Rome (Italy). Lent is not just a ‘time’, consisting of forty days that separate us from the Easter celebrations, but an itinerary for all Christians, with a goal and indications for arriving in Jerusalem with Jesus and “not being the same as before”. Pope Francis, in his Message for Lent 2021, on the theme “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem…” (Mt 20:18). Lent: a time for renewing Faith, Hope, and Love proposes a concrete path, based on the theological virtues combined with the conditions of Christian conversion.
FAITH, calls us to welcome the Truth and to become its witnesses before God and before our brothers and sisters. Welcoming the Truth, which is Christ Himself, means allowing God to take up residence with us, making room for Him through fasting: “Fasting involves being freed from all that weighs us down – like consumerism or an excess of information, whether true or false – in order to open the doors of our hearts to the One who comes to us, poor in all things, yet ‘full of grace and truth’ (Jn 1:14)”.
One of the most used images to represent Lent is the desert, where there is no water and thirst is felt. HOPE is the ‘living water’ that allows you to continue the journey. Speaking of hope is not easy “in the current context of concern in which we live”, when the word hope can resonate as a provocation. However, the reference to the image of the Samaritan woman (Jn 4:10) reminds us that there is a ‘Living water’ that quenches thirst more than material water. A hope that becomes tangible in the “patience of God, who continues to take care of his Creation” and in His forgiveness , received through the Sacrament, which leads us to offer it in turn through words and gestures of fraternity.
The Holy Father invites us, especially during Lent, to kindness, to have greater attention to “speaking words of comfort, strength, consolation, and encouragement and not words that demean, sadden, anger or show scorn” (FT 223).
Hope is not a voluntary act, but a gift, which is given to us as inspiration and interior light from the encounter with “the Father of tender love”, in recollection and silent prayer and “illuminating the challenges and choices we face in our mission”.
Without love, faith would only be an intimate relationship with God and hope a yearning for a solitary future. The highest expression of faith and hope is LOVE, lived in the footsteps of Christ, in attention and compassion towards each one, “Love is a leap of the heart; it brings us out of ourselves and creates bonds of sharing and communion”.
Pope Francis makes the need for love even more explicit in this Lent still severely marked by the pandemic: “To experience Lent with love means caring for those who suffer or feel abandoned and fearful because of the Covid-19 pandemic.” In the Angelus of February 14, 2021, now at the gates of Lent, he added: “It will be a favorable time of giving a meaning of faith and hope to the crisis that we are living”.
The invitation to spread hope is also expressed by the Mother General of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, Sister Yvonne Reungoat, and by the sisters of the Council, who in Choral Circular 1005 wish all a good Lenten journey:
“May it be an fruitful Lenten journey for everyone, accompanied by the Lord Jesus, who continues to give His life for the FMA and for the world. May Mary Help of Christians sustain us in the commitment to spread hope, particularly among young people and the people whom the Lord places on our path”.