Lenten reflections with Pope Francis

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - February 18, 2021 - 12:00am

This week marks the beginning of Lent, a time of prayer and renewal and a chance to refocus our personal relationships with God. Lenten activities will remain essentially the same; but with the global pandemic still raging, some of the activities will have to be nuanced to fit the existing circumstances. For me, I still highly recommend the practice of daily reflections for the next 40 days.

For those looking for inspirational sources, I would highly recommend the two books written by Pope Francis. They have been written in a way that make them ideal for daily spiritual reflections. The two books are Happiness in This Life published in 2017 and LET US DREAM: The Path to a Better Future published in 2020.

His book “Happiness in This Life” is actually a collection of homilies, speeches and “messages of the day” that brings together Pope Francis’ wisdom on finding happiness in this world.

The book is divided into four parts. These are :

• Part 1: Your Search for a Meaningful Life with three sections as follows: Dreams and Plans for the Future; The Secret of Life; Free and Liberated People.

• Part II: You and Others: Happiness in Your Relationships with four sections: Let Your Light be Contagious; The Family, Life’s Bounty: Successful Lives: When the Lord’s Call is Answered With Joy; The Blessings and Challenges of Womanhood.

• Part lll: : A Hundredfold Reward-Plus Suffering with three sections as follows: Beyond Tears and Loneliness; From Errors to Forgiveness; A Hundred Eternities.

• Part lV: Those Who Pray Live Serenely with two sections as follows: Prayer Completes Us and Pope Francis’ Prayers for a Fulfilling Life.

In the opening paragraph of the introduction to this book, Pope Francis writes: “The Beatitudes are God’s response to man’s innate desire for happiness and they complement the Commandments of the Old Testament. We are accustomed to learning the Ten Commandments – of course you know them, you learned them in Sunday School – but we are not used to memorizing the Beatitudes. Let us try to remember them and imprint them upon our hearts.”

In the section on The Secret of Life, the pope starts by writing: “The Beatitudes are the way of life that the Lord teaches us so that we can follow in His footsteps.”

In the same section, there is a short reflection – “The Path to True Self Fulfillment.” Here he writes: “It is always good for us to read and reflect on the Beatitudes! Jesus proclaimed them in His first great sermon, preaching from the shores of the Sea of Galilee… He offers us a way of life, the way that He Himself has taken, the way that He is: He offers us the ‘path to true happiness.’”

In this book, Pope Francis has clearly told us that the Beatitudes are the way to true happiness.

His book LET US DREAM: The Path to a Better Future was written in the midst of the COVID crisis. In the introduction written by Austen Ivereigh, he writes that the overriding theme is how we can make the world safer, fairer and healthier for all people now. Pope Francis sees the cruelty and inequity of our society more vividly exposed than before; but he has also seen the resilience, generosity and creativity of so many people. He tells us that amidst this crisis we can discover the means to rescue our society, our economy and our planet. In this book, Pope Francis urges not to let the pain be in vain.

In his book’s prologue, Pope Francis has an invitation which could be a reflection for the whole Lent. He writes:

“God asks us to dare to create something new. We cannot return to the false securities of the political and economic systems we had before the crisis. We need economies that give to all access to the fruits of creation, to the basic needs of life, to land, lodging and labor. We need a politics that can integrate and dialogue with the poor, the excluded and the vulnerable, that gives people a say in the decisions that impact their lives. We need to slow down, take stock and design better ways of living together on this earth.”

In his second book, Pope Francis repeats some of his messages in the first book: “Jesus gave us a set of key words with which he summed up the grammar of the Kingdom of God: the Beatitudes. They began in the hope of the poor for fullness of life, for peace and fraternity, for equity and justice. It is an order of existence in which values are not negotiated but sacrosanct.”

In this book, Pope Francis offers a new set of principles for reflection which also serves as criteria for judgment and offers directives for action. This is Catholic Social Teaching. He focuses on several specific principles: Preferential option of the poor; common good; universal destination of goods, solidarity and subsidiarity.

One of the most memorable reflections in the book is Pope Francis’ statement: “The problem is not feeding the poor, or clothing the naked, or visiting the sick, but rather recognizing that the poor, the naked, sick, prisoners and homeless have the dignity to sit at our table, to feel at home among us, to feel part of the family. This is the sign that the Kingdom of Heaven is in our midst.”

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An invitation to young writers:

Young Writers’ Hangout via Zoom on Feb. 27 with Rin Chupeco, 2-3 p.m. Contact writethingsph@gmail.com.  0945.2273216

Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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