One senses that the new Pope is bringing new ways, but even I could not have contemplated Kafka to be among them.Well - OK - in the spirit of the season and of truth, it was not the Holy Father himself who evoked the blessed name of Kafka. And - so fittingly - on Good Friday. This will make even Kafka smile.
However, it was the Pope's own priest, Father Raniero Cantalamessa O.F. M. Cap., who, in his homily, cited, quoted and indeed repeated, in toto, a tale by Kafka. Who said: "There is a short story by Franz Kafka that is a powerful religious symbol and takes on a new meaning, almost prophetic, when heard on Good Friday."
Who am I to argue with a representative from within the heart of The Holy See itself? Indeed, why would I want to? Kafka knows the ways of mankind, and the world wherein these poor souls must dwell, better than most authors. And - perhaps - most Popes. [DE]
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HOMILY OF FATHER RANIERO CANTALAMESSA O.F.M. Cap.
St. Peter's Basilica
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith in his blood. He did this to show his righteousness [...] to prove at the present time that he is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus”(Rom 3:23-26).
We have reached the summit of the Year of Faith and its decisive moment. This is the faith that saves, "faith that overcomes the world" (1 Jn 5:5)! Faith – the appropriation by which we make ours the salvation worked by Christ, by which we put on the mantle of his righteousness. On the one hand there is the outstretched hand of God offering man His grace; on the other hand, the hand of man reaching out to receive it through faith. The "new and everlasting Covenant" is sealed with a handclasp between God and man.
..... There is a short story by Franz Kafka that is a powerful religious symbol and takes on a new meaning, almost prophetic, when heard on Good Friday. It's titled "An Imperial Message". It speaks of a king who, on his deathbed, calls to his side a subject and whispers a message into his ear. So important is that message that he makes the subject repeat it, in turn, into his hear. Then, with a nod, he sends off the messenger, who sets out on his way. But let us hear directly from the author the continuation of this story, characterized by the dreamlike and almost nightmarish tone typical of this writer: ...
An Imperial Message
by Franz Kafka (Translation by Ian Johnston)
The Emperor—so they say—has sent a message, directly from his death bed, to you alone, his pathetic subject, a tiny shadow which has taken refuge at the furthest distance from the imperial sun. He ordered the herald to kneel down beside his bed and whispered the message in his ear. He thought it was so important that he had the herald speak it back to him. He confirmed the accuracy of verbal message by nodding his head. And in front of the entire crowd of those witnessing his death—all the obstructing walls have been broken down, and all the great ones of his empire are standing in a circle on the broad and high soaring flights of stairs—in front of all of them he dispatched his herald. The messenger started off at once, a powerful, tireless man. Sticking one arm out and then another, he makes his way through the crowd. If he runs into resistance, he points to his breast where there is a sign of the sun. So he moves forwards easily, unlike anyone else. But the crowd is so huge; its dwelling places are infinite. If there were an open field, how he would fly along, and soon you would hear the marvellous pounding of his fist on your door. But instead of that, how futile are all his efforts. He is still forcing his way through the private rooms of the innermost palace. Never will he win his way through. And if he did manage that, nothing would have been achieved. He would have to fight his way down the steps, and, if he managed to do that, nothing would have been achieved. He would have to stride through the courtyards, and after the courtyards through the second palace encircling the first, and, then again, through stairs and courtyards, and then, once again, a palace, and so on for thousands of years. And if he finally burst through the outermost door—but that can never, never happen—the royal capital city, the centre of the world, is still there in front of him, piled high and full of sediment. No one pushes his way through here, certainly not someone with a message from a dead man. But you sit at your window and dream of that message when evening comes.