March 9, 2015

VATICAN CITY – The Lenten journey of conversion requires Christians to rediscover the "deepest truth" about themselves, cast off their masks and take on the courage to live truth, a Carmelite priest told the pope and Vatican officials.

Carmelite Father Bruno Secondin drew from the life of the prophet Elijah in a series of Lenten spiritual exercises for the Roman Curia.

Secondin, a professor of spirituality at the Gregorian University, invited Vatican officials to reflect on whether their hearts "really belong to the Lord."

He urged Curia members to put themselves "at the school of mercy" and, like Elijah, to live on the periphery.

Elijah became angered by Israel's "religious and social depravation," "loss of identity, and moral and religious confusion," he said.

The situation resulted from new social and economic systems – even new gods – which had "bewildered" the people; he said during the Feb. 22-27 retreat. God was seen as one for "backwards people."

Despite his anger, Elijah heeded God's word, left Israel and entered into solitude. God asked Elijah to detach himself, to stand aside, to learn to obey and to leave things up to him, said Secondin.

During this time, Elijah was purified and learned to trust God, without seeking immediate results, he continued.

God eventually called Elijah out of hiding to face King Ahab and to convert the people of Israel. In the same way, Christians are called to "come out into the open," to free themselves of all "ambiguity" and to live authentically Christian lives.

Just like in Elijah's time, many people today are also "fearful spectators" of life, and many men and women religious are fascinated by "mega" projects and favour glory rather than the poor.

As well, just as the people in Elijah's day were attracted to "spectacular religiosity," so faith today is "measured with statistics," Secondin said.

People must purge the attitudes and idols – pride, ambition and career – that keep them on the fence in their relationship with God, he said.

Pastors, Secondin said, must seek to reawaken the people to God, recalling that God is "a merciful embrace."