Each year during his pontificate, St. Pope John Paul II addressed the church community with a Lenten message. Below are five quotes from the Lenten messages of St. John Paul that can help encourage and strengthen our personal Lenten journeys.
Lent is a Time to Recognize Our True Homeland
“Christ has gained for us not only new dignity in our life on earth, but above all the new dignity of the children of God, called to share eternal life with him. Lent invites us to overcome the temptation of seeing the realities of this world as definitive and to recognize that ‘our homeland is in heaven’ (Phil 3:20)” —St. John Paul II, "Message of John Paul II for Lent 1999"
Christ, as the Redeemer who died to save us, calls us to eternal life in Heaven. The time of Lent reminds us that our earthly life is a journey to our true home. The spiritual writer, Romano Guardini, said, “Man’s real world is, as it were, above him. Praising God means ascending into that homeland of our spirit where, it may be said, we truly live.” Through the story of Lent, we encounter our call to eternal life and look to heaven as our homeland.
Lent is a Time to Rediscover Ourselves
“Lent is a time of truth. Christians, called by the Church to prayer, penance, fasting and self-sacrifice, place themselves before God and recognize themselves; they rediscover themselves.” —St. John Paul II, "Message of His Holiness John Paul II for Lent 1981"
St. John Paul calls us during Lent to rediscover the truth about ourselves. In this message he specifically addresses the human person and tells us to remember that we are made for more than material and worldly goods (i.e. level 2 happiness). According to St. John Paul, Lent is a time to put life back in its proper place and remember two things about ourselves: we came from God and we are journeying back to Him through the resurrection. Our Lenten acts place us before God and help us recognize this profound truth about ourselves.
Lent is a Time of Connection With Others
“These are the precious weeks [of Lent] offered by the Church to all Christians, in order to help them to reflect upon their profound identity as children of the heavenly Father and as brothers and sisters of all human beings.” —St. John Paul II, "Message of His Holiness John Paul II for Lent 1983"
The time of Lent reminds us of our interconnection and relationship to all human beings by the shared identity we have as children of the heavenly Father. This recognition can help draw us to the charity St. Augustine calls us to when he said, “Food is subservient to charity, speech to charity, and facial expressions to charity. Everything works together for Charity alone.”
As the Church takes this time of Lent to show all of us our profound identity as children of God, it can encourage our fasting and interactions with others to work for the sake of charity. We then see that we practice charity not toward random individuals but toward people who share a connection with us through their gift to also call God “Father.”
Lent is a Time to Make a Gift of Ourselves to the Father
“At the end of Lent, the celebration of the Paschal Mystery shows how the Lenten journey of purification culminates in the free and loving gift of self to the Father.” —St. John Paul II, "Message of the Holy Father John Paul II for Lent 1997"
St. John Paul tells us how our Lenten journey ends in the same way it ends for Christ, namely, making a gift of ourselves to the Father through the cross. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis says, “What we have been told is how we men can be drawn into Christ—can become part of that wonderful present which the young Prince of the universe wants to offer to His Father—that present which is Himself and therefore us in Him. It is the only thing we were made for.”
Lent helps us fulfill the very thing we were made for, namely, to make a gift of ourselves to the Father. As C.S. Lewis indicates, this is the very same gift Christ wants to offer. Lent is a special time of grace when we are drawn into Christ and, with him, offer ourselves as a free and loving gift to the Father.
Lent is a Time to Give Thanks
“Lent is the favourable time to offer to the Lord sincere thanks for the wonders he has done for humanity in every age, and especially in the Redemption when he did not spare his own Son (cf. Rom 8:32).” —St. John Paul II, "Message of John Paul II for Lent 1999"
Lent tells the story of John 3:16: “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.” Lent is a time to give thanks to the Father because of the love he shows us through the gift of his Son. Fr. Spitzer tells us that “Thanksgiving—giving thanks—is the condition necessary for love.” He adds that we should be thankful for the salvation Christ won for us on the cross. During Lent, the Church invites us to enter into God’s Divine Love by giving thanks to God for all the wonders he has done for us.
For more Lenten inspiration, take a look at the list of blogs and homilies below:
- A Message From Fr. Spitzer - Trust in St. Joseph. In this message, Fr. Spitzer draws our attention to the feast day of St. Joseph that takes place in the midst of the Lenten season. During personal hardships due to the current pandemic, Fr. Spitzer reminds us that we are under the guardianship of St. Joseph who infuses his paternal protection over us.
- Fulton Sheen’s Last Good Friday Homily. The contents of this blog relate Fulton Sheen’s powerful reflections on the different types of spectators at the cross of Jesus. Sheen’s reflection applies to us today because he mentions that we too are spectators at the cross on Good Friday.
- Don’t Be Left in the Dust: Solar Dust and the Renewing of Our Minds. When scientists looked closer at the dust around the sun, they began to discover new things, such as, asteroids around Venus and a dust ring around Mercury. What happens if we take a closer look at the dust we are made from? Read this blog to discover some spiritual truths stemming from the dust and ashes you received on Ash Wednesday.
- Fr. Spitzer Homily: Monday of the Third Week of Lent 2018. In this 3 minute audio clip, Fr. Spitzer explains the Lenten season is not about penance and sacrifice in themselves, but the reason for penance and sacrifice is to build our faith and trust in God. If penances and sacrifices are not building faith and trust in God, then they are not serving their ultimate purpose.
- Fr. Spitzer Homily: Thursday of the Third Week of Lent 2018. In this 6 ½ minute audio clip, Fr. Spitzer admits that during the Lenten season we have to make a choice everyday between doing things the “Jesus way”—which is the right way—or doing things “my way”—which is the more convenient and short term way.