Pope Francis’ message for Lent this year, which was announced on 24 February 2020, is themed – “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God,” (2 Cor 5:20). He invites everyone to embrace the Mystery of Jesus’ Passion, Death and Resurrection (the Paschal Mystery) – as the basis for conversion. The season of Lent is a time of preparation for the Paschal Mystery of Jesus, urging us to grow in our relationship with God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, so that we are able “to see and touch with faith, the flesh of Christ in those who suffer.”
God is always engaged in a “dialogue of salvation with us” desiring to save us, despite our weaknesses and short comings. As we have begun this holiest season on Ash Wednesday, 26 February 2020, the Holy Father speaks about the “urgency of conversion” as individuals and as a community. Pope Francis wants us to keep our eyes fixed on the outstretched arms of Christ crucified, who was sinless, yet took on “the weight of our sins.” At this time of grace and on this day of salvation, you should not allow His grace to pass by in vain, but “let yourself be saved over and over again” and “let yourself be cleansed” as you firmly believe in His mercy.
He also speaks about the importance of prayer during Lent – that prayer is “more than a duty” as it is an expression of responding to God’s love “which always precedes and sustains us.” At this favourable time, we take every opportunity “to stop sleeping and wake up” (Roman 13:11) and enter into “a dialogue of heart with God” through prayer. We should always have a set time and place, to pray and contemplate Jesus’ Paschal Mystery, so that we may grow in true maturity in faith and have a sincere conversion of heart.
During Lent, the Holy Father wants us to place the Paschal Mystery at the “centre of our lives and feel compassion towards the wounds of the crucified Christ present in many innocent victims” from various forms of attack, violence, war, trafficking, ecological calamities and imbalanced distribution of natural resources. Lent is a time for us to grow in deeper dialogue with God through “renewed gratitude for God’s mercy and for increased compassion towards people whose lives are under attack.”
Every individual should participate in the building of a better world through almsgiving, fasting and prayer. These three traditional pillars of Lenten observances make us more human. We should be generous in sharing our goodwill, our richness and gifts from God, with those in most need, in order to make the world a better place for everyone, rather than just keeping these to ourselves. Lent is a time for us to purify our hearts again and again, rather than indulge in the spirit of the world, because worldliness is “the enemy of God.” (cf. James 4:4).
At the end of the Lenten message, the Holy Father urges for the intercession of Mother Mary “to pray that our Lenten celebration will open our hearts to hear God’s word to be reconciled to himself, to fix our gaze on the Paschal Mystery, and to be converted to an open and sincere dialogue with him.” May Our Mother encourage us to deny ourselves and we say “yes” to the Love of God by serving one another with generous and sincere hearts.
My best wishes and prayers that we, as a community will be resurrected to a new life, a new level of holiness and a new closeness with the Risen Lord this Easter.
by Rev. Fr. George P.