This has been the taste, the hope and the way forward that I sensed when I had the grace to savour this year’s Lenten message of Pope Francis. Its title is so actual! Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold. (Mt 24:12).
Can we afford living our lives alienated, thinking, as the second-placed Sanremo song, una vita in vacanza, that our life is on a holiday? Reading the Holy Father’s Lenten message one starts understanding that life is certainly not on a holiday. Some verses of this great song disclose why it is not: “ A life on holiday, an old woman dancing nothing new that advances, but the whole band playing and singing for a different world, freedom and lost time and nobody who breaks balls, no one who says, ‘If you’re wrong, you’re out… Live to work or work for living, make money not to think, always talk and do not listen, laugh to hurt, make peace to bomb, leave and then return”.
In this non-committal kind of living, where everyone simply does what s/he deems right, without any reference whatsoever to “hold[ing] fast [to] what is good” (1 Thes 5:21), the situation becomes a downright destruction. It is a fact that we are living in an age that is practically dominated by false prophets. In Pope Francis’ words these prophets “appear as ‘snake charmers’, who manipulate human emotions in order to enslave others and lead them where they would have them go”. These people deceive us in thinking that real happiness is tantamount to momentary pleasure. They present to us “the dream of wealth, which only makes [us] slaves to profit and petty interests!” How sad would be for us if we follow this disastrous trail! When we do we certainly end up being enslaved by loneliness.
Then, Pope Francis dubbs false prophets as “charlatans”. They are the ones “who offer easy and immediate solutions to suffering that soon prove utterly useless”. Their deceptive way of presenting reality leads many young people into what the Holy Father describes as “the panacea of drugs, of disposable relationships, of easy but dishonest gains!” When these people lobby their own horrendous agenda they ruin others because they “rob people of all that is most precious: dignity, freedom and the ability to love. They appeal to our vanity, our trust in appearances, but in the end they only make fools of us”.
And what is the sign that we have become so foolish? When, as Pope Francis said, evil is presented “as good, falsehood as truth”. Moreover, this is the tragic result ofa confounded human heart heinously propelled by “the devil, who is ‘a liar and the father of lies’” (Jn 8:4). His presence amongst us is terribly felt! Suffice to mention the ever-growing cold-heartedness in our lives as society, families and even in the church. Is it not true that amongst us there are people have become utterly frozen since they have chosen to live in loveless isolation? What kind of society do we think we might end up having when we opt for the greed for money, “the root of all evil” (1 Tim 6:10)? Can this greed really open us for the plight of “the unborn child, the elderly and infirm, the migrant, the alien among us, or our neighbour who does not live up to our expectations”? Will we be able to care for creation itself or shall we let carelessness and self-interest have a free reign? Finally, what about the frozenness in the church? Have church members themselves becomes victims of “this lack of love” especially seen in “selfishness and spiritual sloth, sterile pessimism, the temptation to self-absorption, constant warring among ourselves, and the worldly mentality that makes us concerned only for appearances, and thus lessens our missionary zeal”?
Love is rekindled when we practice prayer, almsgiving and fasting. Pope Francis teaches us that prayer “enable[s] our hearts to root out our secret lies and forms of self-deception, and then to find the consolation God offers”. “Almsgiving sets us free from greed and helps us to regard our neighbour as a brother or sister.” “Fasting wakes us up. It makes us more attentive to God and our neighbour”.
Lord rekindle your love in me starting from this Lenten season. Amen.