Faith Matters

Pope Francis: The soothing remedy of Lent

Lent is a call to come back to the Lord ‘in every aspect of our life', Pope Francis says

Pope Francis arrives in the village of Ariccia, near Rome, where he is on a spiritual retreat this week. He will mark the fifth anniversary of his papacy on March 13. Picture by L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP

PERHAPS we see, deep within ourselves and all about us, the signs of a lack of love in the world: selfishness and spiritual sloth, sterile pessimism, the temptation to self-absorption, constant warring among ourselves, and the worldly mentality that makes us concerned only for appearances, and thus lessens our missionary zeal.

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 neighbour 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 would also hope that, even in our daily encounters with those who beg for our assistance, we would 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.

Fasting weakens our tendency to violence; it disarms us and becomes an important opportunity for growth.

On the one hand, it allows us to experience what the destitute and the starving have to endure. On the other hand, it expresses our own spiritual hunger and thirst for life in God.

Fasting wakes us up. It makes us more attentive to God and our neighbour. It revives our desire to obey God, who alone is capable of satisfying our hunger.

I would also like my invitation to extend beyond the bounds of the Catholic Church, and to reach all of you, 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 paralyses 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.

:: From Pope Francis's Message for Lent. The full text is at www.catholicbishops.ie. The Twitter and Instagram hashtag #LiveLent is offering ideas and inspiration throughout Lent. A '24 Hours for the Lord' initiative on March 9 and 10 invites the Church community to celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation in the context of Eucharistic adoration.

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