Pope Francis is encouraging Catholics to return to God with tears in this liturgical season of Lent.
In his Ash Wednesday homily, the pope asked Catholics to pray for “the gift of tears in order to make our prayer and our journey of conversion more authentic and without hypocrisy.”
As Lent is a journey of purification and sanctification, the pope is stressing that Catholics make the most out of the trial of the Cross to the joy of the Resurrection. He said that the gift of tears separates people from hypocrisy that so easily seeps into the lives of the faithful.
“Do you know something, brothers and sisters: Hypocrites do not know how to cry,” said Pope Francis. “They have forgotten how to cry. They don’t ask for the gift of tears.”
What is the Lenten conversion that all Catholics are called to undergo? It entails, Pope Francis said, returning “to the arms of God, the tender and merciful father, to cry in that embrace, to trust him and entrust oneself to him.”
While Catholics are called to prayer, sacrifice and almsgiving as part of a Lenten spirituality, Pope Francis said that one’s agenda must far exceed those elements.
The pope also said that Catholics must remember that conversion cannot occur without the grace of God. “…conversion is not just a human work,” said Pope Francis. “Reconciliation between us and God is possible thanks to the mercy of the Father who, out of love for us, did not hesitate to sacrifice his only-begotten Son.”
In a world that is in constant motion with minimal opportunities for self-reflection, the faithful are encouraged to examine their souls and repent.
“Please,” said Pope Francis, “Let’s stop. Let’s pause a while and allow ourselves to be reconciled with God.”
The Lenten Scripture readings consistently focus on the call to amend one’s sinful ways, leaving the faithful without excuse to turn to God.
Lent is that chance “to begin the journey of a conversion that is not superficial and transitory, but a spiritual itinerary” going directly to a person’s heart, the central point “of our sentiments, the center in which our choices and attitudes mature.”