Pope: Be 'islands of mercy' in 'sea of indifference'
MANILA, Philippines – Pope Francis slammed the “globalization of indifference” in his message for Lent, which begins on February 18, as he urged Christians not to forget the poor “when we are healthy and comfortable.”
In a message released by the Vatican on Tuesday, January 27, Francis said, “Dear brothers and sisters, how greatly I desire that all those places where the Church is present, especially our parishes and our communities, may become islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference!”
He said the penitential season of Lent, after all, is “a time of renewal for the whole Church.”
Lent is a 40-day period that begins with Ash Wednesday, when Catholics have their foreheads marked with ashes to symbolize repentance. It leads to Holy Week, when Catholics remember the passion and death of Jesus, and Easter Sunday, which celebrates the rise of Jesus from the dead.
In his Lenten message, Francis explained that indifference to God and neighbor “represents a real temptation for us Christians.”
“Usually, when we are healthy and comfortable, we forget about others (something God the Father never does): we are unconcerned with their problems, their sufferings, and the injustices they endure....Our heart grows cold. As long as I am relatively healthy and comfortable, I don’t think about those less well off. Today, this selfish attitude of indifference has taken on global proportions, to the extent that we can speak of a globalization of indifference,” the Pope said.
He then urged Christians to make concrete moves to help the poor.
'Spiral of distress and powerlessness'
Francis said: “All that we have been saying about the universal Church must now be applied to the life of our parishes and communities. Do these ecclesial structures enable us to experience being part of one body? A body which receives and shares what God wishes to give? A body which acknowledges and cares for its weakest, poorest, and most insignificant members? Or do we take refuge in a universal love that would embrace the whole world, while failing to see the Lazarus sitting before our closed doors?”
In the Bible, Lazarus is a proverbial poor man who sat by a rich man's door, and “would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man's table.”
Stressing his call to reach out to the world's “peripheries,” he added that “every Christian community is called to go out of itself and to be engaged in the life of the greater society of which it is a part, especially with the poor and those who are far away.”
“The Church is missionary by her very nature; she is not self-enclosed but sent out to every nation and people,” he said.
The Pope also said Christians should “avoid being caught up in this spiral of distress and powerlessness,” despite “news reports and troubling images of human suffering” that make them “feel our complete inability to help.”
He advised Christians to remember the following:
“First, we can pray in communion with the Church on earth and in heaven. Let us not underestimate the power of so many voices united in prayer!”
“Second, we can help by acts of charity, reaching out to both those near and far through the Church’s many charitable organizations.”
“Third, the suffering of others is a call to conversion, since their need reminds me of the uncertainty of my own life and my dependence on God and my brothers and sisters.”
The Pope's message for Lent echoed one of his speeches in the Philippines, where he said Christians should learn to “weep” for the poor and neglected.
In his speech at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila on January 18, he said: “Certain realities of life we only see through eyes cleansed by our tears. I invite each one here to ask yourself: have I learned how to weep? Have I learned how to weep for the emarginated or for a street child who has a drug problem or for an abused child? Unfortunately there are those who cry because they want something else.” – Rappler.com