November 3, 2013

Fr. Cantalamessa on Zacchaeus, Francis, and God's Love

The other day, November 1 to be exact, was the feast of Blessed Raniero of Borgo Sansepolcro, one of those poor souls who has his proper feast day on the same day as the Solemnity of All Saints. It's kind of like having your birthday on Christmas, I suppose. He also has one of the zaniest vocation stories you'll ever hear.

In celebration of his Name Day, our own confrere Raniero Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Papal Household, presided at Mass today and preached for us.

On the story of Zacchaeus, the gospel for today, Fr. Cantalamessa made some interesting points. As in all of Scripture, the passage has a surplus (plusvalore) of meaning, and so it's not just about Zacchaeus, but about us ourselves. In him we see the dynamics of every vocation; an unrest that leads one to want to see Jesus, an invitation from Jesus, and a response that embraces the vocation. Zacchaeus climbs the tree because he can't see over the crowd, but when he is addressed by Jesus he is no longer part of the crowd, nor impeded by it. That last part reminded me of a line from the document Potissimum institutioni of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life that one of the brothers shared with me the other day:
At the origin of the religious consecration there is a call of God for which there is no explanation apart from the love of God which he bears for the person whom he calls.  This love is absolutely gratuitous, personal and unique.  It embraces the person to the extent that one no longer pertains to oneself but to Christ.
Zacchaeus, if we put his story next to that of the rich man in the preceding chapter (Luke 18:18-30), also shows us that though every rich person is called to generosity, not all are called to give away everything in order to follow Jesus in the particular way he called the former to do.

Turning to St. Francis, Fr. Cantalamessa remarked that Francis didn't choose something abstract like 'voluntary poverty.' He was led by the Lord among the lepers and chose them, to identify himself with the poor, the marginalized, the excluded. It was a "social conversion." In this Francis made real the victory of Christ in himself, that is to say the denial of self in choosing to be for the other, as well as identifying himself with God's special love for the poor. Nevertheless, we should remember that God loves all of his creation, and not one creature more than another. But he is like a mother who, though she doesn't love one of her children more than another, gives her attention to the one that is suffering or sick.

So let's wish a happy name day to Fr. Cantalmessa. Ad multos annos!
Blessed Raniero, pray for us.

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