«Look, we are going up to Jerusalem…”» (Mt 20:18).
Lent: a time to renew faith, hope and charity.
Dear brothers and sisters:
When Jesus announces to his disciples his passion, death, and resurrection, in order to fulfill the will of the Father, He reveals to them the profound meaning of his mission and exhorts them to associate with it, for the salvation of the world.
On the Cuaresmal Path, which will lead us to Easter celebrations, let us remember the One who “humbled himself, made obedient to death, and a death of the cross” (Phil 2:8). In this time of conversion let us renew our faith, quench our thirst with the “living water” of hope, and receive with our open hearts the love of God that makes us brothers and sisters in Christ. On Easter night we will renew the promises of our Baptism, to be reborn as new men and women, thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit. However, the journey of Lent, like the whole Christian journey, is already in the light of the Resurrection, which animates the feelings, attitudes and decisions of those who wish to follow Christ.
Fasting, prayer and alms, as presented by Jesus in his preaching (cf. Mt 6:1-18), are the conditions and expression of our conversion. The path of poverty and deprivation (fasting), the gaze and gestures of love towards the wounded man (alms) and filial dialogue with the Father (prayer) allow us to embody sincere faith, living hope and an active charity.
Faith calls us to accept the Truth and to be witnesses, before God and before our brothers and sisters.
In this time of Lent, to accept and live the Truth manifested in Christ means first of all to be attained by the Word of God, which the Church transmits to us from generation to generation. This Truth is not a construction of the intellect, intended for few chosen, higher or illustrious minds, but is a message we receive and can understand thanks to the intelligence of the heart, open to the greatness of God who loves us before we ourselves are aware of it. This Truth is Christ himself who, taking fully assume our humanity, became the Way—demanding but open to all—that leads to the fullness of Life.
Fasting lived as an experience of deprivation, for those who live it with simplicity of heart leads us to discover again the gift of God and to understand our reality of creatures who, in his image and likeness, find in Him his fulfillment. By making the experience of accepted poverty, the faster becomes poor with the poor and “accumulates” the wealth of received and shared love. Thus understood and put into practice, fasting contributes to loving God and neighbour in that, as St Thomas Aquinas teaches us, love is a movement that focuses attention on the other by considering it as one with oneself (cf. Letter enc. Fratelli tutti, 93).
Lent is a time to believe, that is, to receive God in our lives and allow him to “put his abode” in us (cf. Jn 14:23). Fasting means freeing our existence from all that gets in the way, including the saturation of information—true or false—and consumer products, to open the doors of our hearts to the One who comes to us poor in everything, but “full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14): the Son of God the Saviour.
Hope as “living water” that allows us to continue our journey
The Samaritan, whom Jesus asks to drink by the well, does not understand when He tells her that He could offer him a “living water” (Jn 4:10). At first, of course, she thinks of the material water, while Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit, the one that He will give in abundance in the Paschal Mystery and which instills in us hope that does not disappoint. In proclaiming his passion and death Jesus already announces hope, when he says: “And on the third day he will be resurrected” (Mt 20:19). Jesus tells us about the future that the Father’s mercy has opened wide. Waiting with Him and thanks to Him means believing that history does not end with our mistakes, our violences and injustices, or with the sin that crucifies Love. It means satisfying us of the Father’s forgiveness in his open heart.
In the current context of concern in which we live and in which everything seems fragile and uncertain, talking about hope might seem like a provocation. Lent’s time is made to wait, to turn our gaze again to the patience of God, who continues to take care of his Creation, while we often mistreat it (cf. Letter enc. Laudato si’, 32-33;43-44). It is hope in reconciliation, to which St Paul exhorts us with passion: “We ask you to reconcile with God” (2 Co 5:20). By receiving forgiveness, in the Sacrament at the heart of our conversion process, we too become diffusers of forgiveness: by welcoming it, we can offer it, being able to live an attentive dialogue and adopting behavior that comforts those who are wounded. God’s forgiveness, also through our words and gestures, allows us to live an Easter of fraternity.
In Lent, let us be more attentive to “saying words of encouragement, which comfort, strengthen, comfort, stimulate”, rather than “words that humiliate, sadden, irritate, despise” (Letter enc. Fratelli tutti [FT], 223). Sometimes, to give hope, it is sufficient to be “a kind person, who set aside his anxieties and urgencies to pay attention, to give away a smile, to say a word that stimulates, to allow a space of listening in the midst of so much indifference” (ibid., 224).
In the gathering and silence of prayer, we are given hope as inspiration and inner light, which illuminates the challenges and decisions of our mission: this is why it is essential to gather in prayer (cf. Mt 6:6) and to find, in privacy, the Father of tenderness.
To live a Lent with hope means to feel that, in Jesus Christ, we are witnesses of the new time, in which God “makes all things new” (cf. Ap 21:1-6). It means receiving the hope of Christ who gives his life on the cross and that God is resurrected on the third day, “always ready to give explanation to all who ask us for a reason for our hope” (cf. 1 P 3:15).
Charity, lived in the footsteps of Christ, showing attention and compassion for each person, is the highest expression of our faith and hope.
Charity is glad to see the other grow. For this reason, he suffers when the other is distressed: alone, sick, homeless, despised, in a situation of need. Charity is the impulse of the heart that brings us out of ourselves and which arouses the bond of cooperation and communion.
“From “social love” it is possible to move towards a civilization of love to which we can all feel called. Charity, with its universal dynamism, can build a new world, because it is not a sterile feeling, but the best way to achieve effective paths of development for all” (FT, 183).
Charity is a gift that gives meaning to our lives and thanks to it we consider those who are deprived of what is necessary as a member of our family, friend, brother. How little we have, if we share it with love, never ends, but becomes a reserve of life and happiness. This was the case with the flour and oil of the widow of Sarephath, who gave bread to the prophet Elijah (cf. 1 R 17:7-16); and with the breads that Jesus blessed, he departed and gave to the disciples to distribute them among the people (cf. Mk 6:30-44). This is the case with our alms, whether large or small, if we give it with joy and simplicity.
Living a Lent of charity means caring for those in conditions of suffering, abandonment, or distress because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In such an uncertain context about the future, let us remember the word that God addresses to his Servant: “Fear not, that I have redeemed you” (Is 43:1), let us offer with our charity a word of trust, so that the other may feel that God loves him as a child.
“Only with a gaze whose horizon is transformed by charity, which leads him to perceive the dignity of the other, are the poor discovered and valued in their immense dignity, respected in their own style and culture and therefore truly integrated into society” (FT, 187).
Dear brothers and sisters: Every stage of life is a time to believe, wait and love. This call to live Lent as a way of conversion and prayer, and to share our goods, helps us to reconsider, in our communal and personal memory, the faith that comes from the living Christ, the hope animated by the breath of the Spirit and love, whose inexhaustible source is the merciful heart of the Father.
May Mary, Mother of the Savior, faithful to the foot of the Cross and in the heart of the Church, sustain us with her solicitous presence, and the blessing of the Risen Christ accompany us on the path to the Easter light.
Rome, St. John Lateran, 11 November 2020, memory of Saint Martin of Tours.
- Conferencia de presentación del Mensaje del Santo Padre Francisco para la Cuaresma 2021
- Renuncias y nombramientos
- Audiencia a una delegación del Instituto de Estudios Europeos de Estocolmo
- Mensaje del Santo Padre con motivo del evento virtual promovido por la FAO para el Día Mundial de las Legumbres