CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 September 2018

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Bottom line is mercy pope says in Lenten message

VATICAN (SE): We live in a time when the tempting apple offered to Adam and Eve appears to be rosier and juicier than ever.

Pope Francis says in his message for Lent, I desire mercy and not sacrifice: The works of mercy on the road of the Jubilee, that a blindness resulting from a proud illusion of omnipotence reflects the same temptation the devil proposed in the Garden of Eden, “You shall be like God.”

This temptation the pope calls the root of all sin, describing it as an illusion with both political and social dimensions, which were manifest in the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century and are highly visible in today’s ideological and techno-scientific monopolies, which leave God on the roadside as an irrelevant extra and recreate people as raw material for exploitation—commodities at best.

Pope Francis says that this is most manifest in the sinful structures that support the idolatry of money and breed a despicable despise for the poor. Yet ironically, he notes that it is the poor whose cry becomes the most powerful call for conversion.

He cites the biblical story of Lazarus at the gate of the rich man, Dives, who, as the world tends to do today, closed his door on the face of the poor beggar at his feet. The pope says that Lazarus represents the concrete personification of the invitation to conversion that God offers us all, but we do not see.

However, Pope Francis says that the world is not without hope, as it is in the practice of mercy that conversion occurs; through the very act of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and visiting those in prison, as it is in this outreach that sinfulness is clearly revealed.

However, he stresses that the corporal and the spiritual must never be separated, as it is in touching the flesh of the crucified that sinners learn to see the evil of their ways and understand that they too are poor and in need.

Pointedly, Pope Francis says, “By taking this path, the proud, the powerful and the wealthy spoken of in the Magnificat can also be embraced and undeservedly loved by the crucified Lord, who died and rose for them.”

He says that it is in this way, “The real poor are revealed as those who refuse to see themselves as such. They consider themselves rich, but they are actually the poorest of the poor. This is because they are slaves to sin, which leads them to use wealth and power not for the service of God and others, but to stifle within their hearts the profound sense that they too are only poor beggars.”

In this context, the pope calls Lent a favourable time to move out of this existential alienation from both God and humankind, simply by listening to the word of God and practicing the true art of being merciful towards others.

The pope calls the act of being merciful God’s way of inviting the sinner to repentance; to convert and believe. It is in this sense that mercy can transform hearts.

“In an ever new miracle, divine mercy shines forth in our lives, inspiring each of us to love our neighbour and devote ourselves to what the Church’s tradition calls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy,” Pope Francis writes.

In this way, faith truly does find expression in action.

Forever concrete in his messages to the world, Pope Francis is calling for a period of intensive listening by encouraging an initiative he calls 24 Hours for the Lord.

The diocese of Hong Kong will respond to his call on March 4 and 5 by offering the opportunity of the sacrament of reconciliation round-the-clock at three churches, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Central, St. Teresa’s in Kowloon Tong and the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Tai Po, the New Territories.

The diocese describes it as a way of rediscovering a path back to the Lord, living a moment of intense prayer and finding meaning in life.

In short, Pope Francis’ message for this Lent is, “The mercy of God is a proclamation made to the world, a proclamation that each Christian is called to experience firsthand.”

 

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