"How I would like almsgiving to become a genuine style of life for each of us!" the Pope said. "How I would like us, as Christians, to follow the example of the Apostles and see in the sharing of our possessions a tangible witness of the communion that is ours in the Church!"
Almsgiving is very fitting during Lent, he continued, but added that he hopes that "even in our daily encounters with those who beg for our assistance, we would see such requests as coming from God himself."
Almsgiving, along with prayer and fasting, are intended as instruments to fight both sin within ourselves and its effect on the world. For from greed, follows "the rejection of God and his peace," he said. We begin to prefer "our own desolation rather than the comfort found in his word and the sacraments."
Greed also may lead us to violence, he noted, pointing to how we lash out, in particular, at those we think threaten the "certainties" of our lives, such as the unborn child, the elderly and infirm, the immigrant, or even just the neighbor "who does not live up to our expectations."
Almsgiving is a way of setting us free from greed, acknowledging that "what I possess is never mine alone."
In fasting, too, we are given the opportunity to grow, he said, both by experiencing the hunger that many people around the world experience daily, and by expressing our own "spiritual hunger and thirst for life in God."
"Fasting wakes us up. It makes us more attentive to God and our neighbor. It revives our desire to obey God, who alone is capable of satisfying our hunger," he said.
He explained that devoting more time to prayer also helps us to root out vice from our hearts and to find consolation in God, who is our Father and who "wants us to live life well."
"Lent summons us, and enables us, to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly and in every aspect of our life," the Pope said. "With this message, I would like again this year to help the entire Church experience this time of grace anew, with joy and in truth."
He also said that the Church would again be celebrating the "24 Hours for the Lord" initiative, which is a day for the whole Church to focus on the celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation, within the context of Eucharistic adoration.
This year, it will take place March 9-10, he said, inspired by the words of Psalm 130:4, "With you is forgiveness." In each diocese, at least one church will remain open for twenty-four consecutive hours, he said, offering opportunities for adoration and sacramental confession.
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Led by Pope Francis, "24 Hours for the Lord" is a worldwide initiative which points to confession as a primary way to experience God's merciful embrace. It was launched in 2014 under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.