Fr. Bloomfield's Blog

I am a Roman Catholic Priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, currently assigned to Divine Child Parish in Dearborn, Michigan. When I manage to keep the page updated, hopefully something interesting can be found here!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Faith Seeking Understanding for March 5, 2006

Our Holy Father, Benedict XVI, following the custom of our beloved late Pope John Paul II, has given the Church a Lenten Message. His letter offers us encouragement and support for our Lenten penances and reminds us to be faithful in our preparations for the celebration of Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection at the end of the Forty Days. The theme that Benedict has chosen for his message is: “Jesus, at the sight of the crowds, was moved with pity” (Mt 9:36).

This theme recalls the plight of underdeveloped nations and realistically, even the poor in our midst. Lent, as a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, is exceptionally appropriate to contemplate the social nature of our Faith as well as the call to conversion that demands expression in our concrete love of neighbor. As we have seen in the last two weeks’ articles about the encyclical Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict is concerned that this aspect of the Gospel not be overlooked.

Our gaze upon the “crowds” must be in imitation of Jesus’ concern and pity: “The gaze of Jesus embraces individuals and multitudes, and he brings them all before the Father, offering Himself as a sacrifice of expiation” (Lenten Message 2006). The Pope recalls his predecessor Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum Progressio, and the importance of developing a “complete humanism” that truly respects the dignity of each human person. Our Holy Father suggests then, that “for this reason, the primary contribution that the Church offers to the development of mankind and peoples does not consist merely in material means or technical solutions. Rather, it involves the proclamation of the truth of Christ, Who educates consciences and teaches the authentic dignity of the person and of work; it means the promotion of a culture that truly responds to all the questions of humanity.”

In our practice of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, we become conformed to Christ who had compassion on the crowds; such self-denial opens our hearts to the grace and working of the Holy Spirit. After such discipline and denial, uniting our hearts to Christ, then we are more perfectly capable of offering a truly authentic gift of self to the poor, the disabled, the unborn, and any who suffer the attacks against human dignity. We, then, do not give simply our money, our time, our resources, or even ourselves – we are able to give Christ. The Pope says: “Those who act according to the logic of the Gospel live the faith as friendship with God Incarnate and, like Him, bear the burden of the material and spiritual needs of their neighbors.”

As we help in the global development of poor nations, the pope teaches: “Moved like Jesus with compassion for the crowds, the Church today considers it her duty to ask political leaders and those with economic and financial power to promote development based on respect for the dignity of every man and woman.” These efforts, must however “include a recognition of the central role of authentic religious values in responding to man’s deepest concerns, and in supplying the ethical motivation for his personal and social responsibilities.”

Entrusting this task to Mary, the Mother of God, we contemplate her divine Son with love and compassion this Lent. May our efforts at fostering true human development throughout the world be strengthened by our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, so that we can truly bring Christ to the world as His faithful disciples.