March 11, 2022

The Face of Mercy / Daniel Conway

Lenten season is a favorable time for renewal

(En Espanol)

“Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up. So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all” (Gal 6:9–10).

In his 2022 Lenten message, Pope Francis reminds us that the season of Lent is a time for personal and communal renewal. It is an exercise in the virtues of patience and perseverance that prepares us for the joy of Easter. Quoting St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, the Holy Father speaks of Lent as an opportune moment (kairos) for “sowing goodness in view of a future harvest.”

The pope tells us that “Lent invites us to conversion, to a change in mindset, so that life’s truth and beauty may be found not so much in possessing as in giving, not so much in accumulating as in sowing and sharing goodness.” This is why we pray, fast and give alms during Lent—to renew our minds and hearts so that we can rediscover the meaning of life in the sowing and sharing of goodness.

“Let us never grow tired of doing good,” St. Paul says in his Letter to the Galatians, “for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up. So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all” (Gal 6:9-10).

During Lent, fasting and abstinence are important because they are forms of spiritual discipline that prepare us for the foretaste of joy that we will experience at Easter when we celebrate Christ’s resurrection and his decisive victory over sin and death.  At the same time, doing good (active charity toward our neighbors) is also central to our observance of Lent.

Lent this year is taking place during a special time of preparation for the 2023 meeting of the world Synod of Bishops at the Vatican whose theme is synodality itself: communion, participation and mission. Pope Francis has asked Catholics throughout the universal Church in all regions of the world to commit to a threefold process of 1) listening to God’s word and to one another; 2) encountering Jesus in prayer, reception of the sacraments, and service to others, especially those who are most in need of our help; and 3) discerning God’s will for our Church. Lent is indeed an opportune time to practice synodality, to listen prayerfully, to encounter Jesus and to discern God’s will—if only we can seize the moment and allow the Holy Spirit to guide and empower us with its sevenfold gifts.

“Let us not grow tired of doing good” (Gal 6:9), St. Paul admonishes us. We are prone to weariness and discouragement, and we run the risk of losing hope in the presence and power of God.

As Pope Francis says, “Bitter disappointment at shattered dreams, deep concern for the challenges ahead, and discouragement at the poverty of our resources, can make us tempted to seek refuge in self-centeredness and indifference to the suffering of others.” Lent can be a graced moment for us if we use this time to “place our faith and hope in the Lord,” and to ask for forgiveness regularly in the sacrament of penance.

In our observance of Lent this year, the pope urges us to avoid superficiality and seek authentic encounters with our Lord. He urges us not to be passive in our charity but to “be generous in doing good to others,” and to “seek out—and not to avoid” those who are most in need of our help.

“Let us put into practice our call to do good to all,” the Holy Father says, “and take time to love the poor and needy, those abandoned and rejected, those discriminated against and marginalized.”

Through patience and perseverance, we can overcome our reluctance and indifference and become zealous in our commitment to sowing and sharing goodness. With the guidance and the support of the Holy Spirit, and with the help of the intercessory prayers of Mary and all the saints, we can make this Lent a blessed time and a “foretaste of joy.”

“May the Virgin Mary, who bore the Savior in her womb and pondered all these things in her heart [Lk 2:19], obtain for us the gift of patience,” Pope Francis prays. And may the gifts of the Holy Spirit give us the courage, wisdom and fortitude we require to persevere in avoiding evil and doing good—during this Lenten season and always.
 

(Daniel Conway is a member of The Criterion’s editorial committee.)

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