MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS FOR LENT 2018

“Because of the increase of inquity, the love of many will grow cold” (Mt 24:12)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Once again, the Pasch of the Lord draws near! In our preparation for Easter, God in his providence offers us each year the season of Lent as a “sacramental sign of our conversion”.[1] Lent summons us, and enables us, to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly and in every aspect of our life.

With this message, I would like again this year to help the entire Church experience this time of grace anew, with joy and in truth. I will take my cue from the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (24:12).

These words appear in Christ’s preaching about the end of time. They were spoken in Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives, where the Lord’s passion would begin. In reply to a question of the disciples, Jesus foretells a great tribulation and describes a situation in which the community of believers might well find itself: amid great trials, false prophets would lead people astray and the love that is the core of the Gospel would grow cold in the hearts of many.

False prophets

Let us listen to the Gospel passage and try to understand the guise such false prophets can assume.

They can appear as “snake charmers”, who manipulate human emotions in order to enslave others and lead them where they would have them go. How many of God’s children are mesmerized by momentary pleasures, mistaking them for true happiness! How many men and women live entranced by the dream of wealth, which only makes them slaves to profit and petty interests! How many go through life believing that they are sufficient unto themselves, and end up entrapped by loneliness!

False prophets can also be “charlatans”, who offer easy and immediate solutions to suffering that soon prove utterly useless. How many young people are taken in by the panacea of drugs, of disposable relationships, of easy but dishonest gains! How many more are ensnared in a thoroughly “virtual” existence, in which relationships appear quick and straightforward, only to prove meaningless! These swindlers, in peddling things that have no real value, rob people of all that is most precious: dignity, freedom and the ability to love. They appeal to our vanity, our trust in appearances, but in the end they only make fools of us. Nor should we be surprised. In order to confound the human heart, the devil, who is “a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44), has always presented evil as good, falsehood as truth. That is why each of us is called to peer into our heart to see if we are falling prey to the lies of these false prophets. We must learn to look closely, beneath the surface, and to recognize what leaves a good and lasting mark on our hearts, because it comes from God and is truly for our benefit.

A cold heart

In his description of hell, Dante Alighieri pictures the devil seated on a throne of ice,[2] in frozen and loveless isolation. We might well ask ourselves how it happens that charity can turn cold within us. What are the signs that indicate that our love is beginning to cool?

More than anything else, what destroys charity is greed for money, “the root of all evil” (1 Tim 6:10). The rejection of God and his peace soon follows; we prefer our own desolation rather than the comfort found in his word and the sacraments.[3] All this leads to violence against anyone we think is a threat to our own “certainties”: the unborn child, the elderly and infirm, the migrant, the alien among us, or our neighbour who does not live up to our expectations.

Creation itself becomes a silent witness to this cooling of charity. The earth is poisoned by refuse, discarded out of carelessness or for self-interest. The seas, themselves polluted, engulf the remains of countless shipwrecked victims of forced migration. The heavens, which in God’s plan, were created to sing his praises, are rent by engines raining down implements of death.

Love can also grow cold in our own communities. In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I sought to describe the most evident signs of this lack of love: selfishness and spiritual sloth, sterile pessimism, the temptation to self-absorption, constant warring among ourselves, and the worldly mentality that makes us concerned only for appearances, and thus lessens our missionary zeal.[4]

What are we to do?

Perhaps we see, deep within ourselves and all about us, the signs I have just described. But the Church, our Mother and Teacher, along with the often bitter medicine of the truth, offers us in the Lenten season the soothing remedy of prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

By devoting more time to prayer, we enable our hearts to root out our secret lies and forms of self-deception,[5] and then to find the consolation God offers. He is our Father and he wants us to live life well.

Almsgiving sets us free from greed and helps us to regard our neighbour as a brother or sister. What I possess is never mine alone. How I would like almsgiving to become a genuine style of life for each of us! How I would like us, as Christians, to follow the example of the Apostles and see in the sharing of our possessions a tangible witness of the communion that is ours in the Church! For this reason, I echo Saint Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians to take up a collection for the community of Jerusalem as something from which they themselves would benefit (cf. 2 Cor 8:10). This is all the more fitting during the Lenten season, when many groups take up collections to assist Churches and peoples in need. Yet I would also hope that, even in our daily encounters with those who beg for our assistance, we would see such requests as coming from God himself. When we give alms, we share in God’s providential care for each of his children. If through me God helps someone today, will he not tomorrow provide for my own needs? For no one is more generous than God.[6]

Fasting weakens our tendency to violence; it disarms us and becomes an important opportunity for growth. On the one hand, it allows us to experience what the destitute and the starving have to endure. On the other hand, it expresses our own spiritual hunger and thirst for life in God. Fasting wakes us up. It makes us more attentive to God and our neighbour. It revives our desire to obey God, who alone is capable of satisfying our hunger.

I would also like my invitation to extend beyond the bounds of the Catholic Church, and to reach all of you, men and women of good will, who are open to hearing God’s voice. Perhaps, like ourselves, you are disturbed by the spread of iniquity in the world, you are concerned about the chill that paralyzes hearts and actions, and you see a weakening in our sense of being members of the one human family. Join us, then, in raising our plea to God, in fasting, and in offering whatever you can to our brothers and sisters in need!

The fire of Easter

Above all, I urge the members of the Church to take up the Lenten journey with enthusiasm, sustained by almsgiving, fasting and prayer. If, at times, the flame of charity seems to die in our own hearts, know that this is never the case in the heart of God! He constantly gives us a chance to begin loving anew.

One such moment of grace will be, again this year, the “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative, which invites the entire Church community to celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation in the context of Eucharistic adoration. In 2018, inspired by the words of Psalm 130:4, “With you is forgiveness”, this will take place from Friday, 9 March to Saturday, 10 March. In each diocese, at least one church will remain open for twenty-four consecutive hours, offering an opportunity for both Eucharistic adoration and sacramental confession.

During the Easter Vigil, we will celebrate once more the moving rite of the lighting of the Easter candle. Drawn from the “new fire”, this light will slowly overcome the darkness and illuminate the liturgical assembly. “May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds”,[7] and enable all of us to relive the experience of the disciples on the way to Emmaus. By listening to God’s word and drawing nourishment from the table of the Eucharist, may our hearts be ever more ardent in faith, hope and love.

With affection and the promise of my prayers for all of you, I send you my blessing. Please do not forget to pray for me.

From the Vatican, 1 November 2017

Solemnity of All Saints

Francis

教宗方济各 2018年四旬期文告

「由于罪恶的增加, 许多人的爱情必要冷淡。」 (玛廿四12)

亲爱的弟兄姊妹们:

主的逾越节又近了!在我们预备过复活节时,因着天主上智的安排,每年给我们四旬期,作为「我们悔改的圣事性标志」1。四旬期召唤我们,叫我们在整个生活中全心归向上主。

在这篇文告中,我愿再次帮助整个教会,以喜乐的心并在真理中,重新体验此一恩宠的时刻。我愿以玛窦福音中耶稣的话做为导引:「由于罪恶的增加,许多人的爱情必要冷淡。」(玛廿四12)

这段话出现在基督有关末世的训导。耶稣讲这话的时候,是在耶路撒冷的橄榄山上,吾主的受难在那里即将始。耶稣回答门徒的问题时,预言了一个大磨难,且描述了一个信友团体极易陷入的情境:在重大的考验当中,假先知会令人误入歧途,而福音的核心──爱,在许多人心中会冷淡下来。

假先知

让我们听听这段福音章节,尽力去了解这些假先知会假扮成什么。他们会宛如「舞蛇人」那般,操纵人的感情,去奴役他人,把他们带到他们想要带去的地方。有多少天主的儿女被一时的享乐所迷惑,误以为那是真正的幸福!有多少男女镇日沉迷在发财梦中,那只会使他们成为财富和薄利的奴隶。有多少人一辈子都相信他们只需依靠自己,最后却陷于孤单之中!

假先知也彷佛「江湖郎中」,他们提供简便而又迅速的疗法来解除痛苦,但很快就证明完全无效。有多少年轻人受到毒品,或是受到各种有用则 \要,而无用即弃的关系、得来容易的不義之財所吸引!又有更多人被困于纯是「虚拟」的世界――可马上并直接建立各种关系,但最后却证明那些关系都毫无意义!这些骗子叫卖一些没有真正价值的东西,夺去了人们最珍贵的一切:尊严、自由以及爱人的能力。他们挑起我们的虚荣心,使我们重视外表,但最后却愚弄我们。我们对此也不应感到惊讶。为了扰乱人心,魔鬼「既是撒谎者,又是撒谎者的父亲」(若八44),常常以恶为善,以虚假为真理。所以我们每个人都应该检视自己的心,查看我们是否落入这些假先知的谎言中。我们必须学习仔细观察,透视事物的表面,以认清究竟是什么会在我们心中留下良善且持久的印记,因为那才是来自天主,且真正对我们有益的事。

冷漠的心

[意大利诗人]但丁(Dante Alighieri)描述地狱时,他描绘了魔鬼坐在一个冰块宝座上2,冰冻着、没有爱,孤立在那儿。我们也大可以自问,我们内心的爱何以会转为冷淡?如何可以看出我们的爱始冷淡下来了?

摧毁爱德的最大力量就是贪爱钱财,那是「万恶的根源」(弟前六10)。 紧接着而来的就是拒绝天主以及祂的平安;我们宁可生活在凄凉孤寂中, 也不愿在天主的圣言和圣事中找到安慰3。这一切都引领我们以暴力反对任何我们认为对自己的「确定感」有威胁的人,亦即:未出生的孩子、年长及衰弱的人、移民、我们当中的外人,或是那些不符我们期望的邻人。

宇宙万物本身就默默见证了世人爱心的渐趋冷淡。地球被垃圾所毒化,那些垃圾都是因为漠不关心或只顾自己利益而丢弃的。被污染的海洋,吞噬了无数被迫迁移、却遭船难而葬身大海的人。在天主的计划中,苍天是要 赞美上主的,却被如雨降临般的死亡武器所撕裂。

在我们自己的团体里,爱也可能渐趋冷淡。在《福音的喜乐》劝谕中,我试着描述缺乏爱的最明显记号:自私、精神懈怠、悲观主义、自我陶醉的诱惑、不断地自相残杀,以及让我们只关心表面,因而减少了传教热忱的 世俗心态。4

我们该怎么做?

也许我们在内心深处以及自身周遭,都能看到我刚才描述的那些标记。但是教会──我们的慈母与导师,加上「真理」的苦口良药,却能让我们在四旬期用祈祷、施舍、守斋等作为疗药。

我们以更多的时间祈祷,就能让自己的心脱离那隐藏着的各种欺骗自己的谎言,5也就能得到天主给我们的安慰。祂是我们的父,祂要我们好好地生活。

施舍他人可让我们免于贪婪,也帮助我们把近人视为弟兄姊妹。我所拥有的,绝对不可能只是我的。我多么希望施舍能成为每一个人真正的生活方式!多么希望我们基督徒能效法宗徒们的榜样,在分享财物中看到我们教会共融的具体证明!因此,我呼应圣保禄对格林多人的劝告,能为耶路撒冷团体捐款,他们自己也会因此受益(参:格后八10)。在四旬期内,这样做再合适不过了,因为这时有许多团体拿出捐款来帮助有需要的教会和人们。然而,我也希望,即使在日常生活中,遇到向我们乞求帮助的人时,也能把这视为来自天主亲自的恳求。当我们施舍他人时,就参与了天主对他每一个子女的眷顾。如果今天天主借着我帮助了某人,明日祂岂不是也会照顾我自己的需要?因为没有一个人比天主来得大方慷慨。6

守斋可减轻我们的暴力倾向;它缓和我们的怒气,成为我们成长的重要机 会。一方面它让我们体验自己必须忍受怎样的孤寂和饥饿。另一方面也表 达我们自己在主内灵修生命上的饥渴。守斋使我们清醒。它使我们更注意 天主和我们的邻人。它重燃我们服从天主的渴望,因为唯有天主能满足我 们的饥渴。

我也愿意将我的请求延伸到天主教会以外,扩及于凡愿意聆听天主声音的善心男女人士。或许你们跟我们一样,也受到散布全世界的罪恶所困扰,你们也关心那被冷漠所瘫痪的人心和行动,你们也注意到我们作为人类大家庭中一分子的意义被淡化了。那么,请加入我们,向天主提出我们的恳求,并主动去为我们那些有需要的弟兄姊妹做些事!

复活节的烛火

最重要的是,我呼吁教会人士以热心走上四旬期之旅,藉由施舍、守斋和祈祷获得力量。如果有时我们心中的爱之火焰似乎熄灭,要知道天主的心绝对不会这样!祂不断给我们机会重新去爱。

今年仍然会有此一恩宠的时刻,也就是「奉献廿四小时给天主」的活动, 邀请全体教会在朝拜圣体的时间内领受和好圣事。2018年的这个活动,是从圣咏一三○4:「你以宽恕为怀」得到启发,将在3月9日星期五至3月10日星期六举行。在每一个教区里,至少要有一座教堂连续廿四小时放, 让大家有机会去朝拜圣体、行和好圣事。

在复活节前夕,我们要再一次举行点燃复活蜡的礼仪。从「新火」点燃 的这光,会渐渐消除黑暗,照亮整个参与礼仪的会众,「愿光荣复活的基督,以祂的真光驱散我们心灵的黑暗」7,也让我们能再一次体验到厄玛乌门徒的经验。愿我们借着聆听天主圣言、从圣体的餐桌汲取养分, 让我们的心能够更热切地活在信望爱中。

我衷心许诺,要为大家献上我的祈祷,并降福各位。也请勿忘为我祈祷。

教宗方济各

2017年11月1日,
诸圣节 发自梵蒂冈
(台湾明爱会恭译)

Lunar New Year 2018

NOTICE: DISPENSATION FROM

ABSTINENCE AND FASTING

Pursuant to canon 1253, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei at its meeting in January 2017, has determined and decreed that a dispensation from fast and abstinence from meals on Friday, the 16th of February 2018, is granted to all its subjects, in view of the festive season of Chinese New Year.

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