March 6, 2015

Thinking about Lent

At yesterday morning's Mass, Pope Francis referred to the Gospel story of the rich man who went to hell.  "There are two judgments," the Pope said, "a curse for the man who trusts in the world and a blessing for those who trust in the Lord."

Commenting on the parable of the rich man, a man dressed “in purple and fine linen,” who “every day gave lavish banquets,” the Pope said that we never hear ill spoken of this man, we are not told that he was a bad man. In fact, “He was, perhaps, a religious man, in its own way: he prayed, perhaps, a few prayers and two or three times a year definitely went to the temple to make the sacrifices and gave large offerings to the priests, and they – with their clerical pusillanimity – gave him to sit in the place of honour.” They did not notice the poor beggar at his door, Lazarus, hungry, full of sores, which were the evidence of his grave need.

Francis focused on the life of the rich man saying: “When he went about town, we might imagine his car with tinted windows so as not [to be] seen from without – who knows – but definitely, yes, his soul, the eyes of his soul were darkened so that he could not see out. He saw only into his life, and did not realize what had happened to [himself]. He was not bad: he was sick, sick with worldliness – and worldliness transforms souls. It transforms souls, makes them lose consciousness of reality. Worldly souls live in an artificial world, one of their making. Worldliness anesthetizes the soul. This is why the worldly man was not able to see reality.”

The reality is that many poor people are living right in our midst: “So many people are there, who bear so many difficulties in life, who live in great difficulty:  but if I have the worldly heart, never will understand that. It is impossible for one with a worldly heart to  comprehend the needs and the neediness of others. With a worldly heart you can go to church, you can pray, you can do so many things. But Jesus, at the Last Supper, in the prayer to the Father, what did He pray? ‘But please, Father, keep these disciples from falling into the world, from falling into worldliness.’ Worldliness is a subtle sin – it is more than a sin – it is a sinful state of soul.”

This Lenten Season is a good time for us to reflect on where we place our trust: in the world or in the Lord?  What are the worldly influences that may be preventing us from seeing reality?