For Lent this year, Pope Francis looked at a line from the Gospel of Matthew: “Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). In Part 1 of his reflection, the Holy Father’s looked at the root of the problem. In Part 2 below, the Pope answers the question “What can we do against such forces?”
Perhaps we see, deep within ourselves and all about us, the signs I have just described. But the Church, our Mother and Teacher, along with the often bitter medicine of the truth, offers us in the Lenten season the soothing remedy of prayer, almsgiving and fasting. By devoting more time to prayer, we enable our hearts to root out our secret lies and forms of self-deception, and then to find the consolation God offers. He is our Father and he wants us to live life well.
Almsgiving sets us free from greed and helps us to regard our neighbor as a brother or sister. What I possess is never mine alone. How I would like almsgiving to become a genuine style of life for each of us! How I would like us, as Christians, to follow the example of the Apostles and see in the sharing of our possessions a tangible witness of the communion that is ours in the Church! I echo Saint Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians to take up a collection for the community of Jerusalem as something from which they themselves would benefit (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:10). This is all the more fitting during the Lenten season, when many groups take up collections to assist Churches and peoples in need. Yet, even in our own daily encounters with those who beg for our assistance, we see such requests as coming from God himself. When we give alms, we share in God’s providential care for each of his children. If through me God helps someone today, will he not tomorrow provide for my own needs? For no one is more generous than God.
And what about fasting? Fasting weakens our tendency to violence; it disarms us and becomes an important opportunity for growth. It allows us to experience what the destitute and the starving have to endure. It also expresses our own spiritual hunger and thirst for life in God. Fasting wakes us up! It makes us more attentive to God and our neighbor. It revives our desire to obey God, who alone is capable of satisfying our hunger.
I would like my invitation to extend beyond the bounds of the Catholic Church, and to reach all men and women of good will, who are open to hearing God’s voice. Perhaps, like ourselves, you are disturbed by the spread of iniquity in the world, you are concerned about the chill that paralyzes hearts and actions, and you see a weakening in our sense of being members of the one human family. Join us, then, in raising our plea to God, in fasting, and in offering whatever you can to our brothers and sisters in need!
Above all, I urge the members of the Church to take up the Lenten journey with enthusiasm, sustained by almsgiving, fasting and prayer. If, at times, the flame of charity seems to die in our own hearts, know that this is never the case in the heart of God! He constantly gives us a chance to begin loving anew.
One such moment of grace will be the invitation of the the entire Church community to celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation, perhaps even within the context of Eucharistic adoration. Inspired by the words of Psalm 130:4, “With you is forgiveness,” this takes place in our churches, offering an opportunity for both Eucharistic adoration and sacramental confession (Edited).
During the Easter Vigil, we will celebrate once more the moving rite of the lighting of the Easter candle. Drawn from the “new fire”, this light will slowly overcome the darkness and illuminate the liturgical assembly. “May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds,” and enable all of us to relive the experience of the disciples on the way to Emmaus. By listening to God’s word and drawing nourishment from the table of the Eucharist, may our hearts be ever more ardent in faith, hope and love.
With affection and the promise of my prayers for all of you, I send you my blessing. Please do not forget to pray for me.