During his Lenten meditations for the Roman Curia this week, Cardinal Marco Ce, who is preaching the retreat for Pope Benedict XVI and other Vatican leaders, offered some reflections on the difficulties which arise from preaching the Gospel and the courage which the Church and her ministers must embrace in addressing them.
According to a report on Vatican Radio, on the third day of the traditional Spiritual Exercises, the retired Cardinal-archbishop of Venice said that amidst the difficulties in preaching the Gospel and in times of trial, the bark of the Church always has the presence of the Risen Christ.
Cardinal Ce said that for three years the during the preaching of Jesus, together with the repeated large crowds that often came together to acclaim him, these difficulties had to be addressed. The Gospel of Mark notes, and “does not in any way minimize the fact, that after an initial period of enthusiasm and success in Galilee, Jesus had to face an increasing lack of trust as many of his growing number of followers distanced themselves from him,” from his own neighbors, who saw him as “the carpenter’s son,” to the scribes and Pharisees who wanted “signs” despite seeing all the miracles.
In this sense, the cardinal began his first meditation of the morning on the three parables of the seed. “More than once we hear lament from the lips of Jesus over the effort he must make to ensure his message is understood. The use of parables is a precise response to this crisis situation and is a sign of what the Church is called to do in the new evangelization,” Cardinal Ce noted.
He offered reflections on the three parables of the seed: that which spontaneously sprouts up—as a symbol of the grace of God that can work above and beyond human efforts; the mustard seed that once again shows the disproportion between the beginning and the end of preaching, the generosity of divine intervention; and lastly, the parable of the sower in which the seed falls on the different types of soil, symbolizing total indifference to the Word of God, a weak acceptance of the Word or the suffocation due to worldly concerns. The seed that falls on fertile soil and grows, however, reflects the initiative of God and the perseverance of man.
During his second morning meditation, Cardinal Ce commented on the miracle of the calming of the storm narrated in the Gospel of Mark. “Against the humanly understandable fear of the apostles who are sinking, the almost exaggerated reprimand of Jesus appears in contrast.”
“But what the Gospel passage seeks to emphasize is the desire of Jesus for faith in the hearts of the apostles that remains even amidst the storm,” the cardinal said.