Lent is a new beginning, a road that leads to a safe goal: Easter of the Resurrection
The Pope brings us, every year, just before the start of Lent, a message that tries to direct us to this time of encounter with God. Francis teaches us that this time serves “not to be content with a mediocre life, but to grow in friendship with God. And the steps that Lent teaches us go through the practices of fasting, prayer and charity.
This year, reflecting this parable of Jesus, about Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16, 19-31), the Pope wants to teach us that the other is a gift, and that the first invitation that God gives us at that time is to open the heart to our neighbor, whether to our neighbor or a poor stranger, recognizing in them the face of Christ.
Photo: Daniel Mafra / cancaonova.com
It is common, in parishes, to encourage the penances of Lent, and many adhere to the custom even without knowing the reason why they do it; we often come across empty practices. Many will not eat chocolate, others will not drink soda, and so on … But the Pope, in saying that we should not be content with a mediocre life, comes to alert us precisely to the fact that we are very concerned with appearance, and we
forget to really practice love.
We can go forty days without eating chocolate, but during those days, we do not maintain enmity with the neighbor or a family member. And so we act like this rich man who despised Lazarus.
The Pope recalls that, in Jesus’ parable, the other man, on the contrary, has no name like Lazarus; he is only called “rich”. He dresses like a king and behaves like a god, forgetting that he is simply a mortal. In his ambition and greed, he becomes blind to his suffering peer, and fills himself with banquets and parties every day.
On Wednesday, when we received the ashes on our heads, we heard from the priest: ‘Remember that you are dust and you will return to dust’. It is a sincere invitation from God to an important reflection in our life; we are no better than others, and that one day we will die and take nothing with us.
The book ‘Imitation of Christ’ teaches that “our end will come very soon”, and invites us to look at how we are living.
The Pope concludes, in his reflection, that the root of evil in the rich man is not having heard the Word of God. The Word is a living force, capable of provoking conversion in the hearts of men and once again directing people to God.
When He asks Abraham to allow Lazarus to return and warn his brothers so that they can change their lives, Abraham replies that they have Moses and the prophets, thus referring to the very Word of God.
Closing the heart to the gift of God that speaks to us results in a heart closed to the gift of the brother. Thus, Pope Francis’ clear invitation to this time of Lent remains. It is not enough to just do your penance practices; if you are going to do them, offer them for someone; if you are fasting some food, take care to offer it to some poor person; also try to do penance for not swearing or speaking ill of your neighbor; if you have had a fight with someone, look for them in that time and be reconciled, forgive, ask for forgiveness and dedicate that time to meditate on the Passion of Christ.
The Pope spoke to us of the importance of listening to the Word of God. At that time, it would be interesting to devote yourself to reading a Gospel, thus getting to know our Lord’s life better.
Why not do a penance of dedicating some of your time to listening to an elderly person, helping an orphanage or an asylum? So many are the possibilities that allow us to make this time truly a time of conversion.