06 February 2018
Pope Francis recommends 'soothing remedy of prayer' this Lent
Prayer, almsgiving and fasting are a way of countering 'secret lies' and 'self-deception', says Pope
Pope Francis has urged Catholics to embrace "the soothing remedy of prayer, almsgiving and fasting" this Lent as a way of countering "secret lies" and "self-deception".
Quoting Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, he describes how Jesus foretold a great tribulation when preaching on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem: “Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold."
In his annual message for Lent, which begins next Wednesday 14 February, Pope Francis notes that Jesus warned that amid great trials, false prophets would lead people astray and the love that is the core of the Gospel would grow cold in the hearts of many.
He says: "Let us listen to the Gospel passage and try to understand the guise such false prophets can assume. They can appear as 'snake charmers', who manipulate human emotions in order to enslave others and lead them where they would have them go.
"How many of God’s children are mesmerised by momentary pleasures, mistaking them for true happiness. How many men and women live entranced by the dream of wealth, which only makes them slaves to profit and petty interests.
"How many go through life believing that they are sufficient unto themselves, and end up entrapped by loneliness.
"False prophets can also be 'charlatans', who offer easy and immediate solutions to suffering that soon prove utterly useless. How many young people are taken in by the panacea of drugs, of disposable relationships, of easy but dishonest gains. How many more are ensnared in a thoroughly 'virtual' existence, in which relationships appear quick and straightforward, only to prove meaningless."
He excoriates "swindlers" who he accuses of peddling things that have no real value.
"In order to confound the human heart, the devil, who is a liar and the father of lies, has always presented evil as good, falsehood as truth.
"That is why each of us is called to peer into our heart to see if we are falling prey to the lies of these false prophets. We must learn to look closely, beneath the surface, and to recognise what leaves a good and lasting mark on our hearts, because it comes from God and is truly for our benefit."
More than anything else, what destroys charity is greed for money, he continues.
"The rejection of God and his peace soon follows; we prefer our own desolation rather than the comfort found in his word and the sacraments. All this leads to violence against anyone we think is a threat to our own 'certainties': the unborn child, the elderly and infirm, the migrant, the alien among us, or our neighbour who does not live up to our expectations."
Creation itself is silent witness to this cooling of charity.
"The earth is poisoned by refuse, discarded out of carelessness or for self-interest. The seas, themselves polluted, engulf the remains of countless shipwrecked victims of forced migration. The heavens, which in God’s plan, were created to sing his praises, are rent by engines raining down implements of death. Love can also grow cold in our own communities.
In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, he says, he sought to describe the most evident signs of this lack of love: "selfishness and spiritual sloth, sterile pessimism, the temptation to self-absorption, constant warring among ourselves, and the worldly mentality that makes us concerned only for appearances, and thus lessens our missionary zeal."
The Church offers in the Lenten season the soothing remedy of prayer, almsgiving and fasting.
"By devoting more time to prayer, we enable our hearts to root out our secret lies and forms of self-deception, and then to find the consolation God offers."
Above all, Catholics should take up the Lenten journey with enthusiasm, sustained by almsgiving, fasting and prayer.
"If, at times, the flame of charity seems to die in our own hearts, know that this is never the case in the heart of God. He constantly gives us a chance to begin loving anew."
He also urged people to embrace the “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative, which invites the entire Church community to celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation in the context of Eucharistic adoration, and which will take place from Friday, 9 March to Saturday, 10 March.
In each diocese, at least one church will remain open for twenty-four consecutive hours, offering an opportunity for both Eucharistic adoration and sacramental confession.
Pic: Lent last year, showing Pope Francis concluding the Spiritual Exercises in the 'Casa del Divin Maestro,' a retreat centre in Ariccia, located in the Alban hills just outside Rome, Italy on March 10. Each year Pope Francis and members of the Vatican return to Vatican Curia after having taking part in the week-long Curial Spiritual Exercises. The exercises are traditionally conducted during the first week of Lent. Each day includes moments of prayer, meditation, and Eucharistic adoration. Photo by ABACA/ABACA/PA Images
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