Christians are called to confront the material, spiritual and moral destitution of “our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it,”
In his first message for Lent, which begins March 5 for Latin-rite Catholics, he encouraged the faithful to “imitate Christ who became poor and enriched us by his poverty.”
“It means following and imitating Jesus, who sought out the poor and sinners as a shepherd lovingly seeks his lost sheep. In union with Jesus, we can courageously open up new paths of evangelization and human promotion”.
Pope Francis explains that “Lent is a fitting time for self-denial,” and that “we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty.”
He continues with “Destitution is not the same as poverty: destitution is poverty without faith, without support, without hope. There are three types of destitution: material, moral and spiritual.
“Material destitution is what is normally called poverty, and affects those living in conditions opposed to human dignity: those who lack basic rights and needs such as food, water, hygiene, work and the opportunity to develop and grow culturally. In response to this destitution, the Church offers her help, her diakonia, in meeting these needs and binding these wounds which disfigure the face of humanity.
“In the poor and outcast we see Christ’s face; by loving and helping the poor, we love and serve Christ. Our efforts are also directed to ending violations of human dignity, discrimination and abuse in the world, for these are so often the cause of destitution. When power, luxury and money become idols, they take priority over the need for a fair distribution of wealth. Our consciences thus need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity and sharing”.
“No less a concern is moral destitution, which consists in slavery to vice and sin. How much pain is caused in families because one of their members – often a young person – is in thrall to alcohol, drugs, gambling or pornography! How many people no longer see meaning in life or prospects for the future, how many have lost hope! And how many are plunged into this destitution by unjust social conditions, by unemployment, which takes away their dignity as breadwinners, and by lack of equal access to education and health care. In such cases, moral destitution can be considered impending suicide.
“This type of destitution, which also causes financial ruin, is invariably linked to the spiritual destitution which we experience when we turn away from God and reject his love. If we think we don’t need God who reaches out to us through Christ, because we believe we can make do on our own, we are headed for a fall. God alone can truly save and free us”.
” The Gospel is the real antidote to spiritual destitution: wherever we go, we are called as Christians to proclaim the liberating news that forgiveness for sins committed is possible, that God is greater than our sinfulness, that he freely loves us at all times and that we were made for communion and eternal life.
“The Lord asks us to be joyous heralds of this message of mercy and hope! It is thrilling to experience the joy of spreading this good news, sharing the treasure entrusted to us, consoling broken hearts and offering hope to our brothers and sisters experiencing darkness.
He then voices a prayer to the Holy Spirit, asking that he help us in our resolutions to have a greater concern and responsibility for humanity “so that we can become merciful and act with mercy.”
“In expressing this hope, I likewise pray that each individual member of the faithful and every Church community will undertake a fruitful Lenten journey,” the Pope states, adding that “I ask all of you to pray for me. May the Lord bless you and Our Lady keep you safe.”
The full text is easily something that one can pray over in order to repent (literally, change one’s way of thinking)