The Grammar of the Natural Law for All and the Folly of the Cross for Christians
natural law inscribed in the human heart," but infuses it and uplifts it with grace, the grace of the "folly" of the cross.
Pope Benedict XVI's message to Christians is best gleaned from his homily at the Sunday Mass on September 16, held at the Beirut City Center Waterfront.
In his homily, Pope Benedict XVI focused on Christ's question to his disciples as he was going to Jerusalem, where "the central events of our salvation would take place: his crucifixion and resurrection." It was before these pivotal events that Christ asked the question, "Who do you say that I am?" And it received a variety of answers from those who were not his followers.
This question is asked by Jesus of all of us. Of course, Peter gave the right answer. "You are the Christ." (Mark 8:29) But the Pope knows that not everyone who says, "Lord, Lord" will enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 7:21). And similarly, not everyone who says "Christ, Christ."
In response to Peter's confession of faith, Jesus makes it clear that he will suffer, and will die, though he will emerge victorious and rise again. He is not to be understood as a political Messiah. And here, after St. Peter's confession of faith, St. Peter has the temerity to scold Jesus.
It is not only exclaiming "Lord, Lord," or "Christ, Christ," that makes us followers of Jesus. "Following Jesus," the Pope tells his flock, "means taking up one's cross and walking in his footsteps." It is a life of "self-abandonment," a life that is willing to lose itself "for Christ and the Gospel" so as to save it. Only through suffering and death to self are we to enjoy the fruits of the resurrection. This is something beyond the natural law. It is a call to a supernatural way of living.
Here, the Pope's message is also one of peace. The natural law--present in all humans as part of their grammar--yearns for peace. And just as grace builds upon nature, so the faith of Christians builds upon this natural yearning for peace. It is through their imitation of Jesus, that peace has its best chance, especially in a land of religious violence.
"The vocation of the Church and of each Christian is to serve others, as the Lord himself did, freely and impartially. Consequently, in a world where violence constantly leaves behind its grim trail of death and destruction, to serve justice and peace is urgently necessary for building a fraternal society, for building fellowship!"
The homily confirms what Pope Benedict XVI had told the faithful on Friday, September 14, at the Basilica of St. Paul, Harissa:
"It is here and now that we are called to celebrate the victory of love over hate, forgiveness over revenge, service over domination, humility over pride, and unity over division. . . . This is the language of the cross, exalted and glorious! This is the 'folly' of the cross: a folly capable of changing our sufferings into a declaration of love for God and mercy for our neighbor; a folly capable of transforming those who suffer because of their faith and identity into vessels of clay ready to be filled to overflowing by divine gifts more precious than gold (cf. 2 Cor 4:7-18)."
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at email@example.com.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Lebanon, Pope Benedict XVI, peace, natural law, grammar of natural law
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