Thought for the weekend: For the love of God and Man
In his message to Christians for the beginning of Lent, Pope Francis refers to those practical exercises of Gospel-based charity known traditionally as the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.
The Corporal Works of Mercy are acts of compassion for our neighbours in their physical and material needs.
They are: to feed the hungry; to give drink to the thirsty; to clothe the naked; to shelter the homeless; to visit the sick; to visit the imprisoned; to bury the dead
The Spiritual Works of Mercy are acts of compassion towards our neighbours in their spiritual and emotional needs.
They are: to counsel the doubtful; to instruct the ignorant; to admonish sinners; to comfort the afflicted; to forgive offences; to bear wrongs patiently; to pray for the living and the dead. The Pope draws our attention to these basic applications of God's command to love our neighbours as we embark upon the journey of Lent - the goal of which is always spiritual growth and maturity.
We develop properly, in the spiritual life, by moving beyond ourselves, reaching out in love towards others.
This weekend also sees the celebration of St Valentine's Day - which has become a secular festival of romantic love. St Valentine was a priest in Rome during the third century. He was arrested, tortured, beaten and beheaded for preaching the Christian faith and for celebrating the Sacrament of Marriage.
Behind the hearts and flowers of modern St Valentine's Day, there is the stark reality of a love that costs everything. Authentic Christian love always calls us out of ourselves - beyond ourselves. It turns us outwards, towards God, in the service of our brothers and sisters, especially the poor.
The discipline of Lent is about bringing oneself into subjection, so as to be better fitted for merciful service and loving care of others. The works of mercy, corporal and spiritual, are the ways in which we imitate our Father - being and becoming - more and more merciful and compassionate, like God.
Focused entirely on Jesus, we are drawn, by him and with him, to adore the Father's infinite love. The glorious energy that flows from this loving union is the Holy Spirit, who makes us alive with the joyful freedom of the children of God.