Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Pray for the Church in China, a country where Christ is "rejected, ignored or persecuted," the bishops of that country who are "suffering" so "their desire to stay in the one and Universal Church overcome the temptation of a path independent of Peter "and to" enlighten those who are in doubt, recall those who are lost, comfort the afflicted, strengthen those who are ensnared by the false flattery of opportunism”.
This is the invitation that Benedict XVI made today to Catholics throughout the world, ahead of the day of prayer for the Church in China, on 24 May.
At the end of the general audience, the Pope asked for the prayers first and foremost of Chinese Catholics, but also those around the world. "We know - he said - which, that among our brother bishops, there are some who suffer and are under pressure in exercising their episcopal ministry. To them, the priests and all Catholics who have difficulties in the profession of their faith, we express our closeness. With our prayers we can help u find a way to keep their faith alive, their hope strong, charity towards all ardent, and the ecclesiology that we inherited from the Lord and the Apostles and has been transmitted faithfully to this day, whole . With prayer we can obtain that their desire to stay in the Church Universal overcome the temptation of a path independent of Peter. Prayer can obtain for them and for us, the joy and the strength to proclaim and bear witness, with all the boldness and without hindrance, to Jesus Christ crucified and risen, the new man, the conqueror of sin and death. With all of you I ask Mary to intercede so that each one of them conform themselves more closely to Christ and give themselves more generously to their brothers. I ask Mary - concluded the pope - to enlighten those who are in doubt, reach out to the lost, comfort the afflicted, strengthen those who are ensnared by the false promises of opportunism. "
In his speech to 20 thousand people in St. Peter's Square for the general audience, Benedict XVI, continuing the cycle of catechesis dedicated to prayer, focused on the prayer of Abraham for the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, in which, in reality, the "father of all believers" actually asked God for mercy, not for the righteous but for sinners.
The example that comes from Chapter 18 of Genesis, also served the Pope to invite people to, "read the Bible, which I hope you have in your homes, and during the week, pause to read and meditate in prayer, to know the wonderful history of the relationship, between God and man, between God who communicates with us and man that answers".
In the episode shown today by Benedict XVI, "the wickedness of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah had reached its peak, so as to render it necessary for God to perform an act of justice and to stop the evil destroying the cities." But when God makes known to Abraham his intention of destroying the two cities, Abraham claims that it is not fair to punish the wicked. "His is a mission of salvation, which must respond to the sin that has invaded the reality of man, and through him the Lord wants to bring humanity back to faith, obedience and righteousness."
Abraham asks God not to punish "the righteous with the wicked" and "Abraham puts before God the need to avoid summary justice: if the city is guilty, it is right to condemn its crime and impose the penalty, but it would be unfair to indiscriminately punish all people. If there are innocent people in the city, they can not be treated as the guilty. God, who is a righteous judge, can not act like that. "
But on a deeper reading, the Pope continued, "we realize that the request of Abraham is even more serious and profound, because he does not limit himself to simply ask for the salvation of the innocent. Abraham asked forgiveness for the whole city and he does so by appealing to the righteousness of God. " Here is "a new idea of justice: one that does not merely punish the guilty, as men do, but a different justice, a divine justice, that looks for the good and creates through it forgiveness that transforms the sinner, converts and saves him. " Thus Abraham with his prayer invokes "an intervention of salvation that, bearing in mind the innocent, frees from guilt even the wicked, forgiving them." The thought of Abraham is that "of course you can not treat the innocent as the guilty, this would be unfair, but we must instead treat as guilty as the innocent, by implementing a higher justice, giving them a chance of salvation, because if the criminals accepted God's forgiveness and confess their guilt allowing themselves to be saved, then they will themselves in turn become righteous, and no longer need to be punished. "
It 's a demand for justice that is based on the certainty that the Lord is merciful. "Abraham, thus gradually decreases the number of "righteous" needed to save the city to ten. And God all the time "listens and accepts" his prayer. "So, through the intercession of Abraham Sodom can be saved, if it included only ten innocent men. That's the power of prayer. For through intercession, prayer to God for the salvation of others, the desire for salvation which God has always nurtured toward sinful man manifests itself and is expressed. For evil can not be accepted, it must be reported and destroyed by punishment: the destruction of Sodom was precisely this function. But the Lord does not want the death of the wicked, rather that he be converted and live, and his desire is always to forgive, save, create, transform evil into good. "" With the voice of his prayer, Abraham is giving voice to the desire of God that is not to destroy, but to save Sodom, to give life to the repentant sinner. "That 's what the Lord wants." Being saved is not simply to escape punishment, but to be freed from the evil that lives there. It is not the punishment that should be eliminated, but sin, that rejection of God and of love that brings in itself the punishment”.
But the mercy of God in the history of his people extends further. "If you needed ten righteous men to save Sodom, the prophet Jeremiah says that you only need one to save Jerusalem." The number has dropped again, the goodness of God is even greater. "But that's not enough, the abundant mercy of God could not find the good it sought and Jerusalem fell under the siege of the enemy."
“God himself had to become that righteous man. The infinite and amazing love of God will be fully manifested when the Son of God becomes man, the permanently Just, completely innocent, that will bring salvation to the world by dying on the cross, forgiving and interceding for those who "do not know what they do '. Then the prayer of every man will find his answer, then all our intercession will be fully answered. "