POPE’S MESSAGE | Fasting during Lent includes sharing, treating others kindly

Vatican Media

VATICAN CITY — Loudly boasting or complaining about fasting during Lent and treating others unkindly isn't what God wants, Pope Francis said.

"Does my fasting end up helping others? If it doesn't, it's fake, it's contradictory and it leads to the path of a double life. I pretend to be Christian — righteous like the Pharisees, the Sadducees — but inside I am not," he said in the homily Feb. 16 at morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

The pope preached on the day's first reading, taken from the prophet Isaiah, which condemned the false ways the faithful were fasting on a day of penance and the ways that are "acceptable to the Lord."

Catholics who fast and boast aloud about their penitential acts are engaged in deception and are "rigging" true virtue, he said.

The only cover-up people should commit is covering their face with a genuine smile so others are unaware they are fasting and doing penance, he said.

Whether people fast completely or not, he said, what matters is being humble, joyous and sincerely helping others.

True Lenten fasting calls people to reflect on their sins, feel shame and beg for God's forgiveness, he added.

Think about every sin, even the ones that would cause embarrassment if they ended up revealed in the news, the pope suggested. "Yes, be ashamed."

Finally, he said, what is needed is to reflect on and remedy one's behavior and one's treatment of others, particularly of those who are in need.

In the day's reading, God asks people to set free the oppressed, shelter them and share with the hungry and homeless, the pope said.

This includes treating everyone in one's life — housekeepers, employees, assistants — with respect.

"How do you treat them? Like people or like slaves? Do you pay them fairly? Give them vacation?" he asked.

Pope Francis said people should pray for the grace to be consistent in what they believe and do, and to live Lent with "feeling a bit of hunger" and lots of prayer. 

Thirsty souls are quenched by God, not world, priest tells pope, Curia

VATICAN CITY — The yearning for one's soul to be quenched must not be confused with longing for worldly desires, a Portuguese priest told Pope Francis and senior members of the Roman Curia during their Lenten retreat.

The spiritual significance of thirst is a reminder that all Christians must distinguish between a true desire to satisfy their spiritual needs and the false satisfaction given by worldly possessions where "pleasure, passion and joy are exhausted in a wild consumerism," Father Jose Tolentino de Mendonca, vice rector of the Catholic University of Lisbon, said Feb. 19, according to Vatican Radio.

"Let us not confuse desire with need. Desire is a lack that is never completely satisfied, it is a tension, a wound that is always open, an endless" need for something from outside oneself, he said.

The 52-year-old Portuguese priest was to deliver 10 talks on the theme "In Praise of Thirst" during the retreat Feb. 18-23 at the Pauline Fathers' retreat center in Ariccia, 20 miles southeast of Rome.

Before boarding a bus with the Curia officials for the drive out to Ariccia, Pope Francis had asked pilgrims for prayers during his Sunday Angelus address Feb. 18.

"I ask all of you to remember in your prayers myself and my collaborators of the Roman Curia who will begin the week of spiritual exercises this evening," the pope said after praying the Angelus prayer with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

On the retreat's first full day, Feb. 19, Father Tolentino's morning meditation was titled, "The science of thirst," and he cited Jesus' invitation in the Book of Revelations (22:17) to "let the one who thirsts come forward and the one who wants it receive the gift of life-giving water."

Christians, Father Tolentino said, must first acknowledge their thirst and know "just how much we thirst."

Through the gift of pure grace, he said, Jesus quenches the souls of Christians who thirst and "comes to meet our history as it is, in its incompleteness, emptiness or failure."

In the afternoon, Father Tolentino reflected on the theme, "I realized I was thirsty." Christian life hinges on the acceptance of one's own thirst, otherwise, "spiritual life loses its grip on reality," he said.

"The opposite of thirst, which appears at times in our lives, is apathy. It is this thirst for nothing, which more or less assails us imperceptibly, that makes us ill," Father Tolentino said.

— Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service 

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