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On Contemplating Christ Crucified

"Eloquent Message of Love"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 26, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Sunday before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This year, the Lenten message is inspired in the verse of John's Gospel, which in turn goes back to a messianic prophecy of Zechariah: "They shall look on him whom they have pierced" (John 19:37).

The beloved disciple, present with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and the other women on Calvary, was an eyewitness of the thrust of the spear which pierced Christ's side, so that blood and water came out (cf. John 19:31-34). This gesture of an unknown Roman soldier, destined to be lost in oblivion, was imprinted on the eyes and heart of the apostle, who recounted it in his Gospel. In the course of the centuries, how many conversions have taken place precisely thanks to the eloquent message of love that he receives who contemplates Jesus crucified!

Therefore, we enter the Lenten season with our gaze fixed on Jesus' side. In the encyclical letter "Deus Caritas Est" (cf. No. 12), I wished to underline that only by gazing on Jesus, dead on the cross for us, can we know and contemplate this fundamental truth: "God is love" (1 John 4:8,16). "In this contemplation the Christian discovers the path along which his life and love must move" ("Deus Caritas Est," No. 12).

Contemplating the Crucified with the eyes of faith, we can understand profoundly what sin is, its tragic gravity, and at the same time the incommensurable power of the Lord's forgiveness and mercy. During these days of Lent, let us not distance our hearts from this mystery of profound humanity and lofty spirituality.

On contemplating Christ, let us feel at the same time that we are contemplated by him. He whom we ourselves have pierced with our faults does not cease to shed over the world an inexhaustible torrent of merciful love. May humanity understand that only from this source is it possible to draw the spiritual energy indispensable to build that peace and happiness for which every human being is ceaselessly searching.

Let us pray to the Virgin Mary, whose soul was pierced next to her Son's cross, to obtain for us the gift of a firm faith. That, guiding us on our Lenten journey, she may help us leave everything that impedes us from listening to Christ and his word of salvation.

In particular, entrust to the Virgin Mary the week of Spiritual Exercises that will begin this afternoon in the Vatican, and in which I and my collaborators of the Roman Curia will participate.

Dear brothers and sisters: Please support me with your prayer and I will be happy to do the same in the recollection of the retreat, invoking divine power on each one of you, on your families and your communities.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in six languages. In English, he said:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus, particularly the group of Missionaries of Faith from Samoa. Today, the First Sunday of Lent, we are invited to contemplate Jesus as an example of how to conduct our daily struggle against temptation. May this time of purification prepare our hearts to celebrate the saving mysteries of the death and resurrection of Christ. I wish you all a pleasant stay in Rome, and a blessed Sunday!

© Copyright 2007 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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