VATICAN CITY (CNA) — The "globalization of indifference" was at the heart of Pope Francis' Lenten message in which he urged the faithful to fight individualism with merciful hearts that are more attentive to the needs of others.
"Jesus is interested in each of us," Pope Francis said in his message. "His love does not allow Him to be indifferent to what happens to us."
Pope Francis said that often times when we live a healthy and comfortable lifestyle, "we forget about others. We are unconcerned with their problems, their sufferings and the injustices they endure. Our heart grows cold."
The pope's Lenten message is titled, "Make Your Hearts Firm," after the biblical passage from James 5:8. Pope Francis said Lent is a time of grace when people can encounter the love of the Lord, who first served us through His life and ultimately in His sacrificial death on the cross.
"God is not indifferent to our world. He so loves it that he gave His Son for our salvation," the pontiff said, saying that one of the most "urgent challenges" of today's world - and the one to which he dedicated his Lenten message - "is precisely the globalization of indifference."
This "globalization of indifference" is a reality that Christians must confront by going outside of themselves, he said.
"If one member suffers, all suffer together," he said. St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians reminds us of the Church, the pope explained, saying that the love of God breaks through the barriers of indifference we frequently put up.
"But we can only bear witness to what we ourselves have experienced," he said. He encouraged the faithful to turn to the sacraments during Lent - particularly the Eucharist - in order to better imitate the Lord. During Mass he said, "We become what we receive: the Body of Christ. In this body there is no room for the indifference which so often seems to possess our hearts."
In order to both receive what God gives to us and make it bear fruit in individual communities, we need to go beyond the boundaries of the physical Church, the pope said, noting that this is first done through our prayers to the saints in heaven, who intercede for us with joy.
He also said a single parish or community can cross these boundaries by engaging "in the life of the greater society of which it is a part, especially with the poor and those who are far away."
The Church is "missionary by her very nature," he said, and parishes and communities should not remain self-enclosed, but go out to every nation and people so that they become "islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference."
Pope Francis then pointed to the biblical verse in James from which the title of his message is taken, saying that it speaks to the temptation for individual Christians to become indifferent.
"Flooded with news reports and troubling images of human suffering, we often feel our complete inability to help," he said.
Both praying together as a community and performing small acts of charity are concrete ways that can prevent us from getting "caught up in this spiral of distress and powerlessness," the pope said.
Noting the importance of conversion, the Bishop of Rome said that seeing the suffering of others inevitably reminds us of our dependency on God, as well as on our brothers and sisters. He encouraged all to ask for God's grace in accepting their limitations.
Pope Francis concluded his message by praying that during Lent, each person receive "a heart which is firm and merciful, attentive and generous, a heart which is not closed, indifferent or prey to the globalization of indifference."