ROME, APRIL 10, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Even the hardest of hearts are moved to pity upon witnessing Christ’s suffering during his passion and death, as it reveals the fullness of God’s love for mankind, says Benedict XVI.
The Pope said this tonight at the end of the Way of the Cross at Rome’s Colosseum. Speaking from atop the Palatine hill, he reflected on the words of the centurion whom St. Mark quotes at the end of his Passion narrative: “The centurion, who stood facing him, saw that he thus breathed his last, and said: ‘Truly this man was the Son of God!’”
“We cannot fail to be surprised by the profession of faith of this Roman soldier, who had been present throughout the various phases of the Crucifixion,” Benedict XVI explained. “When the darkness of night was falling on that Friday so unlike any other in history, when the sacrifice of the Cross was already consummated and the bystanders were making haste to celebrate the Jewish Passover in the usual way, these few words, wrung from the lips of a nameless commander in the Roman army, resounded through the silence that surrounded that most singular death.
“This Roman army officer, having witnessed the execution of one of countless condemned prisoners, was able to recognize in this crucified man the Son of God, who had perished in the most humiliating abandonment.”
Christ’s “shameful end ought to have marked the definitive triumph of hatred and death over love and life,” said the Pope. “But it was not so! Hanging from the Cross on Golgotha was a man who was already dead, but that man was acknowledged to be the ‘Son of God’ by the centurion.”
The Holy Father noted that, “like the centurion, we pause to gaze on the lifeless face of the Crucified One at the conclusion of this traditional Via Crucis.”
“The anguish of the Passion of the Lord Jesus cannot fail to move to pity even the most hardened hearts,” he said, “as it constitutes the climax of the revelation of God’s love for each of us.”
“Throughout the course of the millennia, a great multitude of men and women have been drawn deeply into this mystery and they have followed him, making in their turn, like him and with his help, a gift to others of their own lives,” Benedict XVI continued. “They are the saints and the martyrs, many of whom remain unknown to us.
“Even in our own time, how many people, in the silence of their daily lives, unite their sufferings with those of the Crucified One and become apostles of a true spiritual and social renewal!”
“Let us pause this evening to contemplate his disfigured face,” he urged. “It is the face of the Man of sorrows, who took upon himself the burden of all our mortal anguish. His face is reflected in that of every person who is humiliated and offended, sick and suffering, alone, abandoned and despised.
“Pouring out his blood, he has rescued us from the slavery of death, he has broken the solitude of our tears, he has entered into our every grief and our every anxiety.”