Pope Francis has given us a wonderful reflection for the season of Lent in his annual Lenten message: Lent: A Time for Renewing Faith, Hope, and Love. Whatever practices we have taken up for the season, they should offer us the ability to grow in faith, hope and love as these virtues are the keystones in our relationship with the Lord. They also help us to grow in a deeper understanding of ourselves, as God created us to live these virtues in order to possess the joy He wants us to have in His life.
The Pope tells us that, “Faith calls us to accept the truth and testify to it before God and all our brothers and sisters.” It is important to realize that faith is a witness to the truth as God has given it to us. In the context in which we live today, truth becomes more and more subjective and it is commonly held that there is no such thing as objective truth. Faith acknowledges that God is real and has created the world with a purpose and a natural law. As we grow in our faith, we learn more and more about who God is as a Trinity of love, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and how His love is reflected in His creation and in each of us. We grow more in the knowledge of the gift of His incarnate Son, Jesus, who gave His life for us in order that we might have life through His Resurrection. We also grow in the knowledge of the Holy Spirit, God’s personal gift of His presence to us.
As much as faith is an acknowledgment of the truth, it is a virtue that comes not only from the mind, but especially from the heart. As we profess our faith in God, we profess a faith in a personal God who created us for an intimate relationship with Him. The more we learn about God, through our study of His words in the Scriptures and in our meditation upon them in prayer, the more we come to know Him in a personal manner and to respond to His speaking to us in our lives. Lent is a time for growing in our faith in God especially through the particular practices that we take up.
Pope Francis explains that hope is “a living water” that enables us to continue our journey. Hope enables us to move forward knowing that God is with us and never lets us down. Today we face so many challenges within our personal lives and in our world that can only be responded to through hope. We realize that while certain specific hopes may not come to pass, the greatest hope, which is in God Himself, will always bear fruit. Hope is not an illusion nor a false encouragement to keep ourselves and others going. Hope is a reality which is always before us on our journey through life, because God is always before us in this journey. As Pope Francis expresses, “To experience Lent in hope entails growing in the realization that, in Jesus Christ, we are witnesses of new times, in which God is ‘making all things new’ (Cf. Rev 21:1-6).” Hope in God is never in vain.
Finally, Pope Francis expresses that, “Love, following in the footsteps of Christ, in concern and compassion for all, is the highest expression of our faith and hope.” Since God is love, we are created to love. It is only by loving that we find our true identity as well as the joy of the very life of God Himself. We have faith and hope because it leads us deeper into the loving relationship with God for which we were created. Saint Paul reminds us that “There are three things that will last forever, faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor 13:13). As we journey through Lent, the greatest sign of love is that of the Cross of Christ. He freely laid His life down, condemned unjustly as a criminal, in order to give His life for us. Concentrating on the love of Christ for us through the Cross helps us to grow more deeply in love with Him as well as with each other. Lent offers us the greatest lesson in love and our Lenten practices should be driven by this.
One of the Eucharistic prefaces for Mass reflects that, “His death we celebrate in love, His Resurrection we confess with living faith, and His coming in glory we are await with unwavering hope.” These words sum up well what we celebrate in the Eucharist, as Christ offers Himself to the Father and gives Himself in love as the food for our journey. Faith, hope, and love are essential to both our spiritual and physical lives. Without them, we are not truly human and are missing the most important part of life both now and in eternity. As Pope Francis expresses in his Lenten message, “Every moment of our lives is a time for believing, hoping and loving. 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 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.”
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
February 26, 202