Ahead of the beginning of the liturgical season of Lent on February 17, Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis released a message to encourage Catholics to take care of those who are greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his Lenten message published on Friday, February 12, the Pope asked the faithful to “experience Lent with love” and help others to realize the goodness of God amid trying times. (Read: Vatican Rolls Out New Guidelines for Priests on Ash Wednesday)
“To experience Lent with love means caring for those who suffer or feel abandoned and fearful because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “In our charity, may we speak words of reassurance and help others to realize that God loves them as sons and daughters.”
The Pope added that even the littlest ways of helping, 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.” (Read: Pope Francis Homilies: Valuable Lessons on Christian Living)
“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. A small amount, if given with love, never ends, but becomes a source of life and happiness,” he said.
The message, which focuses on the virtues of faith, hope, and love, was signed by the Pope on November 11. It is titled “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem. Lent: A Time for Renewing Faith, Hope, and Love.”
According to the Pope, ‘hope’ is particularly important in this time, as the world struggles to cope with the effects of the pandemic.
“In these times of trouble, when everything seems fragile and uncertain, it may appear challenging to speak of hope. Yet Lent is precisely the season of hope, when we turn back to God who patiently continues to care for his creation which we have often mistreated,” he said.
The Pope added that one can inspire hope by sharing the love through words kindness and reminding others to have faith in the Lord. (Read: Rajo Laurel Says Kindness Is Never Out of Fashion, and We Love Him for It!)
“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,” he said.
“Through recollection and silent prayer, hope is given to us as inspiration and interior light, illuminating the challenges and choices we face in our mission.”
Traditional Practices for Lent
To end his message, Pope Francis emphasized the roles of traditional Lenten practices (fasting, prayer, and almsgiving) in enabling the faithful to express their conversion.
“The path of poverty and self-denial (fasting), concern and loving care for the poor (almsgiving), and childlike dialogue with the Father (prayer) make it possible for us to live lives of sincere faith, living hope and effective charity,” he wrote.
These practices “revive the faith that comes from the living Christ, the hope inspired by the breath of the Holy Spirit and the love flowing from the merciful heart of the Father,” he said. (Read: What’s the Difference Between Fasting and Abstinence?)
“May Mary, Mother of the Saviour, ever faithful at the foot of the cross and in the heart of the Church, sustain us with her loving presence. May the blessing of the risen Lord accompany all of us on our journey towards the light of Easter.”