By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Catholics should use the season of Lent to look for signs and symptoms of being under the spell of false prophets and of living with cold, selfish and hateful hearts, Pope Francis said.
Together with “the often bitter medicine of the truth,” the Church – as both mother and teacher – offers people “the soothing remedy of prayer, almsgiving and fasting,” the pope said in his message for Lent, which begins on Feb. 14 for Latin-rite Catholics.
The pope also invited all non-Catholics who are disturbed by the increasing injustice, inertia and indifference in the world, to “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 pope’s Lenten message looked at Jesus’ apocalyptic discourse to the disciples on the Mount of Olives, warning them of the many signs and calamities that will signal the end of time and the coming of the son of man.
Titled, “Because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold” (Mt. 24:12), the papal message echoes Jesus’ caution against the external enemies of false prophets and deceit, and the internal dangers of selfishness, greed and a lack of love.
Today’s false prophets, the pope wrote, “can appear as ‘snake charmers,’ who manipulate human emotions in order to enslave others and lead them where they would have them go.”
So many of God’s children, he wrote, are: “mesmerized by momentary pleasures, mistaking them for true happiness”; enchanted by money’s illusion, “which only makes them slaves to profit and petty interests”; and convinced they are autonomous and “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,” he wrote.
People can be trapped by the allure of drugs, “disposable relationships,” easy, but dishonest gains as well as “virtual,” but ultimately meaningless relationships, he wrote.
“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,” the message said.
The pope asked people to examine their heart to see “if we are falling prey to the lies of these false prophets” and to learn to look at things more closely, “beneath the surface,” and recognize that what comes from God is life-giving and leaves “a good and lasting mark on our hearts.”