By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ, & Director, CREDI. Visit rcsocialjusticett.org for our columns, media releases and more.
In case you did not have an opportunity to read Pope Francis’ Message for Lent 2018 in last week’s CN (page 7), here is a summary. The theme he has chosen is: Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold (Mt 24:12).
Matthew chapter 24 refers to Jesus’ sermon on the End of times. He tells his disciples of the sorrows that will befall individuals/nations and of great tribulation to come. He warns them that many false prophets, who will assume various forms, will arise; “they will deceive many, and with the increase of lawlessness, love in most men will grow cold; but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Pope Francis’ message is divided into four sections: False prophets; A cold heart; What are we to do; and The fire of Easter.
He warns against cold hearts and false prophets who use the strategy of the devil, “the father of lies” who always presents “evil as good, falsehood as truth. That is why each of us is called to peer into our heart to see if we are falling prey to the lies of these false prophets” who, he said, tempt us to be led and enslaved by our emotions, or by a desire for wealth: “How many of God’s children are mesmerised by momentary pleasures, mistaking them for true happiness!”
He said the consequences of a cold heart extend to both the earth e.g. pollution, and to violence—to “the unborn child, the elderly and infirm, the migrant, the alien among us, or our neighbour who does not live up to our expectations”.
We must be aware of “the signs that indicate that our love is beginning to cool”. He encourages us to use the Church’s “soothing remedy” of almsgiving, fasting and prayer during Lent to counteract “secret lies” and “self-deception”.
“Above all, I urge the members of the Church to take up the Lenten journey with enthusiasm, sustained by almsgiving, fasting and prayer… Lent summons us, and enables us, to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly and in every aspect of our life. With this message, I would like again this year to help the entire Church experience this time of grace anew, with joy and in truth…”
“By devoting more time to prayer, we enable our hearts to root out our secret lies and forms of self-deception, and then to find the consolation God offers… When we give alms, we share in God’s providential care for each of his children… Fasting wakes us up. It makes us more attentive to God and our neighbour. It revives our desire to obey God, who alone is capable of satisfying our hunger.”
He said the Church would again be celebrating the “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative (March 9–10), which was launched in 2014 and is led by Pope Francis. It will be a day for the whole Church to focus on the celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation, within the context of Eucharistic adoration as a way to experience God’s merciful embrace. This year, it will be inspired by the words of Psalm 130:4: “With you is forgiveness.”
He ends by praying: “May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds, and enable all of us to relive the experience of the disciples on the way to Emmaus. By listening to God’s word and drawing nourishment from the table of the Eucharist, may our hearts be ever more ardent in faith, hope and love.”
This Tuesday (February 20) is World Day of Social Justice. The theme is: Workers on the Move: The Quest for Social Justice. The UN states: “Most migration today is linked directly or indirectly to the search for decent work opportunities. Even if employment is not the primary driver, it usually features in the migration process at some point.”
Living Water Community continues to work with our Government to enact legislation that will enable migrants and refugees to flourish here. Pope Francis reminds us that we should welcome, protect, promote, and integrate migrants and refugees. Love of God and neighbour requires us to act for justice.
In 2014 Pope Francis reminded us that love and justice are the paths to Christ. Let us pray that our Lenten pilgrimage will lead us to follow what he calls: “the path that leads from love to knowledge and discernment, to total fulfillment, to holiness, salvation and the encounter with Jesus”.