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Pope's Lenten message stresses the grace of Baptism

Catholic World News - February 22, 2011

In his message for Lent 2011, Pope Benedict XVI reminds the faithful that we must share in Christ’s death in order to share in his Resurrection. The Holy Father explains that truth with a meditation on the sacrament of Baptism.

The Pope’s message, released by the Vatican on February 22, takes its theme from St. Paul’s epistle to the Colossians: “You were buried with Him in Baptism, in which you were also raised with Him.”

"A particular connection binds Baptism to Lent as the favorable time to experience this saving Grace,” the Pope writes, noting that the Easter Vigil has traditionally been the time for adult baptisms. During Lent, he encouraged Catholics to join in prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and reading the Scriptures, as ways of preparing for the celebration of rebirth at Easter.

Pope Benedict reminds his readers that the grace of Baptism is a free gift from God. Pointing out that most Christians are baptized in infancy, he observes that this gift shows that “no on earns eternal life through their own efforts.”

The Pope asks Christians to use the penitential season of Lent to renew their faith by participating in Christ’s suffering. He writes:

By immersing ourselves into the death and resurrection of Christ through the sacrament of Baptism, we are moved to free our hearts every day from the burden of material things, from a self-centered relationship with the 'world' that impoverishes us and prevents us from being available and open to God and our neighbor.

Developing that theme, the Pontiff explains that the traditional practices of Lent help the faithful to identify more fully with Christ. “For Christians,” he writes, “fasting, far from being depressing, opens us ever more to God and to the needs of others, thus allowing love of God to become also love of our neighbor.”

The same sort of logic applies to the practice of charity during Lent, the Pope explains:

The greed of possession leads to violence, exploitation and death; for this, the Church, especially during the Lenten period, reminds us to practice almsgiving - which is the capacity to share. The idolatry of goods, on the other hand, not only causes us to drift away from others, but divests man, making him unhappy, deceiving him, deluding him without fulfilling its promises, since it puts materialistic goods in the place of God, the only source of life.

At a press conference introducing the Pope’s Lenten message, Cardinal Robert Sarah, the president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, underlined the importance of almsgiving as a penitential practice. He said that “in the face of the very real suffering that we encounter on a global level ... we are obliged to seek out concrete solutions to alleviate misery.”

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