Lent – A Time of Compassion Print this post

(Florida Catholic)


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As our 40-day journey of Lent proceeds in preparation for Easter, not only is it important to “give up” a bad habit or creature comfort, but in the sacrifice of letting go, the call is to “turn towards” God and embrace the Lord’s invitation to serve Him in “the least of these.”

Bishop Frank J. Dewane is the new Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

In Sacred Scripture Jesus repeatedly identifies Himself with those who suffer and who lack basic necessities. If our Lenten prayer and sacrifice are real, and we are growing closer to Christ, we cannot be indifferent to our neighbor’s needs. Rather, the call is to identify with Jesus’ presence in the poor and respond with compassion, embracing the opportunity to engage in spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

The corporal and spiritual works of mercy, Pope Francis said, are a sure way to re-awaken consciences that have grown dull in the face of day to day poverty that surrounds us.  As the Holy Father wrote in The Face of Mercy, “His (Christ’s) flesh becomes visible in the flesh of the tortured, the crushed, the scourged, the malnourished, and the exiled… to be acknowledged, touched and cared for by us.” 

Lent is a season of compassion and mercy. The two-fold movement of “turning away” from disordered attachments in this world is wedded to a second movement of “turning towards” God, seen in the faces of those who suffer and are in need. These faces in our world today are often those of the refugee and immigrant population.  Let us keep these images in our mind and address their plight by our prayers and by our actions!

The spiritual practice of detachment is not a rejection of the world per se. Recall that God made the world good!  The Book of Genesis repeats this fact numerous times in the creation story. For example in the first chapter of Genesis, it is written “and God saw that it was good.” The difficulty often encountered lies within the mystery of the human heart, which tends towards a preference of the creation over the Creator. The desire is to want the things of this world instead of God, who generously gave them to us in the first place. This brokenness of the heart is known as concupiscence, and it plays havoc in our relationship with the Lord, but also with others and with things. So profound is its impact that Holy Mother Church, in her wisdom, returns every liturgical year with the Lenten Season so as to once again call all to set aside the things of this world, in order to free our hearts to love God, and seek Our Lord in the faces of the poor and suffering. 

The coming of Christ into the world gave us a strong antidote to our disordered desires to love the world more than God.  However, through grace which is poured into us through the Church’s sacraments, we can turn evermore towards God.  Christ’s very life has been shared with all humanity to strengthen our resolve to love God above all things. It follows that the closer we grow in our love for God, the more we share in the infinite love God has for everyone.

Lent is therefore a wake-up call; a call to any areas within ourselves where  our prayer is lacking, our hearts have hardened, and possibly our love has grown cold. It is a time to free our hearts to love God and others, to return to the Lord so as to grow and soften our hearts, most especially by making use of the sacrament of re-unification with God, Reconciliation, but also by extending compassion and mercy to others, especially in these days to immigrants and refugees.

In the Gospel of John Christ tells us, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” 

May God bless all as we journey with Holy Mother Church and with each other through this Lenten Season towards the Resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Sincerely Yours in Christ,

+Frank J. Dewane

Bishop of Venice in Florida


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