On Good Friday, papal preacher Father Raniero Cantalamessa urged Catholics to seize “this moment in which a new time is opening for the Church” and remove any obstacles that stand in the way of sharing Christ.
“May the Holy Spirit, in this moment in which a new time is opening for the Church, full of hope, reawaken in men who are at the window with the expectancy of a message, and in the messengers the will to make it reach them, even at the cost of their life,” Fr. Cantalamessa said March 29 in Saint Peter’s Basilica.
The Good Friday liturgy of the Passion of the Lord began with Pope Francis processing into the basilica and lying prostrate in prayer before the Cross.
The congregation then heard Scripture readings from Isaiah, St. Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews and St. John’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion and death.
Fr. Cantalamessa, who gave the homily in keeping with tradition, focused on the unique moment in history that the Church is living through.
“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,” he said.
“What is required,” he explained, “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 papal preacher stated that acknowledging this is “the only thing that God needs in order to act” and bring about a new existence.
Looking at modern society, Fr. Cantalamessa said, “Human progress is advancing today at a dizzying pace and humanity sees new and unexpected horizons unfolding before it, the result of its discoveries.”
“Still,” he insisted, “it can be said that the end of time has already come, because in Christ, who ascended to the right hand of the Father, humanity has reached its ultimate goal.”
“Despite all the misery, injustice, the monstrosities present on Earth, he has already inaugurated the final order in the world. What we see with our own eyes may suggest otherwise, but in reality evil and death have been defeated forever.”
But there is one thing that appears different now that Jesus has died and risen, the papal preacher said. Seen with the eyes of faith, death is no longer the same.
“Christ entered death as we enter a dark prison; but he came out of it from the opposite wall. He has opened a breach towards life that no one can ever close, and through which everyone can follow him,” the papal preacher declared.
Father Cantalamessa also considered whether or not the Christian faith could be reborn in Europe and elsewhere.
“The Christian faith could return on our continent and in the secularized world for the same reason it made its entrance: as the only message, that is, which has a sure answer to the great questions of life and death,” he stated.
He then focused on evangelization and its “mystical origin.” It is “a gift that comes from the cross of Christ, from that open side, from that blood and from that water.”
Catholics “must do everything possible so that the Church may never look like that complicated and cluttered castle,” Fr. Cantalamessa said, referring to a passage he read from Franz Kafka.
He also listed “the impediments … that can restrain the messenger: 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.”
Fr. Cantalamessa stressed, “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.’”
His homily was followed by a time of silence for personal reflection.
The liturgy then moved into praying for the world, specifically mentioning the Church, the Pope, the Jewish people, non-believers, those in public office, and those who are suffering tribulation, among others.
The second part of the Good Friday liturgy was the Adoration of the Cross, which commenced with a deacon processing down the main aisle with the Cross and stopping at three points.
Pope Francis then elevated the Cross in front of the main altar for a time of silent adoration.
The liturgy finished with the Rite of Communion, followed by the Pope blessing the people and the congregation leaving in silence.
Pope Francis will preside over the Way of the Cross at the Coliseum at 9:15 p.m. It will take place by candlelight and will use meditations from Lebanese young people who wrote them to express the need for peace.