By John Paul II
Dear Brothers and Sisters! Lent is a season of intense prayer, fasting and concern for those in need. It offers all Christians an opportunity to prepare for Easter by serious discernment about their lives, with particular attention to the word of God which enlightens the daily ourney of all who believe.
This year, as a guide for our Lenten meditation, I would offer a phrase taken from the Acts of the Apostles: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). What we have here is not simply a moral exhortation, or a command which comes to us from without. The inclination to give is rooted in the depths of the human heart: every person is conscious of a desire to interact with others and everyone finds fulfilment in a free gift of self to others.
Our age, regrettably, is particularly susceptible to the temptation toward selfishness which always lurks within the human heart. In society generally, and in the media, people are bombarded by messages which more or less openly exalt the ephemeral and the hedonistic. Concern for others is certainly shown whenever natural disasters, war and other emergencies strike, but in general it is difficult to build a culture of solidarity. The spirit of the world affects our inner propensity to give ourselves unselfishly to others and drives us to satisfy our own particular interests. The desire to possess ever more is encouraged. Surely it is natural and right that people, by using their own gifts and by their own labour, should work to obtain what they need to live, but an excessive desire for possessions prevents human beings from being open to their Creator and to their brothers and sisters. The words of Paul to Timothy remain relevant in every age: “The love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs” (1 Tim 6:10).
Exploitation of others, indifference towards the suffering of our brothers and sisters, and the violation of basic rules of morality are just a few fruits of the thirst for gain. Faced with the tragic situation of persistent poverty which afflicts so many people in our world, how can we fail to see that the quest for profit at any cost and the lack of effective, responsible concern for the common good have concentrated immense resources in the hands of a few while the rest of humanity suffers in poverty and neglect?
Appealing to believers and to all people of good will, I would like to reaffirm a principle which is self-evident yet often ignored: our goal should not be the benefit of a privileged few, but rather the improvement of the living conditions of all. Only on this foundation can we build that international order truly marked by justice and solidarity which is the hope of everyone.
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” When believers respond to the inner impulse to give themselves to others without expecting anything in return, they experience a profound interior satisfaction.
The efforts of Christians to promote justice, their commitment in defence of the powerless, their humanitarian work in providing bread for the hungry and their care for the sick by responding to every emergency and need, draw their strength from that sole and inexhaustible treasury of love which is the complete gift of Jesus to the Father. Believers are called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, true God and true man, who, in perfect obedience to the will of the Father, emptied himself, and humbly gave himself to us in selfless and total love, even unto death on a cross. Calvary eloquently proclaims the message of the Blessed Trinity’s love for human beings of all times and places.