Pope Francis' message this Lent is, "The Word is a Gift. The Other Persons are Gifts." The full message can be found on the Vatican's website.
Pope Francis invites us this Lent to look at others as a gift. This is not always an easy task, because at times, the other person may not seem like a gift to us. They look different, they believe differently from us. We may not see him or her as a person made in the image and likeness of Christ, so how can they be a gift?
Lately on social media we are seeing the ugliness of not seeing other persons as gifts. It is so sad what people on both sides of these issues have been saying and are doing, especially since the inauguration. Family members and longtime friends have stopped talking to each other. Pope Francis is challenging all of us this Lent. What are we going to do with this challenge? Can we open our hearts to see the gift that our new president, the immigrant, the refugee, the rich or poor, the homeless, and everyone else that may be different from us in any way are all gifts to us?
It may seem overwhelming, but our faith gives us hope and lets us know that all things are possible. We may not understand why this is happening in our lives, but we believe that God knows all things. We just need to stay the course, do what we are called to do as Catholic men, women and children, and have faith that all will be good. We are a people who are about reaching the kingdom and building our relationship with Jesus. He has given us the gift of the Word, that guides us through all adversity. In Pope Francis' message, he tells us, "Lazarus teaches us that other persons are a gift. A right relationship with people consists in gratefully recognizing their value. Even the poor person at the door of the rich is not a nuisance, but a summons to conversion and to change. The parable first invites us to open the doors of our heart to others because each person is a gift, whether it be our neighbor or an anonymous pauper."
Pope Francis tells us, "The rich man's real problem, thus, comes to the fore. At the root of all his ills was the failure to heed God's word. As a result, he no longer loved God and grew to despise his neighbor. The word of God is alive and powerful, capable of converting hearts and leading them back to God. When we close our heart to the gift of God's Word, we end up closing our heart to the gift of our brothers and sisters." He is letting us know to take advantage of the gift of the Word. There are plenty of opportunities this Lent, offered through many of our parishes and in the diocese, to learn more about scripture through the various Bible study opportunities and retreat experiences that are being offered.
One of the resources that can be used this year for Lent can be found on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' website. They have a Lectio Divina resource for readings from Ash Wednesday through all the Sundays during Lent. Lectio Divina is a form of meditation rooted in liturgical celebration that dates back to the early monastic communities. It involves focused reading of Scripture (lectio), meditation on the Word of God (meditatio), contemplation of the Word and its meaning in one's life (contemplatio) and ends with prayer (oratio). They invite us to do it individually or to gather your family or a small group together.