by Ruth Moraes
Last year’s lent was most likely the most intense and long lasting lent that any of us have experienced. It was during the Lent 2020 that the seriousness of the coronavirus became clearer leading to closed borders, cessation of Masses and stay at home orders. While in Australia at the moment we are doing so much better than most of the world, we need to remember all those in Australia and around the world who are still living a Lent induced by the coronavirus and which does not seem to be abating.
In solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the world, we need to remember those who even before the corona virus seemed were trapped in a never-ending “Lent” whether it was due to poverty, living in uncertainty while being detained for seeking protection or those caught in modern slavery.
Pope Francis’ Lenten Message for 2021 is addressed primarily to those who can make a difference and alleviate the suffering of others here and now. During this season of Lent, Pope Francis calls us to renew our faith, draw from the “living water” of hope, and receive with open hearts the love of God, who makes us brothers and sisters in Christ.” Fasting, prayer and almsgiving, the three disciplines the church asks us to partake of every Lent are effective forms of charity which enable us to have “concern and loving care for the poor”.
Pope Francis first calls to listen to God’s word in Scripture. The Office for Social Justice which recently released two episodes of a podcast about the Catholic Social Teaching and the Scriptures which might aid in this reflection. In fasting, Pope Francis says we rediscover one of God’s greatest gift to us that we are made in his image and likeness. It is because of this gift that each and every single human being has “incomparable dignity” and no human being can have the right to take that dignity away from any other human being. In giving up something, we choose to journey in some degree of solidarity to our brothers and sisters who are poorer than us. In taking attention away from ourselves, it helps us to direct it in love towards those who need it more.
Christian love or charity – caritas – is not something exercised just between two individuals. Caritas has the capacity to transform our entire world for the better. In echoing his predecessors Pope St Paul VI and Pope St John Paul II, Pope Francis urges all of us to use “social love” to build a civilisation of love. (Fratelli Tutti, 183). He clarifies that love is no mere sentiment, but “best means of discovering effective paths of development for everyone” (Fratelli Tutti, 183). He concludes by saying that to live Lent with love means caring for those who suffer or feel abandoned and fearful because of the Covid-19 pandemic or for any other reason.
Ruth Moraes is a Research and Project Officer at the Justice and Peace Office.