate in prayer. This was the opening act of the liturgy of Our Lord’s Passion, the central commemoration of Good Friday, the memorial of Christ’s suffering and death for the salvation of mankind.
The Holy Father stood as three deacons, two Franciscans and a Dominican, chanted the account of the Passion according to St. John. As is tradition, the papal preacher, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, delivered the Good Friday Sermon, this year titled “Justified as a Gift through Faith in the Blood of Christ”.
He began by describing the Easter Triduum as the ‘high point’ of the current Year of Faith:
“Today we can make the most important decision in our lives: to believe… that Jesus died for our sins and rose again for our justification”. Unlike Adam and Eve, he added, we must not hide from the presence of God, because of our sin. Instead we must recognize our need to be justified; that we cannot justify ourselves.
Fr Cantalamessa continued that faith in the Risen Christ, like satellite images and infrared photography, helps us see world in new light. It helps us to see beyond misery, injustice; because we know “in Christ dead and risen, the world has reached its final destination” a new heavens, a new earth have begun
The Papal preacher then turned his attention to the Cross as a powerful tool for Evangelisation.
He noted that while the Cross sometimes separates unbelievers from believers, seen as madness by some and the ultimate symbol of love by others, “in a deeper sense it unites all men”, because “Christ died for everyone”. Thus, evangelization is a mystical gift that comes from the cross of Christ. It is not a conquest, not propaganda; it is sharing gift of God to world through Christ.
Citing Kafka, Fr Cantalamessa said we must do everything to prevent Church from becoming a structure that impedes the Gospel message with dividing walls, “starting with those that separate the various Christian churches from one another, the excess of bureaucracy, the residue of past ceremonials, laws and disputes, now only debris”.
The Franciscan Friar concluded:
“We must have the courage to knock them down and return the building to the simplicity and linearity of its origins. This was the mission that was received one day by a man who prayed before the Crucifix of San Damiano: “Go, Francis, and repair my Church”.
Download the full text of Fr Cantalamessa’s Good Friday Sermon by using the link to the right of this page.
The official website of the Holy See’s radio station – Vatican Radio