Each year, the Holy Father publishes his thoughts and reflections on the upcoming Lenten season. This year is no different and the theme comes from Matthew 24:12: “Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold.” Below is an overview of his message and at the end we’ve got a link to his message so you can read for yourself.
False Prophets & Cold Hearts
The Holy Father begins by reflecting on two problem areas in our world today. He first reflects on “false prophets” and, second, on hearts that have grown cold.
He characterizes false prophets as “snake charmers” and “charlatans.” Snake charmers, “who manipulate human emotions in order to enslave others and lead them where they would have them go.” The charlatans “offer easy and immediate solutions to suffering that soon prove utterly useless.” In the end, it is “the devil, who is ‘a liar and the father of lies ’(Jn 8:44), has always presented evil as good, falsehood as truth.”
The Holy Father then turns to reflect on Dante’s depiction of Satan in the Inferno: the devil is “…seated on a throne of ice, in frozen and loveless isolation.” Pope Francis goes on to conclude:
Love can also grow cold in our own communities. In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I 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.
Prayer, Fasting & Almsgiving
The Holy Father paints a rather daunting picture of the false prophets and the “the cooling of charity” that he sees everywhere in our world. But what are we to do? Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are the antidote to these worldly ailments.
“By devoting more time to prayer,” the Holy Father says, “we enable our hearts to root out our secret lies and forms of self-deception, and then to find the consolation God offers. He is our Father and he wants us to live life well.”
“Almsgiving sets us free from greed,” Pope Francis continues, “and helps us to regard our neighbour as a brother or sister. What I possess is never mine alone. How I would like almsgiving to become a genuine style of life for each of us! How I would like us, as Christians, to follow the example of the Apostles and see in the sharing of our possessions a tangible witness of the communion that is ours in the Church!”
Finally, the Holy Father concludes by reflecting on fasting:
Fasting weakens our tendency to violence; it disarms us and becomes an important opportunity for growth. On the one hand, it allows us to experience what the destitute and the starving have to endure. On the other hand, it expresses our own spiritual hunger and thirst for life in God. Fasting wakes us up. It makes us more attentive to God and our neighbour. It revives our desire to obey God, who alone is capable of satisfying our hunger.
You can read Pope Francis’s reflection here in full.
You can also read his homily for Ash Wednesday, preached in the Basilica of Santa Sabina (Founded by St. Dominic) here.
May you all have a blessed and fruitful Lent!