On Sin and Evil

«God Is Determined to Deliver His Children From Slavery to Lead Them to Freedom»

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 13, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus together with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

This is the first Sunday of Lent, the 40-day liturgical season in which the Church prepares spiritually for Easter. In substance it is a matter of following Jesus who turns decisively toward the cross, the culmination of this mission of salvation. If we ask: Why Lent? Why the cross? The answer, in radical terms, is this: because evil exists, or rather, sin, which according to Scripture is the deepest cause of every evil.

But this statement is not at all uncontroversial, and the word «sin» is not accepted by many, for it presupposes a religious vision of the world and of man. In effect this is correct: If we eliminate God from the horizon of the world, we cannot speak of sin. Just as when the sun is hidden the shadows disappear and the shadows appear only if the sun is there, so too the eclipse of God necessarily brings the eclipse of sin. Thus the meaning of sin — which is a different thing from «guilt feelings» as these are understood in psychology — is only grasped in discovering the meaning of God. The «Miserere» Psalm, attributed to David in the context of his twofold sin of adultery and homicide: «Against you,» David says, turning to God, «against you alone I have sinned» (Psalm 51:6).

God’s response to moral evil is to oppose sin and save the sinner. God does not tolerate evil because he is Love, Justice, Fidelity; and it is precisely because of this that he does not wish the death of the sinner, but desires that the sinner covert and live. God intervenes to save humanity: We see this in the whole history of the Jewish people, beginning with their liberation from Egypt. God is determined to deliver his children from slavery to lead them to freedom. And the worst and most profound slavery is that of sin. This is why God sent his Son into the world: to free men from the rule of Satan, «origin and cause of every sin.»

He sent him in our mortal flesh so that he might become the sacrifice of expiation, dying for us upon the cross. The Devil sets himself with all of his forces against this plan of definitive and universal salvation, which is shown in particular by the Gospel of Jesus’ temptations in the desert proclaimed every year on the first Sunday of Lent. In fact, entering into this liturgical season always means siding with Christ against sin, doing spiritual battle — as an individual and as the Church — against the evil spirit (collect prayer for Ash Wednesday).

We thus invoke the help of Mary Most Holy for the Lenten journey just begun so that it be rich with the fruit of conversion. I ask a special remembrance in prayer for me and my co-workers in the Roman Curia. This evening we will start a week-long retreat.

[After the Angelus the Pope made the following appeal in Italian:]

Dear brothers and sisters,

The images of the tragic earthquake and consequent tsunami in Japan have deeply shaken us. I would like to renew my spiritual nearness to the dear people of that country, who are dealing with the effects of these calamities with dignity and courage. I pray for the victims and for their families and for all those who are suffering because of these awful events. I encourage those who with praiseworthy readiness are preparing to bring help. We remain united in prayer. The Lord is near!

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic] [He then greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In English, he said:]

As I greet you this morning, I ask you to join me in praying for the victims of the recent devastation visited upon Japan. May the bereaved and injured be comforted and may the rescue workers be strengthened in their efforts to assist the courageous Japanese people.

Turning to the pilgrims present at today’s «Angelus» prayer, I greet especially the Midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy and their chaplains, as well as the members of the Nazareth Academy Choir. Entrusting all of you to the care of Mary, Mother of the Church, I invoke upon you and your loved ones the blessings of Almighty God.

[In Latin, he said:]

I cordially greet the students and teachers of the Christelijk Lyceum of Veenendaal (Netherlands). I rejoice that you have come to Rome to be strengthened in your endeavor to learn the Latin language. In fact this language has much to contribute, both in the deeper study of antiquity and in the study of more recent history.

[In conclusion he said in Italian:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good Lenten journey. Thank you.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
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