Pope Francis drew inspiration from a parable told in the Gospel of Mercy – the Parable of Lazarus in Lk 16: 19-31 – in the message ahead of this year’s Lenten period. In the Parable, the Master of Nazareth outlines to the disciples the serious, personal responsibility they are called to assume to meet the thoroughgoing demands of the Kingdom. In fact, the Gospel passage presents to the rich man the disastrous scenario of the negative choices he made during his life. He is not spared the sad consequences of his inability to see Lazarus, to realize his needs, to sustain him in his wants, to share with him his possessions.
“Other persons are a gift” and “sin blinds us”: Francis thus summarizes Jesus’ teachings.
Those words perfectly convey the significance we are called to give to our Lenten period: we are entering a new liturgical season during which – to prepare ourselves for the great celebration of Easter – we are called to conversion to the Lord in this very concrete manner.
Conversion means above all to take stock of our life, to examine it in the light of the Gospel, unveiling the voids and the shadows; to become aware of our distance from God and of our need for his companionship: it means carrying out a veritable metánoia, a change in our mode of thought and in the understanding of our relationship with God, hence, it means to redesign our very existence so that it will be no longer centred on ourselves, but on God. There ensues that conversion also means changing our behaviours, transforming our actions, redirecting – as implied by the Pope – our journey, re-addressing our gaze to God after having turned our backs to Him with our sin and recognizing Him; welcoming Him especially in others persons asking for our help, in those who come to meet us with their wounded existence: hence, conversion means accomplishing an epistrophé, a radical reversal in our way of life.
But conversion is not confined to our renewed mode of action and thought. It also – and especially – involves our very self.
In this respect, it doesn’t only depend on our commitment but on God. With the “gift” of the “Word”, Francis writes, the Lord appeals to our consciousness: He makes us experience the longing for our paternal home, He is the first to walk towards us, He comes to meet us and embrace us. When we are far from Him we too feel at loss, we too feel the need to recover our identity as sons, to return to the home of the Father. We are given the possibility to find our way home only because the Father seeks us, and finally encounters us. Hence from a condition of feeling lost we are transformed into the encounter with Him who sought us. And thus our Lenten season can become, Pope