In preparation for Lent 2022, Pope Francis has released his annual message, reflecting on St Paul’s epistle to the Galatians: ‘Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up’ (6:9-10).
‘Lent invites us to conversion,’ Francis wrote, ‘to 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 sharing and sowing goodness.’
The kind of conversion that Lent calls us to is what we are summoned to every day. Lent ‘is in some way an image’ of life itself. Part of this conversion is the willingness to sow goodness in the life of others; even when we do not see the fruits of what we sow, no act of love, no matter how small, Pope Francis says, will be lost in the eyes of God.
The Word of God ‘broadens and elevates our vision’ so that we are not so concerned with witnessing visible fruits in this life. Instead, ‘the real harvest is eschatological, the harvest of the last, undying day.’
Those who are intimately united to him in love “by dying a death like his” (Romans 6:5) will be united to his resurrection for eternal life …’
The call of conversion is the call to sow for the fruit of eternal life.
A key appeal that appears throughout the Scriptures, however, is to not grow tired:
The Lenten season calls us to place our faith and hope in the Lord, since only if we fix our gaze on the risen Christ will we be able to respond to the Apostle’s appeal, “Let us never grow tired of doing good.”’
The endurance we are called to is not a matter of human effort alone; it is the result of God’s grace, a grace that strengthens the weak and gives youthfulness to the old. Faith does not release us from the storms of life, but instead allows us to face them in union with Jesus:
… only the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ triumphs over the dark waters of death.’
Pope Francis points to several things we should not grow tired of: prayer, uprooting evil from our lives, asking for forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance, fighting concupiscence, and doing good in active charity towards our neighbours.
There was one addiction Pope Francis pointed to for us to be aware of: 'digital media'. The Pope encouraged us to use the Lenten season to cultivate more integral forms of human communication, made up of 'authentic encounters' with real people. Digital media, he says, 'impoverishes human relationships.'
‘Let us ask God to give us the patient perseverance of the farmer,’ Pope Francis said, ‘and to persevere in doing good, one step at a time.’
In this season of conversion, the soil of our hearts ‘is prepared by fasting, watered by prayer and enriched by charity,’ he said. And though we stumble and fall, ‘let us not hesitate to return to God who is “generous and forgiving” (Isaiah 55:7)’.
May the Virgin Mary, who bore the Saviour in her womb and “pondered all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:19), 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.’