Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pope Benedict: Lent calls us to retrace the steps of our Christian initiation

Pope Benedict XVI greets luncheon guests (250 poor people as well as seminarians, priests and nuns from Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity order, which runs soup kitchens around Rome) inside the Vatican’s main audience hall on Sunday, Dec. 26, 2010

Those of us who also or exclusively follow the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite will have kept Septuagesima last Sunday which will have reminded us that we must already start our preparations for Lent. Pope Benedict also understands this and issues his message for Lent 2011 at precisely this time.

He wants to help us live this season with "due diligence", "assiduous in prayer and charitable works", intensifying the Church's "journey in purifying the spirit." The Holy Father guides us into rediscovering "the baptismal features proper to the Lenten liturgy." Sacrosanctum concilium n. 109.

He reminds us of the free gift of God's mercy and eternal life:
The fact that, in most cases, Baptism is received in infancy highlights how it is a gift of God: no one earns eternal life through their own efforts. The mercy of God, which cancels sin ... is given to men and women freely.
Our whole lives are to be informed by our baptism since
Baptism is not a rite from the past, but the encounter with Christ, which informs the entire existence of the baptized.
And so, during Lent, we can enter upon "a path like that of the catechumenate" (I bet members of the Neo-Catechumenal Way will be very happy with this reminder.) Pope Benedict calls of us, catechumens and baptized,
to retrace the steps of Christian initiation: for catechumens, in preparation for receiving the Sacrament of rebirth; for the baptized, in light of the new and decisive steps to be taken in the sequela Christi and a fuller giving of oneself to him.

The Holy Father leads us through the Gospel readings of the five Sundays of Lent:

First Sunday: Jesus' victorious battle against temptation right at the start of His mission reminds us that we should be aware of our fragility and our need of God's grace; that the Christian faith implies following the example of Jesus and never to forget "that the devil is at work and never tires - even today - of tempting whoever wishes to draw close to the Lord."

Second Sunday: The Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Thabor
is the invitation to take a distance from the noisiness of everyday life in order to immerse oneself in God’s presence. He desires to hand down to us, each day, a Word that penetrates the depths of our spirit, where we discern good from evil (cf. Heb 4:12)...
Third Sunday: The Gospel of the Samaritan woman at the well teaches us that Jesus
wishes to awaken in our hearts the desire for the gift of “a spring of water within, welling up for eternal life” (Jn 4: 14): ... the gift of the Holy Spirit, who transforms Christians into “true worshipers,” capable of praying to the Father “in spirit and truth” (Jn 4: 23).

Only this water can extinguish our thirst for goodness, truth and beauty! Only this water, given to us by the Son, can irrigate the deserts of our restless and unsatisfied soul, until it “finds rest in God”, as per the famous words of St. Augustine.
Fourth Sunday: the Gospel of the man born blind is about faith and light.
“Do you believe in the Son of man?” “Lord, I believe!” (Jn 9: 35. 38), the man born blind joyfully exclaims... The miracle of this healing is a sign that Christ wants not only to give us sight, but also open our interior vision, so that our faith may become ever deeper and we may recognize him as our only Savior. He illuminates all that is dark in life and leads men and women to live as “children of the light”.
Fifth Sunday: the Resurrection of Lazarus presents us with "the ultimate mystery of our existence": Jesus, the Resurrection and Life.
Communion with Christ in this life prepares us to overcome the barrier of death, so that we may live eternally with him... God created men and women for resurrection and life, and this truth gives an authentic and definitive meaning to human history, to the personal and social lives of men and women, to culture, politics and the economy. Without the light of faith, the entire universe finishes shut within a tomb devoid of any future, any hope.
Having just referred to the true meaning that faith in Christ gives to human history, culture, politics, the economy, things that we identify with "the world", Pope Benedict reminds us that the immersion into the death and resurrection of Christ through Baptism
free(s) our hearts every day from the burden of material things, from a self-centered relationship with the “world” that impoverishes us and prevents us from being available and open to God and our neighbor.
Our love of Christ must be lived "in an ever more radical way" that enables us to be open also to our neighbour.

In fasting we render our table poorer by bearing some from of deprivation and so
discover Someone close to us and ... recognize God in the face of so many brothers and sisters.
is the capacity to share. The idolatry of goods, on the other hand, not only causes us to drift away from others, but divests man, making him unhappy, deceiving him, deluding him without fulfilling its promises, since it puts materialistic goods in the place of God, the only source of life... The practice of almsgiving is a reminder of God’s primacy and turns our attention towards others, so that we may rediscover how good our Father is, and receive his mercy.
allows us to gain a new concept of time: without the perspective of eternity and transcendence, in fact, time simply directs our steps towards a horizon without a future. Instead, when we pray, we find time for God, ... opening us to the hope that does not disappoint, eternal life.
I think Pope Benedict has proposed to all us an excellent catechumenal path for this coming Lent.

Pope Benedict's Message for Lent 2011.

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