VATICAN CITY — Without making room for God's word in their heart,
people will never be able to welcome and love all human life, Pope Francis
"Each life that we encounter is a gift deserving acceptance,
respect and love," the pope said in his message for Lent, which begins
March 1 for Latin-rite Catholics.
"The word of God helps us to open our eyes to welcome and
love life, especially when it is weak and vulnerable," he wrote.
Released by the Vatican Feb. 7, the text of the pope's Lenten
message — titled "The Word is a gift. Other persons are gift" —
focused on the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in the Gospel of St. Luke
The parable calls for sincere conversion, the pope said, and it
"provides a key to understanding what we need to do in order to attain
true happiness and eternal life."
In the Gospel account, Lazarus and his suffering are described in
great detail. While he is "practically invisible to the rich man,"
the Gospel gives him a name and a face, upholding him as worthy, as "a
gift, a priceless treasure, a human being whom God loves and cares for, despite
his concrete condition as an outcast," the pope wrote.
The parable shows that "a right relationship with people
consists in gratefully recognizing their value," he said. "A poor
person at the door of the rich is not a nuisance, but a summons to conversion
and to change."
But in order to understand how to open one's heart and see the
other as gift, a person must see how the word of God operates.
One way to do that, he said, is to be aware of the temptations
and traps the rich man fell victim to, derailing his search for true happiness.
The nameless "rich man" lives an opulent, ostentatious
life, the pope wrote, and his love of money leads to vanity and pride —
"the lowest rung of this moral degradation."
"The rich man dresses like a king and acts like a god,
forgetting that he is merely mortal," he said. "For those corrupted
by love of riches, nothing exists beyond their own ego. Those around them do
not come into their line of sight. 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."
Love of money, St. Paul warned, "is the root of all
evils," and the pope said, it is also "the main cause of corruption
and a source of envy, strife and suspicion."
"Instead of being an instrument at our service for doing
good and showing solidarity toward others, money can chain us and the entire
world to a selfish logic that leaves no room for love and hinders peace,"
The rich man's eyes are finally opened after he and Lazarus are
dead; Lazarus finds comfort in heaven and the rich man finds torment in
"the netherworld," because, as Abraham explains, "a kind of
fairness is restored" in the afterlife and "life's evils are balanced
by good," the pope said.
The rich man then asks for an extraordinary sign — Lazarus coming
back from the dead — to be given to his family members so they will repent and
not make the same mistake as he.
But, Abraham said the people have plenty of teachings with
"Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them," the pope said.
This explains what the real problem is for the rich man's and
those like him: "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
neighbor," the pope said.
The pope asked that Lent be a time "for renewing our
encounter with Christ, living in his word, in the sacraments and in our
"May the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of
conversion, so that we can 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," he said, especially by taking part in the various Lenten campaigns
sponsored by local churches.