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Pope Francis’ Message for Lent 2021

"Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem" (Mt 20:18)

Lent - a time for Renewing Faith, Hope and Love

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Jesus revealed to His disciples the deepest meaning of His mission when He told them of His Passion, Death and Resurrection, in fulfilment of the Father's will. He then called the disciples to share in this mission for the salvation of the world.

In our Lenten journey towards Easter, let us remember the One who "humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a Cross" (Phil 2:8). During this season of conversion, let us renew our faith, draw from the "living water" of hope, and receive with open hearts the love of God, who makes us brothers and sisters in Christ. At the Easter Vigil, we will renew our baptismal promises and experience rebirth as new men and women by the working of the Holy Spirit. This Lenten journey, like the entire pilgrimage of the Christian life, is even now illumined by the light of the Resurrection, which inspires the thoughts, attitudes and decisions of the followers of Christ.

Fasting, prayer and almsgiving, as preached by Jesus (cf. Mt 6:1-18), enable and express our conversion. The path of poverty and self-denial (fasting), concern and loving care for the poor (almsgiving), and childlike dialogue with the Father (prayer) make it possible for us to live lives of sincere faith, living hope and effective charity.

1. Faith calls us to accept the truth and testify to it before God and all our brothers and sisters.

In this Lenten season, accepting and living the truth revealed in Christ means, first of all, opening our hearts to God's Word, which the Church passes on from generation to generation. This truth is not an abstract concept reserved for a chosen intelligent few. Instead, it is a message that all of us can receive and understand, thanks to the wisdom of a heart open to the grandeur of God, who loves us even before we are aware of it. Christ Himself is this truth. By taking on our humanity, even to its very limits, He has made Himself the way – demanding, yet open to all – that leads to the fullness of life.

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LENT - A Time to Return to God’s Love

Fr. Cedric Rosario

Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with the weapons of self-restraint. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son...". With these words, the Church begins the special grace-filled season of Lent, a period of forty intense days, wherein she prays fervently and unceasingly in order to prepare herself for the great Paschal Mystery of Christ.

The Collect from the Mass for Ash Wednesday beautifully enumerates the nature of the Lenten season as a campaign. Yet, Lent is not just any other campaign. It is a campaign which aims to empower the faithful to confront the reality of sin and evil head on, when we are faced with temptations in our quest to achieve mastery over our sinful inclinations. Armed with the spiritual weapons of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, and following the example of Our Lord Jesus Christ, each one of us is invited to grow in intimacy with the Father, to set right our relationship with God and our neighbour. Lent is an invitation that the Lord extends to each of us to return to His divine love.

In order to achieve this, there must be a two-fold turning in our lives—a turning away from sin and a consequent turning towards the Lord, who constantly invites us: "Come back to me!" (cf. Joel 2:12). Lent is a time to reflect more deeply on the reality of sin which has deeply rooted itself in the human condition. This season makes us realise that humanity left to itself is, and will always be, a vulnerable reality, unable to fend for itself, unable to safeguard itself against the constant threat of sin, which hangs like the sword of Damocles. Humanity needs God's accompaniment and guidance in the tempestuous journey of life.

The penitential character of the season of Lent is aimed precisely at inculcating a sense of humility in humankind, in imitation of the humility of Christ who humbled Himself, even to death on a Cross (cf. Phil 2:8); all out of deep love for each of us. The penance we do during this time is our willingness to own up and take responsibility for our misguided actions. It also serves to manifest our commitment to take the gift of salvation with utmost seriousness.

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Seeds sown in the Desert

Christopher Mendonca

The various schools of spirituality in the Christian Tradition,

while each having their distinctive form and feature,

still have one thing in common.

In the process of 'educating' the seeker,

they all attempt to 'draw out' from the individual

the awareness of what we experience deep within our psyche.

They invariably come to address the problem of separation,

a separation that brings discomfort, as we begin to experience

our disconnectedness from the Immanent God,

and because of it, our disconnectedness from each other.

Experiencing the limitation of time,

the tension of our endurance being stretched to its limits

and our own emotional fragility,

we are afraid of loneliness.

Hanging by the slender thread of an optical fibre,

often leaning on imagined or virtual reality,

our relationships collapse under their own weight.

Standing apart, we see others as projections of ourselves.

Worse still, the gods we imagined to be our saviours

soon begin to have feet of clay.

The insight of the first Desert Fathers and Mothers

as they journeyed into the desert

not too far away from the city centre,

is the discovery that loneliness carries within itself

the seeds of destruction;

solitude on the other hand is life-giving,

as the seeds of contemplation sown in the desert

begin to sprout.

The desert terrain is replete with transitoriness.

Impermanence stares us in the face

It is best that we travel light

and more important that what we wear

clings to us only lightly.

Any attachment only serves as an encumbrance.

Not even our footprints endure their contours

as they are blown away by the wind —

a subtle reminder that we must leave our past behind.

The desert is not a place where one can function by default.

Awareness and alertness, rather than programmed responses,

are the key to survival.

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St Joseph: Model of Faith, Hope and Love

Fr. Errol Fernandes

Pope Francis has decreed a special year dedicated to St Joseph, from Dec. 8, 2020.

St Joseph is one of the very few Saints who has two feast days to honour him. However, the feast celebration on March 19 is titled 'St Joseph, the husband of Mary'. It is only on May 1 that we celebrate a feast exclusively in his honour, which is titled 'St Joseph, the worker'.

The scriptures do not say much about this silent saint. As a matter of fact, St Joseph does not speak in the scriptures. His voice is not heard. This is to be expected because St Joseph was a man of action more than words; he let his actions speak for and about him.

Inspiration from St Joseph: As we celebrate a year dedicated to St Joseph, we can draw inspiration from him in many areas of our own lives. We ask that through his intercession, we may imbibe some of them.

1) Attentive listening: Matthew is the only one of the four evangelists who places Joseph on centrestage in his Infancy Narrative. The angel appears to Joseph in a dream on four separate occasions (Mt 1:20-21; 2:13; 2:19-21; 2:22). The dreams here are to be seen as metaphors for divine revelation.

Before the first of these dreams (Mt 1:20-21), Joseph had already made up his mind to follow the law because he was righteous (1:18-19). He became aware of the pregnancy of Mary - to whom he was engaged or betrothed - and possibly suspected her of adultery. The reason for this suspicion was that though he was engaged to her, they would not live together till after marriage. The only logical explanation of the pregnancy was that Mary was guilty of adultery. Joseph had the choice to pursue a legal trial for adultery (Deut 22:23-27) or draw up a bill of divorce.

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Come and See

Joan Manohar

ith these words, Jesus invited two of John the Baptist's disciples (one of whom was Andrew) to come and see where He lived. We are told that "they went and saw where he lived and stayed with him the rest of the day" (John 1:39). This encounter with the Lord was the turning point in their lives. We know that it was Andrew who introduced his brother Simon Peter to Jesus, telling him that he had found the Messiah. Having experienced the Lord in a personal way, Andrew felt compelled to share that experience with his brother, so that he too could enjoy the same.

I would like to do the same for all those who choose to read on. Having accepted the invitation to explore the treasures of our faith through the eyes of Jesus, our Lord and Master, there is no looking back for us. All that we achieve or strive to achieve till then pales into insignificance. Personally speaking, I had various options to pursue in my search, but the one I opted for was the 'Deepen Your Faith' (DYF) course held each year in the Archdiocese of Bombay. Even during the current pandemic, the organisers were able to ensure that the course ran uninterrupted, holding online sessions for 27 weeks, concluding on January 31, 2021.

Like most 'born Catholics', for years, I lived in the belief that belonging to the Church assured me of salvation, provided that I lived my life within certain set guidelines which I scrupulously followed. It came as a rude shock, when at one of the early DYF sessions, I heard the lecturer tell us that not all in the Church are in the Kingdom of God, and there are many who are not in the Church, but in the Kingdom of God. Fr Aniceto Pereira explained that the Kingdom of God is the kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace. It is a kingdom of justice, love and peace. The Church is only a sign and instrument of the Kingdom of God. I knew I wanted to be a member of the Kingdom, but I needed a guide for my journey. That is where the DYF course stepped in.’’

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India’s Endangered Languages

Adrija Roychowdhury

February 21 is International Mother Language Day. Of the 4,000 endangered languages globally, India's share is 10 per cent. Since Independence, India has already lost 250 languages.

When renowned literary critic and activist, Ganesh Narayan Devy, set out to map the linguistic diversity of India, he had no inkling he would encounter languages that are barely known in the states in which they are spoken. Among his interesting discoveries were — 200 words describing snow in the Himalayan region alone, an old form of Portuguese spoken in villages close to Mumbai, a form of Japanese spoken in parts of Gujarat, and a language from Myanmar that is popular in the islands of Andaman.

Devy, who documented 780 Indian languages while conducting the People's Linguistic Survey of India in 2010, also shockingly found that 600 of these languages were dying; close to 250 languages in India had already died over the past 60 years.

When a language dies, as Devy notes, "a unique way of looking at the world disappears." In an exclusive interview with, the critic spoke about the dying and the dead languages of India. In the interview, he dwelt on how some languages gain popularity while others remain marginalised, and the impact of colonisation on the language system of India.

What are some of the dying and dead languages of India?

According to UNESCO, any language that is spoken by less than 10,000 people is potentially endangered. In India, after the 1971 Census, the government decided that any language spoken by less than 10,000 people need not be included in the official list of languages. In India, therefore, all the languages that are spoken by less than 10,000 people are treated by the state as not worthy of mention, and treated by the UNESCO as potentially endangered. As per my survey, there are close to 780 languages in India, out of which about 600 are potentially endangered. The Census of 1991 and 2001 show not more than 122 languages. So most others have to be called potentially endangered.

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