Why (would) the cross and the atonement? Why did God decide to submit himself to such a torment? Pope Benedict says: "Somehow today, in the contortions of modern thought, the answer to these questions can be formulated in a new way."
"Let's place ourselves in front of the incredible amount of evil, violence, falsehood, hatred, cruelty and arrogance that infect and destroy the whole world. This mass of evil cannot simply be declared non-existent, not even by God. It must be cleansed, reworked and overcome."
"Israel [the Old Testament] was convinced that the daily sacrifice for sins and above all the great liturgy of the Day of Atonement (Yom-Kippur) were necessary as a counterweight to the mass of evil in the world and that only through such rebalancing the world could, as it were, remain bearable."
"Once the sacrifices in the temple disappeared, [because the temple was destroyed] it had to be asked what could be opposed to the higher powers of evil, how to find somehow a counterweight."
"The Christians knew that the temple destroyed was replaced by the resurrected body of the crucified Lord and in his radical and incommensurable love was created a counterweight to the immeasurable presence of evil. Indeed, they knew that the offers presented up until then could only be conceived of as a gesture of longing for a genuine counterweight. They also knew that in front of the excessive power of evil only an infinite love was enough, only an infinite atonement. They knew that the crucified and risen Christ is a power that can counter the power of evil and save the world."
"And on this basis they could even understand the meaning of their own sufferings as inserted into the suffering love of Christ and included as part of the redemptive power of such love."
Many think: God had to suffer for our sins in regard to the world. "Now, due to this reversal of perspective, the following truths emerge: God simply cannot leave “as is” the mass of evil that comes from the freedom that he himself has granted. Only He, coming to share in the world's suffering, can redeem the world."
"The counterweight to the dominion of evil can consist in the first place only in the divine-human love of Jesus Christ that is always greater than any possible power of evil."
"But it is necessary that we place ourselves inside this answer that God gives us through Jesus Christ. Even if the individual is responsible for a fragment of evil, and therefore is an accomplice of evil's power, together with Christ he can nevertheless "complete what is lacking in his sufferings" [as St Paul said] (cfr. Colossians 1, 24). The sacrament of penance certainly has an important role in this field. It means that we always allow ourselves to be moulded and transformed by Christ and that we pass continuously from the side of him who destroys to the side of Him who saves."