By Francesca Merlo
Archbishop Pizzaballa begins his 2019 Lenten message by asking all faithful to “return to the awareness that breathes life into the liturgy and the faith of Christians at this time”.
He explains that the expression “quadragesimale sacramentum” (The Lenten Sacrament), which is so often heard during this penitential season, is “neither our work nor invention”. Instead, he says, these days “it will be Christ himself who enters our deserts, experiences our temptations and joins us in His victory”. Because, he says, in these moments of hardship – both for our Church and for our world, there is a strong need for us to turn to the Lord.
Archbishop Pizzaballa goes on to explain his use of the word “desert”. He compares the path of Lent to an arid desert, which Jesus accompanies us through, always standing beside us “in the power of faith and in the obedience of Spirit” all the way to the Easter garden. There, says Archbishop Pizzaballa, we reach His tomb “and ours, finally emptied of all anguish and pain of death.”
This metaphor of the desert shows the “gift” that is one’s commitment to Lent. In this 40-day long commitment, Archbishop Pizzaballa explains that we face the “aridity” of our lives, “without yielding to the shortcuts of miracle, compromise, mistrust or, worse, sin”.
“It is written”, he continues, that God is faithful to us, and that through our dedication - as Jesus was dedicated – there is an “Easter exodus from death to life, from slavery to freedom, from mistrust to hope” that exists for all those who, like Christ in the desert, “trusts and entrusts himself to the Word of God”.
The Lenten sacrament is an opportunity to “fast” from selfishness, individualism and mistrust, says Archbishop Pizzaballa. Through helping the poor and the needy, and making ourselves available to the gift of sharing, we “can make flourish the fruitfulness of Easter”, which, he concludes “is Life that is born from the offering of oneself”.