Benedict XVI invites the faithful to swim against the tide

Source: FSSPX News

During his weekly general audience, before some 6,500 faithful gathered in Paul VI Hall at the Vatican for the first day of Lent, 2010, the Pope recalled that we are called to a conversion that is not just “a small adjustment” of our life, but rather “a true and proper about-turn”.  

“Conversion,” Benedict XVI explained, “means ‘swimming against the tide’, where the ‘tide’ is the superficial lifestyle, inconsistent and deceptive, that often sweeps us along, overwhelms us and makes us slaves to evil or at any rate prisoners of moral mediocrity.”  In the Pope’s view, conversion is “not a mere moral decision”, but much more:  it allows us to aim “for the high standard of Christian living” by practicing “the living and personal Gospel which is Jesus Christ”.

  “He is our final goal and the profound meaning of conversion;  he is the path on which all are called to walk through life, letting themselves be illumined by his light and sustained by his power which moves our steps.”  “The [message,] ‘Repent, and believe in the Gospel’ is not only at the beginning of Christian life but accompanies it throughout, endures, is renewed and spreads, branching out into all its expressions. Every day is a favorable moment of grace….” Several days earlier, on February 4, the Holy Father had dedicated his Message for Lent to the theme of justice, inviting the faithful “to leave that illusion of self-sufficiency, the profound state of closure, which is the very origin of injustice”. 

In this message that was published in seven languages, Benedict XVI pointed out “a permanent temptation within man”, the temptation “to situate the origin of evil in an exterior cause”.  The Pope regretted that “many modern ideologies” convey “this presupposition: since injustice comes ‘from outside’, in order for justice to reign, it is sufficient to remove the exterior causes that prevent it being achieved.”  On the contrary, as the Supreme Pontiff sees it, the origin of injustice “lies in the human heart, where the seeds are found of a mysterious cooperation with evil.

With bitterness the Psalmist recognizes this: ‘Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me’ (Psalm 51:5).”  Man, he explained, “finds in his being a strange force of gravity that makes him turn in and affirm himself above and against others: this is egoism, the result of original sin. Adam and Eve, seduced by Satan’s lie, snatch[ed] the mysterious fruit against the divine command....” Continuing his analysis, the Supreme Pontiff then alluded to how God came to reestablish all justice.  First, by teaching Moses the virtue that one should practice toward one’s neighbor, in imitation of God who “lifts the needy from the ash heap” (Psalm 113:7) by freeing his people from the yoke of injustice that they sustained in Egypt.  However the hope for justice is fully satisfied by the justice of Christ.  “Above all, it is the justice that comes from grace, where it is not man who makes amends, heals himself and others.”

This “expiation ... flows from the blood of Christ”;   “it is not man’s sacrifices that free him from the weight of his faults, but the loving act of God who opens Himself in the extreme [FT:  which has an infinite dimension], even to the point of bearing in Himself the curse due to man so as to give in return the blessing due to God (cf. Galatians 3:13-14).”  “In reality, here we discover divine justice, which is so profoundly different from its human counterpart. God has paid for us the price of the exchange in His Son, a price that is truly exorbitant.” Exhorting his listeners to abandon “the illusion of self-sufficiency in order to discover and accept [our] own need – the need for others and for God, the need for His forgiveness and His friendship,” the Pope invited Christians to practice a greater justice that is communicated by the sacraments, “the justice that recognizes itself in every case more a debtor than a creditor, because it has received more than could ever have been expected”.

He concluded by recalling that “Lent culminates in the Paschal Triduum,” when “we shall celebrate divine justice – the fullness of charity, gift, salvation. May this penitential season be for every Christian a time of authentic conversion and intense knowledge of the mystery of Christ, who came to fulfill all justice.”