Christians are called to overcome apathy, discouragement and pretentions of self-sufficiency by letting God enter into their hearts, making them joyful, merciful and strong, Pope Francis said.
Through prayer, charity and humility before God, people receive a heart "which is firm and merciful, attentive and generous, a heart which is not closed, indifferent or prey to the globalisation of indifference," the Pope said in his message for Lent.
In fact, the individualistic "selfish attitude of indifference has taken on global proportions," turning it into "one of the most urgent challenges" that "we, as Christians, need to confront," the pope wrote.
Released by the Vatican on 27 January, the text of the Pope's Lenten message focused on the need for inner conversion and renewal, with the title, "Make your hearts firm," which is from the Letter of James.
A firm heart is strong and steadfast against temptation and evil, but it is also open to God, capable of being "pierced by the Spirit," touched by his love and moved to share it with others, he said.
"When the people of God are converted to his love, they find answers to the questions that history continually raises," the pope said, including the pressing problem today of "the globalisation of indifference."
"Indifference to our neighbour and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians," he said, which means the Church, parish communities and lay people need regular reflection and "interior renewal, lest we become indifferent and withdraw into ourselves."
God's love breaks down the walls of "that fatal withdrawal into ourselves, which is indifference," he said.
By receiving Jesus, by listening to his word, receiving the sacraments and engaging in prayer, "we become what we receive: the Body of Christ," which is a living, united communion of members that share their gifts and leave "no room for indifference."
Parishes and Catholic organisations, too, must share and care for the weakest, poorest and most marginalized, refusing to "take refuge in a universal love that would embrace the whole world, while failing to see the Lazarus sitting before our closed doors."
May Catholic communities "become islands of mercy in the midst of a sea of indifference," the Pope said.
Read the full message here.
Above: Pope Francis seen placing ash on the head of Slovakian Cardinal Jozef Tomko during Ash Wednesday Mass 2014. Photo: CNS