ROME, FEB. 4, 2010 (Zenit.org).- With little need to look far to see peoples calling out for justice, not without reason does the appeal for justice resound in the world, says the president of the Vatican’s council for charitable activity.
Cardinal Paul Cordes affirmed this today as he presented Benedict XVI’s annual message for Lent.
The message, on “The Justice of God Has Been Manifested Through Faith in Jesus Christ,” is dated Oct. 30 and was released today.
Lent begins Feb. 17.
Cardinal Cordes began his reflection recalling the synod on Africa held last year in the Vatican. He recounted how so many of the contributors spoke of the lack of justice on that continent.
“Justice is needed in relations between groups and individuals,” he affirmed. “It is trampled on with violence, with the suppression of liberty and with the lack of respect for human dignity, with bad laws and with the violation of rights, with exploitation and with wages of starvation.”
But justice, the cardinal noted, referencing the papal message, is a multifaceted concept.
There is a political side to justice — that which deals with a fair distribution of goods and wealth — and the Church has a long history of working for that side of justice, the cardinal said.
Beginning with a third century Pope who was a former slave, and who instituted a type of bank for widows and orphans, Cardinal Cordes traced the Church’s contributions to material justice from the beginning to the present.
But justice is more than that, the prelate continued: “In fact the experience of evil teaches us that it would be naive to entrust ourselves only to human justice.”
Cardinal Cordes noted how the Pope “observes that a full life depends on something that has the character of a gift.”
He explained: “In the last part of his message, the Pope highlights the salvation of Christ as the foundation of human justice. To evidence this he refers to a central passage of the Letter of St. Paul to Christians of this, our city. Without having merited it, men are justified by the grace of God through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Thus every attempt to obtain justice as one’s merit is carried ad absurdum.”
The cardinal acknowledged that this idea might even seem “irritating, given that we constantly experience that only that which we have earned with our effort belongs to us and that nothing is given to us; given that we are ignored if we do not raise our voice to claim that which is ours. Ordinary life today does not refer us to God; his absence marks our daily experience.”
Cardinal Cordes suggested that Benedict XVI’s message urges people both to promote justice of a material variety and to ready their hearts to accept God’s loving and merciful justice.
He said: “The Lenten Message exhorts all men of our time to carry out good actions. It does not omit soliciting a better distribution of food, water and medicine. […] But the Pope’s message is above all a challenge to our willingness to entrust ourselves to God and to believe in him. Hence he brings to the fore what is easily forgotten or silenced in general discussions on justice and peace. To such a self-isolation far from God — one could speak of an ‘autism of man caused by secularization’ — Pope Benedict opposes his firm reference to God and his offer of love.”
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On ZENIT’s Web page:
Full text: www.zenit.org/article-28255?l=english
Pope’s Lenten message: www.zenit.org/article-28253?l=english