Find God's Love in Christ Crucified, Urges Pope

Proposes That Faithful Fix Gaze on Pierced Side

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 25, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is encouraging all Christians to experience the love of God through the contemplation of Christ crucified.



The Pope said this today, the first Sunday of Lent, before praying the Angelus with crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square. He commented on the theme he chose for this Lent, "They shall look on him whom they have pierced."

The Holy Father said that the theme is inspired by the narrative of the Christ's passion and death by John the Evangelist, the only apostle who remained at the foot of the cross.

"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," said the Pontiff.

Benedict XVI said: "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!"

The Pontiff encouraged believers to journey through this Lenten season with their gaze "fixed on Jesus' side."

Path of love

Quoting his encyclical "Deus Caritas Est," the Pope said that "only by gazing on Jesus, dead on the cross for us, can we know and contemplate this fundamental truth: 'God is love.'"

Speaking from the window of his study, the Holy Father said: "In this contemplation the Christian discovers the path along which his life and love must move.

"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," Benedict XVI continued, "let us not distance our hearts from this mystery of profound humanity and lofty spirituality."

The Pope added: "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."