My dear Fathers, Sisters and Brothers,
Grace, Mercy and Peace of Christ Jesus our Risen Lord !
1. Lent is drawing near, inviting us to repentance and conversion of heart. The call to repentance is to return, to turn around with greater openness to the Word of God and re-enter the place of truth. It is a favourable time to return “with whole heart…fasting and mourning” (Joel 2:12) to the Lord, your God who “will pour spirit upon all flesh” (Joel 3:1). It is the most opportune time to “approach the throne of grace, so that we will obtain mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb 4:16). Christ, the eternal Son of God, comes so close to us in our weakness that we can return to him without fear. The openness of Adam to admit his true condition (Gen 3:9-10) and stand before God, vulnerable as he was, enabled him to have the joyful discovery that God is truly “compassionate, rich in kindness” (Joel 2:13). During this holy season, God invites us to receive forgiveness. His offer is unconditional, completely empty of self-seeking. Receiving forgiveness requires a total willingness to let God do the healing, restoring and renewing within us. When God emptied himself, taking on human nature in Christ Jesus (Phil 2:7), he did it to be among people who need forgiveness, among us sinners, and to take upon himself the burden of our sins. He chose to comfort us, to save us, to free us from our misery.
Apostle Paul states that by His poverty we were set free (IICor 8:9). “This is God’s way of loving us; what gives us true freedom, true happiness is the compassion, tenderness and solidarity of his love. Taking flesh and bearing our weaknesses and sins, “God reveals His infinite mercy towards us” Pope Francis.
Through the Lenten practices of prayer and self-denial, we aspire to re-enter the house “where the Father dwells and reaches out to his children – the touch of his hands, radiating inner light, seeking only to heal”. This is the God I want to return to: “a Father who, from the beginning of creation, has stretched out his arms in merciful blessing, never forcing himself on anyone, but always waiting, hoping that his children will return so that he can speak the words of love to them and let his arms rest on their shoulders. His only desire is to bless” (H. Nouwen).
Holy Father Pope Francis offers very inspiring reflection in his message for lent and exhorts us to renew our encounter with Christ and take on the journey to sincere conversion. He draws our attention to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31) to emphasize that “the Word of God is alive and powerful, capable of converting hearts and leading them back to God”. He encourages the faithful to pray that “the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of conversion, so that we can rediscover the gift of God’s Word”.