Last Wednesday we began the liturgical season of Lent, during which the Church invites us to prepare ourselves to celebrate the great feast of Easter. This is a special time for recalling the gift of our baptism, when we became children of God. The Church invites us to renew the gift she has given us, to not let this gift lie dormant as if it were something from the past or locked away in some "memory chest”. Lent is a good time to recover the joy and hope that make us feel beloved sons and daughters of the Father. The Father who waits for us in order to cast off our garments of exhaustion, of apathy, of mistrust, and so clothe us with the dignity which only a true father or mother knows how to give their children, with the garments born of tenderness and love.
Our Father, he is the Father of a great family; he is our Father. He knows that he has a unique love, but he does not know how to bear or raise an "only child”. He is the God of the home, of brotherhood, of bread broken and shared. He is the God who is "Our Father”, not "my father” or "your stepfather”.
God’s dream makes its home and lives in each one of us so that at every Easter, in every Eucharist we celebrate, we may be the children of God. It is a dream which so many of our brothers and sisters have had through history. A dream witnessed to by the blood of so many martyrs, both from long ago and from now.
Lent is a time of conversion, of daily experiencing in our lives of how this dream is continually threatened by the father of lies, by the one who tries to separate us, making a divided and fractious society. A society of the few, and for the few. How often we experience in our own lives, or in our own families, among our friends or neighbours, the pain which arises when the dignity we carry within is not recognized. How many times have we had to cry and regret on realizing that we have not acknowledged this dignity in others. How often – and it pains me to say it – have we been blind and impervious in failing to recognize our own and others’ dignity.
Lent is a time for reconsidering our feelings, for letting our eyes be opened to the frequent injustices which stand in direct opposition to the dream and the plan of God. It is a time to unmask three great temptations that wear down and fracture the image which God wanted to form in us:
There are three temptations of Christ… three temptations for the Christian, which seek to destroy what we have been called to be; three temptations which try to corrode us and tear us down.
Wealth: seizing hold of goods destined for all, and using them only for "my own people”. That is, taking the "bread” based on the toil of others, or even at the expense of their very lives. That wealth which tastes of pain, bitterness and suffering. This is the bread that a corrupt family or society gives its own children.
Vanity: the pursuit of prestige based on continuous, relentless exclusion of those who "are not like me”. The futile chasing of those five minutes of fame which do not forgive the "reputation” of others. "Making firewood from a felled tree” gives way to the third temptation:
Pride: or rather, putting oneself on a higher level than one truly is on, feeling that one does not share the life of "mere mortals”, and yet being one who prays every day: "I thank you Lord that you have not made me like those others…”.
Three temptations of Christ… Three temptations which the Christian is faced with daily. Three temptations which seek to corrode, destroy and extinguish the joy and freshness of the Gospel. Three temptations which lock us into a cycle of destruction and sin.
And so it is worth asking ourselves:
To what degree are we aware of these temptations in our lives, in our very selves?
How much have we become accustomed to a lifestyle where we think that our source and life force lies only in wealth?
To what point do we feel that caring about others, our concern and work for bread, for the good name and dignity of others, are wellsprings of happiness and hope?
We have chosen Jesus, not the evil one; (...) we want to follow in his footsteps, even though we know that this is not easy. We know what it means to be seduced by money, fame and power. For this reason, the Church gives us the gift of this Lenten season, invites us to conversion, offering but one certainty: he is waiting for us and wants to heal our hearts of all that tears us down. He is the God who has a name: Mercy. His name is our wealth, his name is what makes us famous, his name is our power and in his name we say once more with the Psalm: "You are my God and in you I trust”. Let us repeat these words together three times: "You are my God and in you I trust”.
In this Eucharist, may the Holy Spirit renew in us the certainty that his name is Mercy, and may he let us experience each day that "the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus...”, knowing that "with Christ and in Christ joy is constantly born anew” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 1).
My Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In the first reading of this Sunday, Moses offers a directive to the people. At harvest time, a the time of abundance and first fruits, do not forget your beginnings. Thanksgiving is something which is born and grows among a people capable of remembering. It is rooted in the past, and through good and bad times, it shapes the present. In those moments when we can offer thanks to God for the earth giving us its fruits and thereby helping us make bread, Moses invites his people to remember by enumerating the difficult situations through which it has passed (cf. Deut 26:5-11).
On this festive day we can celebrate how good the Lord has been to us. Let us give thanks for this opportunity to be together, to present to our Good Father the first fruits of our children, our grandchildren, of our dreams and our plans; the first fruits of our cultures, our languages and traditions, the first fruits of our concerns… How much each one of you has suffered to reach this moment, how much you have "walked” to make this day a day of feasting, a time of thanksgiving. How much others have walked, who have not arrived here and yet because of them we have been able to keep going. Today, at the invitation of Moses, as a people we want to remember, we want to be the people that keeps alive the memory of God who passes among his People, in their midst. We look upon our children knowing that they will inherit not only a land, a culture and a tradition, but also the living fruits of faith which recalls the certainty of God’s passing through this land. It is a certainty of closeness and solidarity, a certainty which helps us lift up our heads and ardently hope for the dawn.
I too join you in this remembrance, in this living memory of God’s passing through your lives. As I look upon your children I cannot but make my own the words which Blessed Pope Paul VI addressed to the Mexican people:
"A Christian cannot but show solidarity… to solve the situation of those who have not yet received the bread of culture or the opportunity of an honourable job… he cannot remain insensitive while the new generations have not found the way to bring into reality their legitimate aspirations”. He continued offering this invitation to "always be on the front line of all efforts… to improve the situation of those who suffer need”, to see in every man a brother and, in every brother Christ” (Radio Message on the 75 Anniversary of the Crowning of Our Lady of Guadalupe, 12 October 1970).
I invite you once again today to be on the front line, to be first in all the initiatives which help make this blessed land of Mexico a land of opportunities, where there will be no need to emigrate in order to dream, no need to be exploited in order to work, no need to make the despair and poverty of many the opportunism of a few, a land that will not have to mourn men and women, young people and children who are destroyed at the hands of the dealers of death.
This land is filled with the perfume of la Guadalupana who has always gone before us in love. Let us say to her:
Blessed Virgin, "help us to bear radiant witness to communion, service, ardent and generous faith, justice and love of the poor, that the joy of the Gospel may reach to the ends of the earth, illuminating even the fringes of our world. (EG 288).