Lent is a preparation to receive the most incredible act of love the world has ever seen.
The Son of God came to this earth as a man—Jesus Christ. He proclaimed salvation. He healed the sick, and freed sinners from Satan. He formed a Church. And then, at Passover, nearly 2,000 years ago, he allowed himself to be arrested, beaten, led to a cross, and killed.
Christ did nothing to merit death. He went to the cross in place of us. He went to the cross to expiate our sins. He went to the cross to set us free from every evil that possesses us. Christ died, and rose again, in order to make it possible for each one of us to enter into the life of God, for all eternity.
Christ died for each one of us. He died to give us life. There is no greater act of love that can be imagined.
Lent is the time in which we remember the profound love of Jesus Christ. We remember that he cares for each one of us. We remember that God is not indifferent to the meaning of our lives, or to our suffering, or to our eternal destiny.
This Lent, Pope Francis says that we are called to love as God loves. His Lenten message of 2015 is that we cannot be indifferent to the needs and sufferings of the world. Instead, we need to confront the “globalization of indifference,” by asking the Lord to form our hearts like Jesus Christ’s. “During this Lent,” Pope Francis says “let us all ask the Lord: ‘Fac cor nostrum secundum cor tuum’: Make our hearts like yours.”
The Holy Father suggests that we spend this Lent reflecting on three verses of Sacred Scripture. I pray that every Catholic in the Diocese of Lincoln will take them to prayer.
“If one member suffers, all suffer together.”
(1 Cor 12:26)
When we are baptized, we join the Body of Christ. We become united to every member of Christ’s body, in every state in life, and every part of the world. We are united to women considering abortion. We are united to Christians suffering martyrdom and persecution. We are united to couples struggling in marriage, to priests struggling in their vocations, to religious searching for joy.
Christ unites us. And so the sufferings of each member of the Body of Christ are our sufferings. And in Christ, we can lift up those who are suffering. This Lent, we can remember those who are suffering in our prayers. We can support them with our resources.
But most especially, this Lent, we can be present to those suffering in our own communities, and in our own families. To love the members of the Body of Christ is to choose to be with them—to visit the sick, or the elderly, or the poor, and to be present to them.
We are a part of the Body of Christ, the Church, and Christ works through us. This Lent, Christ can work through us to heal those who suffer. We are called to solidarity, to support, and to love our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.
“Where is your brother?”
In his Lenten message, Pope Francis says, “how greatly I desire that all those places where the Church is present, especially our parishes and our communities, may become islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference!”
If we’re honest, we know that it is easy to share the Christian life with those who think like we do, and who live like we do. But, it is much harder to share solidarity, friendship, and love with those who do not already know the Lord. The call of mercy is to go beyond those with whom we share the Christian life—to come out of ourselves, to care for those who do not know Jesus Christ.
We live in a culture which is becoming ever more post-Christian. Fewer of our neighbors have been raised to know what is true, good, or beautiful. If we have been loved by Christ, we must share that love with those who still hunger for it. “Every Christian community,” Pope Francis says, “is called to go out of itself and to be engaged in the life of the greater society of which it is a part… in each of our neighbors, then, we must see a brother or sister for whom Christ died and rose again. What we ourselves have received, we have received for them as well. Similarly, all that our brothers and sisters possess is a gift for the Church and for all humanity.”
“Make your hearts firm!”
It is easy to become indifferent to what happens outside of our own door. Each of us knows people who have real and significant needs that we cannot resolve. And the needs of the world—the poor, the lost, the suffering—can seem too profound for us to make a difference. The magnitude of evil in the world can make us discouraged, and make us indifferent to trying.
Pope Francis suggests three things to overcome the indifference of discouragement. The first is prayer—regular use of the sacrament of confession, of Holy Mass, of Adoration, and of intercession for one another. The second is by participating in those acts of charity undertaken by our parishes and diocese. The third is the reminder that “the suffering of others is a call to conversion.” When we see the profound suffering of others, we remember that we depend upon God’s Providence for every good thing we do.
The Church’s mission, says Pope Francis, “is to bear patient witness to the One who desires to draw all creation and every man and woman to the Father. Her mission is to bring to all a love which cannot remain silent. The Church follows Jesus Christ along the paths that lead to every man and woman, to the very ends of the earth.”
This Lent, may each of us pray that we will serve the mission of the Church. May our hearts become like Christ’s. May we love with boundless and transformative charity.
“Fac cor nostrum secundum cor tuum,” O Lord. Make our hearts, this Lent, like yours.