The Lenten message for our diocese this year stresses that in addition to fasting and praying we need to stretch out our hands in service of those in need.  This is very similar to the essence of the Lenten Letter recently released by the Vatican on behalf of Pope Francis.  I am especially struck by the Pope’s point that he “distrusts a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.”  How often in the past have me small attempts at charity been more for my own benefit than for the person or persons I was supposedly helping?  Let us reflect together on one powerful paragraph from Pope Francis’ Lenten Letter:

Dear brothers and sisters, may this Lenten season find the whole Church ready to bear witness to all those who live in material, moral and spiritual destitution the Gospel message of the merciful love of God our Father, who is ready to embrace everyone in Christ.  We can do this to the extent that we imitate Christ who became poor and enriched us by his poverty.  Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty.  Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance.  I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.

Let us pray for one another and support one another this Lent as we seek together to witness to the merciful love of God…

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