Pope’s annual Lenten message exhorts others to listen to God’s word and practice works of mercy.
In his 2016 Lenten message, Pope Francis calls on the faithful to place special emphasis on the spiritual and corporal works of mercy this Lent, taking into account the current Jubilee Year of Mercy.
In his message, Pope Francis said those who are truly poor are the ones who believe themselves to be rich.
“God’s mercy transforms human hearts; it enables us, through the experience of a faithful love, to become merciful in turn,” the Pope wrote in the short document, released Tuesday by the Vatican.
The spiritual and corporal works of mercy, the pontiff said, “remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbors in body and spirit: by feeding, visiting, comforting and instructing them.”
“On such things will we be judged,” he said.
The title of this year’s message was drawn from the Gospel of Matthew: “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,” and has the subtitle: “The works of mercy on the road of the Jubilee.”
In the message, signed the Feast of St Francis of Assisi, October 4, 2015, the Pope said those who are truly poor are the ones who believe themselves to be rich.
“This is because they are slaves to sin, which leads them to use wealth and power not for the service of God and others, but to stifle within their hearts the profound sense that they too are only poor beggars,” he said.
“The greater their power and wealth, the more this blindness and deception can grow,” he said.
Pope Francis recounted the parable of the poor man Lazarus who would beg at the door of the rich man.
Lazarus represents Christ, the Pope said, and therefore “the possibility of conversion which God offers us and which we may well fail to see.”
This blindness “is often accompanied by the proud illusion of our own omnipotence,” he observed.
Such an illusion can take “social and political forms,” he explained, citing as examples the “totalitarian systems of the twentieth century.”
In modern times, this illusion is seen in “the ideologies of monopolising thought and techno science, which would make God irrelevant and reduce man to raw material to be exploited.”
The Pope goes on to explain how the illusion could link back to the “idolatry of money,” leading to a lack of concern for the poor “on the part of wealthier individuals and societies.”
“They close their doors, refusing even to see the poor,” he said.
“For all of us, then, the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year is a favourable time to overcome our existential alienation by listening to God’s word and by practicing the works of mercy.”
Pope Francis stressed that “the corporal and spiritual works of mercy must never be separated.”
“By touching the flesh of the crucified Jesus in the suffering, sinners can receive the gift of realising that they too are poor and in need,” he said.
“This love alone is the answer to that yearning for infinite happiness and love that we think we can satisfy with the idols of knowledge, power, and riches.”
The Pope warned against constantly refusing “to open the doors of their hearts to Christ who knocks on them in the poor,” as such consistent refusal on the part on the part of the “proud, rich and powerful” leads to condemnation.
This year’s Lent will begin February 10 with Ash Wednesday, when the Church will send out “Missionaries of Mercy” - priests with the faculties to pardon sins in cases otherwise reserved for the Holy See - as part of the Jubilee Year.
In the opening section of the message, Pope Francis centered his reflection on Mary as the image of the Church’s evangelisation, “because she is evangelised.”
The Pope began by reiterating the call for mercy to be celebrated and experienced in a particular way this Lent, citing the Bull of Indiction for the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
“The mercy of God is a proclamation made to the world, a proclamation which each Christian is called to experience at first hand,” he said.
After receiving the “Good News” from the angel Gabriel, Mary proclaims the Magnificat in which she “prophetically sings of the mercy whereby God chose her,” the Pope recounts.
He describes Mary as the “perfect icon of the Church which evangelises, for she was, and continues to be, evangelised by the Holy Spirit, who made her virginal womb fruitful.”
Pope Francis then reflected on the history of mercy as seen in the covenant between God and the people of Israel. “God shows himself ever rich in mercy, ever ready to treat his people with deep tenderness and compassion, especially at those tragic moments when infidelity ruptures the bond of the covenant, which then needs to be ratified more firmly in justice and truth,” he said.
“Here is a true love story, in which God plays the role of the betrayed father and husband, while Israel plays the unfaithful child and bride.”
“This love story culminates in the incarnation of God’s Son,” who the Father has made “mercy incarnate,” the Pope said, citing the Jubilee Bull of Induction. “As the Son of God, he is the bridegroom who does everything to win over the love of his bride, to whom he is bound by an unconditional love which becomes visible in the eternal wedding feast.”
Pope Francis reflected how it is through mercy that God restores his relationship with the sinner.
“In Jesus crucified, God shows his desire to draw near to sinners, however far they may have strayed from him. In this way he hopes to soften the hardened heart of his Bride.”
Pope Francis concluded the message by calling on Mary’s intercession during the upcoming Season of Lent. “Let us not waste this season of Lent, so favourable a time for conversion”
Pope's message was shared by the Apostolic Nunciature in Uganda
Are you ready for the season of Lent?
Lent is here again, the time in which Christians follow obligatory rules of fasting, spiritual recognition and repentance so as to renew their relationship with God. It is a forty-day season that draws us to Easter Sunday, when we celebrate Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead through which we attain redemption.
As many think of denying themselves meat and may be chicken, Rev Fr Mathias Mawejje, a teacher at Nyenga Minor Seminary says Lent is an important season that is based on four main pillars which is prayer, fasting, alms giving and penance.
“It is through this that we attain salvation,” he says. During this period, the church calls upon people to draw closer to God as well settling disputes with others.
The season which starts on Ash Wednesday (tomorrow) is aimed at giving people a chance to repent their sins so as to attain.
“Lent is a season of sacrifice, repentance and renewal. We turn away from our sinfulness and recommit ourselves to following Jesus Christ,” he reveals. “The Lord’s divine mercy is of utmost importance during Lent season and the church calls on us to seek that mercy during the entire Lenten season with reflection, prayer and penance, he adds.
Fr Mawejje stresses that people should not only fast throughout the Lenten season, or give up something that they really love, but also dedicate some time to those in need and to show love and compassion to their neighbours.
“Nothing can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend while fasting, no matter how much you decide to sleep on a hard floor or walk barefoot, if you do no good for others then you do nothing great,” he reveals.
He, therefore, calls upon Christians to be careful so as to prevent themselves from sinning but do only what pleases God. “Being holy or treating others well should not only stop during the Lenten season but one should live with it every day,” Fr Mawejje reminds Christians.
The 40-day season of Lent ends on Holy Saturday.
Ash Wednesday originates from the ancient Jewish tradition of penance and fasting. The practice includes the wearing of ashes on the head where ashes symbolise the dust from which God made us. As the priest applies the ashes to a person’s forehead, he speaks the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.
Ashes are a symbol of penance made sacramental by the blessing of the Church, and they help us develop a spirit of humility and sacrifice. Ashes are normally made from the blessed palm leaves used at the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. They are blessed with Holy Water before being used. “While the ashes symbolise penance and contrition, they are also a reminder that God is gracious and merciful to those who call on him with repentant hearts, says Fr Mawejje. He, however, notes that our foreheads are marked with ashes to humble our hearts and reminds us that life passes away on Earth.
Alternative ways to fast this Lenten season include;
• Pick on a stranger and say a prayer for them.
• Find time to read the Bible so as to know more about God.
• Create a daily quiet time for meditation.
• Forgive every person that sin against you.
• Do something to those around you.
• Volunteer to help out the sick at the hospital, visit those in prison, and orphanage homes.
• Try giving up something you like so much as sacrifice.