Some of Pope Benedict’s insights on the Lenten Season

The more the Lord is giving us the grace to progress in the Lenten Season the more we can appreciate the timeless insights the Holy Spirit left to us through the profound magisterial teaching by Pope Benedict XVI. The active silence of these penitential season gives encourages us to savour the Lord’s loving care for each and everyone of us.

To begin with, Lent is a time of unceasing combat the with forces of darkness which try to subdue us to them. That is why it is so important to be ready for this combat with the spiritual ‘weapons’ the Church furnishes us with, namely that of prayer, fasting and penance. In his homily for Ash Wednesday, on March 1 2006, Pope Ratzinger said: Lent reminds us, therefore, that Christian life is a never-ending combat in which the ‘weapons’ of prayer, fasting, and penance are used. Fighting against evil, against every form of selfishness and hate, and dying to oneself to live in God is the ascetic journey that every disciple of Jesus is called to make with humility and patience, with generosity and perseverance.

In Pope Benedict’s reflection, Mary is the guide who helps us understand deeper the paschal mystery of Christ, gives us a helping hand in our spiritual warfare against sin and animate us by her maternal presence to pray to the Lord to convert us to Himself. In his homily on Ash Wednesday, 9 March 2011, at the Basilica of St Sabina, Pope Benedict said: May Mary, our guide on the Lenten journey, lead us to ever deeper knowledge of the dead and Risen Christ, help us in the spiritual combat against sin, and sustain us as we pray with conviction: ‘Converte nos, Deus salutaris noster’ — ‘Convert us to you, O God, our salvation’. Amen!

Lent is a golden opportunity for us to go to the basics of our Christian faith, namely love as charity. In his Lenten message for Lent 2012, entitled “Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works” (Heb 10:24) the Holy Father kicked off his message by saying: The Lenten season offers us once again an opportunity to reflect upon the very heart of Christian life: charity. This is a favorable time to renew our journey of faith, both as individuals and as a community, with the help of the word of God and the sacraments. This journey is one marked by prayer and sharing, silence and fasting, in anticipation of the joy of Easter.

Moreover, Lent reinvigorates within us the hope that Christ is the one who will accompany us from our death to eternal life. Lent is the path of true conversion. In his homily on Ash Wednesday, 6 February 2008, at the Basilica of St Sabina, the Holy Father reflected the following: If Advent is the season par excellence that invites us to hope in the God-Who-Comes, Lent renews in us the hope in the One who made us pass from death to life. Both are seasons of purification – this is also indicated by the liturgical color that they have in common – but in a special way Lent, fully oriented to the mystery of Redemption, is defined the ‘path of true conversion.

In itself, Lent represents that inner cry we all feel to return back to God, our Father, with all []our heart, and with all []our soul, and with all []our mind, and with all []our strength (Mark 12:30). In his homily at the Vatican Basilica on February 13, 2013, Pope Benedict said: Dear brothers and sisters, let us begin our Lenten journey with joyful confidence. May we feel deep within us the call to conversion, to ‘return to God with all our heart’, accepting his grace which makes us new men and women, with that astonishing newness which is a share in the very life of Jesus. May none of us be deaf to this appeal, which also comes to us in the austere rite, at once so simple and so evocative, of the imposition of ashes, which we are about to celebrate.

Finally, Lent is the powerful remembrance that the love of God redeemed the world and put its saving life upon human history. In his Lenten message for Lent 2013, entitled “Believing in charity calls forth charity” “We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us” (1 Jn 4:16), Pope Benedict said: Dear brothers and sisters, in this season of Lent, as we prepare to celebrate the event of the Cross and Resurrection – in which the love of God redeemed the world and shone its light upon history – I express my wish that all of you may spend this precious time rekindling your faith in Jesus Christ, so as to enter with him into the dynamic of love for the Father and for every brother and sister that we encounter in our lives.

Let us let these inspiring reflections of Pope Benedict XVI touch our heart during this Lent and change it in and for the Lord Jesus!

Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap

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