A Lenten Message from Pope Francis

As we prepare ourselves for Lent, we wish to share with you the Holy Father’s Lenten message. In his message, Pope Francis asks us to recall the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Pope Francis offers three lessons learned when reflecting on this parable:

  1. The other person is a gift 
    The parable begins by presenting its two main characters. The poor man is described in greater detail: he is wretched and lacks the strength even to stand. Lying before the door of the rich man, he fed on the crumbs falling from his table. His body is full of sores and dogs come to lick his wounds (cf. vv. 20-21). The picture is one of great misery; it portrays a man disgraced and pitiful.

    The scene is even more dramatic if we consider that the poor man is called Lazarus: a name full of promise, which literally means God helps. This character is not anonymous. His features are clearly delineated and he appears as an individual with his own story. While practically invisible to the rich man, we see and know him as someone familiar. He becomes a face, and as such, a gift, a priceless treasure, a human being whom God loves and cares for, despite his concrete condition as an outcast (cf. Homily, 8 January 2016).

    Lazarus teaches us that other persons are a gift. A right relationship with people consists in gratefully recognizing their value. Even the poor person at the door of the rich is not a nuisance, but a summons to conversion and to change. The parable first invites us to open the doors of our heart to others because each person is a gift, whether it be our neighbour or an anonymous pauper. Lent is a favourable season for opening the doors to all those in need and recognizing in them the face of Christ. Each of us meets people like this every day. Each life that we encounter is a gift deserving acceptance, respect and love. The word of God helps us to open our eyes to welcome and love life, especially when it is weak and vulnerable. But in order to do this, we have to take seriously what the Gospel tells us about the rich man.

  2. Sin blinds us
    The parable is unsparing in its description of the contradictions associated with the rich man (cf. v. 19). Unlike poor Lazarus, he does not have a name; he is simply called “a rich man”. His opulence was seen in his extravagant and expensive robes. Purple cloth was even more precious than silver and gold, and was thus reserved to divinities (cf. Jer 10:9) and kings (cf. Jg 8:26), while fine linen gave one an almost sacred character. The man was clearly ostentatious about his wealth, and in the habit of displaying it daily: “He feasted sumptuously every day” (v. 19). In him we can catch a dramatic glimpse of the corruption of sin, which progresses in three successive stages: love of money, vanity and pride (cf. Homily, 20 September 2013).

    The Apostle Paul tells us that “the love of money is the root of all evils” (1 Tim 6:10). It is the main cause of corruption and a source of envy, strife and suspicion. Money can come to dominate us, even to the point of becoming a tyrannical idol (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 55). Instead of being an instrument at our service for doing good and showing solidarity towards others, money can chain us and the entire world to a selfish logic that leaves no room for love and hinders peace.

    The parable then shows that the rich man’s greed makes him vain. His personality finds expression in appearances, in showing others what he can do. But his appearance masks an interior emptiness. His life is a prisoner to outward appearances, to the most superficial and fleeting aspects of existence (cf. ibid., 62).

    The lowest rung of this moral degradation is pride. The rich man dresses like a king and acts like a god, forgetting that he is merely mortal. For those corrupted by love of riches, nothing exists beyond their own ego. Those around them do not come into their line of sight. The result of attachment to money is a sort of blindness. The rich man does not see the poor man who is starving, hurting, lying at his door.

    Looking at this character, we can understand why the Gospel so bluntly condemns the love of money: “No one can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or be attached to the first and despise the second. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money” (Mt 6:24).

    To read the final lesson learned in Pope Francis’s Lenten message, click here.

     

    (Source: Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for Lent 2017, From the Vatican, 18 October 2016, Libreria Editrice Vaticana)

     

Korean Catholics from the Diocese of Arlington Witness Pope Francis in South Korea!

Written by: Tschangho John & Moonja Kim

As soon as the Vatican confirmed on March 10, 2014 that Pope Francis would visit South Korea in August 2014, Moonja and I began to prepare to attend the Pope’s Masses with excitement.

Pope Francis’s visit would have significant impacts on Catholicism in Korea, where it was laypeople, not missionaries, who established the first Catholic communities in the peninsula in the 18th Century at the cost of many lives. The Pope Francis effect, as people have proclaimed, assisted with adding more than two million new Catholics to this growing Church, with this visit being one of the highest conversions of Catholics, and a big missionary spirit.

Our first Mass celebrated by Pope Francis was on Aug. 15 in Daejeon Stadium, located about 100 miles South of Seoul, where he delivered an inspiring sermon to thousands of young adults attending from all Asian countries for the celebration of Asian Youth Day. He encouraged the youth to recognize the differences among people and become the seeds for the harmonized unifying world.

At the second Mass on Aug. 16, Pope Francis celebrated the beatification ceremony for 124 Korean martyrs who were victims of persecution by kings in the Yi dynasty. Over one million people attended the Mass, stretching over a mile on the main boulevard in Seoul.

Mass of people in Korea - Pope visit

We were so lucky and blessed to have seats only about 30 yards from the Altar. We were able to hear so clearly his plea for us to listen to those in need in this society surrounded by materialism, by remembering the martyrs’ ultimate sacrifice.

During the parade to the Altar before Mass, Pope Francis stopped 15 times to kiss babies presented to him along the police line, hearing thunderous acclaims by millions, “Viva il Papa”.

Pope blessing baby in Korea