Francis' message for Lent titled: "Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold". The false prophets are "snake charmers" who offer moments of pleasure disguised as happiness, that make us slaves of money, "charlatans" that offer simple and immediate solutions to suffering, from drugs to "disposable" relationships, to "a completely virtual life" that robs human relationships of meaning.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Prayer, almsgiving and fasting to "rediscover" charity and listen to the voice of God above that of the many "false prophets" of our time who "spread iniquity" and behind whom there is the devil, who "presents evil as good and false as true". They are "snake charmers" who offer moments of pleasure disguised as happiness, that make us slaves of money, "charlatans" that offer simple and immediate solutions to suffering, from drugs to "disposable" relationships, to "a completely virtual life" that robs human relationships of meaning.
Guarding against false prophets and looking for "what leaves us with a good and lasting impression, because it comes from God and is truly worth our good" is the warning that comes from Pope Francis's message for Lent 2018 on the theme: " Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold" (Mt 24.12), published today.
The title of the document are words uttered by Jesus. "They were spoken in Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives, where the Lord’s passion would begin. In reply to a question of the disciples, Jesus foretells a great tribulation and describes a situation in which the community of believers might well find itself: amid great trials, false prophets would lead people astray and the love that is the core of the Gospel would grow cold in the hearts of many".
The false prophets
"They can appear as “snake charmers”, who manipulate human emotions in order to enslave others and lead them where they would have them go. How many of God’s children are mesmerized by momentary pleasures, mistaking them for true happiness! How many men and women live entranced by the dream of wealth, which only makes them slaves to profit and petty interests! How many go through life believing that they are sufficient unto themselves, and end up entrapped by loneliness! False prophets can also be “charlatans”, who offer easy and immediate solutions to suffering that soon prove utterly useless. How many young people are taken in by the panacea of drugs, of disposable relationships, of easy but dishonest gains! How many more are ensnared in a thoroughly “virtual” existence, in which relationships appear quick and straightforward, only to prove meaningless! These swindlers, in peddling things that have no real value, 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. Nor should we be surprised. In order to confound the human heart, the devil, who is “a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44), has always presented evil as good, falsehood as truth. That is why each of us is called to peer into our heart to see if we are falling prey to the lies of these false prophets. We must learn to look closely, beneath the surface, and to recognize what leaves a good and lasting mark on our hearts, because it comes from God and is truly for our benefit.”.
Inspired by the Dante image of the devil who "dwells in the chill of suffocated love", Francis exhorts us to ask ourselves "how charity cools in us".
Money destroys charity
"What extinguishes charity is above all greed for money," the root of all evil "(1 Tim 6:10); to it follows the rejection of God and therefore to find consolation in Him, preferring our desolation to the comfort of his Word and the Sacraments. All this turns into violence that turns against those who are considered a threat to our 'certainties': the unborn child, the sick elderly, the passing guest, the stranger, but also the neighbor who does not correspond to the our expectations ".
“More than anything else, what destroys charity is greed for money, “the root of all evil” (1 Tim 6:10). The rejection of God and his peace soon follows; we prefer our own desolation rather than the comfort found in his word and the sacraments. All this leads to violence against anyone we think is a threat to our own “certainties”: the unborn child, the elderly and infirm, the migrant, the alien among us, or our neighbour who does not live up to our expectations”.
The pollution of creation is witness to this cooling of charity.
And even in the Christian communities there are "signs" of this lack of love. " 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".
"Perhaps we see, deep within ourselves and all about us, the signs I have just described. But the Church, our Mother and Teacher, along with the often bitter medicine of the truth, offers us in the Lenten season the soothing remedy of prayer, almsgiving and fasting. By devoting more time to prayer, we enable our hearts to root out our secret lies and forms of self-deception, and then to find the consolation God offers. He is our Father and he wants us to live life well.
Almsgiving sets us free from greed and helps us to regard our neighbour as a brother or sister. What I possess is never mine alone. How I would like almsgiving to become a genuine style of life for each of us! How I would like us, as Christians, to follow the example of the Apostles and see in the sharing of our possessions a tangible witness of the communion that is ours in the Church!".
"Fasting weakens our tendency to violence; it disarms us and becomes an important opportunity for growth. On the one hand, it allows us to experience what the destitute and the starving have to endure. On the other hand, it expresses our own spiritual hunger and thirst for life in God. Fasting wakes us up. It makes us more attentive to God and our neighbour. It revives our desire to obey God, who alone is capable of satisfying our hunger".
The Pope concluded: “I would also like my invitation to extend beyond the bounds of the Catholic Church, and to reach all of you, men and women of good will, who are open to hearing God’s voice. Perhaps, like ourselves, you are disturbed by the spread of iniquity in the world, you are concerned about the chill that paralyzes hearts and actions, and you see a weakening in our sense of being members of the one human family. Join us, then, in raising our plea to God, in fasting, and in offering whatever you can to our brothers and sisters in need" . (FP)