Pope Francis’ Message for Lent is a prophetic call to the Church and the world to excise the cancer of indifference from the Church and society and replace it with the compassion and mercy of Christ. Perhaps, to keep us from viewing his message as a pleasant platitude intended only to motivate politicians and “leadership,” the Holy Father quickly applies his message to our parishes, and each of us individually.
“All that we have been saying about the universal Church,” the Pope makes clear, “must now be applied to the life of our parishes and communities.” He asks “Do these ecclesial structures enable us to experience being part of one body, a body which receives and shares what God wishes to give, a body which acknowledges and cares for its weakest, poorest and most insignificant members?”
The Holy Father cautions against professing a “universal love that would embrace the whole world while failing to see the beggar on our doorstep.” He calls for every Christian community “to go out of itself and be engaged in the life of the greater society of which it is a part especially with the poor and those who are far away. And, the Pope reminds us that “the Church is missionary by her very nature,” not self-centered but sent to the world.
Calling on parishes to “become islands of mercy in a sea of indifference,” Pope Francis charges us “to bring all to a love that cannot remain silent.” He warns individuals to guard against being tempted by indifference or becoming discouraged or overwhelmed when “flooded with news reports and troubling images of human suffering.”
We cannot turn away from this seemingly overpowering challenge. The Holy Father calls us to prayer in communion with the whole Church on earth and in heaven, to acts of charity “reaching out to those near and far…showing concern for others by small but concrete signs.” And, he encourages us to experience personal conversion by recognizing our “total dependence on God and our brothers and sisters,” and avoiding the diabolical temptation that we can save the world by ourselves.
In his Lenten Message, Pope Francis has thrown down the gauntlet challenging us to make a difference, to overcome apathy and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness to become an instrument of God’s mercy and compassion.
How will we respond?
Image Credit: Pope Francis leaves after celebrating a Mass marking the feast of the Presentation of the Lord Feb. 2. The Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican also marked the World Day for Consecrated Life. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
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