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Lent 2024 “Through the Desert God Leads us to Freedom”

February 12, 2024

From the Office for Social Ministry

“The contemplative dimension of life that Lent helps us to rediscover will release new energies. In the presence of God, we become brothers and sisters, more sensitive to one another: in place of threats and enemies, we discover companions and fellow travelers. This is God’s dream, the promised land to which we journey once we have left our slavery behind.”  ~ Pope Francis Message for Lent 2024

This year the title of Pope Francis’s message for Lent is Through the Desert God Leads us to Freedom.” Our Holy Father boldly begins his message by pointing out “When our God reveals himself, his message is always one of freedom.” But the pope quickly adds, “the call to freedom is a demanding one. It is not answered straightaway; it has to mature as part of a journey.”

Pope Francis reminds all that God's first words to the Israelites at Mount Sinai were about being freed from slavery. Just as the enslaved journeyed through the desert towards freedom, Lent is a call to embark on a forty-day spiritual desert journey. “Lent is the season of grace in the desert where God shapes his people, he enables us to leave our slavery behind and experience a Passover from death to life.”

The Pope’s Lenten message emphasizes that “the exodus from slavery to freedom is no abstract journey. If our celebration of Lent is to be concrete, the first step is to desire to open our eyes to the reality.” Our Holy Father focuses on the fact that “today the cry of so many of our oppressed brothers and sisters rises to heaven and moves the heart of God. Lent is a time to ask ourselves: Do we hear that cry? Does it trouble us? Does it move us?”

Pope Francis provocatively proposes “It is time to act, and in Lent, to act also means to pause. To pause in prayer, in order to receive the word of God, to pause like the Samaritan in the presence of a wounded brother or sister. Love of God and love of neighbor are one love.” The pontiff explains why the primary Lenten activities of prayer, fasting and almsgiving are all connected as “a single movement of openness and self-emptying, in which we cast out the idols that weigh us down, the attachments that imprison us.”

In the compelling call to conversion of his Lenten message, Pope Francis says “I invite every Christian community to do just this: to offer its members moments set aside to rethink their lifestyles, times to examine their presence in society and the contribution they make to its betterment. To the extent that this Lent becomes a time of conversion, an anxious humanity will notice a burst of creativity, a flash of new hope.”

This year as part of our time of conversion and creative action so we can be freed to be a flash of Easter hope, the Diocese of Honolulu is participating in the Catholic Relief Services-CRS Lenten Rice Bowl journey. Each Lent, Catholic families across the country unite to put their faith into action through prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Through CRS Rice Bowl, families learn about how our sisters and brothers across the globe overcome hardships like disasters, hunger and climate change, and how through Lenten alms, we have the power to make the world a better place for all. During the CRS Rice Bowl journey, we share stories of hope from around the world. This year Rice Bowl invites all to take a virtual journey to Uganda, El Salvador, and Indonesia to share in their stories of hope, as well as to try meatless recipes from these countries each Friday during Lent. For more on this Rice Bowl journey, please visit the website www.crsricebowl.org.

In addition, this year the Talk Story Column will offer some ways how our Lenten journey of prayer, fasting and almsgiving can include the Maui wildfire victims and share in their story of hope rising from the ashes. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, we will be remembering and responding with our wounded sisters and brothers in Maui throughout our Lenten journey. For more on some ways to do this, please visit the Hawaii Catholic Community Foundation homepage, titled Global Compassion, Maui’s Hope: a United Response to Maui’s Recovery on their website www.hawaiicatholiccommunityfoundation.org.

And to read the full text of Pope Francis’s Message for Lent 2024, please visit the Vatican website www.humandevelopment.va. We begin this Lent with the inspiring concluding words of his message.  “Let us find the courage to see our world, not as being in its death throes but in a process of giving birth, not at the end but at the beginning of a great new chapter of history. We need courage to think like this. Such is the courage of conversion, born of coming up from slavery. For faith and charity take hope, this small child, by the hand. They teach her to walk, and at the same time, she leads them forward. I bless all of you and your Lenten journey.” Mahalo.