Posted February 19, 2007
Papal Message for Lent 2007
"They Shall Look on Him Whom They Have Pierced"
VATICAN CITY, FEB. 13, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is Benedict XVI's
message for Lent 2007. It was issued today by the Vatican press
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
"They shall look on Him whom they have pierced" (Jn 19:37). This is
the biblical theme that this year guides our Lenten reflection. Lent
is a favourable time to learn to stay with Mary and John, the beloved
disciple, close to Him who on the Cross, consummated for all mankind
the sacrifice of His life (cf. Jn 19:25). With a more fervent
participation let us direct our gaze, therefore, in this time of
penance and prayer, at Christ crucified who, dying on Calvary,
revealed fully for us the love of God. In the Encyclical Deus caritas
est, I dwelt upon this theme of love, highlighting its two
fundamental forms: agape and eros.
God's love: agape and eros
The term agape, which appears many times in the New Testament,
indicates the self-giving love of one who looks exclusively for the
good of the other. The word eros, on the other hand, denotes the love
of one who desires to possess what he or she lacks and yearns for
union with the beloved. The love with which God surrounds us is
undoubtedly agape. Indeed, can man give to God some good that He does
not already possess? All that the human creature is and has is divine
gift. It is the creature then, who is in need of God in everything.
But God's love is also eros. In the Old Testament, the Creator of the
universe manifests toward the people whom He has chosen as His own a
predilection that transcends every human motivation. The prophet
Hosea expresses this divine passion with daring images such as the
love of a man for an adulterous woman (cf. 3:1-3). For his part,
Ezekiel, speaking of God's relationship with the people of Israel, is
not afraid to use strong and passionate language (cf. 16:1-22). These
biblical texts indicate that eros is part of God's very heart: the
Almighty awaits the "yes" of His creatures as a young bridegroom that
of his bride. Unfortunately, from its very origins, mankind, seduced
by the lies of the Evil One, rejected God's love in the illusion of a
self-sufficiency that is impossible (cf. Gn 3:1-7). Turning in on
himself, Adam withdrew from that source of life who is God Himself,
and became the first of "those who through fear of death were subject
to lifelong bondage" (Heb 2:15). God, however, did not give up. On
the contrary, man's "no" was the decisive impulse that moved Him to
manifest His love in all of its redeeming strength.
The Cross reveals the fullness of God's love
It is in the mystery of the Cross that the overwhelming power of the
heavenly Father's mercy is revealed in all of its fullness. In order
to win back the love of His creature, He accepted to pay a very high
price: the blood of His only begotten Son. Death, which for the first
Adam was an extreme sign of loneliness and powerlessness, was thus
transformed in the supreme act of love and freedom of the new Adam.
One could very well assert, therefore, together with Saint Maximus
the Confessor, that Christ "died, if one could say so, divinely,
because He died freely" (Ambigua, 91, 1956). On the Cross, God's eros
for us is made manifest. Eros is indeed -- as Pseudo-Dionysius
expresses it -- that force "that does not allow the lover to remain
in himself but moves him to become one with the beloved" (De divinis
nominibus, IV, 13: PG 3, 712). Is there more "mad eros" (N.
Cabasilas, Vita in Cristo, 648) than that which led the Son of God to
make Himself one with us even to the point of suffering as His own
the consequences of our offences?
"Him whom they have pierced"
Dear brothers and sisters, let us look at Christ pierced in the
Cross! He is the unsurpassing revelation of God's love, a love in
which eros and agape, far from being opposed, enlighten each other.
On the Cross, it is God Himself who begs the love of His creature: He
is thirsty for the love of every one of us. The Apostle Thomas
recognized Jesus as "Lord and God" when he put his hand into the
wound of His side. Not surprisingly, many of the saints found in the
Heart of Jesus the deepest expression of this mystery of love. One
could rightly say that the revelation of God's eros toward man is, in
reality, the supreme expression of His agape. In all truth, only the
love that unites the free gift of oneself with the impassioned desire
for reciprocity instills a joy, which eases the heaviest of burdens.
Jesus said: "When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men
to myself" (Jn 12:32). The response the Lord ardently desires of us
is above all that we welcome His love and allow ourselves to be drawn
to Him. Accepting His love, however, is not enough. We need to
respond to such love and devote ourselves to communicating it to
others. Christ "draws me to Himself" in order to unite Himself to me,
so that I learn to love the brothers with His own love.
Blood and water
"They shall look on Him whom they have pierced." Let us look with
trust at the pierced side of Jesus from which flow "blood and water"
(Jn 19:34)! The Fathers of the Church considered these elements as
symbols of the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. Through the
water of Baptism, thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit, we are
given access to the intimacy of Trinitarian love. In the Lenten
journey, memorial of our Baptism, we are exhorted to come out of
ourselves in order to open ourselves, in trustful abandonment, to the
merciful embrace of the Father (cf. Saint John Chrysostom,
Catecheses, 3,14ff). Blood, symbol of the love of the Good Shepherd,
flows into us especially in the Eucharistic mystery: "The Eucharist
draws us into Jesus' act of self-oblation … we enter into the very
dynamic of His self-giving" (Encyclical Deus caritas est, 13). Let us
live Lent then, as a "Eucharistic" time in which, welcoming the love
of Jesus, we learn to spread it around us with every word and deed.
Contemplating "Him whom they have pierced" moves us in this way to
open our hearts to others, recognizing the wounds inflicted upon the
dignity of the human person; it moves us, in particular, to fight
every form of contempt for life and human exploitation and to
alleviate the tragedies of loneliness and abandonment of so many
people. May Lent be for every Christian a renewed experience of God's
love given to us in Christ, a love that each day we, in turn,
must "regive" to our neighbour, especially to the one who suffers
most and is in need. Only in this way will we be able to participate
fully in the joy of Easter. May Mary, Mother of Beautiful Love, guide
us in this Lenten journey, a journey of authentic conversion to the
love of Christ. I wish you, dear brothers and sisters, a fruitful
Lenten journey, imparting with affection to all of you, a special
From the Vatican, 21 November 2006.
BENEDICTUS PP. XVI
© Copyright 2006 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana