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Pope Francis talks about Lent 26.02.20


Pope Francis: Talks about Lent 26.02.20


Pope Francis  26.02.20 General Audience, St Peter's Square    Catechesis on Lent     Matthew 4: 1-4

Pope Francis talks about Lent 26.02.20

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin the Lenten journey, a forty-day journey towards Easter, towards the heart of the liturgical year and of the faith. It is a journey that follows that of Jesus, who at the beginning of his ministry withdrew for forty days to pray and fast, tempted by the devil, into the desert. I would like to speak to you today about the spiritual significance of the desert. What the desert means spiritually to all of us, even us who live in the city, what the desert means.

Let's imagine you're in a desert. The first feeling would be to be enveloped by a great silence: no noise, apart from the wind and our breath. Here, the desert is the place of detachment from the din that surrounds us. It is the absence of words to make room for another Word, the Word of God, which as a light breeze caresses our heart (cf. 1 Kings 19:12). The desert is the place of the Word, with a capital W. In the Bible, in fact, the Lord loves to speak to us in the desert. In the desert he gives Moses the "ten words", the ten commandments. And when the people distance themselves from him, becoming like an unfaithful bride, God says, "Here, I will lead you into the desert and speak to your heart. There you will answer me, as in the days of your youth"(Hosea 2:13-14). In the desert you hear the Word of God, which is like a slight sound. The Book of Kings says that the Word of God is like a thread of silence that makes a sound. In the desert we find intimacy with God, the love of the Lord. Jesus loved to retreat every day to deserted places to pray (cf. Luke 5:16). He taught us how to look for the Father, who speaks to us in silence. And it is not easy to be silent in our hearts, because we always try to talk a little, to be with others.

Lent is a good time to make space for the Word of God. It's the time to turn off the television and open the Bible. It's a time to disconnect from your phones and connect to the Gospel. When I was a child there was no television, but there was a custom of not listening to the radio. Lent is deserted, it is a time to give up, to disconnect from our phones and connect to the Gospel. It is time to give up useless words, gossip, rumours and to speak intimately with the Lord. It's time to devote yourself to a healthy ecology of the heart, to clean it. We live in an environment polluted by too much verbal violence, by so many offensive and harmful words, that the web amplifies. Today we insult as if we were saying "Good Morning". We are inundated with empty words, advertising, deceitful messages. We have become accustomed to hearing everything about everyone and we risk slipping into a mundaneness that atrophies our heart and there is no by-pass to heal this, but only silence. We struggle to distinguish the voice of the Lord who speaks to us, the voice of conscience, the voice of good. Jesus, calling us into the desert, invites us to listen to what matters, to the important, to the essential. To the devil who tempted Him He replied, "It is not only by bread alone that man lives, but by every word that comes out of God's mouth" (Matthew 4:4). Like bread, more than bread we need the Word of God, we need to speak with God: we need to pray. Because only before God do the inclinations of the heart come to light and the duplicity of our souls fall. Here is the desert, a place of life, not of death, because dialogue in silence with the Lord gives us life.

Let's try to think of a desert again. The desert is the place of the essential. Let's look at our lives: how many useless things surround us! We chase a thousand things that seem necessary and are not really. How good would it be for us to get rid of so many superfluous realities, to rediscover what matters, to find the faces of those around us! Jesus also sets an example on this, fasting. Fasting is to know how to give up the vain things, the superfluous, to go to the essentials. Fasting is not just about losing weight, fasting is going to the essentials, it is seeking the beauty of a simpler life.

Finally, the desert is the place of solitude. Even today, near us, there are many deserts. They are lonely and abandoned people. How many poor and elderly people stand by us and live in silence, without any noise, marginalized and discarded! Talking about them doesn't create an audience, ratings. But the desert leads us to them, to all those who are silenced, silently ask for our help. So many silent glances asking for our help. The journey through the Lent desert is a journey of charity to those who are weakest.
Prayer, fasting, works of mercy: this is the path in the Lenten desert.

Dear brothers and sisters, with the voice of the prophet Isaiah, God has made this promise: "Here, I will do something new, I will open a path in the desert"(Is 43:19). In the desert the path is opened up that brings us from death to life. Let us enter the desert with Jesus, and we will come out of it savouring Easter, the power of God's love that renews life. The same will happen to us that happens in the deserts that bloom in spring, making buds suddenly, "out of nothing", buds and plants. Take courage, let us enter this desert of Lent, follow Jesus into the desert: with him our deserts will flourish.