Pope Francis in his Lenten message titled “The word is a gift. Other persons are a gift”, reflects on parable of the rich man and Lazarus in the Gospel of Saint Luke. In which he focuses on the importance of recognizing others as a gift and importance of the word of God. The brief message has three sections -The other person is a gift, Sin blinds us and The Word is a gift.
In the message Pope Francis says that Lent is a favorable season for deepening our spiritual life through the means of sanctification offered us by the Church: fasting, prayer and almsgiving. However, the basis of everything being the word of God. He then talks about the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. He tells us how the parable begins by presenting the two main characters, with the poor man described in more detail than the rich man. Although Lazarus is invisible to the rich man, he becomes a face, and as such, a gift, priceless treasure, a human being whom God loves and cares for, despite his concrete condition as an outcast. Lazarus, therefore, teaches us that “other persons are a gift,” he said, adding that good relationships among people consist of recognizing each other’s value. Thus, he whether it be our neighbor or an anonymous pauper.
Lent is a favorable season for opening the doors to all those in need and recognizing in them the face of Christ. He then draws our attention to the image of the rich man, who unlike Lazarus doesn’t have a name and is described as wearing extravagant and expensive robes, flaunting his wealth in a “clearly ostentatious” way. He then reminds us of St Paul’s warning that “the love of money is the root of all evils”. The Pope noted that money is the main cause of corruption and a source of envy, strife and suspicion.
Pope asks us to reflect on the passage to helps us to make a good preparation for the approach of Easter. In the passage, both the rich man and Lazarus died, making us realize that “we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” He said the rich man’s real problem, then, is that he failed to heed God’s word, and because of this, he lost his love for God and began to despise his neighbor.“The word of God is alive and powerful, capable of converting hearts and leading them back to God,” he said, adding that “when we close our heart to the gift of God’s word, we end up closing our heart to the gift of our brothers and sisters.” Concluding his message Pope Francis said, “May the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of conversion, so that we can rediscover the gift of God’s word, be purified of the sin that blinds us and serve Christ present in our brothers and sisters in need.”
Lent is not a competition to see how much we can do for God. It’s not a season of catholic group weight-loss. Rather, lent is a time to “rend our hearts”-an occasion to come before the lord with open hearts and to invite Jesus to bring his healing presence and what better way to become closer to Christ by obeying the Word of God and by treating our fellow brother and sisters as equal and with dignity.