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Lenten message a call for new hope


Pope Francis has called on Christian communities to examine their presence in society and the contribution they make to its “betterment” in his 2024 Lenten message.

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The Pope speaks of the need to combat a “deficit of hope that stifles dreams and the silent cry that reaches to heaven and moves the heart of God”.

“We can become attached to money, to certain projects, ideas or goals, to our position, to a tradition, even to certain individuals,” Pope Francis says.

“Instead of making us move forward, they paralyse us. Instead of encounter, they create conflict. Yet there is also a new humanity, a people of the little ones and of the humble who have not yielded to the allure of the lie.”

The Pope says in Lent we find “new criteria of justice and a community with which we can press forward on a road not yet taken”.

Prayer, almsgiving and fasting are not three unrelated acts, he continues, but a “single movement of openness and self-emptying, in which we cast out the idols that weigh us down, the attachments that imprison us”.

“The contemplative dimension of life that Lent helps us to rediscover will release new energies,” he says.

“In the presence of God, we become brothers and sisters, more sensitive to one another: in place of threats and enemies, we discover companions and fellow travellers. This is God’s dream, the promised land to which we journey once we have left our slavery behind.”

In the spirit of synodality, Pope Francis calls for Lent to be a time of “communitarian decisions”, small and large, that are “counter current”.

“Decisions capable of altering the daily lives of individuals and entire neighbourhoods, such as the ways we acquire goods, care for creation and strive to include those who go unseen or are looked down upon,” he says.

“I invite every Christian community to do just this: to offer its members moments set aside to rethink their lifestyles, times to examine their presence in society and the contribution they make to its betterment.

“Woe to us if our Christian penance were to resemble the kind of penance that so dismayed Jesus. To us too, he says: ‘Whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting’ (Mt 6:16).

“Instead, let others see joyful faces, catch the scent of freedom and experience the love that makes all things new, beginning with the smallest and those nearest to us. This can happen in every one of our Christian communities.

“To the extent that this Lent becomes a time of conversion, an anxious humanity will notice a burst of creativity, a flash of new hope.

“Allow me to repeat what I told the young people whom I met in Lisbon last summer: ‘Keep seeking and be ready to take risks. At this moment in time, we face enormous risks; we hear the painful plea of so many people. Indeed, we are experiencing a third world war fought piecemeal. Yet let us find the courage to see our world, not as being in its death throes but in a process of giving birth, not at the end but at the beginning of a great new chapter of history. We need courage to think like this.”

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