THROUGH his pontifical reign, Pope Benedict XVI has a cadence of Lenten messages seemingly orchestrated as a syllabus starting with his first in 2006 when he talked about development—but development that transcended like the “gaze” of Christ (Mt 9:36) that penetrated worldly cares towards eschatological demands.
In the years that followed, he dwelt on the traditional “weapons” of the Lenten warfare, namely, prayer (2007), almsgiving (2008) and fasting (2009). In these messages which are heavily pervaded with his encyclical Deus caritas est, the Holy Father looks at the 40-day season as a time of “spiritual battle…armed with prayer, fasting and the practice of almsgiving, so as to arrive at the celebration of the Easter Feasts, renewed in the spirit.”
This year he proceeds with “The Justice of God has been manifested through faith in Jesus Christ.” Veering away for the classical definition of justice which maybe said to be anyway fictitious in that it does not really specify what “due” is to be rendered to each person, the Pontiff opines that the real justice is actually gratuitous, it is a grace from God who never makes any accounting of what is due to man. Because, truth to tell, what is due to man is condemnation due to his immense sinfulness. The Psalms says it better, “Lord if only you would account for our sins, who would survive?” (Ps 130:3).
Indeed, the divine justice is a chasm away from human justice in that one receives contrary to what is his “due”. The Pope says, “The fact that ‘expiation’ flows from the ‘blood’ of Christ signifies that it is not man’s sacrifices that free him from the weight of his faults, but the loving act of God who opens Himself the ‘curse’ due to man so as to give in return the ‘blessing’ due to God.”
Simply put, “Lenten” justice is mercy, personified in Christ who paid an exorbitant price through the justice of the cross. Which is why, it is useless to be self-righteous because it is a lie. Those who walk around brandishing their certificate of good moral character to prove to the world that they are righteous like the Pharisees, have no right to claim divine justice, God’s mercy—only the sinners do.