By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
“Lent is a time for deeper dialogue with God through prayer, for renewed gratitude for God’s mercy and for increased compassion for people whose lives are under attack.”
Pope Francis’ Lenten message this year, is entitled: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem” (Mt 20:18). Lent: a Time for Renewing Faith, Hope and Love. As he focuses on these three theological virtues, he invites the faithful to “renew our faith, draw from the living waters of hope, and receive with open hearts the love of God.”
Catholic News Agency reported that Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, said that, “Pope Francis weaved together the traditional Lenten practices of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving with the three theological virtues, revealing their interconnectedness.”
Cardinal Turkson said that it was particularly important during the pandemic to be rooted in the practice of prayer to cultivate the theological virtue of hope, which can give one a sense of “vision” when confronted with the world’s problems.
The Holy Father encourages us to practise charity in Lent this year by caring for those affected by COVID-19. “In our charity, may we speak words of reassurance and help others to realise that God loves them as sons and daughters.”
He reminds us that even a small amount of almsgiving when offered with “joy and simplicity” can multiply, as did “the loaves blessed, broken and given by Jesus to the disciples to distribute to the crowd.”
As we embark on this “journey of conversion”, let this be an opportunity for us to deepen our faith and renew our resolve to be true witnesses to Christ. Let us open our hearts to truly demonstrate our love for God, neighbour, creation, and self.
Pope Francis tells us that “Love is a gift that gives meaning to our lives. It enables us to view those in need as members of our own family, as friends, brothers or sisters.”
Think about what more you and I could do during Lent to see those in need through the lens of Christ. The Pope says that one can give hope to others by being kind, sharing the “gift of a smile” or speaking a word of encouragement. “In Lent, may we be increasingly concerned with speaking words of comfort, strength, consolation and encouragement, and not words that demean, sadden, anger or show scorn.”
There is too much anger in our country; too much gossiping and back-biting. During these 40 days, let us turn from our wicked ways and reconcile ourselves to the Lord. Pope Francis asks us to “experience Lent with love”, which “rejoices in seeing others grow”.
Lent is the season of hope. Pope Francis reminds us that it is a time “when we turn back to God who patiently continues to care for his creation which we have often mistreated.”
We only have to look around in T&T to see how we are mistreating God’s creation. During Lent, let us commit to promote integral ecology – even if we take small steps such as: switching off lights and appliances that are not in use, practising the 4 R’s – reuse items whenever possible, reduce consumption to reduce waste, try and purchase only items that can be recycled, and restore items where possible.
In January last year, Newsday reported that experts warned that we in T&T need to change our attitude to the environment: “The UN Environmental Programme estimates by 2050 over 12 billion tonnes of plastic waste will enter the natural environment. The ‘throwaway culture’ of consumers towards single-use plastics has worsened the plastic pollution problem. Though single-use plastic bags, bottles, forks, and straws are convenient for a few minutes, they are non-biodegradable when discarded… they decompose into smaller fragments known as microplastics which stay in the environment for thousands of years.” Scientists show that these affect marine organisms, habitats, and ecosystems, as well as the health and well-being of people.
If we “welcome God into our lives” and allow Him to “‘make His dwelling’ in us”, we will do His will. “In our Lenten journey towards Easter, let’s remember the “One who humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8). This Lenten journey, like the entire pilgrimage of the Christian life, is even now illumined by the light of the resurrection, which inspires the thoughts, attitudes and decisions of the followers of Christ.”
Indifference to our neighbour and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.
CCSJ Social Justice