My dear Fathers, Sisters and Brothers,
Grace, Mercy and Peace of Christ Jesus our Risen Lord !
1. Lent is a new beginning, a favourable time for conversion, a season for deepening our spiritual life through prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Lent summons us to come back to the Lord whole heartedly and in every aspect of our life. We are asked to return to God “with all their hearts” (Joel 2:12) and grow in friendship with the Lord.
In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31) we can find a key to understanding what we need to do in order to attain sincere conversion. The poor man, wretched, disgraced, pitiful and in great misery is a priceless treasure whom God loves and cares for, despite his condition as an outcast. From Lazarus, meaning ‘God helps’ we learn that other persons are a gift; we need to open the doors of our heart to others and recognizing in them the face of Jesus. Each person we encounter deserves acceptance, respect and love, especially when in weak and vulnerable condition.
The rich man, who does not have a name is opulent, ostentatious about his wealth, “feasted sumptuously everyday” (v 19), is a portrayal of the corruption of sin, caused by love for money, vanity and pride.
For the Apostle Paul, “the love of money is the root of all evils” (I Tim 6:10). Money can be a tyrannical idol (EG.55), it “can chain the entire world to a selfish logic that leaves no room for love and hinders peace” (Pope Francis).
The rich man dresses like a king and acts like a god; his life is imprisoned to outward appearances which masks his interior emptiness; he is blinded to the poor man lying at his door in starvation. Let me draw your attention to an important point Holy Father makes in Misericordia et Misera (MM 11). The Sacrament of Reconciliation must regain its central place in the Christian life. This requires priests capable of putting their lives at the service of the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18), in such a way that, while no sincerely repentant sinner is prevented from drawing near to the love of the Father who awaits his return, everyone is afforded the opportunity of experiencing the liberating power of forgiveness.
Prayer from the Jewish liturgy book “Gates of Repentance” can inspire us. “Lord, help us to turn from callousness to sensitivity, from hostility to love, from pettiness to purpose, from envy to contentment, from carelessness to discipline, from fear to faith. Turn us around, O Lord, and bring us back towards You. Revive our lives as at the beginning, and turn us towards each other, Lord, for in isolation, there is no life.”