02/04/2010, 00.00
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Pope: God's justice is not that of men

In his "Message for Lent”, Benedict XVI highlights how man must overcome the illusion of self" and “ the deep state of closure, which is the origin of injustice" to open himself to the love of God. Jesus "certainly condemns the indifference that even today forces hundreds of millions of human beings to death for lack of food, water and medicine."

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Divine justice is not that of men, it does not follow the traditional rule that identifies it in "to render to every man his due”, but one for which " where the just man dies for the guilty and the guilty receives in return the blessing due to the just one". It is a "justice" - said Benedict XVI in his message for Lent - which makes men "emerge from the illusion of self sufficiency," overcoming "the strange force of gravity that leads him to fall back on himself, to assert himself over and against others".  

 Titled "The justice of God has been manifested through faith in Jesus Christ ", the papal document, released today, focuses on the very definition of justice. The classical definition, "does not specify what “due” is to be rendered to each person. What man needs most cannot be guaranteed to him by law. In order to live life to the full, something more intimate is necessary that can be granted only as a gift”.  " Material goods are certainly useful and required – indeed Jesus Himself was concerned to heal the sick, feed the crowds that followed Him and surely condemns the indifference that even today forces hundreds of millions into death through lack of food, water and medicine – yet “distributive” justice does not render to the human being the totality of his “due.” Just as man needs bread, so does man have even more need of God”.  

There is, the Pope notes, a "a permanent temptation within man: to situate the origin of evil in an exterior cause. Many modern ideologies deep down have 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. This way of thinking – Jesus warns – is ingenuous and shortsighted. Injustice, the fruit of evil, does not have exclusively external roots; its origin lies in the human heart, where the seeds are found of a mysterious cooperation with evil".

 This is egoism, the result of original sin. “Adam and Eve, seduced by Satan’s lie, snatching the mysterious fruit against the divine command, replaced the logic of trusting in Love with that of suspicion and competition; the logic of receiving and trustfully expecting from the Other with anxiously seizing and doing on one’s own (cf. Gn 3, 1-6), experiencing, as a consequence, a sense of disquiet and uncertainty. How can man free himself from this selfish influence and open himself to love?".  

 The answer begins with the Old Testament: " At the heart of the wisdom of Israel, we find a profound link between faith in God who “lifts the needy from the ash heap” (Ps 113,7) and justice towards one’s neighbour." "Giving to the poor for the Israelite is none other than restoring what is owed to God, who had pity on the misery of His people". " God is attentive to the cry of the poor and in return asks to be listened to: He asks for justice towards the poor (cf. Sir 4,4-5, 8-9), the stranger (cf. Ex 22,20), the slave (cf. Dt 15, 12-18). In order to enter into justice, it is thus necessary to leave that illusion of self-sufficiency, the profound state of closure, which is the very origin of injustice”.  

"The Christian Good News responds positively to man’s thirst for justice." The "righteousness of Christ" is "above all the justice that comes from grace," because "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, even to the point of bearing in Himself the “curse” due to man so as to give in return the “blessing” due to God".  

  But " would this not mean that each one receives the contrary of his “due”? 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. Before the justice of the Cross, man may rebel for this reveals how man is not a self-sufficient being, but in need of Another in order to realize himself fully. Conversion to Christ, believing in the Gospel, ultimately means this: to exit the illusion of self-sufficiency in order to discover and accept one’s own need – the need of others and God, the need of His forgiveness and His friendship".

 For the complete text of the 2010 Lent Message, see: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/lent/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20091030_lent-2010_it.html

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