Lent is time to become aware of false prophets, cold hearts, pope says

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Catholics should use the season of
Lent to look for signs and symptoms of being under the spell of false prophets
and of living with cold, selfish and hateful hearts, Pope Francis said.

Together with “the often bitter medicine of the
truth,” the church — as mother and teacher — offers people “the
soothing remedy of prayer, almsgiving and fasting,” the pope said in his
message for Lent, which begins Feb. 14 for Latin-rite Catholics.

The pope also invited all non-Catholics who are disturbed
by the increasing injustice, inertia and indifference in the world, to
“join us then in raising our plea to God in fasting and in offering
whatever you can to our brothers and sisters in need.”

The pope’s Lenten message, which was released at the
Vatican Feb. 6, looked at Jesus’ apocalyptic discourse to the disciples on the
Mount of Olives, warning them of the many signs and calamities that will signal
the end of time and the coming of the son of man.

Titled, “Because of the increase of evildoing, the
love of many will grow cold” (Mt. 24:12), the papal message echoes Jesus’
caution against the external enemies of false prophets and deceit, and the internal
dangers of selfishness, greed and a lack of love.

Today’s false prophets, the pope wrote, “can appear
as ‘snake charmers,’ who manipulate human emotions in order to enslave others
and lead them where they would have them go.”

So many of God’s children, he wrote, are:
“mesmerized by momentary pleasures, mistaking them for true
happiness”; enchanted by money’s illusion, “which only makes them
slaves to profit and petty interests”; and convinced they are autonomous
and “sufficient unto themselves, and end up entrapped by loneliness!”

“False prophets can also be ‘charlatans,’ who offer
easy and immediate solutions to suffering that soon prove utterly
useless,” he wrote. People can be trapped by the allure of drugs,
“disposable relationships,” easy, but dishonest gains as well as
“virtual,” but ultimately meaningless relationships, he wrote.

“These swindlers, in peddling things that have no
real value, rob people of all that is most precious: dignity, freedom and the
ability to love,” the message said.

The pope asked people to examine their heart to see
“if we are falling prey to the lies of these false prophets” and to
learn to look at things more closely, “beneath the surface,” and
recognize that what comes from God is life-giving and leaves “a good and
lasting mark on our hearts.”

Christians also need to look for any signs that their
love for God and others has started to dim or grow cold, the pope said.

Greed for money is a major red flag, he wrote, because it
is the “root of all evil” and soon leads to a rejection of God and
his peace.

“All this leads to violence against anyone we think
is a threat to our own ‘certainties’: the unborn child, the elderly and infirm,
the migrant, the foreigner among us, or our neighbor who does not live up to
our expectations,” the pope wrote.

Another sign of love turned cold is the problem of
pollution, he said, which causes creation to become poisoned by waste,
“discarded out of carelessness or selfishness.”

The polluted oceans unfortunately also become a burial ground
for countless victims of forced migration and “the heavens, which in God’s
plan, were created to sing his praises,” are slashed by machinery that
rain down instruments of death, he wrote.

Whole communities, he said, also can show signs of a cold
lack of love wherever there is selfish sloth, sterile pessimism, the temptation
to become isolated, constant internal fighting and a “worldly mentality
that makes us concerned only for appearances, and thus lessens our missionary

The remedy for these ills can be strengthened during Lent
with prayer, almsgiving and fasting, he wrote.

Praying more enables “our hearts to root out our
secret lies and forms of self-deception, and then to find the consolation God
offers,” he said in his message.

“Almsgiving sets us free from greed and helps us to
regard our neighbor as a brother or sister,” it said.

Urging people to make charitable giving and assistance a
genuine part of their everyday life, he asked that people look at every request
for help as a request from God himself. Look at almsgiving as being part of
God’s generous and providential plan, and helping his children in need.

Finally, “fasting weakens our tendency to violence;
it disarms us and becomes an important opportunity for growth,” he said,
while also letting people feel what it must be like for those who struggle to

It also “expresses our own spiritual hunger and
thirst for life in God. Fasting wakes us up. It makes us more attentive to God
and our neighbor,” he wrote, and “revives our desire to obey God, who
alone is capable of satisfying our hunger.”

The pope also reminded people to take part in the
“24 Hours for the Lord” initiative March 9-10 in which many dioceses
will have at least one church open for 24 hours, offering eucharistic adoration
and the sacrament of reconciliation.

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Editor’s Note: The text of the pope’s message in English
is online at:

The text of the pope’s message in Spanish is online at:


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