Cross Challenges Human Certainties, Says Pope

Affirms Jesus Is the Truth That Enables Love

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ROME, MARCH 21, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says the sacrifice of Christ should call into question our human certainties, setting us free to love.



The Pope said this tonight at the end of the Way of the Cross he presided over in the Roman Colosseum. Tens of thousands of faithful braved an unexpected chill and rain to meditate on the sacrifice of Christ. The reflections for the ceremony were written this year by Cardinal Joseph Zen, bishop of Hong Kong.

"Is it possible to remain indifferent before the death of the Lord, of the Son of God?" the Holy Father asked. "For us, for our salvation he became man, so as to be able to suffer and die.

"Let us pause to contemplate his cross. The cross, fount of life and school of justice and peace, is the universal patrimony of pardon and mercy. It is permanent proof of a self-emptying and infinite love that brought God to become man, vulnerable like us, unto dying crucified."

Returning to a theme that he frequently touches upon, Benedict XVI urged the faithful to become friends with Christ.

"Through the sorrowful way of the cross, the men of all ages, reconciled and redeemed by the blood of Christ, have become friends of God, sons of the heavenly Father," he said. "'Friend,' is what Jesus calls Judas and he offers him the last and dramatic call to conversion. 'Friend,' he calls each of us, because he is the authentic friend of everyone.

"Unfortunately, we do not always manage to perceive the depth of this limitless love that God has for us. For him, there is no distinction of race or culture. Jesus Christ died to liberate the humanity of old of their ignorance of God, of the circle of hate and violence, of the slavery to sin. The cross makes us brothers and sisters."

Stewards

The Pope challenged the faithful to examine their response to this friendship.

"But let us ask ourselves in this moment," he said, "what have we done with this gift, what have we done with the revelation of the face of God in Christ, with the revelation of the love of God that conquers hate. Many, in our age as well, do not know God and cannot encounter him in Christ crucified. Many are in search of a love or a liberty that excludes God. Many believe they have no need of God."

"Let us this night allow his sacrifice on the cross to question us. Let us permit him to challenge our human certainties," the Holy Father urged. "Let us open our hearts. Jesus is the truth that makes us free to love. Let us not be afraid: Upon dying, the Lord destroyed sin and saved sinners, that is, all of us.

"This is the truth of Good Friday: On the cross, the Redeemer has made us adoptive sons of God who he created in his image and likeness. Let us remain, then, in adoration before the cross.

"Christ, give us the peace we seek, the happiness we desire, the love the fills our heart thirsty for the infinite. This is our prayer for this night, Jesus, Son of God, who died for us on the cross and was resurrected on the third day."

Concern for Asia

In the images of each of the 14 stations found in the book given to the pilgrims and presented by TV coverage of the event, Christ and the other figures are presented with Asian traits.

Cardinal Zen wrote in the forward of the meditations, "I did not have the slightest hesitation in accepting the task [of writing them]. I recognized that this was the Holy Father's way of demonstrating his personal concern for the great continent of Asia, and in particular, his way of including in this solemn act of Christian piety the faithful people of China, for whom the Via Crucis is a deeply felt devotion."

A Chinese youth handed over the cross at the 14th station to the Pope, who followed the Way of the Cross from atop the Palatine Hill.

In the previous stations, the cross was borne by faithful including Franciscan friars from the Custody of the Holy Land, a disabled person in a wheelchair, a Roman family, a woman religious from Burkina Faso, and Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope's vicar for the Diocese of Rome.