When Bad News is Good News
Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa has been impressing Catholics with the quality of his homilies for a long time.
Evangelical commentator Dr. Ray Pritchard, president of Keep Believing Ministries, is a fan of the Pontifical Household’s preacher too.
Writing at the Crosswalk.com website, Pritchard highlights Father Cantalamessa’s call last week for Catholics and Protestants to leave behind the doctrinal battles of the past over Sola Fides — Martin Luther’s contentious claim that humankind is justified by faith in Christ alone.
Here’s part of the passage from Father Cantalamessa’s homily that caught Pritchard’s eye:
“To give but one example, the problem is no longer that of Luther and of how to liberate man from the sense of guilt that oppresses him, but how to give again to man the true meaning of sin which has been totally lost,” Father Cantalamessa commented. “What sense does it make to continue to discuss how ‘justification of the godless comes about,’ when man is convinced of not having need of any justification and says with pride: ‘I accuse myself today and I alone can absolve myself, I the man’?”
Pritchard agrees that in today’s religious and cultural climate, where many have lost all conception of the reality of personal sin and the need for salvation, it’s important to put aside doctrinal divisions that separate those who do accept that reality and that need for the redemptive sacrifice of Christ.
“We all need to hear this word,” Pritchard writes. “In our generation the issue is not how are we saved, but why we need to be saved in the first place. Saved from what? Jesus himself said he did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:31). If a man thinks he isn’t a sinner, he’ll never see his need to repent.”
According to Pritchard, “In our day it’s not enough to say ‘Jesus loves you.’ If people don’t know who Jesus is, or why it matters that he loves us, or how he demonstrated his love for us, and how that love can save us eternally, those three words will have no meaning. First there is God, then there is man, then there is sin, then there is Christ, and finally there is salvation. We need more theology in our gospel witness, not less, because people understand so little.
Concludes Pritchard, “I would say that Luther’s stand for justification by faith alone was a worthy battle, but the man who has no sense of sin won’t care whether we are Protestant or Catholic or something else. Without conviction of sin, why would anyone come to Christ?
“The gospel is good news, but it is the bad news that makes the good news good.”
— Tom McFeely