“He became poor so that by his poverty you might become rich” (cf. 2 Cor 8: 9).
This is the theme Pope Francis has taken for his 2014 Lenten Message. Just as St Paul reminds us that Christ became poor through becoming a human being so that we may become rich, Pope Francis invites us during this Lenten season to show our concern for the poor by making difficult sacrifices in order to help others.
Here is a summary of Pope Francis’ Lenten Message.
What is the poverty that Christ took on?
“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 (cf. Lk 10:25ff). 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.”
What is Christ’s wealth?
“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 his or her 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.”
Our Witness during Lent
Following the example of Christ who became poor so that we may become rich, “…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.”
Reaching out to the destitute
“Destitution is poverty without faith, without support, without hope. There are three types of destitution: material, moral and spiritual.”
1. Material Destitution is normally called poverty, affecting those who lack basic rights such as food, water, hygiene and work.
“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.
2. Moral Destitution consists in slavery to sin and vice. Pope Francis asks, …“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!”
3. Spiritual Destitution occurs “…when we turn away from God and reject his love. If we think we don’t need God who reaches out to us through 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.”
Consoling the broken hearted
Christians are invited this Lent to go out and spread the Good News, to share the treasure of faith to the broken hearted, offering hope to those 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 evangelization and human promotion.”
What can I give up?
“Lent is a time of 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.”
Pope Francis calls on the Holy Spirit, “to increase our concern and responsibility for human destitution, so that we can become merciful and act with mercy.”
He invites us as Christians to faithfully undertake this Lenten journey.
“In expressing this hope, I likewise pray that each individual member of the faithful and every Church community will undertake a fruitful Lenten journey.”