An invitation to live by faith, hope and love
ROME, Italy.- As the holy season of Lent begins with the imposition of holy ashes, the Holy Father is inviting the followers of Jesus to start on this journey of conversion by living out the traditional practices of prayer, almsgiving and fasting and renewing the commitments of baptism to live by faith, hope and love.
On Ash Wednesday, all over the world, Christians bow down their heads to receive the imposition of holy ashes and hear the call to conversion: “Repent and believe in the Gospel”.
These ashes are what remains of the burning of the palms used in the previous Palm Sunday. There is great devotion among the faithful for this gesture and the temples are usually filled on this day with believers eager to receive the ashes.
The Holy Father, in his Lenten message for 2021, invites the faithful not to remain in the symbol, but to make of this day the first step for a new change of life in following Jesus and practice ‘social love’.
In our Lenten journey towards Easter, the Pope says, “let us remember the One who humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” the Pope says, recalling words of St Paul (Phil 2:8). He also comments on the tradition of the Church: Fasting, prayer and almsgiving, as preached by Jesus (cf. Mt 6:1-18), in order to enable and express conversion.
For the Pope, fasting is self-denial, a way to discover one´s own poverty “and loving God and our neighbor”, focusing our attention on others and considering them as ourselves. Fasting also involves being freed from all that weighs us down – like consumerism or an excess of information, whether true or false – in order to open the doors of our hearts to the One who comes to us, poor in all things, yet “full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14): the Son of God our Saviour.
Pope Francis links this way of fasting to living in faith “accepting the truth and testifyng to it before God and all our brothers and sisters”.
The Holy Father sees the season of Lent as an opportunity for hope and for being increasingly concerned with “speaking words of comfort, strength, consolation and encouragement, and not words that demean, sadden, anger or show scorn” (Fratelli Tutti, 223).
In order to give hope to others, the Pope writes, “it is sometimes enough simply to be kind, to be “willing to set everything else aside in order to show interest, to give the gift of a smile, to speak a word of encouragement, to listen amid general indifference” (ibid., 224).
His comments about love, return to a theme of his: “social love” that makes it possible “to advance towards a civilization of love, to which all of us can feel called”.
The Pope stresses that “love is a gift that gives meaning to our lives. It enables us to view those in need as members of our own family, as friends, brothers or sisters. A small amount, if given with love, never ends, but becomes a source of life and happiness”
In his Lenten message, Pope Francis uses a number of quotes from his recent Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti ( All brothers and sisters) to support his call to “experience Lent as a journey of conversion, prayer and sharing of our good”.
This, he says, ca “helps us – as communities and as individuals – to revive the faith that comes from the living Christ, the hope inspired by the breath of the Holy Spirit and the love flowing from the merciful heart of the Father.”
You may download below the message of Pope Francis for Lent in English, Spanish and French