This is the first Sunday of Lent, the 40-day liturgical season in which the Church prepares spiritually for Easter. In substance it is a matter of following Jesus who turns decisively toward the cross, the culmination of this mission of salvation. If we ask: Why Lent? Why the cross? The answer, in radical terms, is this: because evil exists, or rather, sin, which according to Scripture is the deepest cause of every evil.
But this statement is not at all uncontroversial, and the word "sin" is not accepted by many, for it presupposes a religious vision of the world and of man. In effect this is correct: If we eliminate God from the horizon of the world, we cannot speak of sin. Just as when the sun is hidden the shadows disappear and the shadows appear only if the sun is there, so too the eclipse of God necessarily brings the eclipse of sin. Thus the meaning of sin -- which is a different thing from "guilt feelings" as these are understood in psychology -- is only grasped in discovering the meaning of God. The "Miserere" Psalm, attributed to David in the context of his twofold sin of adultery and homicide: "Against you," David says, turning to God, "against you alone I have sinned" (Psalm 51:6).
God's response to moral evil is to oppose sin and save the sinner. God does not tolerate evil because he is Love, Justice, Fidelity; and it is precisely because of this that he does not wish the death of the sinner, but desires that the sinner covert and live. God intervenes to save humanity: We see this in the whole history of the Jewish people, beginning with their liberation from Egypt. God is determined to deliver his children from slavery to lead them to freedom. And the worst and most profound slavery is that of sin. This is why God sent his Son into the world: to free men from the rule of Satan, "origin and cause of every sin."
He sent him in our mortal flesh so that he might become the sacrifice of expiation, dying for us upon the cross. The Devil sets himself with all of his forces against this plan of definitive and universal salvation, which is shown in particular by the Gospel of Jesus' temptations in the desert proclaimed every year on the first Sunday of Lent. In fact, entering into this liturgical season always means siding with Christ against sin, doing spiritual battle -- as an individual and as the Church -- against the evil spirit (collect prayer for Ash Wednesday).
We thus invoke the help of Mary Most Holy for the Lenten journey just begun so that it be rich with the fruit of conversion. I ask a special remembrance in prayer for me and my co-workers in the Roman Curia. This evening we will start a week-long retreat.
13 March 2011
Pope: God intervenes to save humanity
The following is a text of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI's address today at the recitation of the Angelus, with my emphases:
Translation via Zenit.