8 FEBRUARY 2005
POPE’S MESSAGE FOR LENT 2005
Loving the Lord means life to you, and length of days
The Pope’s Message for Lent 2005 was made public today. The theme of the Pope’s
Message this year is “Loving the Lord means life to you, and length of days”.
The full text of the Pope’s Message follows:
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
1. Each year, the Lenten Season is set before us as a good opportunity for
the intensification of prayer and penance, opening hearts to the docile
welcoming of the divine will. During Lent, a spiritual journey is outlined
for us that prepares us to relive the Great Mystery of the Death and
Resurrection of Christ. This is done primarily by listening to the Word
of God more devoutly and by practising mortification more generously,
thanks to which it is possible to render greater assistance to those
This year, dear brothers and sisters, I wish to bring to your attention a
theme which is rather current, well-illustrated by the following verse
from Deuteronomy: “Loving the Lord…means life to you, and length of days…”
(30:20). These are the words that Moses directs to the people, inviting
them to embrace the Covenant with Yahweh in the country of Moab, “that
you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord, your God, obeying
his voice, and cleaving to him.” (30:19-20). The fidelity to this divine
Covenant is for Israel a guarantee of the future: “that you may dwell
in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac,
and to Jacob, to give to them.” (30:20). According to the Biblical
understanding, reaching old age is a sign of the Most High’s gracious
benevolence. Longevity appears, therefore, as a special divine gift.
It is upon this theme that I would like to ask you to reflect during this
Lent, in order to deepen the awareness of the role that the elderly are
called to play in society and in the Church, and thus to prepare your
hearts for the loving welcome that should always be reserved for them.
Thanks to the contribution of science and medicine, one sees in society
today a lengthening of the human life span and a subsequent increase in
the number of elderly. This demands a more specific attention to the world
of so-called “old” age, in order to help its members to live their full
potential by placing them at the service of the entire community. The care
of the elderly, above all when they pass through difficult moments, must
be of great concern to all the faithful, especially in the ecclesial
communities of Western societies, where the problem is particularly present.
2. Human life is a precious gift to be loved and defended in each of its
stages. The Commandment, “You shall not kill!”, always requires respecting
and promoting human life, from its beginning to its natural end. It is a
command that applies even in the presence of illness and when physical
weakness reduces the person’s ability to be self-reliant. If growing old,
with its inevitable conditions, is accepted serenely in the light of faith,
it can become an invaluable opportunity for better comprehending the Mystery
of the Cross, which gives full sense to human existence.
The elderly need to be understood and helped in this perspective. I wish,
here, to express my appreciation to those who dedicate themselves to
fulfilling these needs, and I also call upon other people of good will
to take advantage of Lent for making their own personal contribution. This
will allow many elderly not to think of themselves as a burden to the
community, and sometimes even to their own families, living in a situation
of loneliness that leads to the temptation of isolating themselves or
It is necessary to raise the awareness in public opinion that the elderly
represent, in any case, a resource to be valued. For this reason, economic
support and legislative initiatives, which allow them not to be excluded
from social life, must be strengthened. In truth, during the last decade,
society has become more attentive to their needs, and medicine has developed
palliative cures that, along with an integral approach to the sick person,
are particularly beneficial for long-term patients.
3. The greater amount of free time in this stage of life offers the elderly
the opportunity to face the primary issues that perhaps had been previously
set aside, due to concerns that were pressing or considered a priority
nonetheless. Knowledge of the nearness of the final goal leads the elderly
person to focus on that which is essential, giving importance to those
things that the passing of years do not destroy.
Precisely because of this condition, the elderly person can carry out his
or her role in society. If it is true that man lives upon the heritage of
those who preceded him, and that his future depends definitively on how
the cultural values of his own people are transmitted to him, then the
wisdom and experience of the elderly can illuminate his path on the way
of progress toward an ever more complete form of civilisation.
How important it is to rediscover this mutual enrichment between different
generations! The Lenten Season, with its strong call to conversion and
solidarity, leads us this year to focus on these important themes which
concern everyone. What would happen if the People of God yielded to a
certain current mentality that considers these people, our brothers and
sisters, as almost useless when they are reduced in their capacities
due to the difficulties of age or sickness? Instead, how different the
community would be, if, beginning with the family, it tries always to
remain open and welcoming towards them.
4. Dear brothers and sisters, during Lent, aided by the Word of God, let
us reflect upon how important it is that each community accompany with
loving understanding those who grow old. Moreover, one must become
accustomed to thinking confidently about the mystery of death, so that
the definitive encounter with God occur in a climate of interior peace,
in the awareness that He “who knit me in my mother’s womb” (cf. Psalm 139:13b)
and who willed us “in his image and likeness” (cf. Gen. 1:26) will receive
Mary, our guide on the Lenten journey, leads all believers, especially
the elderly, to an ever more profound knowledge of Christ dead and risen,
who is the ultimate reason for our existence. May she, the faithful servant
of her divine Son, together with Saints Ann and Joachim, intercede for
each one of us “now and at the hour of our death”.
My Blessing to All!
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm Communications Officer (087 233 7797)