Salvation Must be Proclaimed, Faith Explained

 The Catholic Church has great resources and experience in helping the baptized learn about and live their faith, but it also can learn something from other Christians about the initial step of bringing people to faith in Jesus, said the preacher of the papal household.

"Our situation is becoming more and more similar to that of the Apostles," who preached God's love and salvation in Christ to people who had never heard of Jesus, said Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa.

As preacher of the papal household, Father Cantalamessa began leading a series of weekly Advent reflections Dec. 7 for Pope Benedict XVI and top Vatican officials. The Friday morning sessions are held in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Apostolic Palace.

"The strength of several non-Catholic churches is their emphasis on the initial moment of coming to faith," telling people about Jesus and helping them recognize him as Lord and savior, Father Cantalamessa said. But faith is stunted if everything in a Christian's life "continues to revolve around that initial moment."

The Catholic Church, he said, has done a better job at recognizing that professing faith in Jesus is "just the beginning, not the end, of the Christian life."

Especially during the Year of Faith, the preacher said, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a valuable tool for helping people learn more about the faith they were baptized into and about the kind of life they are called to live as a result.

The purpose of the catechism, he said, is "to give shape to the faith, to give it content and to show its ethical and practical demands."

Still, he said, it is not enough to be informed about Jesus and about the teaching of the church.

St. John the Evangelist writes of "knowing and believing" in God's love and in Christ as savior, Father Cantalamessa told the pope and Vatican officials.

"'Knowing' in this case, as in general throughout the whole of Scripture, does not mean what it means for us today: having an idea or concept about something," he said. Rather, "it means experiencing it, entering into relationship with the thing or the person. The Virgin's statement, 'I do not know man,' certainly didn't mean 'I don't know what a man is.'"

The Holy Spirit makes it possible for people to have that experience of God's love and offer of salvation, he said, but they also need to hear the Gospel preached and to be supported by the sacraments, the teaching of the church and the witness of holy men and women.



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