Christians Exhorted to Be Witnesses of God´s Love to Others

John Paul II´s Message for Lent 2002

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 5, 2002 ( John Paul II asks all Christians this Lent to witness with their lives to God´s love.

That is the essence of his Lenten Message, whose theme is «You Received Without Paying, Give Without Pay.»

«Since we have received this life freely, we must in turn offer it freely to our brothers and sisters,» the Holy Father explains in the message presented today in the Vatican Press Office. Ash Wednesday, Feb. 13, marks the start of the Lenten season leading up to the observance of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Because life is a gift, the document states, it «can never be regarded as a possession or as private property, even if the capabilities we now have to improve the quality of life can lead us to think that man is the ´master´ of life.»

«The achievements of medicine and biotechnology can sometimes lead man to think of himself as his own creator, and to succumb to the temptation of tampering with ´the tree of life,´» the Holy Father continues.

«Scientific work aimed at securing a quality of life more in keeping with human dignity is admirable, but it must never be forgotten that human life is a gift, and that it remains precious even when marked by suffering and limitations,» the Pope adds.

«On the contrary, every person, even the least gifted, must be welcomed and loved for themselves, regardless of their qualities and defects,» he stresses. «Indeed, the greater their hardship, the more they must be the object of our practical love.»

According to the Holy Father, «the first gift to be given is the gift of a holy life, bearing witness to the freely given love of God.»

«When, like the Good Samaritan, Christians respond to the needs of their neighbor, theirs is never merely material assistance. It is always a proclamation of the Kingdom as well, and speaks of the full meaning of life, hope and love,» the Lenten message emphasizes.

Before ending on a note of gratitude for the witness of charity given to the world by so many lay people, religious and priests, John Paul II proposes that Christians live this Lent «in practical generosity toward the poorest of our brothers and sisters.»

«By opening our hearts to them, we realize ever more deeply that what we give to others is our response to the many gifts which the Lord continues to give to us,» the Holy Father states.

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