In his Lenten message, Pope Francis says Christians must strive to overcome indifference to God and other people.

CNS PHOTO | PAUL HARING

In his Lenten message, Pope Francis says Christians must strive to overcome indifference to God and other people.

February 9, 2015
CAROL GLATZ
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

Christians are called to overcome apathy, discouragement and pretentions of self-sufficiency by letting God enter their hearts, Pope Francis said.

Letting God into one's heart allows one to become joyful, merciful and strong, the pope said in his Lenten message.

Through prayer, charity and humility before God, people receive a heart "which is firm and merciful, attentive and generous, a heart which is not closed, indifferent or prey to the globalization of indifference."

In fact, the individualistic "selfish attitude of indifference has taken on global proportions," the pope wrote. It has become "one of the most urgent challenges" that "we, as Christians, need to confront."

The pope's message for Lent, which begins Feb. 18 for Latin-rite Catholics, focuses on the need for inner conversion and renewal, with the title, Make Your Hearts Firm, which is from the Letter of James.

A firm heart is strong and steadfast against temptation and evil, but it is also open to God, he said. It is capable of being "pierced by the Spirit," touched by God's love and moved to share that love with others.

"When the people of God are converted to his love, they find answers to the questions that history continually raises," the pope said. Such questions today include the pressing problem of "the globalization of indifference."

"Indifference to our neighbour and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians," he said. The Church, parish communities and lay people need regular reflection and "interior renewal, lest we become indifferent and withdraw into ourselves."

God's love breaks down the walls of "that fatal withdrawal into ourselves, which is indifference," he said.

By receiving Jesus, by listening to his word, receiving the sacraments and engaging in prayer, "we become what we receive: the Body of Christ."

That body, he said, is a living, united communion of members who share their gifts and leave "no room for indifference."

Parishes and Catholic organizations must care for the weakest, poorest and most marginalized. They cannot be satisfied with "a universal love that would embrace the whole world, while failing to see the Lazarus sitting before our closed doors."

May Catholic communities "become islands of mercy in the midst of a sea of indifference," the pope said.

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The Church and its organizations must go to ends of the earth by praying with the Church in heaven and engaging with the wider world, he said.

Even the faithful in heaven have not turned their backs "in splendid isolation" on the sufferings of the world, the pope said. Rather, they want Christ's "victory of love" to penetrate the whole world, which is why they accompany those on earth as they continue God's work.

BROTHERS AND SISTERS

God calls every person to him. That is why "in each of our neighbours, then, we must see a brother or sister for whom Christ died and rose again."

Catholics must strive to avoid being overwhelmed by the bad news in the world and avoid the "spiral of distress and powerlessness," he said.

The way to achieve that goal is to become united in prayer, to concretely help others and to see suffering as an occasion for one's own conversion.

DEPENDENCE ON GOD

Witnessing so much need "reminds me of the uncertainty of my own life and my dependence on God and my brothers and sisters," he said.

Only by humbly accepting one's limitations and recognizing God's infinite abundance can people "resist the diabolical temptation of thinking that by our own efforts we can save the world and ourselves."

(The text of the pope's message in English is online at: w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/lent/documents/papa-francesco_20141004_messaggio-quaresima2015.html).