“Through the desert, God guides us towards freedom.”

Lent 2024

With these words, Pope Francis invites us to take advantage of Lent 2024 as a journey where we allow God to guide us towards freedom. “When God reveals Himself,” says Pope Francis, “He communicates freedom: ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery'” (Ex 20:2).

At times when hope may be lacking, and we feel powerless to build a more fraternal and solidarity-oriented world, a world where peace and care for the most vulnerable are priorities.

“Lent is the time of grace during which the desert becomes – as the prophet Hosea announces – the place of first love (Hos 2:16-17)… God brings us back to Him and whispers words of love to our hearts.”

Journeying towards freedom is not an abstract path, says Pope Francis. For our Lent to be concrete, following the example of God and Christ, we must learn to see reality and, above all, listen to those who suffer around us and in the world, as Brother André did in his humble way.

Like him, we are called to become bearers of hope, called to learn to “give back,” in turn, love to our neighbor, especially to those who suffer and face difficulties.

This is the path of freedom to which we are invited. In his message, Pope Francis expresses an increasing conviction about the need to denounce a lack of hope. “It is,” he says, “an obstacle to the dream of a silent cry that rises to heaven and touches the heart of God, resembling the regret of slavery that paralyzed Israel in the desert, preventing it from moving forward.”

But to let ourselves be guided on this path of freedom, the desire to convert, as urged by the Gospel of Mark when receiving ashes, is essential: “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

To convert is, in a way, to walk in the footsteps of Christ and to listen to the Spirit of God, the spirit of life and justice, so that He becomes our inner guide.

Lent is primarily about receiving a gift, not just about doing things, even though actions are also necessary. Our attention to others, our sharing, fasting, and almsgiving, to be genuine and bear fruits of life, must be rooted in our deep desire, in prayer.

Then, Christ can purify our gaze, our hands, unify our personal abilities and wealth in a spirit of self-giving and sharing.

Lent is primarily about the dispossession of our “self.” Let us not be afraid to embark on this path of freedom: God awaits us there. “It is God’s dream,” says the Pope, “the promised land toward which we strive once we have left slavery, our dependencies.”

Therefore, Lent is a time that calls us to walk the path of freedom and humility, a path of listening to what the Spirit of God tells us in our conscience, towards what He urges us to do, in words and deeds, within ourselves and among us.

It is time to act, says Pope Francis, and during Lent, acting also means stopping. Stopping in prayer to receive the Word of God, and stopping, like the Samaritan, in the presence of the wounded brother.

Pope Francis suggests that Lent 2024 be a time for community decisions, small and significant choices against the current, capable of changing the daily lives of individuals and the life of a neighborhood: shopping habits, care for creation, inclusion of strangers.

He also invites every Christian community to offer its faithful moments to rethink their lifestyle; to take the time to assess their presence in the neighborhood and their contribution to making it better.

To the extent that this Lent is a conversion Lent, says Pope Francis at the end of his message, humanity will experience a surge of creativity: the dawn of a new hope.

Like the young people at the World Youth Days in Lisbon last summer, he repeats to us: “Seek and risk. At this turning point in history, the challenges are enormous, the groans painful.

We are witnessing a third world war in pieces. Let us dare to think that we are not in agony but, on the contrary, in labor; not at the end but at the beginning of a great spectacle.

It takes courage for that.” Yes, entering the time of Lent is the time when we accept to set out on the path of Christ to learn to become bearers of hope.


Photo credit: Nathan McBride