For forty days until Easter, Christians have an experience of the desert. According to tradition, the desert is the place where you can build intimacy with God. Through this experience, Christians are invited to convert their lives by turning their hearts to God. In his first sermon, Jesus invites crowds to conversion: "Repent and believe the Good News.” (Mk 1, 15). Man cannot save himself. The salvation is brought by Christ who comes to seek and save what we have lost, delivers us from evil that damages our lives. It is Jesus Christ who takes away our sins, offers conversion and divine holiness. Christians are encouraged to turn their eyes on the essentials, to let themselves be converted, be transformed by the grace of the Gospel, and to be opened to the life and the holiness of Christ.
This is not about turning to the Lord to discuss our wrong doings, but to be more keenly aware by admitting them and asking for forgiveness. This is essential, it is the commandment of love: to ensure that everything in our lives is animated by the love we want to give to God and others (Mt 22, 40).
Lent invites us to enter into ourselves to discover what became of the inner sanctuary of our being, to watch and listen to God, open our hearts to him, and joining his presence in a burst of faith. Very often we walk blindly, and we find excuses for our behavior.
Lent is the period when the Lord removes the scales covering our eyes, to turn our gaze in that of Christ to understand the meaning of the world and of life, and to see ourselves as God knows us. Lent is also the time of liberation. By revealing to us our secret sins (Ps 19, 35), the Lord frees our hearts from all that oppresses and makes us superior to ourselves, by facing the temptation. Jesus Christ suffered the onslaught of evil powers and he resisted them. The Lord is with us, so that we can stand firm at the time of the fight by remaining committed to him. Jesus Christ can bring us fully into the mystery of a heart who surrenders.
In today's Church, Lent is increasingly experienced as the moment of charity. The love of others in a concrete and practical manner. The Lord invites us to love sincerely those who are close as well as those who are far, and those who are in need. Mutual love is the sign by which we recognize Christ's disciples (Jn 13, 35). Jesus attaches paramount importance to charity. From the perspective of the Gospel, charity embraces all aspects of love for others. The whole purpose of Jesus’ life was to love. Since Jesus Christ wanted us to live with his love, it is his love that must take possession of us. Jesus came to love within us. He comes to us with this force of love. His heart beats within us; he carries us to love like him without measure, to forgive endlessly, and not to limit the welcome and service. Jesus makes us go until the end of love; he makes us discover more of the mystery of his presence in all men. Jesus makes us love our brothers. The Lord has shown us the deep sense of charity. He made us discover a mystery: his presence in all people and especially in the unfortunate. Christ suffers for all our lack of love, but he also welcomes all our acts of love. And when we stand before him in the meeting of the Hereafter, we will see that he will forget none of our acts of charity and love.
We have a responsibility to recognize in all those we encounter, Christ's presence, treating each of them as we would treat Jesus Christ himself. We must also try to apply the words of the Gospel which shows us how Jesus makes us aware of all the current problems of our society:
- The problem of world hunger.
- The problem of poverty and misery: "I was naked and you clothed me"
- The problem of migrants and those fleeing their country.
- The problem of welcoming: "I was a stranger and you welcomed me"
- The problem of the sick: "I was sick and you visited me." Jesus draws our attention to the moral aspect of the disease. He does not say: "I was sick and you looked after me" but "I was sick and you visited me. "
- The problem of detainees: "I was in prison and you visited me. "It is the fact of all the prisons in the world, prisoners, rather to improve themselves, they become worse than they were before.
There is a big problem: crime and the amendment of detainees. Jesus drew our attention to these phenomenas in society. At the same time, he asks from each one of us a behavior that reflects his presence in all men. Note that this presence of Jesus is independent of the moral worth of the individual.
There are different modes of the presence of Jesus, the Lord makes us understand that it would be present in those who observe his commandments: "If anyone loves me, he has said, and he observes my commandments, my Father and I will come to him and we will make our home with him. "This is a friendly presence, a presence complacent. Jesus also speaks of a presence gained to every man whatever, whatever its value, or moral behavior.
Christ is always present because he says: "I was in prison." No doubt it happens that there are innocent people imprisoned, but there are also all kinds of offenders. Jesus Christ wanted us to understand that in the worst of criminals, that he is present. And this is what everyone who goes to visit detainees will understand in the prisons. They apply this indication of the Gospel. Many of them recognize the presence of Christ in the detainees. "Whatever you did to the least of my brothers here, it is to me that you did"; the smallest and most vulnerable! Sometimes we are tempted to neglect some people in our charity; we find it is not interesting, and we have to ask ourselves when we think about charity. We should really be more careful to ensure that no one is left out.
May the Lord give us more of this mystical view of charity, to recognize his presence in every human being, and to treat everyone well, with an awareness that everything we do is done to Jesus Christ himself in person! We feel so small in front of this great commandment that Jesus gave us: "Love one another as I myself have loved you.” To love as Jesus loved us, going to the sacrifice of his life, for this sacrifice is given as an example. The Lord Jesus did not say: "Love one another as I love you," but "Love one another as I have loved you", that is to say, as he has loved us through his sacrifice.
What we are trying to explain is so large that we feel ourselves incapable to do so. Only Jesus Christ can inspire the love he commanded us to observe. By loving within us, he overcomes the weakness of our hearts.
The heart of Jesus makes us overcome all our reactions of impatience, intolerance and aggression, all that we claim is our egoism. Jesus sees it better than us, and he has the means to free ourselves from this self-love that holds us prisoners. It has the means to make us love in his manner, to remake our heart as new and enlarge it as he wants and as he knows. That is why we want to put ourselves more and more under his radiation of love, he lets us be invaded by this love which made him "Eucharist." Only Jesus Christ, our God, can make us love as the most authentic brotherly love wherewith he loved us. Love that enables us to see in our brothers and sisters the gift of Christ's presence, by trying to discover in them their qualities and many talents, by fixing upon them only a favorable gaze, full of benevolence.
Mary has been a model of charity. When the Holy Spirit filled her with grace, he wanted to fill her with divine love. And this love which the Virgin Mary was filled with, guided all her conduct. What is wonderful in Mary is that she has never performed an act of selfishness, she never showed impatience. All those who encountered Mary, always discovered her goodness and love.
Mary never hurt anyone. We do not know how concretely the Virgin Mary behaved during the thirty years of the hidden life of Jesus in Nazareth, as the Gospel says nothing about it. We just know that the mother of Jesus was full of grace, she must therefore radiate charity that was within her, and the Lord Jesus himself admired her heart and love.
Mary was realized in perfect love. When Jesus says to his disciples: "You must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect," he thought of Mary who had realized this ideal of perfection, the only perfect creature without shadow, a perfect reflection of the Father in His love. As we will see later, the Gospel, while telling us little about Mary, nevertheless gives us some indication of his love for others. Christians are called during Lent, to practice the requirements of fraternal generosity.