Category Archives: National News

Pope Francis Celebrated Mass and Canonization at Fatima Shrine

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At 10:00 a.m. on May 13, the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Fátima, on the plaza of the Shrine, the Holy Father Francis celebrated Holy Mass on the occasion of the centenary of the apparitions, during which the Blesseds Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto were canonized. The Eucharistic Celebration was attended by the Presidents of the Republic of Portugal, of Paraguay and of São Tomé e Príncipe, whom the pope greeted at the end of the rite.

During the Mass, after the rite of canonization and the proclamation of the Gospel, the Holy Father pronounced the following homily:

“[There] appeared in heaven a woman clothed with the sun.” So the seer of Patmos tells us in the Book of Revelation (12:1), adding that she was about to give birth to a son. Then, in the Gospel, we hear Jesus say to his disciple, “Here is your mother” (Jn 19:27). We have a Mother! “So beautiful a Lady,” as the seers of Fatima said to one another as they returned home on that blessed day of May 13, a hundred years ago. That evening, Jacinta could not restrain herself and told the secret to her mother: “Today I saw Our Lady.” They had seen the Mother of Heaven. Many others sought to share that vision, but… they did not see her. The Virgin Mother did not come here so that we could see her. We will have all eternity for that, provided, of course, that we go to heaven.

Our Lady foretold, and warned us about, a way of life that is godless and indeed profanes God in His creatures. Such a life – frequently proposed and imposed – risks leading to hell. Mary came to remind us that God’s light dwells within us and protects us, for, as we heard in the first reading, “the child [of the woman] was snatched away and taken to God” (Rev 12:5). In Lucia’s account, the three chosen children found themselves surrounded by God’s light as it radiated from Our Lady. She enveloped them in the mantle of Light that God had given her. According to the belief and experience of many pilgrims, if not of all, Fatima is more than anything this mantle of Light that protects us, here as in almost no other place on earth. We need but take refuge under the protection of the Virgin Mary and to ask her, as the Salve Regina teaches: “show unto us… Jesus.”

Dear pilgrims, we have a Mother. We have a Mother! Clinging to her like children, we live in the hope that rests on Jesus. As we heard in the second reading, “those who receive the abundance of the grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:17). When Jesus ascended to heaven, He brought to the Heavenly Father our humanity, which He assumed in the womb of the Virgin Mary and will never forsake. Like an anchor, let us fix our hope on that humanity, seated in heaven at the right hand of the Father. May this hope guide our lives! It is a hope that sustains us always, to our dying breath.

Confirmed in this hope, we have gathered here to give thanks for the countless graces bestowed over these past hundred years. All of them passed beneath the mantle of light that Our Lady has spread over the four corners of the earth, beginning with this land of Portugal, so rich in hope. We can take as our examples Saint Francisco and Saint Jacinta, whom the Virgin Mary introduced into the immense ocean of God’s light and taught to adore Him. That was the source of their strength in overcoming opposition and suffering. God’s presence became constant in their lives, as is evident from their insistent prayers for sinners and their desire to remain ever near “the hidden Jesus” in the tabernacle.

In her Memoirs, Sister Lucia quotes Jacinta who had just been granted a vision: “Do you not see all those streets, all those paths and fields full of people crying out for food, yet have nothing to eat? And the Holy Father in a church, praying before the Immaculate Heart of Mary? And all those people praying with him?” Thank you, brothers and sisters, for being here with me! I could not fail to come here to venerate the Virgin Mary and to entrust to her all her sons and daughters. Under her mantle they are not lost; from her embrace will come the hope and the peace that they require, and that I implore for all my brothers and sisters in baptism and in our human family, especially the sick and the disabled, prisoners and the unemployed, the poor and the abandoned. Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray to God with the hope that others will hear us; and let us speak to others with the certainty that God will help us.

Indeed, God created us to be a source of hope for others, a true and attainable hope, in accordance with each person’s state of life. In “asking” and “demanding” of each of us the fulfilment of the duties of our proper state (Letters of Sister Lucia, 28 February 1943), God effects a general mobilization against the indifference that chills the heart and worsens our myopia. We do not want to be a stillborn hope! Life can survive only because of the generosity of other lives. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24). The Lord, Who always goes before us, said this and did this. Whenever we experience the cross, he has already experienced it before us. We do not mount the cross to find Jesus. Instead it was he who, in his self-abasement, descended even to the cross, in order to find us, to dispel the darkness of evil within us, and to bring us back to the light.

With Mary’s protection, may we be for our world sentinels of the dawn, contemplating the true face of Jesus the Savior, resplendent at Easter. Thus may we rediscover the young and beautiful face of the Church, which shines forth when she is missionary, welcoming, free, faithful, poor in means and rich in love. •

From the Pope: The Mother of Hope

from Vatican Information Services

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

In our catechesis on Christian hope, today we look to Mary, Mother of hope. Mary went through more than one dark night on her journey as a mother. From her earliest appearance in the history of the Gospels, she stands out as if she were a character in a drama. It was not easy to answer “yes” to the angel’s invitation: yet she, a woman still in the flower of youth, answered with courage, despite knowing nothing about the fate that awaited her. Mary at that moment appears to us like one of the many mothers of our world, brave to the extreme when it comes to welcoming in her womb the story of a new person to be born.
That “yes” is the first step in a long list of acts of obedience – a long list of acts of obedience! – who will accompany her mother’s itinerary. So Mary appears in the gospels as a silent woman who often does not understand all that is happening around her, but ponders every word and every event in her heart.

In this arrangement there is a beautiful outline of Mary’s psychology: she is not a woman who is discouraged by the uncertainties of life, especially when nothing seems to go in the right direction. Nor is she a woman who protests with violence, who inveighs against the destiny in life that often reveals a hostile face. Instead, she is a woman who listens: do not forget that there is always a great relationship between hope and listening, and Mary is a woman who listens. Mary welcomes existence just as it is given to us, with its happy days, but also with its tragedies we would never have wished to encounter – up to the supreme night of Mary, when her Son is nailed to the wood of the cross.

Until that day, Mary had almost disappeared from the story of the gospels: the sacred writers leave implicit this slow eclipse of her presence, her remaining silent while faced with the mystery of a Son who obeys his Father. But Mary reappears precisely at that crucial moment, when a good number of his friends have fled out of fear. Mothers do not betray, and at that moment, at the foot of the cross, none of us can say what was the cruelest passion: that of an innocent man who dies on the scaffold of the cross, or the agony of a mother who witnesses the last moments of her son’s life. The gospels are laconic, and extremely discreet. They record in a simple verb the presence of the mother: she “stood” (John 19:25). She was standing. They say nothing of her reaction: whether or not she wept… nothing; not even a brushstroke to describe her grief: the imagination of poets and painters were to seize upon these details, giving us images that have entered the history of art and literature. But the gospels just say, she was “standing.” She was there, in the worst moment, in the cruelest moment and suffered with her son. “She stood.”

Mary “stood,” she was simply there. Here she is again, the young woman of Nazareth, now with her hair greyed by the passing of the years, still coming to grips with a God who must only be embraced, and with a life that has reached the threshold of the deepest darkness. Mary “stood” in the deepest darkness, but she “stood,” she stayed. She did not go away. Mary is there, faithfully present, every time that there needs to be a lighted candle in a place of mist and fog. Not even she knew the destiny of resurrection that her Son was at that instant opening up for all humanity: she is there out of fidelity to God’s plan, to which she proclaimed herself a servant in the first day of her vocation, but also due to her instinct as a mother who simply suffers, every time that there is a son who goes through a passion. The sufferings of mothers: we have all known strong women, who have faced so many sufferings for their children!

We find her again in the first day of the Church, she, mother of hope, in the midst of that community of disciples, so fragile: one had renounced, many had fled and all had been afraid (cf. Acts 1:14). But she was simply there, in the most normal of ways, as if it were something entirely natural: in the first Church enveloped in the light of the resurrection, but also in the tremors of the first steps that she needed to take in the world.

This is why we all love her as a mother. We are not orphans: we have a mother in heaven, Who is the holy mother of God. Because she teaches us the virtue of waiting, even when everything seems to be without meaning; she is always trustful in the mystery of God, even when He seems to be eclipsed by the evil in the world. In moments of difficulty, may Mary, the mother who Jesus gave to all of us, always be able to sustain our steps, may she always be able to say to our hearts, “Arise! Look ahead, look to the horizon,” because she is the mother of hope. Thank you.

U.S. Bishops Conference Calls for Renewed Peace Efforts in Syria

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U.S. Bishops Conference Calls for Renewed Peace Efforts in Syria
Bishops Echo Call of Pope Francis to Attain Peace in Syria “Through Dialogue and Reconciliation”
from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

WASHINGTON— Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Bishop Oscar Cantú, chair of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, have issued a joint statement calling for renewed peace efforts in Syria.

The full statement is as follows:

“Three days ago, our Conference of Bishops decried the chemical attack in Syria as one that ‘shocks the soul. The use of internationally banned indiscriminate weapons is morally reprehensible. At the same time, our Conference affirmed the call of Pope Francis to attain peace in Syria ‘through dialogue and reconciliation.

The longstanding position of our Conference of Bishops is that the Syrian people urgently need a political solution. We ask the United States to work tirelessly with other governments to obtain a ceasefire, initiate serious negotiations, provide impartial humanitarian assistance, and encourage efforts to build an inclusive society in Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens, including Christians and other minorities.

We once again make our own the earlier call of our Holy Father, Pope Francis: ‘I exhort the international community to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace in that country without further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people. May no effort be spared in guaranteeing humanitarian assistance to those wounded by this terrible conflict, in particular those forced to flee and the many refugees in nearby countries.

Join us as we pray for the intercession of Our Lady Queen of Peace that the work of humanitarian assistance and peacebuilding will find strength in the merciful love of her Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

From the Pope: Celebration of Palm Sunday

from Vatican Information Services

Today’s celebration can be said to be bittersweet. It is joyful and sorrowful at the same time. We celebrate the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem to the cries of his disciples who acclaim him as king. Yet we also solemnly proclaim the Gospel account of his Passion. In this poignant contrast, our hearts experience, in some small measure, what Jesus himself must have felt in his own heart that day, as he rejoiced with his friends and wept over Jerusalem.

For 32 years now, the joyful aspect of this Sunday has been enriched by the enthusiasm of young people, thanks to the celebration of World Youth Day. This year, it is being celebrated at the diocesan level, but here in Saint Peter’s Square it will be marked by the deeply moving and evocative moment when the WYD cross is passed from the young people of Kraków to those of Panama.

The Gospel we heard before the procession (cf. Mt 21:1-11) describes Jesus as he comes down from the Mount of Olives on the back of a colt that had never been ridden. It recounts the enthusiasm of the disciples who acclaim the Master with cries of joy, and we can picture in our minds the excitement of the children and young people of the city who joined in the excitement. Jesus himself sees in this joyful welcome an inexorable force willed by God. To the scandalized Pharisees he responds: “I tell you that if these were silent, the stones would shout out” (Lk 19:40).

Yet Jesus who, in fulfillment of the Scriptures, enters the holy city in this way is no misguided purveyor of illusions, no new age prophet, no imposter. Rather, he is clearly a Messiah who comes in the guise of a servant, the servant of God and of man, and goes to his passion. He is the great “patient,” who suffers all the pain of humanity.

So as we joyfully acclaim our King, let us also think of the sufferings that he will have to endure in this week. Let us think of the slanders and insults, the snares and betrayals, the abandonment to an unjust judgment, the blows, the lashes and the crown of thorns… And lastly, the way of the cross leading to the crucifixion.

He had spoken clearly of this to his disciples: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mt 16:24). Jesus never promised honor and success. The Gospels make this clear. He had always warned his friends that this was to be his path, and that the final victory would be achieved through the passion and the cross. All this holds true for us too. Let us ask for the grace to follow Jesus faithfully, not in words but in deeds. Let us also ask for the patience to carry our own cross, not to refuse it or set it aside, but rather, in looking to him, to take it up and to carry it daily.

This Jesus, who accepts the hosannas of the crowd, knows full well that they will soon be followed by the cry: “Crucify him!” He does not ask us to contemplate him only in pictures and photographs, or in the videos that circulate on the internet. No. He is present in our many brothers and sisters who today endure sufferings like his own: they suffer from slave labor, from family tragedies, from diseases… They suffer from wars and terrorism, from interests that are armed and ready to strike. Women and men who are cheated, violated in their dignity, discarded… Jesus is in them, in each of them, and, with marred features and broken voice, he asks to be looked in the eye, to be acknowledged, to be loved.

It is not some other Jesus, but the same Jesus who entered Jerusalem amid the waving of palm branches. It is the same Jesus who was nailed to the cross and died between two criminals. We have no other Lord but him: Jesus, the humble King of justice, mercy and peace.  •

U.S. Bishops Chairman on Migration Says New Executive Order Still Leaves Many Innocent Lives at Risk

from the USCCB

WASHINGTON—The Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin and Chair of the USCCB Committee on Migration, says that President Trump’s latest Executive Order still puts vulnerable populations around the world at risk. In a statement issued after the announcement of the day’s travel suspension, Bishop Vásquez says that while we seek to maintain our values and safety, we must also exercise compassion in assisting and continuing to welcome the stranger.

Bishop Vázquez’s full statement follows:

We remain deeply troubled by the human consequences of the revised executive order on refugee admissions and the travel ban. While we note the Administration’s efforts to modify the Executive Order in light of various legal concerns, the revised Order still leaves many innocent lives at risk.

The removal of one of the original seven predominantly Muslim countries temporarily barred from entering the United States is welcome, but we are disappointed that the revised order maintains the temporary shutdown of the U.S. refugee admissions program, continues the more than 60 percent reduction in the number of refugees who can be resettled into the United States this year, and still temporarily bars nationals from six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.

The U.S. Catholic Bishops have long recognized the importance of ensuring public safety and would welcome reasonable and necessary steps to accomplish that goal.

However, based on the knowledge that refugees are already subjected to the most vigorous vetting process of anyone who enters the United States, there is no merit to pausing the refugee resettlement program while considering further improvement to that vetting process.

The United States has long provided leadership in resettling refugees. We believe in assisting all those who are vulnerable and fleeing persecution, regardless of their religion, including Christians, Muslims and all others. We believe that by helping to resettle the most vulnerable, we are living out our Christian faith and “welcoming the stranger” as Jesus has challenged us to do.

Today, more than 65 million people around the world are forcibly displaced from their homes. Given this extraordinary level of suffering, the U.S. Catholic Bishops reaffirm their support for, and efforts to protect, all who flee persecution and violence, as just one part of the perennial and global work of the Church in defense of vulnerable persons. Resettling only 50,000 refugees a year, down from 110,000, does not reflect the need, our compassion, and our capacity as a nation. We have the ability to continue to assist the most vulnerable among us without sacrificing our values as Americans or the safety and security of our nation.

USCCB Chairmen Call on Congress to Consider Moral Criteria During Debates on Health Care Policy

WASHINGTON—As Congress prepares to discuss possible changes to the Affordable Care Act, the chairmen of four United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committees called on lawmakers to consider important moral criteria, especially pertaining to the most vulnerable among us, including the unborn and those experiencing deep poverty. The Bishops of the United States have consistently advocated for a health care system in which—as the late Cardinal Francis George used to say—everyone should be cared for and no one should be deliberately killed.

In a letter from March 8, 2017, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, urged Congress: to respect life by preventing the use of federal funds to facilitate abortion or purchase health care plans that provide abortion; to honor conscience rights; and to ensure access for all people to comprehensive, quality health care that is truly affordable.

The Bishops called on Congress to ensure coverage for those who now rely upon it after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and expressed concern about any structural changes to the social safety net that could impact access to health care for millions. Noting that the Catholic Church “provides health care, purchases health care and helps to pick up the pieces for those who fall through the cracks of the health care system when it fails,” the bishops urged “a new spirit of cooperation for the sake of the common good” on this vital concern during the debates ahead.

The full letter is available at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/health-care/upload/Joint-Letter-to-Congress-ACA-Principles-03-07-2017.pdf.  •

From the Pope: Rise, Victorious, Above Temptation

from Vatican Information Services

The temptations of Jesus during his 40 days in the desert were the theme of the Holy Father’s meditation before praying the Angelus with the faithful and pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square on March 5.

The episode, narrated by St. Matthew, takes place in a precise moment in Jesus’ life: immediately after his baptism in the river Jordan and before his public ministry, and he confronts his declared enemy, Satan, face to face.

“The devil appeals to his title of ‘Son of God’ to dissuade Jesus from fulfilling his mission … and suggests that he perform miraculous gestures – that he be a ‘magician’- such as transforming stones into bread to satisfy his hunger, and throwing himself from the walls of the temple to be saved by the angels. These two temptations are followed by a third: to adore him, the devil, to have dominion over the world.”

With these three temptations, Satan seeks to divert Jesus from the way of obedience and humiliation, “because he knows that on this way evil will be defeated – and lead him on the false shortcut of success and glory. However, the devil’s poisonous arrows are all deflected with the shield of the Word of God, which expresses the will of the Father. Jesus does not say a word of his own: he responds only with the Word of God. And thus the Son, filled with the strength of the Holy Spirit, emerges victorious from the desert.”

“During the 40 days of Lent, follow in Jesus steps and face the spiritual combat against the Evil One with the strength of the Word of God. Not with our word, which is useless, but with the Word of God: that which has the strength to defeat Satan. Therefore, it is necessary to draw confidence from the Bible: to read it often, meditate on it and assimilate it. The Bible contains the World of God, which is always current and effective.”

“It has been said,” continued the bishop of Rome, “What would happen if we treated the Bible as we treat our mobile phone? If we always carried it with us, or at least a small pocket Bible, what would happen? If we went back to look for it when we forgot it, if we opened it several times a day; what would happen if we read God’s messages contained in the Bible as we read our phone messages? The comparison is clearly paradoxical, but it makes us reflect. If we had the Word of God always in our heart, no temptation would be able to estrange us from God and no obstacle would be capable of making us deviate from the path of goodness; we would be able to overcome the daily suggestions of evil that are in us and outside us; we would be more capable of living a resurrected life according to the Spirit, receiving and loving our brothers, especially the weakest and most in need, and also our enemies.”

“May the Virgin Mary, perfect icon of obedience to God and of unconditional trust in His will, sustain us on our Lenten journey, so to listen in docility to the Word of God, to undertake a true conversion of the heart.”

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

by Deacon Michael Straub, Safe Environment Coordinator

“One of the contemporary challenges in our society today is to ensure the proper respect and treatment of children.”
       – Bishop William B. Friend, Catholic Connection, August 2003

Before 2002, when a nationwide call was made to create safe environment programs and policies in dioceses around the country, our diocese had already established policies for the protection of children in January 1994. This included a permanent review board and measures to keep children safe on field trips, camps and youth events. With the development of a nationwide charter for the protection of youth designed and established by the USCCB, our diocese amended its policies to be in line with this charter and to train adults and children on safe environment and to background check all employees and those individuals volunteering around children. Today the charter extends to the protection of vulnerable adults and recognition of zero tolerance with child pornography. This is only successful because of the many people who have committed the time and resources to be in compliance with these policies and help keep children and vulnerable adults safe from harm. Thank you to all those who make this possible. •

Holy Father’s Message for Lent

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Lent is a new beginning, a path leading to the certain goal of Easter, Christ’s victory over death. This season urgently calls us to conversion. Christians are asked to return to God “with all their hearts” (Joel 2:12), to refuse to settle for mediocrity and to grow in friendship with the Lord. Jesus is the faithful friend Who never abandons us. Even when we sin, He patiently awaits our return; by that patient expectation, He shows us His readiness to forgive.

Lent is a favorable season for deepening our spiritual life through the means of sanctification offered us by the Church: fasting, prayer and almsgiving. At the basis of everything is the word of God, which during this season we are invited to hear and ponder more deeply. I would now like to consider the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (cf. Lk 16:19-31). Let us find inspiration in this meaningful story, for it provides a key to understanding what we need to do in order to attain true happiness and eternal life. It exhorts us to sincere conversion.

1. The other person is a gift
The parable begins by presenting its two main characters. The poor man is described in greater detail: he is wretched and lacks the strength even to stand. Lying before the door of the rich man, he fed on the crumbs falling from his table. His body is full of sores and dogs come to lick his wounds. The picture is one of great misery; it portrays a man disgraced and pitiful.

The scene is even more dramatic if we consider that the poor man is called Lazarus: a name full of promise, which literally means “God helps.” This character is not anonymous. His features are clearly delineated and he appears as an individual with his own story. While practically invisible to the rich man, we see and know him as someone familiar. He becomes a face, and as such, a gift, a priceless treasure, a human being whom God loves and cares for, despite his concrete condition as an outcast.

Lazarus teaches us that other persons are a gift. A right relationship with people consists in gratefully recognizing their value. Even the poor person at the door of the rich is not a nuisance, but a summons to conversion and to change. The parable first invites us to open the doors of our heart to others because each person is a gift, whether it be our neighbor or an anonymous pauper. Lent is a favorable season for opening the doors to all those in need and recognizing in them the face of Christ. Each of us meets people like this every day. Each life that we encounter is a gift deserving acceptance, respect and love. The word of God helps us to open our eyes to welcome and love life, especially when it is weak and vulnerable. But in order to do this, we have to take seriously what the Gospel tells us about the rich man.

2. Sin blinds us
The parable is unsparing in its description of the contradictions associated with the rich man. Unlike poor Lazarus, he does not have a name; he is simply called “a rich man.” His opulence was seen in his extravagant and expensive robes. Purple cloth was even more precious than silver and gold, and was thus reserved to divinities (Jer 10:9) and kings (Jg 8:26), while fine linen gave one an almost sacred character. The man was clearly ostentatious about his wealth, and in the habit of displaying it daily: “He feasted sumptuously every day.” In him we can catch a dramatic glimpse of the corruption of sin, which progresses in three successive stages: love of money, vanity and pride.

The Apostle Paul tells us that “the love of money is the root of all evils” (1 Tim 6:10). It is the main cause of corruption and a source of envy, strife and suspicion. Money can come to dominate us, even to the point of becoming a tyrannical idol (Evangelii Gaudium, 55). Instead of being an instrument at our service for doing good and showing solidarity towards others, money can chain us and the entire world to a selfish logic that leaves no room for love and hinders peace.

The parable then shows that the rich man’s greed makes him vain. His personality finds expression in appearances, in showing others what he can do. But his appearance masks an interior emptiness. His life is a prisoner to outward appearances, to the most superficial and fleeting aspects of existence.

The lowest rung of this moral degradation is pride. The rich man dresses like a king and acts like a god, forgetting that he is merely mortal. For those corrupted by love of riches, nothing exists beyond their own ego. Those around them do not come into their line of sight. The result of attachment to money is a sort of blindness. The rich man does not see the poor man who is starving, hurting and lying at his door.

Looking at this character, we can understand why the Gospel so bluntly condemns the love of money: “No one can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or be attached to the first and despise the second. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money” (Mt 6:24).

3. The Word is a gift
The Gospel of the rich man and Lazarus helps us to make a good preparation for the approach of Easter. The liturgy of Ash Wednesday invites us to an experience quite similar to that of the rich man. When the priest imposes the ashes on our heads, he repeats the words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”. As it turned out, the rich man and the poor man both died, and the greater part of the parable takes place in the afterlife. The two characters suddenly discover that “we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it” (1 Tim 6:7).

We too see what happens in the afterlife. There the rich man speaks at length with Abraham, whom he calls “father” (Lk 16:24.27), as a sign that he belongs to God’s people. This detail makes his life appear all the more contradictory, for until this moment there had been no mention of his relation to God. In fact, there was no place for God in his life. His only god was himself.

The rich man recognizes Lazarus only amid the torments of the afterlife. He wants the poor man to alleviate his suffering with a drop of water. What he asks of Lazarus is similar to what he could have done but never did. Abraham tells him: “During your life you had your fill of good things, just as Lazarus had his fill of bad. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony.” In the afterlife, a kind of fairness is restored and life’s evils are balanced by good.

The parable goes on to offer a message for all Christians. The rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers, who are still alive. But Abraham answers: “They have Moses and the prophets, let them listen to them.” Countering the rich man’s objections, he adds: “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”

The rich man’s real problem thus comes to the fore. At the root of all his ills was the failure to heed God’s word. As a result, he no longer loved God and grew to despise his neighbor. The word of God is alive and powerful, capable of converting hearts and leading them back to God. When we close our heart to the gift of God’s word, we end up closing our heart to the gift of our brothers and sisters.

Dear friends, Lent is the favorable season for renewing our encounter with Christ, living in his word, in the sacraments and with our neighbor. The Lord, who overcame the deceptions of the Tempter during the 40 days in the desert, shows us the path we must take. May the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of conversion, so that we can rediscover the gift of God’s word, be purified of the sin that blinds us, and serve Christ present in our brothers and sisters in need. I encourage all the faithful to express this spiritual renewal also by sharing in the Lenten campaigns promoted by many Church organizations in different parts of the world, and thus to favor the culture of encounter in our one human family. Let us pray for one another so that, by sharing in the victory of Christ, we may open our doors to the weak and poor. Then we will be able to experience and share to the full the joy of Easter.

From the Pope: Hope Does Not Disappoint

from Vatican Information Services

In the catechesis of this general audience, Pope Francis returned to the theme of hope, this time in the light of St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, in which he urges them to be proud. But what does this refer to? As the Holy Father remarked, “Since childhood we are taught that it is not good to boast. And it is right, because boasting of what one is or what one has betrays, aside from a certain arrogance, also a lack of respect for others, especially those who are less fortunate than ourselves.”

What, then, is it right to be proud of? And how is it possible to do this, without offending, without excluding anyone?

In the first case, we are invited to be proud of “the abundance of grace with which we are pervaded in Jesus Christ, through faith. Paul wants to make us understand that, if we learn to interpret everything with the light of the Holy Spirit, we realize that everything is grace, everything is a gift! Indeed, if we pay attention, we see that – in history, as in our life – we are not alone in acting; there is, above all, God … Who creates every thing as a gift of love, Who weaves the fabric of His plan for salvation and Who fulfills it for us, through His Son Jesus. We are requested to recognize all this, to welcome it with gratitude and to make it become a reason for praise, blessing and great joy. If we do this, we are at peace with God and we experience freedom. And this peace then extends to all environments and all the relationships of our life: we are at peace with ourselves, we are at peace in the family, in our community, at work and with the people we meet every day on our journey.”

But Paul also encourages us to be proud even in our troubles, which is more difficult for us and can seem to have nothing to do with the condition of peace I have just described.

“Instead it constitutes the most authentic and truest presupposition”, Francis emphasized. “Indeed, the peace that the Lord offers and guarantees to us must not be understood as a lack of worries, disappointments, scarcity, or reasons for suffering. If it were thus, if we succeeded in staying at peace, that moment would soon come to an end and we would inevitably return to dejection. The peace that springs from faith is instead a gift: it is the grace of experiencing that God loves us and that He is always by our side, and that He never leaves us alone even for a moment of our life. And this, as the Apostle affirms, gives rise to patience, because we know that even in the hardest and most troubling moments, the Lord’s mercy and goodness are greater than any other thing and nothing can tear us from His hands and from communion with Him.”

This, then, is why “Christian hope is solid, and this is why it does not disappoint. It is not based on what we can do or be, or even on what we can believe in. Its foundation, that is the basis of Christian hope, is the most faithful and secure possible; that is, the love that God Himself has for each one of us. It is easy to say: God loves us, we all say this,” commented the Holy Father. “But think a little: every one of us is capable of saying: I am sure that God loves me. It is not so easy to say it, but it is true. It is a good exercise to say to ourselves: God loves me. It is the root of our security, the root of hope. And the Lord has poured His Spirit, which is God’s love, abundantly into our hearts, as creator, as guarantor, precisely so as to nurture faith within us and to keep this hope alive. God loves me. ‘But in this horrible moment? God loves me. I, who have done these bad things? God loves me’. No-one can take this security away from us. And we must repeat it like a prayer: God loves me. I am sure that God loves me. I am sure that God loves me.”

“Now we understand why the Apostle Paul urges us always to be proud of all this. ‘I glory in God’s love, because He loves me’. The hope that is given to us does not separate us from others, nor does it lead us to discredit them or marginalize them”, the Holy Father explained. “It is instead an extraordinary gift for which we are called to be channels, with humility and simplicity, for everyone. And therefore our greatest pride will be having as a Father a God Who does not have preferences, Who excludes no one, but Who opens His house to all human beings, starting from the last and the most distant, so that as His children we learn to console and support each other. And do not forget: hope never disappoints.”