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Lent is a beautiful time of the year when we are encouraged to embrace new spiritual disciplines and deepen our relationship with Jesus Christ. Pope Benedict XVI saw it as a perfect time for when we can conform our view of the world with Jesus Christ. He explained how we need to compare our gaze upon humanity with that of Christ in his 2007 message for Lent.
Enlightened by this Paschal truth, the Church knows that if we are to promote development in its fulness, our own “gaze” upon mankind has to be measured against that of Christ. In fact, it is quite impossible to separate the response to people’s material and social needs from the fulfilment of the profound desires of their hearts.
Benedict XVI believed that if we are to truly meet the needs of today’s world, we need to see the suffering and poverty of everyone with the gaze of Christ.
Lent provides for us a time when we can practice various spiritual disciplines that help us in this regard.
Benedict XVI explained that fasting, prayer and almsgiving can assist us in uniting our gaze with Jesus Christ.
In the face of the terrible challenge of poverty afflicting so much of the world’s population, indifference and self-centered isolation stand in stark contrast to the gaze of Christ. Fasting and almsgiving, which, together with prayer, the Church proposes in a special way during the Lenten Season, are suitable means for us to become conformed to this gaze. The examples of the saints and the long history of the Church’s missionary activity provide invaluable indications of the most effective ways to support development. Even in this era of global interdependence, it is clear that no economic, social, or political project can replace that gift of self to another through which charity is expressed.
Meeting the needs of the world is a praiseworthy activity, but according to Benedict XVI, it must be matched with an equal desire for the spiritual salvation of others. That desire is fostered through the spiritual disciplines of Lent, conforming our gaze to that of Jesus Christ.