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Lent

The path of conversion.

March 2015 | Alberto Ramírez (Medellín, Colombia) | Spirituality

In the Church each year during Lent we prepare ourselves to celebrate the great feast of our salvation, the feast in which we commemorate the death and resurrection of the Lord. On this feast, we remember the foundation of our Christian life as described by St. Paul when speaking of baptism: our "configuration" with Christ in his death and resurrection (Romans 6,1s). The oldest testimonies of the feast of Easter are written in the second century: we find them in the many writings of the Church Fathers, but in a special way in the Easter homilies of the first centuries. They describe the paramount liturgical experience of the Church as a process that culminates in the great celebration of the Easter Triduum after a period of preparation, Lent, and a post-Easter period, lasting until the celebration of Pentecost.

Regarding Lent, in recent years the Popes have suggested a theme for each year to which they give special importance. Among them all, let us recall the messages of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. This year Pope Francis has proposed a message with the title of a quote from the Letter of James ("Stand firm"): In this message, he invites all Christians in the true spirit of Lent to overcome an attitude that affects our world as a temptation, indifference. The Pope speaks of a "globalization of indifference" and invites us to assume a pedagogy called "formation of the heart", using an expression from the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est of Pope Benedict XVI. This expression is in tune with the general thrust of the message and its title: "Stand firm."

In his effort to inspire our attitude of conversion in this regard during Lent, the Pope suggests that we meditate on three Scripture passages that are intrinsically linked: the text of I Corinthians 12:26 ("If one member suffers, all members share their suffering"), inviting us to awaken an ecclesial consciousness, a consciousness of communion; the text of Genesis 4:9 ("Where is your brother?"), to foster the attitude of compassion in our particular communities; and the text of James 5:8 ("Stand firm"), inviting us to fix our gaze on our state as believers and thus encouraging us to personally and enthusiastically accept this appeal for conversion.

It is evident that all, every Christian in particular, our specific communities, the entire Church, must accept the Pope’s invitation to conversion. It is very important to acquire this disposition to overcome the attitude of indifference and generously welcome the Lord’s call to have an attitude of openness in all areas of our life. With an attitude of conversion we must overcome the temptation to close in on ourselves, also the temptation to form communities that are not integrated into the greater community of the Church and are not willing to go out to the "peripheries" as the Pope has indicated on several occasions, referring to many life situations. Without this openness, it is impossible to resist the temptation to be indifferent to God and others. On the contrary, with an attitude of conversion that overcomes this temptation, we can acquire the ability to live our Christian experience authentically: the ability to be communion. Thus, in his first recommendation to meditate on a Scripture text for Lent, the Pope insists on the thoughts of the Church. We must all increasingly foster in our lives, a caring spirit for the community.

On the other hand, this openness to which the Pope invites us must ready our hearts, all our existence, to share our life with others in our specific communities and with those beyond it. It is an invitation to increasingly grow in a fraternal caring through compassion, especially with those who suffer. It is the way to give meaning to the nature of our religion: a religion of mercy, of infinite love, of compassion. In this way, we can also prove the authenticity of our adherence to the person of the Lord, which is the foundation of our Christian life and finally be able to demonstrate the authenticity of the experience of God that makes our faith possible.

At this time, the Company of Mary Our Lady is in the process of preparing for its XVII General Chapter which will take place in a few months. The theme, "Bearers of evangelical creativity in our world,” "will help it express the potential of the charism of Saint. Jeanne de Lestonnac.” This period of preparation for the General Chapter coincides with the great liturgy of the Church. It is not difficult to connect the intense preparation for the Chapter taking place in all the communities of the Company with the spirit of the liturgical season and in a special way with Pope Francis’ call to conversion this Lent. After all, everything we do in our communities implies an the intention of conversion: the willingness to uproot ourselves, in order to let go of our indifference, to awaken a new enthusiasm that allows us to develop all the creativity contained in the various charisms inspired by the Holy Spirit in our Church.

This is also the year of Consecrated Life, and this creates an ecclesial climate with special importance for the intention of the General Chapter of the Company. This demonstrates, as it has done over the years, the willingness to embrace the spirit of renewal of consecrated life proposed by Vatican II: precisely this year, we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the promulgation of the Decree Perfectae Caritatis. It is a favorable time to encourage an ecclesial consciousness in religious life; above all, to encourage us to live with the whole Church community the "aggiornamento" bequeathed to us by Pope John XXIII. This should help us be the true messengers, who through our Christian and consecrated life, the world needs today and in the future.
 

Alberto Ramírez Z.: prêtre de l’Archevêché de Medellin. Docteur en Théologie. Professeur de l’Université Pontificia Bolivariana et du Celam. Aumônier de la Compagnie de Notre-Dame.


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