Friday, February 8, 2008

Lent invites us to Hope

As a Sister of Jesus Our Hope I have to share some remarks that our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI made in his homily on Ash Wednesday regarding hope. He reminded us that prayer is the guarantee of openness to others, and without it, people run the risk of closing in on themselves.
The Holy Father reflected on the themes of prayer and suffering, as well as hope. "Lent, precisely because it invites people to prayer, penance and fasting, represents a providential moment to revive and strengthen our hope," he said.

Prayer "is the primary and foremost 'weapon' with which to 'face the struggle against the spirit of evil.'" He contended that "without the element of prayer, the human 'I' ends up by closing in on itself, and the conscience, which should be the echo of the voice of God, risks being reduced to a mirror of the self. In the same way, interior dialogue becomes a monologue that gives rise to many forms of self-justification.

"Thus prayer is a guarantee of openness to others. Those who free themselves for God and his needs, open themselves to others, to the brothers and sisters who knock at the door of their hearts and ask to be heard, ask for attention, for forgiveness, and sometimes for correction, but always in fraternal charity. True prayer is never centered on the self but always focuses on others."

The Holy Father said that true prayer is the motor of the world, because it keeps us open to God. For this reason, without prayer there is no hope, only illusion. It is not, in fact, the presence of God that alienates man, but his absence. Without the true God, Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, hope turns into an illusion that induces us to evade reality."

The Pope also said that "fasting and almsgiving, harmoniously linked to prayer, may also be considered as 'places' in which to learn the exercise of Christian hope. Thanks to the joint action of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, Lent [...] forms Christians to be men and women of hope, following the example of the saints," he added.

"The greater the hope that animates us, the greater also is our capacity to suffer for the love of truth and goodness, joyfully offering up the small and great hardships of everyday life, and making them part of Christ's great 'com-passion..."

I offer these thoughts as we move into the weekend - into the Lord's Day - for your prayer and reflection. Let's all grow in our desire to be men and women of hope during this Lenten season. God knows that the world needs "the hope that does not disappoint."

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