A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Francis Speaks – on our Lenten journey

In our Lenten journey, let us remember the One who “humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross”. During this season of conversion, let us renew our faith, draw from the “living water” of hope, and receive with open hearts the love of God, who makes us brothers and sisters in Christ. At the Easter vigil, we will renew our baptismāal promises and experience rebirth as new men and women by the working of the Holy Spirit. This Lenten journey is even now illumined by the light of the resurrection, which inspires the followers of Christ.

Fasting, prayer and almsgiving, as preached by Jesus, enable and express our conversion. The path of poverty and self-denial (fasting), concern and loving care for the poor (almsgiving), and childlike dialogue with the Father (prayer) make it possible for us to live lives of sincere faith, living hope and effective charity. Faith calls us to accept the truth and testify to it before God and all our brothers and sisters.

Accepting and living the truth revealed in Christ means opening our hearts to God’s word. Christ himself is this truth. By taking on our humanity he has made himself the way that leads to the fullness of life. Fasting helps those who undertake it to rediscover God’s gift and to recognise that, created in his image and likeness, we find our fulfilment in him. Those who fast make themselves poor with the poor. Fasting helps us to love God and our neighbour.

Lent is a time for welcoming God into our lives and allowing him to “make his dwelling” among us. Fasting frees us from all that weighs us down, like consumerism, to open the doors of our hearts to the One, poor in all things, yet “full of grace and truth”: our Saviour.

Hope, “living water”, enables us to continue our journey. The Samaritan woman at the well does not understand what Jesus means when he says that he can offer her “living water”. She thinks that he is referring to material water, but Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit whom he will give in abundance through the paschal mystery. Hoping with him and because of him means believing that history does not end with our mistakes, our violence and injustice, or the sin that crucifies Love. It means receiving from his open heart the Father’s forgiveness.

In these times of trouble, Lent is precisely the season of hope, when we turn back to God who patiently continues to care for his creation which we have often mistreated. Saint Paul urges us to place our hope in reconciliation: “Be reconciled to God”. By receiving forgiveness in the sacrament, we can spread forgiveness to others. God’s forgiveness, offered also through our words and actions, enables us to experience an Easter of fraternity.

To give hope to others, it is sometimes enough simply to be kind, to show interest, to give the gift of a smile, to speak a word of encouragement, to listen amid general indifference.

Through recollection and silent prayer, hope is given to us as inspiration and interior light. Hence the need to pray (cf. Mt 6:6) and, in secret, to encounter the Father of tender love.

To experience Lent means receiving the hope of Christ, who gave his life on the cross and was raised by God on the third day (1 Pet 3:15).

Love, following Christ, in concern and compassion for all, is the highest expression of our faith and hope.

Love rejoices in seeing others grow. Hence it suffers when others are anguished, lonely, sick, homeless, despised or in need. Love is a leap of the heart; it brings us out of ourselves and creates bonds of sharing and communion.‘Social love’ makes it possible to advance towards a civilisation of love, to which all of us can feel called. 

Love is a gift that enables us to view those in need as members of our own family, as friends, brothers or sisters. A small amount, if given with love, never ends, but becomes a source of life and happiness. Such was the case with the jar of meal and jug of oil of the widow of Zarephath, who offered a cake of bread to the prophet Elijah; it was also the case with the loaves blessed, broken and given by Jesus to the disciples to distribute to the crowd. Such is the case too with our almsgiving, whether small or large, when offered with joy and simplicity.

To experience Lent with love means caring for those who suffer or feel fearful because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In these days of deep uncertainty about the future, let us keep in mind the Lord’s word to his Servant, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you”. May we speak words of reassurance and help others to realise that God loves them as sons and daughters.

The call to experience Lent as a journey of conversion, prayer and sharing of our goods, helps us – as communities and as individuals – to revive the faith that comes from the living Christ, the hope inspired by the breath of the Holy Spirit and the love flowing from the merciful heart of the Father.

May the blessing of the risen Lord accompany all of us on our journey towards the light of Easter.

Message for Lent: Rome, 11 November 2020

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