By Christopher Wells
Pope Francis focuses on the three theological virtues in his Lenten message for 2021, inviting the faithful to “renew our faith, draw from the living waters of hope, and receive with open hearts the love of God.”
Grounding his reflection on the Paschal Mystery, the Pope says, “This Lenten journey… is even now illumined by the light of the resurrection, which inspires the thoughts, attitudes and decisions of the followers of Jesus.”
He goes on to say that the journey of conversion, through fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, “makes it possible for us to live lives of sincere faith, living hope, and effective charity.”
Accepting and bearing witness to the truth
The Holy Father explains “accepting and living the truth revealed in Christ means, first of all, opening our hearts to God’s word.” Through fasting, “experienced as a form of self-denial,” we are able “to rediscover God’s gift and recognize that, created in His image and likeness, we find our fulfillment in Him.” Fasting, too, by helping us recognize our own poverty, helps us to love both God and neighbour.
“Lent is a time for believing,” the Pope says, “for welcoming God into our lives and allowing Him to ‘make His dwelling’ in us.”
The ‘living water’ that helps us on the journey
Pope Francis relates the virtue of hope to the ‘living water’ that Jesus promises the Samaritan woman at the well. This is not the physical water the woman is expecting, but rather the Holy Spirit who is given through the Paschal Mystery.
Although hope may seem challenging in fragile and uncertain times, “Lent is precisely the season of hope, when we turn back to God.”
Hope, he says, “is given to us as inspiration and interior light” through “recollection and silent prayer.” The experience of hope in Lent, he says, “means receiving the hope of Christ, who gave His life on the Cross and was raised by God on the third day.”
Love, the highest expression of faith and hope
“Love is a leap of the heart,” says Pope Francis. “It brings us out of ourselves and creates bonds of sharing and communion.”
The Holy Father emphasizes the need for “social love” in building up “a civilization of love.”
“Love is a gift that gives meaning to our lives,” he says. Love helps us to see all men and women as our brothers and sisters. Charity is multiplied when given with love, as we see not only in the Scriptures, but in our own lives, too, when we give alms “with joy and simplicity.”
“To experience Lent with love,” says Pope Francis, "means caring for those who suffer or feel abandoned because of the Covid-19 pandemic.” He invites us to “speak words of reassurance, and help others to realize that God loves them as sons and daughters.”
A journey of conversion
After reminding us that “every moment of our lives is a time for believing, hoping, and loving,” Pope Francis concludes by saying:
"The call to experience Lent as a journey of conversion, prayer and sharing of our goods, helps us – as communities and as individuals – to revive the faith that comes from the living Christ, the hope inspired by the breath of the Holy Spirit and the love flowing from the merciful heart of the Father."