Ash Wednesday: Crucified Christ is reminder to protect human dignity, says pope

By Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Contemplating Christ nailed to the cross should stimulate people to protect human dignity and “to fight every form of contempt for life,” said Pope Benedict XVI in his 2007 message for Lent.

“May Lent be for every Christian a renewed experience of God’s love given to us in Christ, a love that each day we, in turn, must ‘regive’ to our neighbor, especially to the one who suffers most and is in need,” said the message.

The message was released at the Vatican Feb. 13. The theme of the message is “They shall look on him whom they have pierced.” Lent begins Ash Wednesday, which this year is Feb. 21. Easter is April 8.

Using the Greek words “agape” and “eros,” the papal message said that love has two fundamental forms.

Agape “indicates the self-giving love of one who looks exclusively for the good of the other,” it said.

Eros “denotes the love of one who desires to possess what he or she lacks and (eros) yearns for union with the beloved,” it said.

While agape better describes God’s love for humanity “God’s love is also eros,” the papal message said.

“The prophet Hosea expresses this divine passion with daring images such as the love of a man for an adulterous woman,” said the papal message.

This and other Bible texts “indicate that eros is part of God’s very heart: The Almighty awaits the ‘yes’ of his creatures as a young bridegroom that of his bride,” it said.

Christ on the cross shows “a love in which eros and agape, far from being opposed, enlighten each other,” it said.

“One could rightly say that the revelation of God’s eros toward man is, in reality, the supreme expression of his agape,” it said.

“Only the love that unites the free gift of oneself with the impassioned desire for reciprocity instills a joy, which eases the heaviest of burdens,” it said.

Lent is a time when Christians should welcome the love of Christ and “spread it around us with every word and deed,” it said.

“Contemplating ‘him whom they have pierced’ moves us in this way to open our hearts to others, recognizing the wounds inflicted upon the dignity of the human person,” it said.

“It moves us in particular, to fight every form of contempt for life and human exploitation and to alleviate the tragedies of loneliness and abandonment of so many people,” said the papal message.

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