Lent is a favourable season for deepening our spiritual life through the means of sanctification offered us by the Church: Fasting, Prayer and Almsgiving. At the basis of everything is the Word of God, which during this season we are invited to hear and ponder more deeply.
For reflection during this lent the Holy Father Pope Francis takes inspiration from the Parable of the rich man and Lazarus (LK 16:19-31). With the help of the reflections of the Holy Father I would draw your attention on family.
From the Parable of the rich man and Lazarus the Pope draws three very important points for consideration during this lent. 1) The other person is a gift; 2) Sin blinds us; 3) The Word is a gift.
1. The other person is a gift: In the parable the Pope says that the poor man is described in greater detail: he is wretched and lacks the strength even to stand. Lying before the door of the rich man, he fed on the crumbs falling from his table, His body is full of sores and dogs come to lick his wounds. The picture is one of great misery; it portrays a man disgraceful and pitiful. But he is called Lazarus which literally means God helps. His features are clearly described and he appears as an individual with his own story. While practically invisible to the rich man, we see and know him as someone familiar. He becomes a face and as such, a gift, a priceless treasure, a human being whom God loves and cares for, despite his concrete condition as an outcast. Lazarus teaches us that other persons are a gift. The parable first invites us to open the doors of our heart to others because each person is a gift. Lent is a favourable season for opening the doors to all those in need and recognizing in them the face of Christ.
2. Sin blinds us: In the parable unlike poor Lazarus the rich man does not have a name. He is simply called a “rich man”. He is presented as a man with all worldly riches, glory and in him we can see the love of money, vanity and pride. The love of money is the root of all evil (1 Tim 6:10). The rich man’s greed makes him vain. The lowest of this moral degradation is pride. The rich man dresses like a king and acts like a god, forgetting that he is merely mortal. For those corrupted by love of riches, nothing exists beyond their own ego. The result of attachment to money is a sort of blindness. The rich man does not see the poor man who is starving, hurting, lying at his door.
3. The word is a gift: This parable goes on to offer a message for all Christians. The rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers, who are still alive. But Abraham answers: “They have Moses and the Prophets, let them listen to them. Countering the rich man’s objections, he adds: “If they will not listen either to Moses or the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”
The rich man’s problem thus comes to the fore. At the root of all his ills was the failure to heed God’s word. As a result, he no longer loved God and grew to despise his neighbour. The Word of God is alive and powerful, capable of connecting hearts and leading them back to God. When we close our heart to the gift of God’s word, we end up closing our heart to the gift of our brothers and sisters. Lent is a favourable season of renewing our encounter with Christ, living in his Word, the Sacraments and in our neighbour.
Taking cue from the Lenten reflection of our Holy Father Pope Francis we can begin from our families to consider each member as the gift of God and relate with them according to the word of God, receiving power from the word of God to remove the blindness of sin. When our families are built up by the Word of God we will be formed to receive and relate everyone in the world as God’s gift despite their differences.
Pope Francis during our Adlimina visit on 13th September 2019 while addressing us, expressed his great anxiety about the present deplorable condition of the families. He said that today no marriages taking place. And if some get married they do not want to have children, considering marriage and children as a burden and loss of one’s personal freedom, which is a sign to deep rooted selfishness. Also these days same sex marriages are taking place. As a result the real family life is affected and that is reflected in the society and in the Church as selfishness, lacking genuine love & sharing, corruption, scandals of all sorts. But the Holy Father said that in India family values are still kept up. Thus he exhorted the bishops to uphold family values. This lent let us take a look at our families. Am I able to accept each member in the family as God’s gift? Do we daily read the Word of God together in the family and meditate on it during the family Rosary time? Can we make use of that time to reconcile if we have quarrels or some differences? Can we give more importance to persons than to material things? Can we spent quality time with family members? Can we have at least one meal together and avoid using mobiles during meals and during family recreation? Can we give more importance to the sacraments exp. the Sunday Eucharist, regular confessions, encouraging the children to attend regular Catechism, attending faithfully the SCC word meetings, attending the marriage preparation course before marriage, looking for Catholic partner as far as possible, actively participating in the parish activities? I also request every priest and every religious to visit families, accompanying them, exhorting them to live a good Catholic family life. No excuse can be justified in refraining from family visits. Families are important unit of the society and the Church. Let us build up our families by the power of the Word of God and accepting one another as gift of God. May this lent help us to rediscover the gift of God’s Word, be purified of the sin that blinds us, and serve Christ present in our brothers and sisters in need. In this way we will be able to experience and share to the full, the joy of Easter.

+Francis Kalist
Bishop of Meerut