PopeWatch: Lent

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

The Lenten message of Pope Francis:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As Lent draws near, I would like to offer some helpful thoughts on our path of conversion as individuals and as a community. These insights are inspired by the words of Saint Paul: ‘For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich’. The Apostle was writing to the Christians of Corinth to encourage them to be generous in helping the faithful in Jerusalem who were in need. What do these words of Saint Paul mean for us Christians today? What does this invitation to poverty, a life of evangelical poverty, mean to us today?

Christ’s grace

First of all, it shows us how God works. He does not reveal himself cloaked in worldly power and wealth but rather in weakness and poverty: ‘though He was rich, yet for your sake he became poor …’. Christ, the eternal Son of God, one with the Father in power and glory, chose to be poor; he came amongst us and drew near to each of us; he set aside his glory and emptied himself so that he could be like us in all things. God’s becoming man is a great mystery! But the reason for all this is his love, a love which is grace, generosity, a desire to draw near, a love which does not hesitate to offer itself in sacrifice for the beloved. Charity, love, is sharing with the one we love in all things. Love makes us similar, it creates equality, it breaks down walls and eliminates distances. God did this with us. Indeed, Jesus ‘worked with human hands, thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, he truly became one of us, like us in all things except sin’.

By making himself poor, Jesus did not seek poverty for its own sake but, as Saint Paul says ‘that by his poverty you might become rich’. This is no mere play on words or a catch phrase. Rather, it sums up God’s logic, the logic of love, the logic of the incarnation and the cross. God did not let our salvation drop down from heaven, like someone who gives alms from their abundance out of a sense of altruism and piety. Christ’s love is different! When Jesus stepped into the waters of the Jordan and was baptised by John the Baptist, he did so not because he was in need of repentance, or conversion; he did it to be among people who need forgiveness, among us sinners, and to take upon himself the burden of our sins. In this way he chose to comfort us, to save us, to free us from our misery. It is striking that the Apostle states that we were set free, not by Christ’s riches but by his poverty. Yet Saint Paul is well aware of the ‘the unsearchable riches of Christ’, that he is ‘heir of all things’.

So what is this poverty by which Christ frees us and enriches us? It is his way of loving us, his way of being our neighbour, just as the Good Samaritan was neighbour to the man left half dead by the side of the road. What gives us true freedom, true salvation and true happiness is the compassion, tenderness and solidarity of his love. Christ’s poverty which enriches us is his taking flesh and bearing our weaknesses and sins as an expression of God’s infinite mercy to us. Christ’s poverty is the greatest treasure of all: Jesus wealth is that of his boundless confidence in God the Father, his constant trust, his desire always and only to do the Father’s will and give glory to him. Jesus is rich in the same way as a child who feels loved and who loves its parents, without doubting their love and tenderness for an instant. Jesus’ wealth lies in his being the Son; his unique relationship with the Father is the sovereign prerogative of this Messiah who is poor. When Jesus asks us to take up his ‘yoke which is easy’, he asks us to be enriched by his ‘poverty which is rich’ and his ‘richness which is poor’, to share his filial and fraternal Spirit, to become sons and daughters in the Son, brothers and sisters in the first-born brother.

It has been said that the only real regret lies in not being a saint (L. Bloy); we could also say that there is only one real kind of poverty: not living as children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ.

Our witness

We might think that this ‘way’ of poverty was Jesus’ way, whereas we who come after him can save the world with the right kind of human resources. This is not the case. In every time and place God continues to save mankind and the world through the poverty of Christ, who makes himself poor in the sacraments, in his word and in his Church, which is a people of the poor. God’s wealth passes not through our wealth, but invariably and exclusively through our personal and communal poverty, enlivened by the Spirit of Christ.

In imitation of our Master, we Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it. Destitution is not the same as poverty: destitution is poverty without faith, without support, without hope. There are three types of destitution: material, moral and spiritual. Material destitution is what is normally called poverty, and affects those living in conditions opposed to human dignity: those who lack basic rights and needs such as food, water, hygiene, work and the opportunity to develop and grow culturally. In response to this destitution, the Church offers her help, her diakonia, in meeting these needs and binding these wounds which disfigure the face of humanity. In the poor and outcast we see Christ’s face; by loving and helping the poor, we love and serve Christ. Our efforts are also directed to ending violations of human dignity, discrimination and abuse in the world, for these are so often the cause of destitution. When power, luxury and money become idols, they take priority over the need for a fair distribution of wealth. Our consciences thus need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity and sharing.

No less a concern is moral destitution, which consists in slavery to vice and sin. How much pain is caused in families because one of their members – often a young person – is in thrall to alcohol, drugs, gambling or pornography! How many people no longer see meaning in life or prospects for the future, how many have lost hope! And how many are plunged into this destitution by unjust social conditions, by unemployment, which takes away their dignity as breadwinners, and by lack of equal access to education and health care. In such cases, moral destitution can be considered impending suicide. This type of destitution, which also causes financial ruin, is invariably linked to the spiritual destitution which we experience when we turn away from God and reject his love. If we think we don’t need God who reaches out to us though Christ, because we believe we can make do on our own, we are headed for a fall. God alone can truly save and free us.

The Gospel is the real antidote to spiritual destitution: wherever we go, we are called as Christians to proclaim the liberating news that forgiveness for sins committed is possible, that God is greater than our sinfulness, that he freely loves us at all times and that we were made for communion and eternal life. The Lord asks us to be joyous heralds of this message of mercy and hope! It is thrilling to experience the joy of spreading this good news, sharing the treasure entrusted to us, consoling broken hearts and offering hope to our brothers and sisters experiencing darkness. It means following and imitating Jesus, who sought out the poor and sinners as a shepherd lovingly seeks his lost sheep. In union with Jesus, we can courageously open up new paths of evangelisation and human promotion.

Dear brothers and sisters, may this Lenten season find the whole Church ready to bear witness to all those who live in material, moral and spiritual destitution the Gospel message of the merciful love of God our Father, who is ready to embrace everyone in Christ. We can so this to the extent that we imitate Christ who became poor and enriched us by his poverty. Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.

May the Holy Spirit, through whom we are ‘as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything’, sustain us in our resolutions and increase our concern and responsibility for human destitution, so that we can become merciful and act with mercy. In expressing this hope, I likewise pray that each individual member of the faithful and every Church community will undertake a fruitful Lenten journey. I ask all of you to pray for me. May the Lord bless you and Our Lady keep you safe.

24 Responses to PopeWatch: Lent

  • A blessed Lenten season to all here.

    This is very good. 9 things to give up for Lent:

    http://theoldadam.com/2013/02/12/9-things-that-everybody-should-give-up-for-lent/

    Thank you.

  • Some demons can be driven out only with prayer and fasting.

    The Second Sorrowful Mystery: the Scourging at the Pilar. Desire a spirit of mortification. Think of the cruel scourgng at the pilar that Our Lord suffered; and the heavy blows which tore His innocent flesh.

  • Apparently the Pope also suggested that civil unions may be tolerable:

    http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1400916.htm

    This Lenten Season will have more surprises, I am sure.

  • I just have to take a moment to address the most pathetic display in all of Christendom, my twice-a-year late-afternoon bad mood from fasting. Step aside, Saint Lawrence! Don’t you know who I am? I’m someone who only ate half a sandwich for lunch! God’s got to be preparing a special throne for me somewhere up there!

  • Poor and Poverty
    .
    I object to the use of the term “weakness” in reference to our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world. Jesus Christ, trusted in God, had confidence in God even unto to His death and resurrection according to the Scriptures. Jesus Christ was obedient to His Father. Jesus Christ loved His Father.
    .
    “Weakness” is a mean term and may only be used to describe “fallen” human nature. The human nature Jesus Christ assumed was perfect human nature, the perfect human nature of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Conception.
    .
    What “weakness” did Jesus have that would have enabled Jesus Christ to sustain and conquer the world, the devil and the flesh in fallen man’s human nature? Jesus Christ’s need is to love His Father as perfectly as His Father loves Him. In loving His Father, Jesus Christ brings all souls to our Creator.
    .
    The terms “poor” and “poverty” are bandied about multiple times, each time inferring a different meaning, each time unintentionally driving us further from the solidarity with Christ, Who is the Truth. Yes, we owe people Justice and we ought to be loving and generous to one another, but not before our love and honor for Jesus Christ, because Jesus Christ is God.
    .
    Lent is about loving God and loving our neighbor for the love of God.
    .
    The part about moral and spiritual destitution hit home. The insinuation that abolishing destitution of wealth can be realized through redistribution of wealth as a moral imperative is not possible without denying the individual person’s immortal soul and his God-given free will, given to him by God, to know, love and to serve God.
    .
    Spiritual destitution may be ameliorated by freedom of Religion once again becoming the law of the land. Moral destitution will follow suit, once the gospel is freely evangelized. The condemned man facing death is given one wish. Let it be freedom of religion.
    .
    May the Lord bless Pope Francis and Our Lady keep Pope Francis safe.

  • Pinky: “I just have to take a moment to address the most pathetic display in all of Christendom, my twice-a-year late-afternoon bad mood from fasting.”
    .
    I gave up television.

  • “Saint Lawrence! Don’t you know who I am? I’m someone who only ate half a sandwich for lunch! God’s got to be preparing a special throne for me somewhere up there!”

    Alas Pinky I often experience the same feeling. Then I feel bad about it. Then my sense of humor takes over!

  • Amen Mary DeVoe. Also I don’t like the economic poverty assumption about the Holy Family. As if Joseph was not a good provider. I’ve been inclined believe they lived like most others in their time and place. The standards of living and expectations were poor compared to USA today but not so far off in His own times. Yes Jesus left the fullness and richness of heaven but he was not a poor beggar. I think He lived a pretty standard life.

  • I don’t even know what this means:
    “who makes himself poor in the sacraments, in his word and in his Church, which is a people of the poor. God’s wealth passes not through our wealth, but invariably and exclusively through our personal and communal poverty, enlivened by the Spirit of Christ.” ????

  • Anzlyne: “Also I don’t like the economic poverty assumption about the Holy Family. As if Joseph was not a good provider. I’ve been inclined believe they lived like most others in their time and place.”
    It is not like the Holy Family did not have money to sustain them. While St. Joseph took care of Mary and Jesus there was the gold brought by the Wise Men. (Divine Providence).
    .
    Several years ago, it was reported that an ancient city was dug up and a cache of coins was found bearing a face and the word Gaspar. The Three Wise Men’s ashes are in a casket in Germany, if my memory serves me correctly.
    .
    Yes. Anzlyne, I, too, believe that the Holy Family lived a normal life raising up the Son of God.
    Can you imagine a tradesman’s sign hanging on Joseph’s house? “General Carpentry”.
    Entrepreneurship is what will get our economy moving again in the right direction. St. Joseph, patron saint of workers, pray for us.
    .
    Fulfilling the needs of the poor is charity and a “get out of purgatory free card” for us, alms covers a multitude of sin, and Justice, social Justice, for those in need. Involuntary charity, as in tax levies, is extortion, like gangland “insurance”. Oh, and speaking of “gangland insurance”, there is Obamacare.
    .
    And it depends upon who is defining who is “the poor” and what is poverty.

  • Anzlyne: “I don’t even know what this means:
    “who makes himself poor in the sacraments, in his word and in his Church, which is a people of the poor. God’s wealth passes not through our wealth, but invariably and exclusively through our personal and communal poverty, enlivened by the Spirit of Christ.” ????”
    .
    “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” “seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all else will be added…including persecution.”

  • “Who made Himself poor….” “Who humbled Himself…..” “Who emptied Himself…..”

    Hope this helps

  • “Who made Himself poor….” “Who humbled Himself…..” “Who emptied Himself…..”
    Who made Himself the Son of Man. “My kingdom is not of this world.”
    Pope
    Francis may preach charity but he may not preach social Justice, or economic revolution without charity.

  • Speaking of St. Lawrence, and back to the subject of poverty, this from Wikipedia:

    After the death of Sixtus, the prefect of Rome demanded that Lawrence turn over the riches of the Church….On the third day, at the head of a small delegation, he presented himself to the prefect, and when ordered to give up the treasures of the Church, he presented the poor, the crippled, the blind and the suffering, and said these were the true treasures of the Church. One account records him declaring to the prefect, “The Church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor.”

  • “God’s wealth passes not through our wealth, but invariably and exclusively through our personal and communal poverty, enlivened by the Spirit of Christ”

    I sense that these words might have thrown a couple of readers and posters. However, they actually are nothing but a paraphrase, or an elaboration of what Saint Paul stated when he wrote “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that being rich He became poor, for your sakes, that through His poverty, you might be enriched” 2 Corinthians 8.9 [Douay Rheims translation].

    This text was the core of the Pope’s Lenten Message. He unpacked it and elaborated on it so that we might not simply be instructed but find new life from it in Christ.

    The term ‘social justice’ has been given a bad name by progressives in this country (and those disagreeing with them). Yet the “social teachings’ or ‘social doctrines’ of the Church are not a new phenomenon. While rooted in the Scriptures and Fathers of the Church, the ‘social teachings’ as a body of teaching have been with the Church since Pope Leo XIII. It is not some new fangled thing coming out in and or after the Second Vatican Council. A Catholic cannot reject the ‘social teachings’ of the Church any more than a Catholic can reject the doctrinal and personal morality teachings of the Church. They are a fundamental aspect of Catholic Church teaching.

  • We try to understand humility from its Latin root humilitas and thinking of humus, the soil and the ashes on our forehead, and resolve this Lent to get and be down to earth, rooted in reality. Only from there will God water us with His living water and fertilize us with wisdom and grace. I found a prayer, I think by Saint Alphonsus Ligouri that may help me to overcome my own vanity. I share it here:
    O God, who resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble: grant us the virtue of true humility, where of Your Only-begotten son showed in Himself a pattern for Your faithful; that we may never by our pride provoke Your anger, but rather by our meekness receive the riches of Your grace.
    Happy Lent Folks.

  • William P. Walsh: Beautiful.
    .
    LITANY OF HUMILITY
    O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, hear me.
    From the desire of being esteemed,
    deliver me, Jesus.
    From the desire of being loved,
    From the desire of being extolled,
    From the desire of being honored,
    From the desire of being praised,
    From the desire of being preferred to others,
    From the desire of being consulted,
    From the desire of being approved,

    From the fear of being humiliated,
    deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of being despised,
    From the fear of suffering rebukes,
    From the fear of being calumniated,
    From the fear of being forgotten,
    From the fear of being ridiculed,
    From the fear of being wronged,
    From the fear of being suspected,

    That others may be loved more than I,
    Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
    That others may be esteemed more than I,
    That in the opinion of the world,
    others may increase, and I may decrease,
    That others may be chosen and I set aside,
    That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
    That others may be preferred to me in everything,
    That others may become holier than I,
    provided that I may become as holy as I should.

    – Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val

  • Botolph: “The term ‘social justice’ has been given a bad name by progressives in this country (and those disagreeing with them). ” “A Catholic cannot reject the ‘social teachings’ of the Church any more than a Catholic can reject the doctrinal and personal morality teachings of the Church. They are a fundamental aspect of Catholic Church teaching. ”
    .
    Rendering “social Justice” to the poor would be to be executing the capital one murderers of the poor, protecting the right to life of the poor, would it not? or is it only money are we to give them in the spirit of Christ? “Social Justice” would be to give to the poor what they need to live. Not so?

  • Thank you Mary De Voe, for the Litany of Humility. It looks like the many rungs on the long ladder I must descend to reach the good earth of humility.

  • Ahhhhhhh Mary De Voe,

    Many people get confused when they hear the term ‘social justice’. First, in terms of Church teaching it is better to use the term “Social Doctrine” but that is only to keep the two distinct.

    The Social Doctrines of the Church are contained in a series of encyclicals beginning with POpe Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum in 1891 up to and including Pope Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate issued in 2009. They are full of teaching but from them the Church has ‘harvested’ ‘principles’. These principles are the foundations of all the Church’s social teaching. I obviously cannot go into them in any detail but I want to list them to show that they are neither ‘revolutionary’ or ‘progressive-liberal’. Of course, I suppose some ‘conservatives’ still might not like them but that is not in question here. Here are the Principles of Catholic Social Teaching:
    1) life and dignity of the human person
    2) Call to family, community and participation
    3) rights and responsibilities [with every God-given right there are responsibilities]
    4) Caring for the poor and vulnerable
    5) the dignity and rights of workers [economy must serve the people]
    6) Solidarity [fundamental unity of human race]
    7) Care for God’s Creation

    Now obviously each of these has a great deal of teaching connected with it, but these seven principles are the ‘skeleton’ of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church. Nothing revolutionary, marxist, here. However, if they were really put into practice, what a different world we would live in

  • I find discussions of “Social Justice” are greatly helped by finding out what someone means by it– the Church means one thing (making a situation where folks rights are protected, to simplify greatly) while popular culture usually means “I get to tell everyone what to do, and if you disagree you’re EVIL!”

    It’s kind of like when you have to explain to a neighbor why you’re eating fish when Fridays are “no meat.” A matter of translation.

  • The modern welfare state has distorted social justice and subverted charity. How often do we hear complaints made by such as a hard-working person in a supermarket line putting down cash for fish sticks while another flashes an EBT card for lobster tails. It is anecdotal but common. “All things have their season” and perhaps it’s a bit more seasonal for The Spiritual Works of Mercy.

  • Botolph: “1) life and dignity of the human person”
    .
    So, if somebody cracks my skull open with a lead pipe and scatters my brains all over the street, what are you going to do about my life and my dignity? Are you going to deny me as a human person to alleviate the requirement for “Social Doctrine?

  • According to Amber Alert, there was an eleven year old girl kidnapped in Dundalk Maryland, today. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could say: “Bring her back safe and sound and we will not put you to death”?
    What will you say to her mother: “I do not believe in capital punishment. God made her, God will take care of her.”? Just learned that the girl’s mother is dead.
    It is always nice to talk about God when irretrievable human life is destroyed.
    Now, I have to go and adjust my halo. Mom always cautioned me: “Do not get your halo on to tight.

Follow TAC by Clicking on the Buttons Below
Bookmark and Share
Subscribe by eMail

Enter your email:

Recent Comments
Archives
Our Visitors. . .
Our Subscribers. . .