Spiritual Exercises a Time of Encounter, Says Preacher

Pope in 1st Full Day of Lenten Retreat

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 6, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The spiritual exercises that Benedict XVI and his aides in the Roman Curia began on Sunday is a moment of encounter with God, says the retreat's preacher.



Cardinal Marco Cé, retired patriarch of Venice, proposed in the presence of the Pope, and to the cardinals, bishops, priests and religious on hand in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel, that they undertake an "interior pilgrimage to him who is the source of mercy," Jesus.

According to Vatican Radio's report on this morning's meditation, the cardinal said that Christ "accompanies us through the wilderness of our poverty, supporting us on the way to the intense joy of Easter," the fruit of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, "heart of our faith."

Cardinal Cé explained that this encounter takes place because Christ first came in search of each of us.

"If the grace of the Risen Crucified did not call us and did not seek us, we would never come out of our sloth and sin. Who will deliver me from this body of death?" asked the cardinal rhetorically. "The grace of God through Jesus Christ."

If the spiritual exercises become an encounter with Christ, this meeting will also be "an act of love for the Church and for so many brothers who walk on remote paths" whom "Jesus wants to save," the retired patriarch said.

"The Gospel calls us to be involved, to feel questioned, and not to be mere spectators enclosed in the fortress of our rationality, but to react as those who find Jesus and let themselves be enveloped by his light. This is the meaning of Jesus' heartfelt desire when he said: 'Believe in me,'" noted the preacher.

Open heart

To take the Gospel seriously, always means "an encounter" in which the strength is found to be converted, "to orient one's life again to God, opening the heart wide to him in faith," he added.

In the second meditation this morning, Cardinal Cé left this message with the Pope and his collaborators: "We must have only one ambition: that despite our limitations, people see in us persons who really love the Lord, who are in love with him; where there is no gap between what they say and what they really are."

Lent is "the time of grace to decide for the Lord," he said. It is beautiful "to think that God comes to seek us;" we must "let him find us in Lent."

The spiritual exercises, whose theme is "Walking with Jesus towards Easter, Guided by the Evangelist Mark," will end Saturday.

Benedict XVI is not holding public audiences this week.