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Stewardship and Trusteesh
  By A.J. Philip  
  I ACCOMPANIED Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his visit to South Africa on the occasi  
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Letter to Metropolitan
  By Rev A.P. Jacob and five other priests  
  Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan Most Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar  
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Back to infancy -- they n
  By Shaheen Chander  
  ENJOYING a relaxed weekend, I was checking updates on the Facebook page. I came across a b  
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Why Passover?
  By Chuck D. Pierce and Robert Heidler  
  SO many have asked the simple question: Why Passover? In Exodus 12:13-14 we read, The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you when I strike the land of Egypt. This day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord. Throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.

As we approach the celebration of PASSOVER we must remember that Passover is a celebration designed by God! This Feast and event was given to increase our faith and prepare us to enter into the fullness of His blessing! Passover was commanded by God for the Jews in the Old Testament to teach them the importance of redemption by the blood. But it was also observed by Christians in the New Testament to remember and understand God's redeeming work. The Bible tells us it is to be a permanent ordinance... a celebration for all time.

Many Christians don't realize that Passover is just as much a New Testament Feast as an Old Testament Feast. It's all through the New Testament. Jesus and the apostles all celebrated Passover. The original Lord's Supper was a Passover meal. The apostles taught the Gentile churches to celebrate Passover. In 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote to a predominantly Gentile church and said: "Christ OUR Passover Lamb has been slain, therefore let us celebrate the feast!" For hundreds of years, Passover was the most important yearly celebration in the early Church.

What Makes Passover So Important?

Derek Prince once said that the most powerful faith declaration for deliverance is this: "I am redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb out of the hand of the enemy!" He said that if you can make that declaration in faith, and keep on making it, something will happen. You will be delivered from the power of the enemy. That's really the message of Passover. The Feast of Passover is a faith declaration that we are redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb. It does something in us when we celebrate Passover. When we come together to remember God's great works of redemption, and declare the power of redemption in our lives today, it ALWAYS does something!

Passover is very important to God. But satan HATES Passover. The enemy has worked diligently to steal Passover away. The good news is: God is restoring Passover. But it is a battle! The battle for Passover is the battle for the Blood. Satan wants to give us a bloodless religion, because a bloodless religion has no power. The power is in the Blood!

There's always a battle for PASSOVER. We see it in Church history. In the 4th century, when the emperor Constantine tried to merge Christianity and paganism, it sounded like a good deal to many. He legalized Christianity. You could go to church without having to fear being thrown to the lions. And Constantine didn't mind Christians having a celebration of Jesus' resurrection…but he did have an issue with PASSOVER. He demanded that Christians not celebrate Jesus' resurrection at the time of Passover. At the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325), he declared, "This irregularity [observing Passover] MUST be corrected!"

At the council of Nicea, Constantine outlawed Passover and directed that Christ's death and resurrection be celebrated on "the Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox," which is a time associated with the spring festival of the pagan fertility goddess Ishtar also known as Eastre. (That's why in the Church today we celebrate the resurrection at Easter instead of Passover.) Constantine' s goal was to remove Jesus from the context of Passover.

The Battle Continues! Many in the Church resisted Constantine' s edicts, so for many centuries after Constantine, the battle for Passover continued. In the sixth century, for example, Emperor Justinian sent the Roman armies throughout the empire to enforce the prohibition on Passover. In his attempt to wipe out the "heresy" of Passover, thousands of men, women and children were brutally murdered. Entire cities were massacred for refusing to stop celebrating Passover. (The battle for Passover has had many casualties.) Pressured by the government, the Roman Church joined in the attempts to stamp out Passover. Notice some of the decrees passed against Passover by various church councils.

A Curse Pronounced!

THE COUNCIL OF ANTIOCH (A.D. 345) – "If any bishop, presbyter or deacon will dare, after this decree, to celebrate Passover, the council judges them to be anathema from the Church. This council not only deposes them from ministry, but also any others who dare to communicate with them." (The word anathema means "cursed." The Church actually pronounced a curse on Christians who would celebrate Passover!)

THE COUNCIL OF LAODICEA (A.D. 365) – "It is not permitted to receive festivals which are by Jews."

THE COUNCIL OF AGDE, FRANCE (506) – "Christians MUST NOT take part in Jewish festivals."

THE COUNCIL OF TOLEDO X (7th century) – Easter must be celebrated at the time set by the decree of Nicea.

The battle for Passover is seen clearly in Church history! That battle against Passover is nothing new. We see the same thing in the Bible: satan always tries to steal away Passover, because he knows the celebration of the Blood releases power. Look what happened in Hezekiah's day:

Hezekiah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. He repaired and cleansed the temple, tore down the false altars, restored the sacrifices, and Davidic praise. Then Hezekiah sent word to all Israel and Judah, inviting them to come to celebrate Passover. Couriers went throughout Israel and Judah: "People of Israel, return to the Lord." The hand of God was on the people to give them unity of mind to carry out what the king had ordered. A very large crowd of people assembled in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast. They slaughtered the Passover lamb and celebrated the Feast for seven days with great rejoicing, while the Levites sang to the Lord every day, accompanied by instruments of praise. The whole assembly then agreed to celebrate the festival seven more days; so for another seven days they celebrated joyfully. There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the days of Solomon son of David, king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem. The priests and the Levites stood to bless the people, and God heard them, for their prayer reached Heaven, His holy dwelling place (see 2 Chronicles 29-30 for more).

The same thing was happening in Josiah's Day: Josiah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. In the 18th year of his reign, while repairing the temple, they found the TORAH scroll in the temple. When the king heard the words of the Torah scroll, he tore his robes. He went up to the temple with all the people. He read in their hearing all the words of the Covenant. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant. The king ordered them to remove from the temple all the idols made for Baal and Asherah and all the starry hosts. He tore down the quarters of the male prostitutes, which were in the temple…The king gave this order to all the people: "Celebrate Passover to the Lord your God, as it is written in this scroll of the Covenant." In the 18th year of King Josiah, this Passover was celebrated to the Lord in Jerusalem. Not since the days of the judges who led Israel, nor throughout the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah, had such a Passover been observed" (see 2 Kings 22-23 for more).

We see a Biblical pattern! In both of these passages, God's people had drifted far from the Lord and turned to idolatry, and the blessing of God was lost. They turned back to God and sought Him, and the first thing God did was restore Passover! As they turned from pagan idols and celebrated Passover, they were restored to God and experienced great joy and blessing. That's an interesting pattern. Over and over again in the Bible, we discover that Passover had been LOST. Even during the Old Testament era, and even among the Jews, generations lived and died without celebrating Passover.

Why had Passover been lost? Satan had STOLEN it away! Satan always wants to steal Passover. Then, as a new generation turned back to the Lord, and began to read the Bible, they read about Passover for the first time. It seemed strange to them. They said, "We've never done this!" (That's exactly what we see in much of the Church today.) But as the Holy Spirit moved on their hearts, they celebrated God's feast of redemption, and God's power and joy were restored!

Why Does Satan Hate Passover?

Satan hates Passover because Passover is the celebration of JESUS. When the Church gave up Passover, it invented other celebrations of Jesus. That is how we shifted the timing of our celebration to Christmas and Easter. It's not bad to celebrate Jesus on those other days. (It's always good to celebrate Jesus.) But the celebration of Jesus that God gave us is called Passover!

The New Testament tells us that Jesus IS the Passover Lamb. When John introduced Jesus He said, "Behold the LAMB!" Paul said: Christ, our PASSOVER LAMB has been slain! Celebrating Passover IS celebrating Jesus! As the Passover Lamb, He shed His Blood to redeem us from the enemy. When His Blood is "on the doorpost" of your life, God delivers you from the destroyer. So if you understand Passover, you automatically understand what Jesus did.

On the original Passover night, everything pointed to Jesus. Every father in Israel was told to stand at the door of his house with a basin containing the blood of the lamb. He was to dip a branch of hissop into the blood and smear the blood on the two doorposts of the house. Then he was to repeat the action and put the blood on the lintel over the door. If you can picture the motion he made with that blood-soaked branch of hissop, you'll see he was making the sign of the Cross!

On Passover night, every father in Israel made the sign of the cross in the blood of the lamb. And as result, the family experienced redemption from the power of the enemy! God's deliverance always comes by His Cross and by His Blood. That's what Passover celebrates. You see, it was not by accident that Jesus died on Passover. God could have had Jesus die any time of year. But it was God's will for Him to die at Passover, so we would recognize that He is the Passover Lamb!

Passover is so important to God that He chose to have the most important event in history (the death and resurrection of Jesus) take place at Passover. God went to great lengths to CONNECT the sacrifice of Jesus to Passover. (This is interesting: Constantine' s goal was to separate the work of Jesus from Passover, while God's goal was to connect Jesus' work to Passover.) God wants us to think of Jesus in the context of the Passover celebration!

The Timetable of Passover

It's interesting to compare the timetable of Jesus' crucifixion with the Passover celebration. According to the Torah, at the time of Passover a number of events had to take place in a specific order, and at very specific times.

1. The Passover Lamb had to be selected on a specific day. Exodus 12 instructs that the Passover lamb be chosen on the 10th day of 1st month. By the time of Jesus, only lambs from Bethlehem were considered eligible to serve as Passover lambs. So the lamb born in Bethlehem was chosen and brought into Jerusalem from the east (down the Mount of Olives) and entered the city through the sheep gate. On the 10th day of 1st month Jesus, the Lamb born in Bethlehem, came down the Mount of Olives and entered Jerusalem through the sheep gate. (This is called His "triumphal entry.") As He entered, the people waved palm branches and shouted "Blessed is he that comes in the name of the LORD! Save us, Son of David!" By mass acclamation Jesus is designated as Israel's Messiah! The crowds had chosen their Passover Lamb!

2. The Lamb then had to be examined. The Torah instructed that once the lamb was chosen, it had to be carefully examined for blemishes. Only a perfect, spotless and unblemished lamb would suffice for the Passover. After arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus went to the Temple to teach. While there, He was approached by the Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians and the teachers of the Law. Each group posed difficult questions, trying to trap him. Essentially, they were looking for any blemish which might disqualify Him as Messiah. But no one could find fault with Him. He was without blemish.

3. The Leaven (impurity) must be cast out. Torah instructs that before the feast, all leaven (impurity) must be cast out of every Israelite home. Each mother took a candle and searched out impurity, removing it from her house. This regulation is still observed today. Passover is a time to cleanse every house. Every observant Jewish family carefully cleans their house before Passover. Every trace of impurity is removed. After Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, He entered the Temple and cast out the moneychangers. He was following the Biblical instruction to prepare for Passover by cleansing His Father's house.

4. The Lamb is taken to the altar for public display. On the morning of the 14th day of the 1st month, when all has been set in order, the lamb was led out to the altar. At 9 a.m. that morning, the lamb was bound to the altar and put on public display for all to see. On the morning of the 14th day of the 1st month, when all had been fulfilled, Jesus was led out to Calvary. At 9 a.m. that morning, just as the lamb was being bound to the altar, Jesus was nailed to the Cross and put on public display at Calvary.

5. The Lamb was slain at a specific time. At exactly 3 p.m. the high priest ascended the altar. As another priest blew a shofar on the temple wall, the high priest cuts the throat of the sacrificial Lamb, and declared, "IT IS FINISHED!" At 3 p.m. on that high holy day, at the moment the Passover lamb was killed, Jesus cried with a loud voice, "IT IS FINISHED," and gave up His spirit. In Greek, "It is finished" is tetelistai! It means, "The debt has been paid in full!"

The Celebration of Jesus!

Do you see how God chose to connect Jesus with Passover? It's no wonder John introduces Jesus by saying, "Behold the Lamb!" It's no wonder Paul writes "Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been slain!" Passover is all about Jesus! Do you see that Passover is all About JESUS?

He came as the LAMB of God!
His Blood redeems US!
By His Blood…judgment turned away!
By His Blood…the power of the enemy is broken!
By His Blood…we are released from bondage and oppression.
By His Blood…we are set free to enter into God's Promise!
Passover is the "JESUS" Celebration! The more you understand Passover, the more you appreciate Jesus! If you don't understand Passover, you have a hard time fully understanding what Jesus did. As you celebrate Passover, you are declaring your faith in the power of His Blood and His redemption. That's why one of strangest things in the world is that Christians all over the world have accepted satan's lie that Passover is not a "Christian" thing! Satan tries to steal away Passover, because he knows the celebration of the Blood releases power! When the celebration of Passover was stolen away, the power left! But when Passover is restored, the power RETURNS!

The Good News is—God is RESTORING Passover! All over the world churches are again celebrating Passover! And the POWER is returning! We invite you to celebrate the power of Jesus' Blood. We invite you to join with Christians all over the world in the restoration of Passover. Join with us in proclaiming: We are REDEEMED by the BLOOD OF THE LAMB, out of the hand of the enemy!(Courtesy: Marthoma Yahoo Group)
Jesus and health care bill
  By Gordon MacDonald  
  THIS morning -- the day after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the health-care measure -- I feel a sense of gladness. I am glad that millions of Americans, many of them children, will have access to health insurance. I am glad that people with pre-existing medical conditions can no longer be denied coverage by insurance companies. And I am also glad that some effort is being made to curtail rising medical expenses, and that certain special interest and business groups will be held to a greater accountability, and that the growing gap between the rich and the poor might be slowed.

I am glad not because I am a Democrat or a Republican but because I think that Jesus, who seemed to take great interest in health issues, is glad. Looking back on his life among people like us, he often acted as a healer. He seemed to delight in curing diseases, restoring disabled people to wholeness, and rewiring damaged minds. You cannot divorce these encounters from the rest of his public ministry. Health-care was in his frame of reference.

My favorite of the Jesus-healing stories is the one where a group of men rip open a roof and lower a friend into the presence of Jesus. I love how the Lord flexed with the moment and used the healing to offer people a vision of holistic health: physical and spiritual. I try to imagine the freshly healed man rolling up his mat and heading out the front door, walking unassisted for the first time in who knows how long.

Then, too, I wonder about all the people (apparently including religious leaders) who had crowded into that house and who'd made it impossible for the man in his original condition of paralysis to get to Jesus in a more conventional way -- through the front door. How does it happen that people rationalized, that since they got there first, the suffering guy outside should be left to his own devices?

All of my life I have felt torn between those Christian friends of mine who believe whole-heartedly in healing as a centerpoint of their gospel and those who pray (sometimes benignly) for the health of friends but end up signaling their uncertainty by stating the conditional "if it be thy will." Is there a third position that mediates between "it’s -- always -- his-will" and "it's-probably-not-his-will"? Both extremes seem a tad foolish to me.

In my role as a pastor, there were many occasions when I laid my hands upon a sick person and prayed for healing. I confess that there were some times when I did it simply because it was my job. But in my heart I harbored doubt. Then there were other occasions when I felt a firm conviction about God's desire and ability to heal, and my prayers were filled with fervor and a faith that affirmed that God could do anything.

Sometimes there seemed to be answers to those prayers of mine. People I prayed for (not necessarily in great numbers) did experience healing: not often of the instant type that Benny Hinn seems to highlight. But I have known people who found their way back from sickness and attributed it to my prayers and the prayers of others. This has not turned me into a so-called faith healer, but it has caused me, as I've grown older, to pray more boldly and expectantly when the opportunity has presented itself.

My readings of the life of Jesus convince me that our Lord wants people to be well. As described by the Gospel writers, he often seems disgusted by disease, offended by death. I love to read about those moments when even his better friends wanted to avoid sick people and when they paid more attention to the demands of a schedule than the needs of human beings. On such occasions Jesus would usually cut through the resistance and respond to the cries of someone who was blind or who had a child that was sick, even dying.

I love the moment in Acts 3, when Peter and John approach the Temple and spot a disabled man (from birth) begging. Earlier they wouldn't have given him the time of day as they hurried on their way. But Jesus had rubbed off on them. Now they noticed the victim. And in this case they tried what they would have resisted trying in the past. They healed the man in the name of Jesus.

I imagine the dilemma of Peter and John as they stand there. I hear them asking how you call Jesus Lord and not ultimately inherit some of his compassion for those who are sick and diseased?

Frankly, that's the question which has colored my own perspective on the current health-care debate in our country. Like so many others I have often been utterly confused by the arguments and the counter-arguments. I have shrunk from the ugliness of words used by extremists on both sides of the political and ideological divides. I have searched for those who reasoned out the issues with dignity and wisdom. Here and there, I have found them and appreciated them.

In the middle of it, I have come to some conclusions, these being some of them:

1. Any effort that is made to bring health benefits to more people (especially the weak, the poor, the children) is an effort with which I want to identify.

2. Anyone whose argument is based simply on the notion that we cannot afford making medical benefits available to more people does not get my ear. The fact is that our country -- we the people -- can afford it, even if it means that each of us surrenders a few more bucks that we would have spent on things for ourselves. We just have to conclude that compassion in the face of human need is a greater value than accumulating more stuff.

3. Any initiative that makes it possible for the common person to have the same access to medical science as the rich appear to have is one I want to hear about.

4. And any group that stands up on behalf of our physicians so that they do not have to fear frivolous lawsuits every time they make a diagnosis and propose a treatment is one I want to support.

Beyond the fellow who was lowered through the roof, there are three other people who experienced healing at the hand of Jesus who particularly interest me:

The woman, who for more than a dozen years, exhausted all of her resources trying to find someone to help her with her disease.

The man at the pool of Bethesda who had spent 38 years hoping for a medical miracle but had no one to assist him.

The demoniac of Gadera who epitomizes for me the worst depths to which a human being can sink. In the presence of Jesus he changes from this repulsive condition to one of dignity in which it is said, "he was sitting, clothed, and in his right mind."

Tell me if this Jesus who sends a chronically ill woman home healed and at peace, who brings a man who has suffered for more than half of his life to wholeness, and who makes it possible for a man to return to his home and family would not be at least reasonably glad that our nation has taken a compassionate step in the right direction this week. I grant you: it may (I'm not sure of this) cost you and me a buck or two extra, but some other people are going to sleep a bit better in coming days, and for that I am glad. (Courtesy: Christianity Today)
"... it's finished"
  By James Chacko  
  THESE are the greatest words ever uttered by the Greatest Man that ever lived. These words mean, "Over with. It is over and done with."

I am sure each of one of us has had our moments in life when we felt it is finished. The Roman Empire was the most powerful political force on earth for three hundred years. The Romans killed Jesus and thought they finished Jesus. As far as the Romans were concerned, it was all over. The Jewish leaders also thought it was finished, all over, over and done with. Even the disciples momentarily thought that it was all over with.

I believe, however, that the mood of Jesus on that cross when he uttered these words were not one of sadness or disappointments. It is accomplished. The job is done. The work is complete. This calls for a victory celebration involving all the people around.

It is like a marathon runner upon winning the race forgets the pain and agony of the long race. Jesus must have forgotten the pain and burst forth in jubilant celebration and shouts aloud, "it is accomplished."

Let us consider some of the reasons for this triumphant shout, "it is finished."

First, a new agreement or covenant is now signed by God for us (Luke 22:20).

The New Covenant includes God's law on our hearts along the internal ability to obey by the power of the Holy Spirit who is in us (Rom.8:3).

Second, Jesus reconciled us with God (Col.1:13-29). There are two aspects of the reconciliation of the cross of Jesus: vertical -- between God and mankind (in Christ Jesus, God is reaching out to every person on earth desiring a relationship and a friendship with them) and horizontal -- between people (Eph.2:14-18).

Forgiveness is one of the hardest things we'll ever do yet because of Christ's forgiveness of us we are called to choose to forgive those who have offended us and endeavor to see the relationship healed.

Third, Jesus defeated Satan and his kingdom (Col.2:13-15). It's not just about Jesus overcoming -- it's about us overcoming through him. He now lives in us and we can overcome every situation we face (1 Jn.5:4-5; Rev.2:7; 1 Cor.10:13-14; Rom.8:35-39). Are you struggling with something beyond your own ability to cope or endure? Then you are a candidate for God's power and grace!

This is not just some 'self-help" human psychological quick fix. This is about the power of the cross working in and through your life right now in a powerful and real way!

Fourth, we are saved from sin and its consequences, from the devil, from ourselves, from hell, from pain and suffering, from rejection, from fear, from every evil, negative and destructive thing. Salvation is the very purpose for Jesus coming into the world (1 Tim.1:15; Acts 4:12; Rom.1:16; 1 Thess.5:9-10). We have been saved (past) are being saved (present) and are yet to be saved (future).

How can this victory celebration be yours? Each of us remains condemned until we appropriate the work of Jesus. A transaction must take place -- a withdrawal from God's bank account to pay our debt. You and I must respond (Jn.1:12) and ask Christ to be our forgiver (Savior) and leader (Lord). As "forgiver", Christ takes away our death sentence and gives us eternal life with Him. As "leader", Christ has control of our life.
James Chacko is the Senior Pastor of LifeBridge Worship Centre, Chandigarh and is pursuing his Ph.D. from Punjabi University, Patiala
Pope's Lent message
  By Pope Benedict  
  "The justice of God has been manifested
through faith in Jesus Christ" (cf. Rm 3, 21-22)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Each year, on the occasion of Lent, the Church invites us to a sincere review of our life in light of the teachings of the Gospel. This year, I would like to offer you some reflections on the great theme of justice, beginning from the Pauline affirmation: "The justice of God has been manifested through faith in Jesus Christ" (cf. Rm 3, 21-22). : "dare cuique suum"

Justice: "dare cuique suum"

First of all, I want to consider the meaning of the term "justice," which in common usage implies "to render to every man his due," according to the famous expression of Ulpian, a Roman jurist of the third century. In reality, however, this classical definition does not specify what "due" is to be rendered to each person. What man needs most cannot be guaranteed to him by law. In order to live life to the full, something more intimate is necessary that can be granted only as a gift: we could say that man lives by that love which only God can communicate since He created the human person in His image and likeness. Material goods are certainly useful and required -- indeed Jesus Himself was concerned to heal the sick, feed the crowds that followed Him and surely condemns the indifference that even today forces hundreds of millions into death through lack of food, water and medicine -- yet "distributive" justice does not render to the human being the totality of his "due." Just as man needs bread, so does man have even more need of God. Saint Augustine notes: if "justice is that virtue which gives every one his due ... where, then, is the justice of man, when he deserts the true God?" (De civitate Dei, XIX, 21).

What is the Cause of Injustice?

The Evangelist Mark reports the following words of Jesus, which are inserted within the debate at that time regarding what is pure and impure: "There is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him ... What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts" (Mk 7, 14-15, 20-21). Beyond the immediate question concerning food, we can detect in the reaction of the Pharisees a permanent temptation within man: to situate the origin of evil in an exterior cause. Many modern ideologies deep down have this presupposition: since injustice comes "from outside," in order for justice to reign, it is sufficient to remove the exterior causes that prevent it being achieved. This way of thinking -- Jesus warns -- is ingenuous and shortsighted. Injustice, the fruit of evil, does not have exclusively external roots; its origin lies in the human heart, where the seeds are found of a mysterious cooperation with evil. With bitterness the Psalmist recognises this: "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Ps 51,7). Indeed, man is weakened by an intense influence, which wounds his capacity to enter into communion with the other. By nature, he is open to sharing freely, but he finds in his being a strange force of gravity that makes him turn in and affirm himself above and against others: this is egoism, the result of original sin. Adam and Eve, seduced by Satan's lie, snatching the mysterious fruit against the divine command, replaced the logic of trusting in Love with that of suspicion and competition; the logic of receiving and trustfully expecting from the Other with anxiously seizing and doing on one's own (cf. Gn 3, 1-6), experiencing, as a consequence, a sense of disquiet and uncertainty. How can man free himself from this selfish influence and open himself to love?

Justice and Sedaqah

At the heart of the wisdom of Israel, we find a profound link between faith in God who "lifts the needy from the ash heap" (Ps 113,7) and justice towards one's neighbor. The Hebrew word itself that indicates the virtue of justice, sedaqah, expresses this well. Sedaqah, in fact, signifies on the one hand full acceptance of the will of the God of Israel; on the other hand, equity in relation to one's neighbour (cf. Ex 20, 12-17), especially the poor, the stranger, the orphan and the widow (cf. Dt 10, 18-19). But the two meanings are linked because giving to the poor for the Israelite is none other than restoring what is owed to God, who had pity on the misery of His people. It was not by chance that the gift to Moses of the tablets of the Law on Mount Sinai took place after the crossing of the Red Sea. Listening to the Law presupposes faith in God who first "heard the cry" of His people and "came down to deliver them out of hand of the Egyptians" (cf. Ex 3,8). God is attentive to the cry of the poor and in return asks to be listened to: He asks for justice towards the poor (cf. Sir 4,4-5, 8-9), the stranger (cf. Ex 22,20), the slave (cf. Dt 15, 12-18). In order to enter into justice, it is thus necessary to leave that illusion of self-sufficiency, the profound state of closure, which is the very origin of injustice. In other words, what is needed is an even deeper "exodus" than that accomplished by God with Moses, a liberation of the heart, which the Law on its own is powerless to realize. Does man have any hope of justice then?

Christ, the Justice of God

The Christian Good News responds positively to man's thirst for justice, as Saint Paul affirms in the Letter to the Romans: "But now the justice of God has been manifested apart from law ... the justice of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith" (3, 21-25). What then is the justice of Christ? Above all, it is the justice that comes from grace, where it is not man who makes amends, heals himself and others. 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 in the extreme, even to the point of bearing in Himself the "curse" due to man so as to give in return the "blessing" due to God (cf. Gal 3, 13-14). But this raises an immediate objection: what kind of justice is this where the just man dies for the guilty and the guilty receives in return the blessing due to the just one? Would this not mean that each one receives the contrary of his "due"? In reality, here we discover divine justice, which is so profoundly different from its human counterpart. God has paid for us the price of the exchange in His Son, a price that is truly exorbitant. Before the justice of the Cross, man may rebel for this reveals how man is not a self-sufficient being, but in need of Another in order to realize himself fully. Conversion to Christ, believing in the Gospel, ultimately means this: to exit the illusion of self-sufficiency in order to discover and accept one's own need -- the need of others and God, the need of His forgiveness and His friendship. So we understand how faith is altogether different from a natural, good-feeling, obvious fact: humility is required to accept that I need Another to free me from "what is mine," to give me gratuitously "what is His." This happens especially in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. Thanks to Christ's action, we may enter into the "greatest" justice, which is that of love (cf. Rm 13, 8-10), the justice that recognises itself in every case more a debtor than a creditor, because it has received more than could ever have been expected. Strengthened by this very experience, the Christian is moved to contribute to creating just societies, where all receive what is necessary to live according to the dignity proper to the human person and where justice is enlivened by love.

Dear brothers and sisters, Lent culminates in the Paschal Triduum, in which this year, too, we shall celebrate divine justice -- the fullness of charity, gift, salvation. May this penitential season be for every Christian a time of authentic conversion and intense knowledge of the mystery of Christ, who came to fulfill every justice. With these sentiments, I cordially impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing.
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