Pope Francis’ Lent advice: Put down phone, pick up Bible

Pope Francis waves to pilgrims on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020 in St. Peter's Square. (Photo by Daniel Ibanez - Catholic News Agency)

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA] – Pope Francis is urging Catholics to use the season of Lent to spend less time immersed in the chatter and noise of the world through television and their phones, and to spend more time in silence and in conversation with God.

“Lent is the right time to make room for the Word of God. It is the time to turn off the television and open the Bible. It is the time to disconnect from your cell phone and connect to the Gospel,” the pope said in his weekly audience on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 26.

This penitential period, he continued, is also the time to work on giving up gossip, rumors, and useless chatter, focusing instead on giving yourself to the Lord, who spent 40 days in the desert in fasting and prayer.

During Lent, Jesus is “calling us into the desert,” Francis explained. Jesus “invites us to listen to what matters. To the devil who tempted him, he replied: ‘Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

“Like bread, more than bread we need the Word of God, we need to speak with God: we need to pray,” he urged.

“Despite the sometimes tragic presence of evil in our lives, and in the life of the Church and the world, this opportunity to change our course expresses God’s unwavering will not to interrupt his dialogue of salvation with us.” –  Message of Holy Father for Lent 2020 – English

<Malgré la présence, parfois dramatique, du mal dans nos vies ainsi que dans la vie de l’Église et du monde, cet espace offert pour un changement de cap exprime la volonté tenace de Dieu de ne pas interrompre le dialogue du salut avec nous.> Message du Pape pour le Carême 2020 – French

In his weekly general audience Feb. 26, Pope Francis reflected on the “desert” of Lent and how countercultural it is to spend time in silence, away from the noisiness of modern life.

“We live in an environment polluted by too much verbal violence, by many offensive and harmful words, which the internet amplifies,” he explained.

“We are inundated with empty words, with advertisements, with subtle messages. We have become used to hearing everything about everyone and we risk slipping into a worldliness that atrophies our hearts.”

In this noise, “we struggle to distinguish the voice of the Lord who speaks to us, the voice of conscience, of good,” the pope said.

According to Francis, the ‘desert’ of Lent, where we can be in conversation with the Lord, becomes a life-giving place.

He acknowledged that it is not easy to make space for silence in one’s heart, but invited everyone to imagine themselves in the desert, surrounded by a great silence, with “no noises, apart from the wind and our breath.”

“It is the absence of words to make room for another Word, the Word of God,” he said.

Pointing again to the image of the desert, Pope Francis said it recalls what is essential, and how often in life people become surrounded by many useless things.

“We chase a thousand things that seem necessary and in reality are not. How good it would be for us to get rid of so many superfluous realities, to rediscover what matters, to find the faces of those around us!” he urged.

“Prayer, fasting, works of mercy: here is the road into the Lenten desert.”

The solitude of the desert also reminds us of the people around us who are lonely and abandoned, he said, saying the “path in the Lenten desert is a path of charity towards the weaker.”

He also said fasting is a way of seeking a simpler life by giving up superfluous, vain things. But, he warned, it is not about “slimming down.”

“In the desert one finds intimacy with God, the love of the Lord,” he stated. “The road that leads us from death to life opens up in the desert. We enter the desert with Jesus, we will go out savoring Easter…”

“Have courage.”

Personal conversion needed to confront Satan’s lies, pope says in Lent message 

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency

{Vatican City – CNA] – There is an urgent need for personal conversion, without which the temptations of Satan, and the presence of evil, create a “hell here on earth,” Pope Francis said Monday in his 2020 Lenten message.

“Christian joy flows from listening to, and accepting, the Good News of the death and resurrection of Jesus,” he said. “Whoever believes this message rejects the lie that our life is ours to do with as we will.”

Rather, the pope said, life is born of the love of God our Father.

“If we listen instead to the tempting voice of the ‘father of lies,’ we risk sinking into the abyss of absurdity, and experiencing hell here on earth, as all too many tragic events in the personal and collective human experience sadly bear witness,” he stated.

Pope Francis’ Lenten message was published Feb. 24. It was signed Oct. 7, 2019, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

With the season of Lent, the Lord gives Catholics again a time of preparation for Jesus’ death and resurrection, “the cornerstone of our personal and communal Christian life,” he said, urging Catholics to not take this time of conversion for granted.

“This new opportunity ought to awaken in us a sense of gratitude and stir us from our sloth,” he argued. “Despite the sometimes tragic presence of evil in our lives, and in the life of the Church and the world, this opportunity to change our course expresses God’s unwavering will not to interrupt his dialogue of salvation with us.”

In his message for Lent 2020, which began Feb. 26, Francis spoke about the “urgency of conversion,” and quoted his 2019 apostolic exhortation Christus Vivit.

“Keep your eyes fixed on the outstretched arms of Christ crucified, let yourself be saved over and over again. And when you go to confess your sins, believe firmly in his mercy which frees you of your guilt.  Contemplate his blood poured out with such great love, and let yourself be cleansed by it. In this way, you can be reborn ever anew.”

During Lent, a penitential period preceding the Church’s celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ, Catholics are called to a renewed practice of almsgiving, fasting, and prayer.

Pope Francis recalled that prayer is “more than a duty,” but that it is “an expression of our need to respond to God’s love which always precedes and sustains us.”

Christians pray with the knowledge they are unworthy, but still loved by God, he said.

Francis also spoke about the paschal mystery and putting it at the center of one’s life, which he said means to have compassion for Christ crucified as represented in “the many innocent victims of wars, in attacks on life, from that of the unborn to that of the elderly, and various forms of violence.”

Christ’s wounds are also represented in “environmental disasters, the unequal distribution of the earth’s goods, human trafficking in all its forms, and the unbridled thirst for profit, which is a form of idolatry,” he stated.

About almsgiving, the pope said sharing one’s worldly goods helps to make the world a better place.

“Charitable giving makes us more human, whereas hoarding risks making us less human, imprisoned by our own selfishness,” he said.

Francis said apart from giving alms, Christians must also consider the structure of economic life, which is why he has convened in March a meeting with young men and women from around the world to bring about “a more just and inclusive economy.”

“The Economy of Francesco,” which will be attended by around 2,000 economists and entrepreneurs under the age of 35, will be held in Assisi March 26-28.

Pope Francis pointed to the crucified Jesus, who was sinless yet took on “the weight of our sins.”

“May we not let this time of grace pass in vain, in the foolish illusion that we can control the times and means of our conversion to him,” he urged.

“I ask Mary Most Holy to pray that our Lenten celebration will open our hearts to hear God’s call to be reconciled to himself, to fix our gaze on the paschal mystery, and to be converted to an open and sincere dialogue with him.”

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