The Holy Father’s Lenten message this year is entitled “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem” (Mt 20:18). During this time of Lent, Pope Francis invites us to make a journey towards Jerusalem together – to experience Lent with “renewed faith, hope and love.” He also says that our Lenten observances of prayer, fasting and almsgiving will make us “live lives of sincere faith, living hope and effective charity” as we carry out the mission of Christ in the world. In this challenging and uncertain time, he wants us to pray fervently, practice charity and care for all those affected with the COVID-19 pandemic.
|a)||The Holy Father explains that “faith calls us to accept the truth and testify to it before God and to all brothers and sister.” In order to accept and live the truth “revealed in Christ means, first of all, opening our hearts to God’s word.” Christ is the Truth, and through our fasting – which is a form of self-denial – helps us to discover God’s gift and leads us to the fullness of life. For all those who fast, make themselves identify with their own poverty and to treasure themselves to love both God and neighbour. In this way, we can “open the doors of our hearts to the One who comes to us, poor in all things, yet full of grace and truth,” (Jn 1:4).|
|b)||Although hope may seem challenging in fragile and uncertain times, “Lent is precisely the season of hope, when we turn back to God.” During this time of ongoing challenges and uncertainty, he says that hope can seem lost. He links hope to the “living water” that Jesus promises to the Samaritan woman at the well (Jn 4: 10) and “receiving the hope of Christ, who gave His life on the Cross and was raised by God on the third day.” It is a hope of receiving forgiveness from the heart of the Father. We give hope to others simply by being kind – “a kind person appears and is willing to set everything else aside in order to show interest, to give the gift of a smile, to speak a word of encouragement, to listen amid general indifference” (Fratelli Tutti, #224).|
|c)||“Faith, hope and love – but the greatest of these is love,” (1 Cor 13: 13). Pope Francis says that “Love is a leap of the heart,” and “it brings us out of ourselves and creates bonds of sharing and communion.” During this season of repentance, the Holy Father wants us to “renew our faith, draw from the living waters of hope, and receive with open hearts the love of God.” Therefore, in order to experience Lent with love, he encourages us to give alms cheerfully and care for all “those feeling abandoned and isolated and to help others to realise that God loves them as sons and daughters” due to COVID-19 pandemic. It is only with love that we will be enable to build a better society and humanity (Fratelli Tutti, #183).|
The Holy Father concludes by saying:
“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.”
Be assured of the blessings from the Risen Lord for us and for our families, as we journey together towards the light of Easter.
(An Extract from the Message from the Holy Father for Lent 2021)
Rev. Fr. George Packiasamy