By Msgr. Pierre Cibambo, Caritas Internationalis ecclesiastical advisor
In his Lent message this year Pope Francis invites us all to “shake ourselves out of our torpor”. He invites us to hear “the cry of the poor and of the earth”, to change direction and to be moved to action. Read Pope Francis’ message.
The Holy Father asks us to put the Paschal Mystery at the centre of our lives and “to feel compassion for the wounds of the crucified Christ in the many innocent victims of wars and tyrannies”. He asks us to focus on the countless forms of violence in the world, environmental disasters, the unequal distribution of the goods of the earth, the trafficking of people and all forms of rampant materialism.
Torpor comes in many forms for many people. Torpor lulls us into a comforting sleep but takes us further from God. It gives us a sense of being self-sufficient and having all the answers to our problems, it means we pass by others without really seeing or hearing them.
Maybe we bury ourselves in our work or in our mobile phones, or turn to drink and artificial stimulants to get through the day. Maybe we obsess about our looks or possessions or envy other people theirs or wrap ourselves in pride or arrogance, unable to see the true beauty of others and the world around us.
The journey of our awakening is one of renunciation and humility. Our Lenten journey takes us into the desert to face our true selves and to become closer to God. It is a journey that leads to death and resurrection, and this ultimately leads to love, joy and hope.
Our Lenten journey is accompanied by prayer and fasting. It is only by emptying ourselves out that there will be space for God in our lives and we will awaken the desire to give ourselves fully to others and to take action in the face of suffering and injustice. We are invited to accompany the poor and give alms at Lent, to really see where there is great need in the world and to respond to it. We are invited to understand our true place in the human family and recognise the bonds that unite us all.
If you look around our world in 2020, where do you see the cries of the poor and of the earth? We are listening to these cries and we ask you to listen too. The cries come from regions devastated by climate change where people go hungry and thirsty, such as in Zambia and the Sahel; women such as Nduwimana cry out as they give birth in refugee camps far from home; the people of Venezuela cry out for justice in their society, where people are faced with the choice of fleeing or letting their children starve; the sick and dying meanwhile are reaching out to us for a hand to hold and accompany them on their journey.
In his recent Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Querida Amazonia, speaking of the exploitation of the people and resources of the Amazon, Pope Francis says, “We need to feel outrage…in the face of injustice”. He warns of the dangers of our social conscious becoming dulled and inured to evil. He says that humanity must be increasingly conscious and respectful of nature and human ecology.
The world may sometimes seem unjust, overwhelming and disconnected and you may ask yourself “What can I do in the face of all this?” Caritas invites you to take the first step on your journey by simply stopping for a moment and prayerfully and humbly seeing and hearing the people around you. The next step is to offer food to the hungry, a caring hand to the sick and dying, listen to the voice of the voiceless and echo their cries, and giving alms to those who are needy. We are called to promote healing in ourselves and in others and to strengthen our human family with love.
Pope Francis once said, “It takes one good person to restore hope!” We can all be this person.