Each year, the Holy Father releases a Lenten Message for the faithful to reflect on during the liturgical season. The theme of his message for Lent 2018 is, “Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (Mt 24: 12). Pope Francis said that with his message, he wishes to “help the entire Church experience this time of grace anew, with joy and in truth.”
“He begins with a really interesting reference to Dante’s Inferno, and most people think of hell being a place of fire because that is in fact the way that it’s described in scripture and fire is a kind of torment. But Dante puts the demon in a place of frigid cold as if he’s locked away, enslaved in ice. And Pope Francis mentions that Lent is a time to rekindle the flame of love in our hearts so that we can overcome any coldness in our hearts and especially any coldness in our hearts that we experience towards others,” said Fr. Robert Gahl, Associate Professor of Ethics at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome and regular contributor to Morning Air® on Relevant Radio®.
Lent isn’t exclusively sacrifice and self-denial—there is actually some joy involved. “For Pope Francis, really accepting the Gospel brings joy. Because when we look outside of ourselves—we look beyond ourselves—we begin to forget about ourselves and we find the goodness and the beauty in God. Then we really experience the joy that comes from Jesus,” said Fr. Gahl.
“So the sacrifice of Lent that we’re called to offer up to Christ and to our neighbor is an opportunity to grow in grace and therefore in joy. It is self-denial, but it’s not just mortification. It’s also growth and it’s life. He then speaks about the fire of Easter that we look forward to … that is lit often at the entrance of the church or just outside of the church where the Easter Vigil is celebrated, which represents the life of Christ. The Easter candle is enlightened from that fire and all of the faithful are there with the candle in hand that’s burning, indicating the fire of love that is in their hearts.”
“Above all, I urge the members of the Church to take up the Lenten journey with enthusiasm, sustained by almsgiving, fasting and prayer,” wrote the Holy Father. “If, at times, the flame of charity seems to die in our own hearts, know that this is never the case in the heart of God! He constantly gives us a chance to begin loving anew.”
He also invited the universal Church to partake once again the 24 Hours for the Lord initiative. “This will take place from Friday, 9 March to Saturday, 10 March. In each diocese, at least one church will remain open for twenty-four consecutive hours, offering an opportunity for both Eucharistic adoration and sacramental confession,” said Pope Francis in his Lenten Message.