Wednesday, March 6, 2019

A Time of Conversion from the Destructive Power of Sin

Pope Francis has emphasized the connection between new life in Christ and our stewardship for all creation in this year's Message for the Lenten season.

I am struck by the very accurate way that he points out how the sincerity of our love for God shows itself in our attitude toward the world, its resources, and its beauty: Do we see created things as gifts to be received with gratitude and used for our authentic good and the common good of present and future humanity, or do we see them as materials to be exploited and dominated for selfish ends, with no real regard for the needs of others or the future.

Here the Pope points out aspects of our sinful dispositions and actions that we so easily fail to notice, and underlines the need for repentence and conversion in relation to these sins.

Francis notes that the celebration of Christ's Resurrection "calls us yearly to undertake a journey of preparation, in the knowledge that our being conformed to Christ (cf. Rom 8:29) is a priceless gift of God’s mercy.

"When we live as children of God, redeemed, led by the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 8:14) and capable of acknowledging and obeying God’s law, beginning with the law written on our hearts and in nature, we also benefit creation by cooperating in its redemption...

"Yet in this world, the harmony generated by redemption is constantly threatened by the negative power of sin and death.

"Indeed, when we fail to live as children of God, we often behave in a destructive way towards our neighbours and other creatures – and ourselves as well – since we begin to think more or less consciously that we can use them as we will. Intemperance then takes the upper hand: we start to live a life that exceeds those limits imposed by our human condition and nature itself."

The Pope expresses powerfully how our sins impact the natural created world as well as destroy others and ourselves: "The root of all evil, as we know, is sin, which from its first appearance has disrupted our communion with God, with others and with creation itself, to which we are linked in a particular way by our body. This rupture of communion with God likewise undermines our harmonious relationship with the environment in which we are called to live, so that the garden has become a wilderness (cf. Gen 3:17-18). Sin leads man to consider himself the god of creation, to see himself as its absolute master and to use it, not for the purpose willed by the Creator but for his own interests, to the detriment of other creatures.

"Once God’s law, the law of love, is forsaken, then the law of the strong over the weak takes over. The sin that lurks in the human heart (cf. Mk 7:20-23) takes the shape of greed and unbridled pursuit of comfort, lack of concern for the good of others and even of oneself. It leads to the exploitation of creation, both persons and the environment, due to that insatiable covetousness which sees every desire as a right and sooner or later destroys all those in its grip."

Francis then exhorts us to embrace the Lenten penitential preparation in light of this integral vocation which Jesus brings about by His power at work in us. He gives us a larger perspective on the significance of Lent and the classical practices of this season: "Lent is a sacramental sign of th[e work of] conversion. It invites Christians to embody the paschal mystery more deeply and concretely in their personal, family and social lives, above all by fasting, prayer and almsgiving.

"Fasting, that is, learning to change our attitude towards others and all of creation, turning away from the temptation to 'devour' everything to satisfy our voracity and being ready to suffer for love, which can fill the emptiness of our hearts. 

"Prayer, which teaches us to abandon idolatry and the self-sufficiency of our ego, and to acknowledge our need of the Lord and his mercy. 

"Almsgiving, whereby we escape from the insanity of hoarding everything for ourselves in the illusory belief that we can secure a future that does not belong to us. 

"And thus [we] rediscover the joy of God’s plan for creation and for each of us, which is to love him, our brothers and sisters, and the entire world, and to find in this love our true happiness."

The entire text of the Pope's Lenten Message for 2019 can be found HERE.