Message from Pope Francis for Lent

The Pope has centred his Lenten message for 2024 on the Book of Exodus, choosing the theme “Through the desert God leads us to freedom”. It is a time to act.

“When our God reveals Himself, His message is always one of freedom,” Pope Francis says in the opening of his Message for Lent 2024.

Recalling the Exodus of the Hebrew people from Egypt, the Holy Father explains that our journey through the desert can be a season of grace – not an abstract journey, but a concrete path that involves seeing the world as it is and hearing the cries of our oppressed brothers and sisters.

“The call to freedom is a demanding one”, writes Pope Francis. “It is not answered straightaway; it has to mature as part of a journey…. Lent is the season of grace in which the desert can become once more – in the words of the prophet Hosea – the place of our first love (cf. Hos 2:16-17). God shapes his people; he enables us to leave our slavery behind and experience a Passover from death to life.”

Pope Francis insists: “If our celebration of Lent is to be concrete, the first step is to desire to open our eyes to reality.” For the pope, this reality is centred on the quest to mitigate the suffering and various forms of social and economic oppression that are ubiquitous today, much of which, he said, is caused by “a deficit of hope.”

Pope Francis points out: “This ‘deficit of hope’ is not unlike the nostalgia for slavery that paralyzed Israel in the desert and prevented it from moving forward. An exodus can be interrupted: How else can we explain the fact that humanity has arrived at the threshold of universal fraternity and at levels of scientific, technical, cultural, and juridical development capable of guaranteeing dignity to all, yet gropes about in the darkness of inequality and conflict?”

“Our Lenten journey will be concrete if… we realize that even today we remain under the rule of Pharaoh. A rule that makes us weary and indifferent. A model of growth that divides and robs us of a future.”

“Let us ask ourselves: Do we hear that cry? Does it trouble us? Does it move us? All too many things keep us apart from each other, denying the fraternity that, from the beginning, binds us to one another.”

Pope Francis said: “It is time to act, and in Lent, to act also means to pause. To pause in prayer, in order to receive the word of God, to pause like the Samaritan in the presence of a wounded brother or sister. Love of God and love of neighbour are one love.”

But it is important to a contemplative dimension: “Slow down, then, and pause! The contemplative dimension of life that Lent helps us to rediscover will release new energies. In the presence of God, we become brothers and sisters, more sensitive to one another: in place of threats and enemies, we discover companions and fellow travellers. This is God’s dream, the promised land to which we journey once we have left our slavery behind.”

The Pope recalled the journey of the church in the last years: “The Church’s synodal form, which in these years we are rediscovering and cultivating, suggests that Lent is also a time of communitarian decisions, of decisions, small and large, that are counter current. Decisions capable of altering the daily lives of individuals and entire neighbourhoods, such as the ways we acquire goods, care for creation, and strive to include those who go unseen or are looked down upon. I invite every Christian community to do just this: to offer its members moments set aside to rethink their lifestyles, times to examine their presence in society and the contribution they make to its betterment.”

Pope Francis concluded his Lenten message on a hopeful note: “To the extent that this Lent becomes a time of conversion, an anxious humanity will notice a burst of creativity, a flash of new hope.”
(The Vatican published posters to promote the pope’s 2024 Lenten message, “Through the desert, God leads us to freedom.”. Credit: Vatican Media)

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