God is extravagant. When He gives, He gives abundantly! Recently I had the opportunity to meet not one, not two but three Cardinals! It was a joy to listen to them speaking – a loving allegiance to the Pope, a clarity of vision, a deep admiration towards the Neocatechumenal Way and a fierce passion for Jesus Christ.
The three Cardinals? The Austrian Cardinal Christoph Shonborn of Vienna, the Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko and the US Capuchin Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston.
Cardinal Rylko met us in a vocational meeting in Montorso, a locality just besides Loreto. Over hundred thousand youth (!) all belonging to the Neocatechumenal Way in Europe. He started his conversation by reminding us of an interview that Pope Benedict gave to the Vatican Radio days before the World Youth Day in Cologne. When asked, “Holy Father, can you tell me what you would like to transmit to the youth of the world?”, the Pope candidly answered, “I would like to show them how beautiful it is to be Christian, because the widespread idea which continues to exist is that Christianity is composed of laws and bans which one has to keep and, hence, is something toilsome and burdensome – that one is freer without such a burden. I want to make clear that it is not a burden… but it is like having wings. It is wonderful to be a Christian…”
“Seeing you, my dear young people, this is what comes in my mind, the beauty of being a Christian…” continued the Polish Cardinal.
Just three days later I met Cardinal Schonborn in yet another vocational meeting. This time there were one thousand seven hundred (1,700, yes!) seminarians all coming from the Neocatechumenal Way. He also referred to the Pope – specifically to the imaginary yet powerful rabbinical dialogue that Pope Benedict recounts extensively in his book Jesus of Nazareth. Rabbi Jacob Neusner imagines himself present among the crowd that gathered at Capernaum, above the Sea of Galilee, to listen to the charismatic Nazarene. After listening to Jesus influential sermon, the Rabbi engages in a dialogue with a spiritual mentor, reporting to him about what he heard Jesus say. The dialogue goes like this: “He: ‘What did he leave out?’ “I: ‘Nothing.’ “He: ‘Then what did he add?’ “I: ‘Himself.’
Because of this the Rabbi cannot accept Jesus as the Messiah. We on the other hand acknowledge his greatness just because of this, the Pope concludes.
The Cardinal continued recounting how when he was appointed Bishop he felt dizzy. The only word that reassured him and calmed him down was the word of Jesus Christ, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends” This conviction that Jesus was my friend, the Cardinal confessed, was what I needed, to look towards the future with confidence.
Friends enjoy each other’s company. Much time is spent in conversation; secrets are shared, as are trials and difficulties. Such sharing always leads to growth and happiness.
Jesus Christ is man’s friend. A friend is one who walks in when others walk out. The apostle John lay on the breast of Jesus at the Last Supper. This is what best describes our attitude, the Cardinal told us. With Him as a friend, we can go ahead with confidence.
Cardinal O’Malley, a Capuchin, in this same vocational gathering, gave a beautiful homily, interspersed with a number of humorous episodes. In Palm Beach, Florida where he was Bishop there is a Church full of enormous stained-glass windows, he recounted. The main window behind the main altar was this window depicting the scene of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. The window was so big that it was divided into three – one window said ‘Go and sin’ the other ‘no’ and last one ‘more’. In the summer when it was warm, they would open the middle window, eliminating the ‘no’ with the result that on entering the Church the words “Go and sin… more” would rave conspicuously at you!
“What always surprised me”, remarked wittily the Cardinal “is that I received complaints on basically everything that was done in the diocese, except on that window!” Al of us laughed heartily. Joy is an integral part of our vocation, the Cardinal remarked, because God is happy. Very happy!
Christianity is full of yet to be discovered dimensions! That is why she is still so young!
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.