The Abundance of Divine Justice
On the Friday in Ember Week the Station is always made in the church of the Twelve Apostles at the foot of the Quirinal, for the second examination of candidates for ordination. Thus were the future priests and deacons put under the protection of the whole Apostolic College. This church, that took the place of the basilica of St Sebastian as a Stational church, is one of the oldest in Rome. It was built shortly after the time of Constantine by Julius I, on the occasion of the translation of the relics of the apostles Philip and James the Less into this church where they still lie. Pope John III made of the church a votive monument for the freeing of the City from the Goths of Totila.
Pope Benedict XVI said in 1983 when he was still a cardinal and was giving the Lenten Retreat to the Roman Curia that today's liturgy presents a "catechesis on Christian justice". As such, he invites us to gaze upon the Cross and to behold the Pierced One by whose blood we are justified. In the excerpt below from "Journey to Easter', Ratzinger explains how this is possible and invites us to marvel at God's overflowing justice and love:
"God loves us as persons. God calls us with a personal name, known only to him and to the person called. It is unfortunate that verse 20 of chapter 18 in Ezekiel is missing from [today's First Reading], for it expresses the essence of this new prophetic personalism: 'The one who has sinned and not another shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father for the iniquity of the son.'
This text has a special significance on the second Friday of Lent. Friday is always a reminder of the Friday of Jesus' death, and the Fridays of Lent underline this remembrance, directing souls week by week more and more towards the moment of Redemption. 'The one who has sinned and not another shall die' - with this sentence God refutes the vendetta principle and substitutes a strictly personal justice...
On Good Friday the Sacred Heart of God will break, and the only one without sin, the incarnate Son, will die for us. This voluntary death of one who is innocent in place of us sinners is not a refusal of prophetic personalism, but it gives it greater depth of meaning. The death is the 'abundance' of the new justice of which the Gospel speaks today. 'The one who has sinned and not another shall die' - today, a Friday in Lent, let us gaze upon 'him whom they have pierced', the one who died sinless and for us. Mirrored in his wounds we see our sins and we see his name, the abundance of the divine justice. The dying Son does not do away with justice; he dies to preserve it - his justice is thus so abundant that it is sufficient for us sinners also."
Let us ask the Holy Apostles to pray for us as we contemplate the depths of God's Sacred Heart.
The painting above right is by Fra Angelico and is situated in the novices' cells of San Marco convent in Florence.