Our seminary chapel service today is one which has been highly anticipated by many on and off campus for some time now. Our guest speaker, Friar Raniero Cantalamessa, is a man of small stature and humble appearance, yet with a position of great status in the Catholic church. You see, the friar has been serving for some years now as the preacher to the Papal household.
I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting today. On the one hand, it is exciting to see the budding relationship between Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, as we strive to worship God as a fellowship of believers, rather than a segmented smattering of denominations. So, perhaps part of me expected a lecture on unity as a body of believers.
Fr. Cantalamesa is also a distinguished scholar, having written many books and holding two Doctoral degrees. So part of me hoped for a treatise expounding on some theological concept.
What I received instead was something both totally unexpected and profoundly significant. I received a call to repent and believe.
As Fr. Cantalamessa spoke in his slow, quiet, heavily accented voice, what I heard was a declaration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is simply this;
1) Grace is freely offered to all.
2) This grace enables us to have faith and believe that Christ is Lord.
3) Once embraced, this faithful acceptance of grace frees us from the bondage of sin and the pain of death, so that we might live abundantly and obediently.
As I sat in my pew and listened, I was amazed to discover that this godly man was challenging the entire seminary, full of men and women training for ministry, to repent and believe – and to take up our cross and follow Him, that is Christ.
He remembered the great commission. He remembered the Gospel. He reminded us of both, and shared the hope of the Kingdom Message with us. This is the essence of our call.
Praise be to God!