[The following is the Message of the Holy Father for Lent 2018 on the theme: “Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (Mt 24: 12).]
“Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (Mt 24: 12)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Once again, the Pasch of the Lord draws near! In our preparation for Easter, God in His providence offers us each year the season of Lent as a “sacramental sign of our conversion”. Lent summons us, and enables us, to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly and in every aspect of our life.
With this message, I would like again this year to help the entire Church experience this time of grace anew, with joy and in truth. I will take my cue from the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (24:12).
These words appear in Christ’s preaching about the end of time. They were spoken in Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives, where the Lord’s passion would begin. In reply to a question of the disciples, Jesus foretells a great tribulation and describes a situation in which the community of believers might well find itself: amid great trials, false prophets would lead people astray and the love that is the core of the Gospel would grow cold in the hearts of many.
In the Gospel this weekend, we read that a “leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, ‘If you wish, you can make me clean’” (Mk 1:40). As we learn in the first reading, lepers were forced to make their “abode outside the camp.” Imagine the isolation. Imagine the rejection. And, because people of the time believed such diseases were the result of a person’s sinfulness, imagine the sense of shame a leper felt. The cry of this leper’s heart compelled him to break the cultural taboos and come to Jesus. “Moved with pity, [Jesus] stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, ‘I do will it. Be made clean.’” Imagine that touch. Lepers were never touched. Jesus heals us with his body touching our body. There are places in my own heart that are leprous. Places I feel isolated and rejected. Places I hide because I’m ashamed of them. Places that I can’t imagine anyone would want to “touch.” Am I willing to break whatever taboos keep me from coming, kneeling, and begging Jesus to touch me there? Jesus, I desperately need to know the power of your loving touch. Touch me. Please. Touch me.
One of the devil’s tactics in the modern world has been to convince people that he doesn’t exist. For those with eyes to see, it’s clear he’s thriving on anonymity. Want to protect yourself from his insidious plots? This past Sunday, Pope Francis gave a powerful homily that, based on its internet exposure, struck a chord. Here, in part, is what he said:
Where our Mother is at home, the devil does not enter in. Where our Mother is present, turmoil does not prevail, fear does not conquer. Which of us does not need this, which of us is not sometimes distressed or anxious? How often our heart is a stormy sea, where the waves of our problems pile up and the winds of our troubles do not stop blowing! Mary is our secure ark in the midst of the flood. It will not be ideas or technology that will give us comfort or hope, but our Mother’s face, her hands that caress our life, her mantle that gives us shelter. Let us learn how to find refuge, going each day to our Mother.