Preaching the Cross of Christ

The strength of the Church comes from preaching the cross of Jesus, which is the very symbol of folly and weakness in the eyes of the world, thereby rejecting any possibility or desire to face the incredulous and unthinking world with its own means, such as the wisdom of speech, the force of argument, irony, ridicule, sarcasm, and all the other “strong things” of the world.

It is necessary to renounce human superiority so that the divine power of Christ’s cross can be seen. We must insist on this point because there is still a need for it. The majority of believers have never been helped to grasp this mystery, which is the heart of the New Testament and of the kerygma and which changes one’s life.


But what is the sign and proof that we really believe in Christ’s cross and that the “word of the cross” is not just a word, an abstract principle, a fine piece of theology or ideology, but truly the cross? The sign and proof is this: that you take up your cross and follow Jesus. The sign is to suffer with him, to be crucified with him, to complete in one’s sufferings what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. The Christian’s whole life must be a living sacrifice like Christ’s. It is not only a question of a passively accepted suffering but a suffering that is also active and lived in union with Christ.

Just as Mary was close to her crucified son, so the Church is called to be close to the crucified of today: the poor, the suffering, the humiliated, the insulted. How can the Church stay close to these? In hope, like Mary. It is not enough to pity their sufferings or even to try to alleviate them. This would be too little. Anyone can do this, even those who know nothing of the resurrection. The Church must transmit hope, proclaiming that suffering is not absurd, that it is meaningful, because there will be a resurrection after death. She must give the reason for the hope that she has.

(The above is an excerpt from Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa’s sermon to the Papal Household given on the third Sunday of Lent 2020.)