Rome (Italy). On 1 February 2024, at the Holy See Press Office, the Press Conference for the presentation of the Holy Father’s Message for Lent 2024 – which will begin on 14 February, Ash Wednesday – entitled:

“Through the desert God leads us to freedom”

The verse of Exodus, “I am the Lord, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the servile condition” (Ex 20:2), leads Pope Francis’ reflection on the theme of freedom and the pedagogy of God, who educates His people, yesterday as today, through the path of abandonment of oppressive ties:

“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. Like a bridegroom, the Lord draws us once more to himself, whispering words of love to our hearts”.

The first step that he indicates If our celebration of Lent is to be concrete, is to desire to open our eyes to reality:

“Today too, the cry of so many of our oppressed brothers and sisters rises to heaven. 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”.

The relevance of these questions leads one to confess that one is still under the rule of the Pharaoh because, he observes, “True, Baptism has begun our process of liberation, yet there remains in us an inexplicable longing for slavery… Pharaoh stifles dreams, blocks the view of heaven, makes it appear that this world, in which human dignity is trampled upon and authentic bonds are denied, can never change He put everything in bondage to himself. Let us ask: Do I want a new world? Am I ready to leave behind my compromises with the old?” .

Speaking of dominion and dreams, the Holy Father does not renounce to mention the current challenges, the dominion over the environment, the inequalities and the conflicts that prevent fraternity. Card. Michael Czerny S.J. Prefect of the Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development, in the Press Conference, comments as follows: “Here we find the main themes of the encyclicals Laudato si’ and Fratelli tutti. Here we see the pastoral paradigms of integral ecology, fraternity, and social friendship redesigning evangelization, not because the Gospel changes, but because the Good News must be received in this broken world, in the midst of a ‘third world war in pieces’. Every Christian community can thus receive the gift of Lent, accompanying all its members to the heart of the challenges of our time”.

Fortunately, the Pope encourages, “God has not tired of us”, and this observation must lead to welcoming Lent as a time of conversion, a time of freedom, which involves a struggle against the seduction “to be all-powerful, to be looked up to by all, to domineer over others”.

As is known, Lent is not only a time of prayer, but also of charity and action. Pope Francis interprets this exercise using a paradox: “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.” Prayer, almsgiving, and fasting are thus transformed inro “a single movement of openness and self-emptying, in which we cast out the idols that weigh us down, the attachments that imprison us.”.

A very concrete invitation is then addressed to the Communities involved in the synodal journey:

“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 countercurrent. Decisions capable of altering the daily lives of individuals and entire neighborhoods, 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.”.

“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.”  Like the youth of the WYD 2023 in Lisbon, the Pope urges to take risks, “Yet let us find the courage to see our world, not as being in its death throes but in a process of giving birth, not at the end but at the beginning of a great new chapter of history. We need courage to think like this”.

  ‘It is the courage of conversion, of leaving slavery. Faith and charity take hope, this small child, by the hand. They teach her to walk, and at the same time, she leads them forward”.

The Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development accompanies the passages of the Lenten Message of the Holy Father by publishing, every week, a drawing by the Roman artist Mauro Pallotta, aka “Maupal”, who explains the first illustration:

“I depicted the desert using the image of Pope Francis pushing a wheelbarrow that contains a ‘lot’ of faith. It is a desert of nails representing old and new idols, all our prisons. These sharp obstacles could puncture the wheel of the wheelbarrow but, following Pope Francis, who opens the path with the power of faith, they disappear: the road becomes passable for everyone and the goal is reachable”.

Message Lent 2024



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