Salt + Light Media Home
Salt + Light Media Home

Good Friday 2024: Homily from St. Peter's Basilica

Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap

Friday, March 29, 2024

On Good Friday, March 29, 2024, Pope Francis presided over the Celebration of the Lord's Passion in St. Peter's Basilica. According to custom, Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., Preacher to the Papal Household, delivered the homily.
Read the full text of his homily below.
Join Pope Francis's celebration of Easter in the Vatican. Check out our broadcast schedule for more details!

Homily of His Eminence Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap,
Preacher to the Papal Household

Celebration of the Passion of the Lord
Good Friday
29 March, 2024

When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM” (John 8:28). This is the word that Jesus pronounced at the end of a heated dispute with his opponents. There is a crescendo compared to the previous “I Am” pronounced by Jesus in the Gospel of John. He no longer says, “I AM” this or that: the bread of life, the light of the world, the resurrection and the life, and so on. He simply says “I Am” without further specification. This gives his declaration an absolute, metaphysical dimension. It intentionally recalls the word of Exodus 3:14 and Isaiah 43:10-12, in which God himself proclaims his divine “I AM.” 
The shocking novelty of this affirmation on the mouth of Christ is discovered only if we pay attention to what precedes Christ’s self-affirmation: “When you lift up the Son of Man, it is then that you will know that I AM.” As if to say: What I am — and, therefore, what God is! — will only be manifested on the cross. (As we know, in the Gospel of John, the expression “to be lifted up” refers to the event of the cross!) 
We are faced with a total reversal of the human idea of God and, in part, also of that of the Old Testament. Jesus did not come to improve and perfect the idea that people have of God, but, in a certain sense, to overturn it and reveal the true face of God. This is what St. Paul was the first to understand. He wrote: 
For since in the wisdom of God the world did not come to know God through wisdom, it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith. For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:21-24). 
Understood in this light, the word of Christ takes on a universal significance that challenges those who read it, in every era and situation, including our own. That reversal of the idea of God, in fact, always needs to be renewed. Unfortunately, in our unconscious, we continue to carry on this very idea of God that Jesus came to change. We can speak of a God who is pure spirit, supreme being, and so on, but how can we see him in the annihilation of his death on the cross? God is all-powerful, no doubt, but what kind of power is it? Faced with human creatures, God finds himself devoid of any capacity, not only coercive, but also defensive. He cannot intervene with authority to impose himself on them. He cannot but respect, to an infinite degree, the free choice of human beings. 
And so the Father reveals the true face of his omnipotence in his Son who kneels before the disciples to wash their feet; in him who is reduced to the most radical powerlessness on the cross and continues to love and forgive, without condemning anyone. The omnipotence of God is the omnipotence of defenseless love.
It takes little power to show off; It takes a lot of power to put oneself aside and to conceal oneself. God is this unlimited power of self-concealment! Exinanivit semetipsum: he emptied himself (Philippians 2:7). To our “will to power,” God has opposed his voluntary powerlessness. 
What a lesson for us who, more or less consciously, always want to show off. What a lesson for the powerful of the earth! Or at least for those among them who do not even remotely think of serving, but only of power for power’s sake; those – as Jesus says in the Gospel — who “oppress the people” and, in addition, “call themselves benefactors” (cf. Matthew 20:25; Luke 22:25). 
* * * 
But doesn’t the triumph of Christ in his resurrection overturn this vision, restoring the invincible omnipotence of God? Yes, but in a very different sense than what we usually think. Very different from the “triumphs” that were celebrated upon the emperor’s return from victorious campaigns, along a street that is still called Via Trionfale in Rome today. 
There was, certainly, a triumph in the case of Christ, and a triumph both definitive and irreversible for that matter! But how does this triumph manifest itself? The resurrection occurs in mystery, without witnesses. His death — we heard in the story of the Passion — had been seen by a large crowd and had involved the highest religious and political authorities. Once resurrected, Jesus appears only to a few disciples, out of the spotlight. 
In this way he wanted to tell us that after having suffered, we should not expect an external, visible triumph, such as earthly glory. The triumph is given in the invisible and is of an infinitely superior order because it is eternal! The martyrs of yesterday and today are examples of it. 
The Risen One manifests himself through his apparitions, which suffice to provide for a very solid foundation for faith for those who do not from the start refuse to believe. But it is not an act of revenge to humiliate his opponents. He does not appear in their midst to prove them wrong or to mock their impotent anger. Any such revenge would be incompatible with the love that Christ wanted to bear witness to in his passion. 
As in his annihilation on Calvary, he behaves humbly in the glory of the resurrection. The concern of the risen Jesus is not to confuse his enemies, but to go and reassure his dismayed disciples and, before them, the women who had never stopped believing in him. 
* * * 
In the past, we willingly spoke of the “triumph of the Holy Church.” People prayed for it and the historical achievements and reasons were willingly remembered. But what kind of triumph did we have in mind? Today we realize how different that type of triumph was from that of Jesus. But let’s not judge the past. There is always the risk of being unfair when we judge the past from the perspective of the present. 
Rather, let us accept the invitation that Jesus addresses to the world from his cross: “Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). It would almost be thought of as irony and a mockery! One who himself does not have a stone on which to lay his head, one who has been rejected by his people, condemned to death, one “before whom one covers one’s face so as not to see” (cf. Isaiah 53:3), dares to address all humanity, of all places and all times, and say: “Come to me, all of you, and I will give you rest!” 
Come to me, you who are old, sick, and alone, you whom the world lets die in poverty, hunger, or while under bombardment; you who languish in prison cells because of your faith in me, or your battle for freedom, come to me, you woman victim of the violence. In short, everyone, excluding no one: Come to me, and I will give you rest! Didn’t I promise you: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself” (John 12:32)? 
“But what rest can you give us, O man of the cross, more derelict and tired than those you want to console?” “Yes, come to me, for I AM! I am God! I have renounced your idea of omnipotence, but I have kept my omnipotence which is the omnipotence of love. It is written that “the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:25). I can console and give you rest even without taking away the fatigue and tiredness in this world. Ask those who have experienced it!
Yes, O crucified Lord, with our hearts full of gratitude, on the day in which we commemorate your passion and death, we proclaim aloud with your apostle Paul: 
What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? […]. No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35-39).
Text courtesy of the Holy See Press Office

Related Articles:


Receive our newsletters
Stay Connected
Receive our newsletters
Stay Connected
Copyright © 2024 Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation
Registered Charity # 88523 6000 RR0001