Prayer is main weapon in fight against evil
Preaching on Ash Wednesday, the Pope reflected on the themes of prayer and suffering.
"Lent", he said, "precisely because it invites people to prayer, penance and fasting, represents a providential moment to revive and strengthen our hope".
Prayer "is the primary and foremost 'weapon' with which to 'face the struggle against the spirit of evil'", said the Holy Father, indicating that "without the element of prayer, the human 'I' ends up by closing in on itself and conscience, which should be the echo of the voice of God, risks being reduced to a mirror of the self. In the same way, interior dialogue becomes a monologue that gives rise to many forms of self-justification.
"Thus prayer is a guarantee of openness to others", he added. "Those who free themselves for God and His needs, open themselves to others, to the brothers and sisters who knock at the door of their hearts and ask to be heard, who ask for attention, for forgiveness, and sometimes for correction, but always in fraternal charity.
"True prayer is never centered on the self but always focuses on others. ... True prayer is the motor of the world, because it keeps us open to God. For this reason, without prayer there is no hope, only illusion.
"It is not, in fact, the presence of God that alienates man, but His absence. Without the True God, Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, hopes turns into an illusion that induces us to evade reality".
"Fasting and almsgiving, harmoniously linked to prayer, may also be considered as 'places' in which to learn the exercise of Christian hope", said the Holy Father. In this context he indicated how "thanks to the joint action of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, Lent ... forms Christians to be men and women of hope, following the example of the saints".
On the subject of suffering, Benedict XVI recalled that Christ "suffered for truth and justice, bringing into the history of mankind the gospel of suffering, which is the other facet of the gospel of love. God cannot suffer, but He is able to and wants to show 'com-passion'".
"The greater the hope that animates us, the greater also is our capacity to suffer for the love of truth and goodness, joyfully offering up the small and great hardships of everyday life, and making them part of Christ's great 'com-passion'".
After recalling how the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes are currently being celebrated, the Pope concluded by inviting people "to meditate on the mystery of Mary's participation in the pains of humanity".
Meanwhile speaking to the parish priests of Rome yesterday, the Pope said that Lent should be a time to fast from words and images, and to create a space for silence.
"It seems to me that the time of Lent should be a time of fasting from words and images, because we need a little silence, a little space, without being constantly bombarded with images.
"We need to create spaces of silence [...] to open our hearts to the true image, to the true word."
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