Ash Wednesday officially starts Lent, a period of 40 days that precedes Easter in the Christian calendar. Christians who observe Lent use it as a time for prayer and penance and preparation for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. By observing Lent, Christians remember the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who withdrew into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days before beginning his ministry of teaching and healing.
This year, Pope Francis based his Lenten message on the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31). Going through the parable, he highlights three main points: “The other person is a gift;” “sin blinds us;” and “the word is a gift.”
On the first point — “the other person is a gift” — the pope emphasizes one of the characters in the parable, Lazarus, a poor man who sits in front of a rich man’s door. Lazarus is likely someone forgotten by mankind, but he still has a name. Jesus identifies Lazarus by name; he is important to God, because no one is omitted before God.
“A right relationship with people consists in gratefully recognizing their value. Even the poor person at the door of the rich is not a nuisance, but a summons to conversion and to change,” said the pontiff.
To look around us means to realize the other’s needs, to see the other as a person and as important, even if he or she has nothing to offer us. How much weight do we give to material things, forgetting what is really important?
“Lent is a call to see ourselves and the world the way God sees us and the world,” said Father Peter Lah, SJ, a professor at Pontifical Gregorian University, during the Ash Wednesday Mass at The Lay Centre.
God sees us as gift and we should see others in the same way, he said.