April / May 2015 - Vol. 79

father catching son in his
Redeemed for Eternity.

by Raniero Cantalamessa

In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” 
Romans 8:37

Trusting in the Father's Love for Us

A child who is certain of his father’s love will grow up strong, secure, happy, and free for life. God’s word wants to do this for us; it wants to restore this security to us. Man’s solitude in this world cannot be overcome except by faith in God the Father’s love. A well-known philosopher wrote that “God’s paternal love is the only steadfast thing in life, the real point of Archimedes” (Kierkegaard, Journals, III, A73).

Observe a child out walking with his father, holding his father’s hand or being swung around by him, and you will have the best picture possible of a happy, free child, full of pride. I read somewhere about a trick that an acrobat once did on the top floor of a skyscraper. He leaned out as far as he could possibly go, supporting himself on the bare tips of his toes and holding his small child in his arms. When he and the child came back down, someone asked the child if he’d been afraid. The child, surprised at the question, answered, “No, I wasn’t; my father was holding me!” God’s word wants us to be like that child. After reminding us that God did not spare his own Son for us, St. Paul cries out joyfully and victoriously:

If God is for us, who is against us?... Who shall bring any charge against [us]?... Who is to condemn?... Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:31-37)

And Jesus tells us, therefore, to free ourselves of all fear, of all cowardice, of all discouragement. Your Father knows you, and your Father loves you, Jesus says. You were not given a spirit of slaves to fall back into fear, but a spirit of children to cry out, “Abba, Father!” (cf. Romans 8:15-16).

Before such an incomprehensible love, it comes spontaneously to us to turn to Jesus and ask him, “Jesus, you are our elder brother; tell us what we can do to be worthy of so much love and suffering on the Father’s part.” And from the height of his cross, Jesus answers us not with words but with facts. “There is,” he says, “something you can do, something I also did, for it pleases the Father: have confidence in him, trust him against everything, against everyone, against yourselves. When you are in darkness and distress, when difficulties threaten to suffocate you and you are on the point of giving up, pull yourselves together and cry aloud, ‘Father, I no longer understand you but I trust you!’ And you will find peace again.

Redeemed for Eternity

Some polls on religious beliefs have revealed a strange fact: there are, even among believers, some who believe in God but not in a life after death for human beings. Yet how could one think such a thing? The Letter to the Hebrews says that Christ died to win “an eternal redemption” for us (9:12)—redemption not for time only, but eternal. Some object, “But no one has ever come back from the beyond to assure us that it exists in fact and is not merely an illusion.” That is not true. There is someone who comes back from beyond death every day to give us that certainty and to renew his promises, if we but know how to listen to him. We are on our way to meet the One who comes to meet us every day in the Eucharist to give us a foretaste (praegustatum!) of the eternal banquet of the kingdom.

We need to cry out this, our hope, to help ourselves and others to overcome the horror of death and the mood of gloomy pessimism common in our society. So many reasons are put forward for the desperate state of the world. Scientists research in ever greater detail the possible scenario for the dissolution of the cosmos. The earth and other planets will grow cold, the sun and the stars will cool down, and everything will grow cold. Light will fade; there will be more and more black holes. The universe will be full of gigantic black holes drifting further and further apart until eventually the expansion ceases, the contraction begins, and all matter and all energy collapse into a compact mass of infinite density. It will all end in a grand implosion, the “Big Crunch,” and all will return to the emptiness and silence that preceded the Big Bang fifty billion years ago.

No one knows whether things will really go that way or some other way, but faith gives us the assurance that, whatever may happen, it will not be the total and final end. God did not reconcile the world to himself only to abandon it to nothingness; he did not promise to remain with us to the end of the world only to go—alone—back to his heaven when that end comes. “I have loved you with an everlasting love,” God says in the Bible (Jeremiah 31:3), and God’s promises of “everlasting love” are not like ours.

three empty crosses
                          against starry sky by Kevin Carden

The Cosmic Significance of the Cross

In Paul’s eyes, the cross assumes a cosmic significance. Christ has torn down the wall of separation with it; he has reconciled men with God and with each other, destroying hatred (cf. Ephesians 2:14-16). Based on this truth, primitive tradition developed the theme of the cross as a cosmic tree that joins heaven and earth with the vertical branch and unites the different peoples of the world with the horizontal branch. It is both a cosmic and a very personal event at the same time: “[He] loved me and gave himself for me!” (Galatians 2:20); every man, as the apostle writes, is “one for whom Christ died” (Romans 14:15).

From all of this arises the sense of the cross, no longer as a punishment, admonishment, or reason for affliction, but, rather, a glory and the boast of a Christian—that is, a joyful security accompanied by heartfelt gratitude, to which man rises in faith:

“But as for me, it is out of the question that I should boast at all, except of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14, NJB).
Paul has planted the cross at the center of the Church like the mainmast at the center of the ship. He has made it the foundation and the center of gravity of everything. He has established the permanent framework of the Christian message. The gospels, written after him, follow his framework, making the story of Christ’s passion and death the fulcrum toward which everything is oriented.

Excerpt from The Fire of Christ’s Love: Meditations on the Cross, © 2013 Raniero Cantalamessa, published by

The Word Among Us Press. Used with permission.
Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa
Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap. (born July 22, 1934) is an Italian Catholic priest in the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. He has devoted his ministry to preaching and writing. He is a Scripture scholar, theologian, and noted author of numerous books. Since 1980 he has served as the Preacher to the Papal Household under Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis. He is a noted ecumenist and frequent worldwide speaker, and a member of the Catholic Delegation for the Dialogue with the Pentecostal Churches.

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