Friday, March 14, 2014

Afternoon meditation: Lenten Friday with Francis

Part of a continuing series of Friday reflections on Pope Francis' Lenten Message. 

Pope Francis began his Lenten message by taking us back to Christmas, reveling in the fact that God revealed his glory to us in such an unpredictable (and yet divine) way through the poverty of our own human nature. As St Paul wrote to the Corinthians (who didn't value human weakness and limitation very highly), "God chose the weak of this world to shame the that no human being may boast before God." And of himself, Paul testified (to those same Corinthians!), "When I am weak, then I am strong... the power of Christ rests upon me."

Here Pope Francis invokes the icon of the Baptism of the Lord. "When Jesus stepped into the waters of the Jordan...he did it to be among people who need forgiveness...and to take upon himself the burden of our sins."  There's an exchange taking place, an "admirabile commercium" (a "marvelous interchange," in the words of the liturgy in the Christmas Octave). It creates communion, an experience of the inner reality of the Trinity. The Incarnation, in other words, is not an alms given from abundance and tossed into a beggar's cup; it is a bestowal of all that God has. It is God, casting his lot with us.

Have you ever meditated on Christmas for Lent? How is Pope Francis' reflection helping renew your Lenten observance?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Afternoon meditation: Lenten Fridays with Francis

First of a continuing series of Friday reflections on Pope Francis Lenten Message for 2014: " He became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich" (2 Cor 8:9).

It isn't much of a surprise that a Pope who so clearly identifies with the poor, a Pope with a perpetual vow of poverty, would invite the Church as a whole to rediscover the "life of evangelical poverty," making it the theme of our Lenten observance. For some people, poverty is simply the theme of every day that dawns. And yet they are not exempt from the Pope's reflection, because it is about evangelical poverty: the "Good News" dimension of poverty, which is something very different from merely material destitution.

The first announcement of Good News in the message is that poverty "shows us how God works. He does not reveal himself cloaked in worldly power and wealth but rather in weakness and poverty." Power and wealth are not bad things, but they are not "divine," either. They begin and end in this world. When God stepped into this world (to remedy the ills triggered by grasping for power and wealth!) he did not take on the forms of this world in which power and wealth bring privilege. He "chose to be poor," becoming "like us in all things." Pope Francis' first Lenten reflection takes us back to Christmas! He invites us to meditate on the Incarnation.

True to Francis' own emphasis on "going out to the peripheries" and "walking alongside" the other, he turns our gaze toward the divine Love that "breaks down walls and eliminates distances." How can this Friday of Lenten fasting refocus your attention on the Christmas mystery, and the love that led Jesus to become poor for our sakes?