In a combox to a previous discussion, I raised the point that on Good Friday Fr Cantalamessa, the pope’s preacher, preached on the topic “Justified as a gift through faith in the blood of Christ”.
Lutheran Pastor Mark Henderson commented “I can only rejoice if Fr Cantalamessa preached the Gospel as Lutherans confess it”, and Josh, who confessed that on a quick perusal he thought “How very Lutheran!” went on to say: “Since I’m Catholic, of course, I may have been quite mistaken as to how Evangelical it was – Pastor Mark and ex-Pastor David, how Lutheran was it?”
Well, on the level of what is truly “evangelical”, I think it passes muster by a long shot. Especially towards the end as it precisely emphasises the call to evangelise the world with the Good News of Jesus Christ. As to whether it is “Lutheran” I also think that any faithful, catechised and practicing Lutherans listening to it (and there were not many who did) would barely distinguish it from what they hear preached in their own parishes, except that it was in Italian (not many Italian Lutheran Churches, although there is one in Rome).
oHowever, On the level of whether it would satisfy a Lutheran dogmatician of the confessional variety (such as our own Pastor Mark), I think the answer would be “no”. Despite Fr Cantalamessa’s repeated emphasis that justification is a gift and that we do nothing to earn it (music to a Lutheran’s ears), there was too much emphasis on faith as our free response to this equally free and gracious act of God in Christ. Lutherans of the confessional variety would stipulate that it is not only the justification which is given as a free unmerited gift, but also the faith which is necessary to receive it.
Remember that Fr Cantalamessa is not only a Franciscan but a member of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. You will find stuff on the internet where he has written in defense of “baptism in the Holy Spirit” as something different from Baptism or confirmation – something which I am not prepared to accept is orthodox Catholic teaching (none of this usually comes through in his public preaching). So even in this sermon we find some stuff that is not unlike Billy Graham’s “decision theology” coming through, in passages such as:
What is required is only that we do not hide from the presence of God, as Adam and Eve did after their sin, that we recognize our need to be justified; that we cannot justify ourselves. The publican of the parable came to the temple and made a short prayer: “O God, have mercy on me a sinner”. And Jesus says that the man returned to his home “justified”, that is, made right before him, forgiven, made a new creature, I think singing joyfully in his heart (Lk 18:14). What had he done that was so extraordinary? Nothing, he had put himself in the truth before God, and it is the only thing that God needs in order to act.
Of course, orthodox Catholic teaching teaches that even the response of faith to the grace of God in Christ is the result of pre-venient grace that leads us to that point, nevertheless the one remaining fact which (for Lutherans like Pastor Mark) brings the whole evangelical edifice crashing to its semi-Pelagian conclusion is that the human will remains free and acts freely in the response of faith. It is this which (for Lutherans like Pastor Mark) undermines the Gospel in Catholic teaching and preaching, and ultimately makes even a sermon as evangelical as the one which Fr Cantalamessa preached on Good Friday as anathema as the preaching of the Tetzel on indulgences.