ROME — Lent is a time “to devote oneself to a holy ecology of the heart,” Pope Francis told pilgrims in the Vatican Wednesday, and a time to follow Jesus into the desert.
“Lent is the favorable time to make room for the Word of God,” the pope told the thousands gathered for his weekly General Audience in Saint Peter’s Square. “It is a time to turn off the television and open the Bible. It is a time to disconnect from our phones and connect to the gospel.”
By giving up “useless words, gossip, rumors, chatter, and speaking instead heart-to-heart with the Lord,” we cultivate a “holy ecology of the heart,” Francis declared.
“We live in an atmosphere polluted by too much verbal violence, too many offensive and harmful words, which are amplified by the internet,” he said. “Today, people insult each other as if they were saying ‘Good Day.’”
“We are inundated with empty words, publicity, subliminal messages,” he continued. “We have become accustomed to hearing everything about everyone and we risk slipping into a worldliness that atrophies our hearts.”
In his reflection to kick off the season of Lent, when Christians devote 40 days to prepare to celebrate the most sacred time of the year — Holy Week and Easter — the pope suggested that we need to learn from Jesus’ example in the desert before he began his public ministry.
In the midst of all the noise that bombards us, “we struggle to distinguish the voice of the Lord who speaks to us, the voice of conscience, of goodness,” the pope said. “Jesus, calling us into the desert, invites us to listen to what matters.”
When the devil tempted him with bread, Jesus replied that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God, the pontiff recalled.
“Even more than bread we need God’s Word, we need to talk to God, to pray,” Francis said. “Because only before God do the inclinations of the heart come to light and the duplicity of the soul falls away.”
In this way, the desert becomes “a place of life, not of death, because dialogue in silence with the Lord gives us our life back,” he said.
“The desert is the place of the essential,” Francis noted. “Look at our lives: how many useless things surround us! We chase a thousand things that seem necessary and are really not.”
“How good would it be for us to get rid of so many superfluous realities, to rediscover what matters, to find the faces of those around us!” he continued.
“Fasting is knowing how to give up vain and superfluous things, to go to what is essential. It is looking for the beauty of a simpler life,” he said.