Pope’s Lenten message: Follow Jesus seeking out poor, sinners Print
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Written by Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service   
Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014 -- 12:00 AM
Msgr. James Bartylla, vicar general of the Diocese of Madison, distributes ashes on Ash Wednesday in the chapel of the Bishop O’Connor Center, Madison. Ash Wednesday is observed on March 5 this year. (Catholic Herald file photo)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Courageously follow Jesus in seeking out the poor and sinners and in making difficult sacrifices to help and heal others, Pope Francis said in his message for Lent, which begins March 5.

Christians are called to confront the material, spiritual, and moral destitution of “our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own, and to take practical steps to alleviate it,” the pope said in his Lenten message.

Saving the world will not come about “with the right kind of human resources” and token alms, but only “through the poverty of Christ,” who emptied himself of the worldly and made the world rich with God’s love and mercy, Pope Francis said.

Focus on Christ’s poverty

The pope’s message focused on the theme of Christ’s poverty, with the title: “He became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich,” from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians.

Pope Francis said he chose the passage to explore what St. Paul’s references to poverty and charity mean for Christians today.

There are many forms of poverty, he said, including the material destitution that disfigures the face of humanity and the moral destitution of being a slave to vice and sin.

• Catholics who have celebrated their 14th birthday are to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, all Fridays in Lent, and Good Friday.
• In addition to abstaining from meat, Catholics who have celebrated their 18th birthday, until they celebrate their 59th birthday, are to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Spiritual destitution

But “there is only one real kind of poverty: not living as children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ,” he said.

People experiencing the spiritual destitution of believing they don’t need God and can make it on their own “are headed for a fall,” the pope wrote. “God alone can truly save and free us.

“The Gospel is the real antidote to spiritual destitution,” he said, and the greatest treasure of all is “boundless confidence in God” and the desire to do his will.

Imitating Christ

Spreading the joy of the Gospel, consoling broken hearts, and offering real hope means “following and imitating Jesus, who sought out the poor and sinners,” and opening up “new paths of evangelization and human promotion” with courage, he said.

Imitating Christ also includes confronting the abuses, discrimination, and violations against human dignity, which often cause the material poverty suffered by those who lack the basic rights to food, water, work, development, and “equal access to education and healthcare,” Pope Francis said.

“By loving and serving the poor, we love and serve Christ,” he said, but such service entails conversion. Our consciences “need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity, and sharing,” he said.

Don’t forget that real sacrifice and poverty have a “dimension of penance” and pain, he said. “I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.”

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