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Pope Francis urges fasting, prayer and almsgiving in Lenten reflection

By Sarah Mac Donald - 27 February, 2019

Pope Francis in the Sala Regia in Rome (Photo: Vatican Media).

Pope Francis has delivered a strong message on care for creation in his annual Lenten reflection.

The text is titled ‘For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God’ and is taken from a quote from Romans.

It was released on Tuesday but is dated 4 October 2018, the feast of St Francis of Assisi.

In his message, the Pope warns that “Sin leads man to consider himself the god of creation, to see himself as its absolute master and to use it, not for the purpose willed by the Creator but for his own interests, to the detriment of other creatures.”

Addressing the destructive power of sin, the Pope notes that “when we fail to live as children of God, we often behave in a destructive way towards our neighbours and other creatures – and ourselves as well – since we begin to think more or less consciously that we can use them as we will.”

Intemperance then takes the upper hand, he underlines and adds that we start to live a life that exceeds those limits imposed by our human condition and nature itself.

He warns that people then “yield to those untrammelled desires that the Book of Wisdom sees as typical of the ungodly, those who act without thought for God or hope for the future”.

Unless people tend constantly towards Easter, towards the horizon of the Resurrection, the mentality expressed in the slogans I want it all and I want it now!” and Too much is never enough, gains the upper hand.

Once God’s law of love is forsaken, then the law of the strong over the weak takes over.

The sin that lurks in the human heart takes the shape of greed and unbridled pursuit of comfort, and lack of concern for the good of others and even of oneself.

“It leads to the exploitation of creation, both persons and the environment, due to that insatiable covetousness which sees every desire as a right and sooner or later destroys all those in its grip,” the Pope states.

On the healing power of repentance and forgiveness, Pope Francis suggests that the path to Easter demands that people renew their hearts as Christians through repentance, conversion and forgiveness, “so as to live fully the abundant grace of the paschal mystery”.

He underlines that Lent is a sacramental sign of this conversion.

Lent invites Christians to embody the paschal mystery more deeply and concretely in their personal, family and social lives, above all by fasting, prayer and almsgiving.

Fasting, he explains, is learning to change our attitude towards others and all of creation, turning away from the temptation to “devour” everything to satisfy our voracity and being ready to suffer for love, which can fill the emptiness of our hearts.

Prayer teaches people to abandon idolatry and the self-sufficiency of their ego, and acknowledge their need of the Lord and his mercy.

Almsgiving helps people escape from the insanity of hoarding everything for themselves in the illusory belief that they can secure a future that does not belong to them.

“May our Lent this year be a journey along that same path, bringing the hope of Christ also to creation, so that it may be “set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God” the Pope prays. He urges the faithful to “Leave behind our selfishness and self-absorption”.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday 6 March 2019.

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