VATICAN CITY, FEB. 28, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Lent is a time in which to learn to love God and our brothers, John Paul II said during an Ash Wednesday general audience.
John Paul II told the 5,000 pilgrims gathered in Paul VI Hall that the Lenten period now beginning is a reminder that “thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.”
Although it is true that “everything passes and is destined to die,” he said, “we are sojourners in this world … who must not forget [our] true and final end: heaven.” The Bishop of Rome emphasized that man, “created in the image and likeness of God, is for eternal life.”
“In everyday life there is the risk of being absorbed by occupations and material interests,” he continued. “Lent is a favorable time for a reawakening to authentic faith, for a salutary restoration of our relation with God, and for a more generous commitment to the Gospel.”
The means have always been the same: “prayer, fasting and penance, as well as almsgiving, that is, sharing what we have with the needy.” He added: “This is a personal and communal ascetic way, which sometimes seems particularly arduous because of the secularized atmosphere that surrounds us.”
In fact, our concern for our neighbor´s needs is, perhaps, the measure of love, John Paul II added. “Whoever loves the Lord cannot close his eyes in the face of individuals and peoples tried by suffering and poverty.”
“After having contemplated the face of the crucified Lord, how can we not recognize him and serve him in the sorrowful and abandoned,” the Pope queried. Thus, he said, the result of an authentic Lent is “a greater and more universal love.”