The pope celebrated Mass in Ecatepec, one of Mexico City’s big suburbs, on the first Sunday of Lent. Speaking to hundreds of thousands of people, Francis stressed the importance of Lent as the "favorite moment" to drive away the evil one’s temptations.
Mexico City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis celebrated Holy Mass on Sunday near the Study Centre of Ecatepec, in the suburbs of Mexico City. His homily focused on wealth, vanity and pride, "the three temptations” every Christian has to face. During Lent, which is a special time for conversion, we must remember that “We have chosen Jesus, not the evil one”. [. . .] For this reason, the Church gives us the gift of this Lenten season, invites us to conversion, offering but one certainty: he is waiting for us and wants to heal our hearts of all that tears us down.”
Amid huge crowds that cheered him on, the pontiff made his way to the site in his popemobile. A huge esplanade stood in front of the altar with hundreds of thousands of people. Holy See Press Office director Fr Federico Lombardi noted that the pope has already met with about a million people during the first events of his apostolic visit to Mexico.
“Last Wednesday we began the liturgical season of Lent, during which the Church invites us to prepare ourselves to celebrate the great feast of Easter. This is a special time for recalling the gift of our baptism, when we became children of God. The Church invites us to renew the gift she has given us, to not let this gift lie dormant as if it were something from the past or locked away in some “memory chest.” Lent is a good time to recover the joy and hope that make us feel beloved sons and daughters of the Father. The Father who waits for us in order to cast off our garments of exhaustion, of apathy, of mistrust, and so clothe us with the dignity which only a true father or mother knows how to give their children, with the garments born of tenderness and love.
“Our Father, he is the Father of a great family; he is our Father. He knows that he has a unique love, but he does not know how to bear or raise an “only child”. He is the God of the home, of brotherhood, of bread broken and shared. He is the God who is ‘Our Father’, not ‘my father’ or ‘your stepfather’.”
“God’s dream makes its home and lives in each one of us so that at every Easter, in every Eucharist we celebrate, we may be the children of God. It is a dream which so many of our brothers and sisters have had through history. A dream witnessed to by the blood of so many martyrs, both from long ago and from now.
“Lent,” he added, “is a time of conversion, of daily experiencing in our lives of how this dream is continually threatened by the father of lies, by the one who tries to separate us, making a divided and fractious society. A society of the few, and for the few. How often we experience in our own lives, or in our own families, among our friends or neighbors, the pain which arises when the dignity we carry within is not recognized. How many times have we had to cry and regret on realizing that we have not acknowledged this dignity in others. How often — and it pains me to say it — have we been blind and impervious in failing to recognize our own and others’ dignity.
“Lent is a time for reconsidering our feelings, for letting our eyes be opened to the frequent injustices which stand in direct opposition to the dream and the plan of God. It is a time to unmask three great temptations that wear down and fracture the image which God wanted to form in us.
“There are three temptations of Christ … three temptations for the Christian, which seek to destroy what we have been called to be; three temptations which try to corrode us and tear us down.
“Wealth: seizing hold of goods destined for all, and using them only for ‘my own people’. That is, taking the ‘bread’ based on the toil of others, or even at the expense of their very lives. That wealth which tastes of pain, bitterness and suffering. This is the bread that a corrupt family or society gives its own children.
“Vanity: the pursuit of prestige based on continuous, relentless exclusion of those who ‘are not like me’. The futile chasing of those five minutes of fame which do not forgive the ‘reputation’ of others. ‘Making firewood from a felled tree’ gives way to the third temptation.
“Pride: or rather, putting oneself on a higher level than one truly is on, feeling that one does not share the life of “mere mortals”, and yet being one who prays every day: “I thank you Lord that you have not made me like those others…”
“Three temptations of Christ… three temptations which the Christian is faced with daily. Three temptations which seek to corrode, destroy and extinguish the joy and freshness of the Gospel. Three temptations which lock us into a cycle of destruction and sin.
“And so it is worth asking ourselves:
“To what degree are we aware of these temptations in our lives, in our very selves?
“How much have we become accustomed to a lifestyle where we think that our source and life force lies only in wealth?
“To what point do we feel that caring about others, our concern and work for bread, for the good name and dignity of others, are wellsprings of happiness and hope?
We have chosen Jesus, not the evil one; we want to follow in his footsteps, even though we know that this is not easy. We know what it means to be seduced by money, fame and power. For this reason, the Church gives us the gift of this Lenten season, invites us to conversion, offering but one certainty: he is waiting for us and wants to heal our hearts of all that tears us down. He is the God who has a name: Mercy. His name is our wealth, his name is what makes us famous, his name is our power and in his name we say once more with the Psalm: ‘You are my God and in you I trust’. Let us repeat these words together: ‘You are my God and in you I trust’”.
“In this Eucharist, may the Holy Spirit renew in us the certainty that his name is Mercy, and may he let us experience each day that “the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. . .”, knowing that “with Christ and in Christ joy is constantly born anew” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 1).
Following the Mass, the pope recited the Angelus, also in Ecatepec. Before the Marian prayer, he said, "In the first reading of this Sunday, Moses makes a recommendation to the people. At harvest time, when things are plentiful, and the first fruits are available, do not forget your origins, do not forget where you came from. The action of grace is born and grows in a person and a people who can remember. It has its roots in the past, which generated the present amid light and shadows. When we can give thanks to God because the earth has yielded its fruit so that we can make bread, Moses called on his people to remember, enumerating the difficult situations it had to go through (cf. Dt 26:5-11)."
"On this day,” Francis went on to say, “we can celebrate how good the Lord has been to us. Let us give thanks for the opportunity to be together in presenting to the Good Father the first fruits of our children and grandchildren, of our dreams and plans; the first fruits of our cultures, languages and traditions; the first fruits of our commitment . . .”
"What each of you has had to go through to get this far!” he said. “How much have you had to 'walk' to make this day a feast, an action of grace! How much others, who were unable to come, had to walk! But it is thanks to them that we have been able to move forward. Today, following Moses’ invitation, as a people we want to remember, we want to be a people of the living memory of God’s passage through his people, in his People. We want to look at our children knowing that they will not only inherit a land, a language, a culture and a tradition, but will inherit the living fruit of faith that will be a reminder of God’s certain passage on his land. [This will bring us] the certainty of his closeness and solidarity. Such certainty will help us raise our heads and longingly wait for the dawn."
“Along with you, I also join this grateful memory, this vivid memory of God’s passage in your life. Watching your children, I can only cite what the Blessed Paul VI told the Mexican people, "A Christian cannot but show his or her solidarity to solve the situation of those to whom the bread of culture or the opportunity for honorable work have not yet come.” He or she “cannot remain indifferent when new generations do not find the way to realize their legitimate aspirations." The Blessed Paul VI called on people “to stay always at the forefront of all the efforts to improve the situation of those who suffer poverty," and to see "in every man a brother and in every brother Christ'."
“I urge you again today to stand in the forefront, to be resourceful in all the initiatives that can help to make this blessed Mexican land a land of opportunity, where in order to dream there is no need to emigrate; where there is not need to be exploited in order to work; where there is no need to turn despair and poverty of the many into the opportunism of the few. May this land never weep for the men and women, youth and children who end up destroyed in the hands of the traffickers of death."
“This land,” he concluded, "has the flavor of the Guadalupana, the one who has always come before us in love. To her, we say, Holy Virgin, ‘help us to bear radiant witness to communion, / service, ardent and generous faith, / justice and love of the poor, / that the joy of the Gospel / may reach to the ends of the earth, / illuminating even the fringes of our world.’ (Exhort. Ap. Evangelii gaudium, 288).”