“Lent is a time to disconnect from cell phones and connect to the Gospel,” Pope Francis said on Ash Wednesday, recalling that when he was a child there was no television, but his family would make a point of not listening to the radio. The 40 Days of preparation for Easter are a time to turn off the TV and open the Bible, he said.
“In the desert one hears the Word of God,” he said, “one finds intimacy with God and the love of the Lord,” noting that Jesus taught us how to seek the Father, who speaks to us in silence.
He remarked that it is not easy to be in silence as we live in an environment that is “polluted by too much verbal violence,” by so many “offensive and harmful words” which are amplified by the internet.
So Lent is a time “to give up useless words, chatter, rumors, gossip, and talk and to speak directly to the Lord,” he said, it is a time in which to dedicate ourselves to an ecology of the heart.
In a world in which we often struggle to distinguish the voice of the Lord, Jesus calls us into the desert and invites us to listen to what matters, Pope Francis explained. And he recalled that when the devil tempted Him, Jesus replied, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”
Thus the desert, represented by the journey of Lent, he continued, is a place of life, a place in which to dialogue in silence with the Lord who gives us life.
The pope also reflected on how an important part of our Lenten desert experience is the practice of fasting, which trains us to recognize, in simplicity of heart, how often our lives are spent in empty and superficial pursuits.
“Fasting is being capable of giving up the superfluous and going to the essential. Fasting is not only losing weight, it is seeking the beauty of a simpler life,” he said.
The pope also noted that the solitude of the desert increases our sensitivity to those who quietly cry out for help.
“Even today, close to us, there are many deserts, many lonely people: they are the lonely and the abandoned. How many poor and old people live near us in silence, marginalized and discarded,” he said.
The desert of Lent leads us to them, he continued. It is a journey of charity towards those who are weak and in need.
Pope Francis concluded his catechesis reiterating that the path through the Lenten desert is made up of “prayer, fasting, works of mercy,” so that it may lead us “from death to life.”
“If we enter the desert with Jesus, we will leave it at Easter when the power of God’s love renews life,” he said.