VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis released his first Lenten message today to help people prepare for this period of prayer, penance, sacrifice and charity.
Be sure to read his message, which addresses the common confusion over upholding Christ’s poverty as “the greatest treasure of all” vs. the fight against the debilitating and “disfiguring” poverty of material, spiritual and moral neglect.
Christians are called to empty themselves like Christ and be filled with God’s love and mercy, the pope said, and then share those gifts with everyone, addressing their physical, moral and spiritual hunger.
“In imitation of our master, we Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it,” the pope said.
One of the more challenging parts of the papal message was the pope’s call for a “self-denial” that is truly penitential and involves real sacrifice.
“I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt,” the pope said.
During today’s press briefing about the message, Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum (the office which handles the pope’s charitable giving), gave a few suggestions in response to a journalist’s question about ways to sacrifice during Lent.
- “Share what we have, especially with the poor…Share our money, share our assets…Share what we have that’s superfluous and would be needed by many people who suffer from hunger and many other needs.”
- Look around you and see whether “perhaps where I live there is a poor family nearby, what can I do?”
- Help people in countries that are hurting because of war, earthquakes or other natural disasters.
- There’s also a need for “inner sacrifice. We are all sinners. How can I strip away my sins? My pride? Perhaps I’m irritable at home, at work. How can I let go of these behaviors?”
— Cardinal Robert Sarah
How do you plan on responding to the pope’s message and live Lent this season?