Pope Benedict XVI Establishes Justice as Theme for His Lenten Reflection This Year
For Christians, the penitential season of Lent in preparation for Easter begins today. The Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing welcomes the announcement that Pope Benedict XVI, spiritual leader of billions of Roman Catholics throughout the world, has established Justice as the theme for his Lenten reflection this year -- and in doing so invites all people of faith to reflect this Lent on the theme of justice. This reflection on justice follows the previous few years of Benedict XVI's papacy when he had chosen to emphasize themes of charity.
This movement from charity to justice is central to the Mission of the Assembly. We have always viewed both as essential to our mission to promote the dignity of the poor and those coping with homelessness. Core parts of our mission are to address the immediate needs of homeless New Yorkers, while, at the same time, working to change economic and social policy to ensure people have access to food, housing and sustainable incomes.
Benedict XVI asks the Church to recognize that injustice does not originate from systems external to human persons, but from the motives of people who have given themselves over to an "illusion of self-sufficiency." He argues that "[the human person] is weakened by an intense influence, which wounds their capacity to enter into communion with the other." He further states that "by nature, [people are] open to sharing freely, but find in [their] being a strange force of gravity that makes [them] turn inward and affirm self above and against others."
The solution for Benedict XVI is for people to recognize that justice, properly understood, is a gift from the Creator who made people in the Creator's image. We promote justice not only because each is owed their due, but because, in doing so, we are returning to God what is owed to God from what God first gave to us as a gift. He reminds us the Hebrew word for justice, sedaqah, joins the idea of equity in relation to one's neighbor with full acceptance of the will of the God of Israel.
Recognizing this, Christians and others of good-will are "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."
*Everything in quotations were pulled from Pope Benedict XVI's Lenten reflection with editing to make the quotations gender-inconclusive reflected in brackets. The reflection can be viewed on the Vatican's website.