Pope Benedict XVI: On this Lenten Journey Let us be Attentive to Christ's Invitation
On Ash Wednesday, Pope Benedict XVI joins us as a pilgrim and a penitent
Lent is a journey, accompanying Jesus as He travels to Jerusalem, the place where the mystery of His Passion, Death and Resurrection is to be fulfilled.The Christian life is a 'road' to be travelled, consisting not so much in a law to be observed as in the person of Christ Himself, Who must be encountered, welcomed and followed.
Pope Benedict XVI, penitent and pilgrim
"Lent is a journey," continued the Pope, "it means accompanying Jesus as He travels to Jerusalem, the place where the mystery of His Passion, Death and Resurrection is to be fulfilled. It reminds us that Christian life is a 'road' to be travelled, consisting not so much in a law to be observed as in the person of Christ Himself, Who must be encountered, welcomed and followed."
As is always the case, our Holy Father's words are richly filled with profound meaning and insight. Let us contemplate, for a moment, something of what it means to encounter the "person of Christ Himself." In the case of relating to the Person of Jesus, Pope Benedict uses the word "must," which articulates the obligatory nature of our relationship with Christ: Jesus is He "Who must be encountered, welcomed and followed."
The Person of Jesus Christ: "I AM" (Jn 8:58)
Jesus is not merely a man who shows us a "way" along which we may travel, as if one path is as good as another; nor does he simply utter a "truth" which we may or may not accept; nor does he merely talk of a manner in which we may find "life," as if it is one item among others which we might gather up and store away for ourselves. Rather, the Person of Jesus himself is the way, the truth, and the life (Jn 14:6). It is not as if Jesus has gathered these gifts from outside of himself, and then simply passes them on to us for our own benefit. It is the Person of Jesus, the Son of the living God, who is the Gift. Christ is Life Itself.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoting from Sts. Irenaeus, Athanasius and Aquinas, explains the manner in which we share in the gift of God's own life: "The Word became flesh to make us 'partakers of the divine nature' (see 2 Pt 1:4): For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God. For the Son of God became man so that we might become God. The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods" (No. 460).
When St. Athanasius wrote that "the Son of God became man so that we might become God," it is to be understood in the sense that, through Christ's salvific and redemptive act, we are graced by virtue of Baptism with a share in the divine life of God. Nevertheless, it is the Person of Jesus who calls us to enter into communion with himself, and thus receive the Gift of himself, that we might become a son of God and share in his Divinity. As our Holy Father reminds us, Lent is a journey into God, it is a way of travel not to some "place," but into a state of existence infused with supernatural life -- what we term as sanctifying grace.
Yet the lenten journey is not simply walking in "some" subjective direction. Rather, it is a specific direction in which we ourselves, body and soul, accompany Jesus, truly existing in and through him, at one with him. It is an existential action, formed in the fires of passionate love, in which we fervently and truly commend our spirits unto Christ. Our own life is our gift, however small it is, given back to the limitless Gift Himself: our Savior who poured out his own blood upon the wood of the cross: the forever infinite and incomparable gift to humankind.
Penance: Integral To The Lenten Journey Into Love
The lenten journey includes penance, as our Holy Father reminded us with his opening statement. For Christians, this necessarily involves the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, in obedience to the love and infinite concern of our Savior who instituted it for the sake of his People. It was God's will that his children freely drink of his mercy by confessing their sins to the properly ordained ministers of forgiveness in his Catholic Church, for it was Jesus who breathed on his apostles and said: "Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained" (Jn 20:22-23).
In his apostolic exhortation Reconciliation And Penance, John Paul II notes "that for a Christian the sacrament of ...
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