We have started our Lent season on 14 February 2018, coinciding with Valentine’s Day. This year, Valentine’s Day shares the calendar with Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. It will occur once again in the year 2024 and 2029. It is an obligatory day of fasting from one or two meals, and abstinence from meat. I hope your Valentine’s Day celebration didn’t interrupt much of your Ash Wednesday observation – pray, fast and penance.
The Holy Father, Pope Francis has chosen on a theme, “Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (Mt 24: 12) for Lent 2018. Jesus spoke these words to His disciples at the Mount of Olives before His passion as He was describing to them about the end times where “false prophets would lead people astray, and the love that is the core of the Gospel would grow cold in the hearts of many.”
These false prophets come in various forms to manipulate and confuse human hearts to enslave and lead them astray by offering “easy and immediate solutions to suffering that soon prove utterly useless.” Holy Father added that these false prophets lead our people to choose false sources of happiness for real ones, which is a strategy typical of the devil. The devil, who is a “liar and the father of lies” always confuses our human hearts by presenting “evil as good, falsehood as truth.”
Many children and young people are mesmerised “with pleasures mistaking them for true happiness” and engrossed with wealth “which only makes them slaves to profit and petty interests.” Some turn to drugs as solutions for their life problems, but all these are proven to be pointless. They only lead to violence against human beings and a global selfish attitude of indifference. Their hearts grow cold because of their problems, their sufferings and their lackadaisical attitudes.
We often think that as long as we are relatively healthy and comfortable, we do not have to care about those who are less fortunate. “When a person doesn’t have enough to eat, that’s a form of violence. Where there’s exclusion and inequality in a city, that’s a form of violence. When there’s no respect for the dignity of the person, that’s violence,” the Pope said. The real temptation for us Christians is growing in a selfish attitude of indifference to our neighbours. As Christians we need to confront these attitudes.
During this season of Lent the Holy Father invites us to reflect on three scriptural texts:
- “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Cor 12:26) which refers to the church;
- “Where is your brother?” (Gen 4:9) which refers to parishes; and
- “Make your hearts firm!” (James 5:8) which refers to individual Christians.
Lent is a time of grace, and it is a favourable time. As Catholics, we should observe Lent by giving up our selfish attitudes of indifference and resist these “great tribulations” which are happening in our Church community and amongst individuals. The Holy Father hopes that we can overcome all these indifferences as “we give alms and share in God’s providential care with those who beg for our assistance.” Fasting “makes us more attentive to God and our neighbours” and “revives our desire to obey God, who alone is capable of satisfying our hunger.”
Lets evaluate ourselves in light of God’s words – merciful, graciousness and abounding in steadfast love. May these words remind us of who God is and what He does for us, inviting us not to be indifferent to violence. We shall be merciful, be gracious and steadfast in love like Him, and not to grow cold towards our parish community and individuals.
Fr. George Packiasamy