Pope Francis begins his Lenten Message by urging us to reflect on this quote: “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up. So then, while we have the opportunity (kairós), let us do good to all” (Gal 6:9-10).
The pope then applies these words to our lives today. “The Apostle evokes the image of sowing and reaping. St. Paul speaks to us of a kairós: an opportune time for sowing goodness in view of a future harvest. Lent is certainly such an opportune time, but so is our entire existence, of which Lent is in some way an image.”
Pope Francis continues, “Often, greed, pride and the desire to possess, accumulate and consume have the upper hand.” We need “a change in mindset, so that life’s truth and beauty may be found not so much in possessing as in giving, not so much in accumulating as in sowing and sharing goodness.”
God takes the initiative in sowing first, since He “continues to sow abundant seeds of goodness in our human family. During Lent we are called to respond to God’s gift by accepting His word. Regular listening to the Word of God makes us open and docile to His working (cf. Jas 1:21) and bears fruit in our lives. This brings us great joy, yet even more, it summons us to become God’s co-workers (cf. 1 Cor 3:9). This call to sow goodness should not be seen as a burden but a grace,” as we collaborate with God.
Then we look to the results, as the pope rhetorically asks, “Do we not sow seeds in order to reap a harvest? Of course! But what kind of harvest are we talking about? A first fruit of the goodness we sow appears in ourselves and our daily lives, even in our little acts of kindness. In God, no act of love, no matter how small, and no ‘generous effort’ will ever be lost. Just as we recognize a tree by its fruits (cf. Mt 7:16, 20), so a life full of good deeds radiates light (cf. Mt 5:14-16) and carries the fragrance of Christ to the world (cf. 2 Cor 2:15).”
We won’t see all of the results of our labors, “since, according to the Gospel proverb, ‘one sows, while another reaps’ (Jn 4:37). When we sow for the benefit of others, we share in God’s Own benevolent love [and it] frees us from narrow self-interest, and makes us part of the magnificent horizon of God’s benevolent plan.”
Listening to God’s Word “broadens and elevates our vision: it tells us that the real harvest is eschatological, the harvest of the last, undying day. Jesus Himself uses the image of the seed that dies in the ground in order to bear fruit as a symbol of the mystery of His death and Resurrection (cf. Jn 12:24); while St. Paul uses the same image to speak of the resurrection of our bodies: ‘What is sown is perishable, but what is raised is imperishable’ (1 Cor 15:42).”
The pope warns us to not despair, since we have the ‘great hope’ of eternal life, because of Jesus’ “planting the seed of Salvation in our present time (Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, 3,7). Bitter disappointment at shattered dreams, deep concern for the challenges ahead and discouragement at the poverty of our resources, can make us tempted to seek refuge in self-centeredness and indifference to the suffering of others. Yet God ‘gives strength to the weary, He strengthens the powerless. Those who hope in the Lord will regain their strength, they will soar on wings like eagles; though they run they will not grow weary, though they walk they will never tire’ (Is 40:29, 31).”
To do that, the pope says that we can’t get tired of praying. “If the pandemic has heightened the awareness of our own personal and social fragility, may this Lent allow us to experience the consolation provided by faith in God, without Whom we cannot stand firm (cf. Is 7:9). No one attains Salvation alone, since we are all in the same boat, amid the storms of history; and certainly no one reaches Salvation without God, for only the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ triumphs over the dark waters of death. Faith does not spare us life’s burdens and tribulations, but it does allow us to face them in union with God.”
Then Pope Francis said that we must continuously pull out the evil in our lives. “May the corporal fasting to which Lent calls us fortify our spirit for the battle against sin. Let us not grow tired of asking for forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, knowing that God never tires of forgiving. Let us not grow tired of fighting against concupiscence, that weakness which induces to selfishness and all evil, and finds in the course of history a variety of ways to lure men and women into sin. One of these is addiction to the digital media, which impoverishes human relationships. Lent is a propitious time to resist these temptations and to cultivate instead a more integral form of human communication made up of authentic encounters, face-to-face and in person.”
Next, he reminds us that we need to always be doing acts of charity. “God Who ‘supplies seed to the sower and bread for food’ (2 Cor 9:10) enables each of us to be generous in doing good to others. Let us take special advantage of this Lenten season to care for those close to us and to reach out to our brothers and sisters who lie wounded along the path of life (cf. Lk 10:25-37). Lent is a favorable time to seek out — and not to avoid — those in need; to reach out — and not to ignore — those who need a sympathetic ear and a good word; to visit — and not to abandon — those who are lonely. Let us put into practice our call to do good to all, and take time to love the poor and needy, those abandoned and rejected, those discriminated against and marginalized.”
The pope points out that “goodness, together with love, justice and solidarity, are not achieved once and for all; they have to be realized each day. Let us ask God to give us the patient perseverance of the farmer (cf. Jas 5:7). If we fall, let us stretch out our hand to the Father, Who always lifts us up. If we are lost, if we are misled by the enticements of the evil one, let us not hesitate to return to God, Who ‘is generous in forgiving’ (Is 55:7). The soil is prepared by fasting, watered by prayer and enriched by charity.”
The pope ends by invoking the Blessed Mother, “who bore the Savior in her womb and ‘pondered all these things in her heart’ (Lk 2:19),” asking that she “obtain for us the gift of patience. May she accompany us with her maternal presence, so that this season of conversion may bring forth fruits of eternal Salvation.”