Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Facing the evil that is present in each one, recognising one's own responsibilities, without attributing the causes to others. This is the real meaning of entering into Lent, recalled on the first Sunday of this liturgical season by Benedict XVI in the reflection addressed to the 40,000 people present in St Peter's Square for the recitation of the Angelus, on a luminous day.
The struggle to be faced together with Christ - against evil, against Satan, which represents the meaning of Lent - assumes a distinctive aspect this year in that it falls on the 150th anniversary of the apparition of the Virgin of Lourdes. Her message - "Convert and believe in the Gospel, pray and do penance" - Benedict XVI recalled, echoes that of Jesus, and is the path to be followed in this period.
Entering into Lent, therefore, in the words of the pope "means beginning a period of special effort in the spiritual warfare that pits us against the evil present in the world, within each one of us and around us. It means looking evil in the face and preparing ourselves to fight against its effects, above all against its causes, all the way to its ultimate cause, which is Satan. It means not unloading the problem of evil upon others, on society or God, but acknowledging our own responsibilities and taking them upon ourselves deliberately. In this regard, Jesus’ call for each one to take up his own 'cross' and follow him with humility and trust resounds more urgently than ever for us Christians" (cf. Mt 16:24).
"The cross, as heavy as it might be", he continued in a slightly hoarse voice, "is not synonymous with misfortune, with a disgrace to be avoided as much as possible, but the opportunity to follow Jesus and thus to gain strength in the struggle against sin and evil. Entering into Lent thus means renewing the personal and communal decision to confront evil together with Christ. The way of the Cross is, in fact, the only one that leads to the victory of love over hatred, of sharing over egoism, of peace over violence. Seen in this way, Lent is truly an occasion for a strong ascetic and spiritual effort founded upon the grace of Christ".
Benedict XVI then recalled that this year, the beginning of Lent "providentially coincides with the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of Lourdes". "The message that the Virgin Mary continues to spread in Lourdes recalls the words that Jesus pronounced at the beginning of his public mission, and which we hear again several times in these days of Lent: 'Convert and believe in the Gospel', pray and do penance. Let us welcome the invitation of Mary, which echoes that of Christ, and ask her to obtain the favour of 'entering' with faith into Lent, to live this time of grace with interior joy and generous effort. Let us also entrust to the Virgin the sick and those who take loving care of them. Tomorrow, in fact, on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, we celebrate the World Day of the Sick. I greet with all my heart", he continued, "the pilgrims who will gather in the basilica of Saint Peter". It is an encounter at which, he explained, he will not be present. Beginning today, in fact, the pope begins his Lenten retreat, which will last the entire week. In this days, as usual, all of the encounters with the pope are suspended, including the Wednesday general audience.