In his message for Lent 2024, Francis recognizes that today’s humanity has reached “levels of scientific, technical, cultural and legal development capable of guaranteeing dignity for all”, but the risk is that, without reviewing lifestyles, it will fall in the “slavery” of practices that ruin the planet and fuel inequalities.
Mariangela Jaguraba – Vatican News
Pope Francis’ message for Lent 2024 was released this Thursday (1/02) on the theme “Through the desert, God guides us to freedom”.
Francis begins the text with a verse from the Book of Exodus: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” “Thus begins the Decalogue given to Moses on Mount Sinai”, writes the Pope, adding that “when our God reveals himself, he communicates freedom”.
Desert, place of first love
“The people know well what exodus God is talking about: they still have the experience of slavery engraved in their flesh. Just as Israel in the desert still had Egypt within it, so today the people of God carry within themselves oppressive bonds that they must opt for. We realize this when we lack hope and we wander through life as if in a desolate land, without a promised land towards which we can strive together”, emphasizes the Pope.
Next, Francis recalls that “Lent is the time of grace in which the desert once again becomes – as the prophet Hosea announces – the place of first love. God educates his people so that they can escape their slavery and experience the passage from death to life. Like a husband, he draws us back to him and whispers words of love to our hearts.”
See the reality
“The exodus from slavery to freedom is not an abstract path. In order to also make our Lent concrete, the first step is to want to see the reality. Today too, the cry of so many oppressed brothers and sisters reaches heaven“, writes the Pontiff. Next, Francis asks: does the cry of our brothers and sisters “reach us too? Mess with us? Does it move us? There are many factors that separate us from each other, denying the fraternity that originally unites us.”
In this regard, the Pope recalls his trip to Lampedusa, on July 8, 2013, highlighting that to the globalization of indifference he asked two questions, which are becoming increasingly topical: “Where are you?” and “Where is your brother?”. According to Francis, “the Lenten journey will be concrete if, listening to such questions again, we confess that today we are still under the rule of Pharaoh. It is a rule that leaves us exhausted and insensitive. It is a model of growth that divides us and robs us the future. The earth, the air and the water are polluted by it, but the souls themselves end up contaminated by such domination. In fact, although our liberation began with Baptism, an inexplicable nostalgia for slavery remains within us. It is like an attraction to the security of things already seen, to the detriment of freedom.”
Lent is a time of conversion, a time of freedom
According to the Pontiff, “the exodus can be stopped: it would not be explained in any other way Why is it that, having humanity reached the threshold of universal fraternity and levels of scientific, technical, cultural and legal progress capable of guaranteeing dignity for all, it still gropes in the darkness of inequalities and conflicts“.
“God has not grown tired of us. Lent is time of conversion, time of freedom. Jesus himself was driven by the Spirit into the desert to test his freedom. The desert is the space where our freedom can mature into a personal decision not to fall back into slavery. In Lent, we find new criteria of judgment and a community with which to advance along a path never taken”, writes Francisco, highlighting that “this involves a fight: this is clearly what the book of Exodus and the temptations of Jesus in the desert tell us.”
More fearsome than Pharaoh are idols
According to Francisco, “more fearsome than Pharaoh are idols: we could consider them as the voice of the enemy within us. Powering everything, being praised by everyone, getting the better of everyone: every human being feels within himself the seduction of this lie. It’s an old road. So we can get attached to money, to certain projects, ideas, objectives, to our position, to a tradition, even to some people. Instead of setting us in motion, they paralyze us . Instead of making us find each other, they divide us.”
However, “there is a new humanity, the people of the little and humble who have not given in to the fascination of lies. While idols make those who serve them mute, blind, deaf and immobile, the poor in spirit are immediately available and ready: a force silent kindness that cares for and sustains the world”.
Acting is also stopping
“It is time to act and, in Lent, to act is also to stop: to stop in prayerto welcome the Word of God, and stop like the Samaritan in the presence of the injured brother“, emphasizes the Pope. According to him, “prayer, almsgiving and fasting are not three independent exercises, but a single movement of opening, of emptying: let us throw away the idols that weigh us down, away from the attachments that imprison us. Then the atrophied and isolated heart will awaken.”
Lent, time for community decisions
According to the Pope, “the synodal form of the Church, which we are rediscovering and cultivating in these years, suggests that Lent is also time for community decisionsof small and large countercurrent options, capable of changing people’s daily lives and the lives of an entire community: shopping habits, care for creation, the inclusion of those who are not seen or are despised”.
“To the extent that this Lent is one of conversion, lost humanity will feel a jolt of creativity: the flash of a new Hope“, writes the Pope, recalling his words addressed to the young people of WYD in Lisbon, last summer: «Seek and take risks; yes, seek and take risks. At this historic moment, the challenges are enormous, the groans painful: we are living in a third world war torn apart. But let us embrace the risk of thinking that we are not in agony, but in labor; not at the end, but at the beginning of a great spectacle. And it takes courage to think like that.”
“It is the courage of conversion, of leaving slavery. Faith and charity guide this hopeful girl by the hand. They teach her how to walk and, at the same time, she pulls them forward”, concludes the Pope’s message.