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A Resurrection Response

Fr Anthony Charanghat


At Easter, we will celebrate the high point of the glorious saving message of our Faith that promises New Life in Jesus, our Risen Lord. In the face of the challenge of the Coronavirus calamity, we are called to wrestle with a Resurrection response of hope that life will prevail over death. Confronted with the rapid exponential growth and mortal strikes of this insidious and treacherous virus, can we draw light from the Resurrection event to contain the underlying cause of the new COVID-19 pandemic?

There is panic in grocery stores—an insane and insatiable greed to hoard food and other basic necessities beyond our needs. We see a proliferation of anxiety and fear of financial crisis and the loss of jobs and lives. Many are asking where is God, in the darkness and despair the world is currently experiencing.

There are harmful speculations that see plague and virus solely in pharisaic simplistic terms as the wrath of an angry and fickle God for the hardened transgressions of others. This paranoid anxiety and morbid fear of death arise from our own free choices of turning inwards towards self, while excluding others and God’s plan for wholesome happiness and for harmony in His Creation.

The prevailing scenario of panic flows from the folly of frequently mimicking the underlying pattern of original sin of humankind. We have succumbed to the temptation of overly self-protection, self-glory and vaulting ambition. Our lifestyles have become an obsessive focus on ego, through which suffering and the evil of death enters the world.

This is contrary to the message of self-giving service and dying for values of unity and equality of the common good that the New Life of Easter beckons us to. A life of community - caring and sharing, mirroring His unending Love ensures this solemn Easter promise of eternal happiness.

Our preparation for the Easter event provides us insights into recognising the fallibility of our fallen nature, owing to human disobedience of His life-giving laws. It has caused a concrete alienation within self and relational fissures between man, Creation and God. Surely our acts have consequences, but God is much more graceful than we are.

Evil and suffering have never been willed by God our loving Father, who always saves; He revealed His all-embracing love, merciful forgiveness and compassion in the life, death and Resurrection of His Son Jesus. The One who seeks to bring us abundant life (John 10:10) is not a party to an un-redemptive suffering. He may not take away unavoidable suffering and inconveniences, but He can transform it to draw greater good out of it.

The clarion call of the mystery of salvation to the fullness of life is the need for conversion and repentance for our many failings, and concrete actions of reconciliation and restoration of our disordered orientations.

On our part, there has been a failure to become aware of the rising peril of Climate Change and a gross neglect for the Earth by our destruction of eco-systems and environmental pollution.

There is a wilful focus on profits and not on human development. Due to our unbridled technological endeavours, playing God, our experiments have gone awry and have endangered human health. The traumatizing of children and economic injustice are all a human malaise, responsible for bringing on the present state of distress.

The Easter event of the great salvific act of His Son Jesus Christ convinces us that God is at work in the world. We need to discern where God is moving in our lives and in the current pandemic to bring healing to the vulnerable, prevent future illness, and join God’s arc of morality, spirituality and healing.

This surely involves trusting faith and persevering prayer, unwavering hope and action. God is at work in the world, seeking healing and wholeness, inspiring physicians, researchers, nurses and other healthcare givers, first responders and compassionate friends. God’s work involves us.

Prayer is not an excuse for passivity or inaction. While it is important to pray, to trust and to hope in God’s grace and loving power to heal us and our situation, we are called to be responsible stewards of our personal lives and the lives of our fellow human beings. We are God’s agents in healing the world. Passionate faith calls us to mission. Prayer calls us to action.

The Apostles, frightened and dispirited after the Crucifixion, who locked themselves behind closed doors, discovered the Risen Christ appearing in their midst, summoning them to go out and preach with courage the Good News of the reality of undying Hope and healing through the action of building communities in Love, Caring and Peace.

We live in an interdependent world. There is no solitary or isolated person or nation. We are all part of an intricate fabric of relatedness; our joys and sorrows are one. Accordingly, we are to balance localism with global concerns, and evaluate all our decisions in terms of the common good, as well as personal gain. Our response to the Coronavirus must include larger and larger circles of a caring community, focusing on other nations, as well as our own.

As we continue our battle to eliminate this global affliction, we will begin to weaken the equally dangerous virus of personal and communal individualism and balance our self-affirmation of a narrow and restricted concept of ‘self first’ with an equally powerful and inclusive love of all. We are all in it together in a transparent solidarity, sharing our efforts and expertise to mitigate the dreaded destructive force of this recent plague’s visitation on humanity.

God is at work, seeking our well-being and enlarging our spirits. While we need to take care of our own self, we must look beyond our own immediate family relationships and our communal and national good to the largest circles of planetary care. Our Resurrection response should be one that is human-Divine participation and collaboration.

Christ in the time of Calamity

We are living in unprecedented times, when a global pandemic has united humankind against a common enemy. Religion, nationality, ethnicity, economic status, educational qualifications have all been deemed irrelevant, faced with an invisible virus that does not differentiate. The global crisis has also exposed the flaws and failures in terms of preparedness of governments to handle situations such as these. Greater budgetary allocations for arms and ammunitions, and decreased investment on primary healthcare, and on medical infrastructure in general, have exposed our misplaced priorities.

But the current crisis also shines a spotlight on faith and humanity. Most of us have never witnessed closed churches and suspended church services in our lifetime. The Eucharist has always been available to us; a number of online posts state that this period will help intensify within us a thirst for the Holy Eucharist, and help us understand the significance of Mass for our daily spiritual sustenance.

Sunday, March 29 was slated to be celebrated as Pro-Life Day in the Archdiocese of Bombay, following its proper celebration usually on March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation. This year, the celebrations will be marked by people restricted to their homes and united more closely with their families. This could be a wonderful divine design, since the theme for Pro-Life Day this year is 'Celebrating Life in the Family'. The pressures and hectic pace of urban contemporary life make it extremely challenging for families to spend time together. This is a golden opportunity for families to strengthen their connections, for children to receive their parents' undivided attention, for grandparents to regale the younger generation with stories of the past. Families that "waste time" together, eat together, and most importantly, pray together, will be the greatest blessing to emerge when the coronavirus pandemic is behind us.

The two Pro-Life Day articles in the pages of this issue, authored by Desiree Lobo and Jeanette Pinto, highlight the blessing of large families and the ensuing benefits for family life and for their future. This also reminds us of the accentuated pain and suffering of those who find themselves alone at this trying time. Pope Francis has spoken of those who live alone, who are dying alone, and without the comfort of their families. He says he was struck by the story of an elderly woman who said her final goodbye to her loved ones over a phone belonging to one of the nurses. "The pain of those who have died without saying goodbye becomes a wound in the hearts of those who are left behind," says Pope Francis.

Loneliness can also strike in more ways than one: families and communities (especially at the lower strata of society) may find themselves financially isolated by the loss of work and the crippling effects of closure on the economy; some may find themselves socially isolated, as housing societies turn against those who are suspected to be infected. It is then, at this time, that humanity must rally together, and ensure that everyone is cared for. Our Chief Shepherd, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, has urged us to be particularly sensitive to those who find themselves alone in these ways. Like the early Church at the time of the Apostles, we must pool our resources together, so that no one is left in need. His Eminence encourages us to pick up the telephone and check on vulnerable people in our communities, irrespective of caste or creed.

One cannot forget the army of doctors, nurses, medical personnel and volunteers, police and civil servants, and government who are on the front lines of this battle. Their myriad stories of relentless pursuit, sacrifice and social outreach that feature in the media is a wonderful testimony to the good that exists in humanity. It is incumbent upon us to therefore respect the directives issued by the government on social isolation, hoarding of essential commodities, and taking precautions to protect ourselves. We pray that God be with them and strengthen them in a special way during this time.

How do we strengthen ourselves during this time? Through Prayer! There are many televised and live-streamed Masses available; but even if you can't find one, you can pray on your own. When you do, remember that you're still part of a community. There is also the long standing tradition of "Spiritual Communion" when, if you cannot participate in the Mass in person, you unite yourself with God in prayer. Remember that the church is not a building; it is you and I, living stones, that form the Body of Christ.

Fr Joshan Rodrigues is on The Examiner Editorial Board, with the additional duty of Managing Editor.

Fatherhood of God’s Family

Two Sacraments – that of Holy Matrimony and Holy Orders – distinguish the vocation of priest and biological father in the minds of Christians. As Roman Catholics, we are accustomed to our priests being celibate; they do not marry, or seek the things that belong properly to married life. Children are told in catechism classes that though there are seven Sacraments, they will normally receive only six in their lifetime. Yet, paradoxically, we address our priests as "Fathers", following a Christian custom that goes back to ancient times.

This is because the relationship between priesthood and fatherhood goes back to the beginning of Creation. God creates Adam, the father of the human race, and gives him 'dominion' over the earth and all living creatures. "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it" (Gen 1:28) The Lord then places Adam in the garden of Eden "to till it and guard it" (Gen 2:15). In this, we discover the purpose of man's creation. God called Adam to be a provider, a protector, a progenitor and a guardian. In short, God made him to be a father.

Yet, for ancient Israelites, Adam's paternity was not reducible only to his biological fatherhood. Nor was it a sum total of regular fatherly duties. Scripture points to Adam's fatherhood to be, above all else, a priesthood. The Hebrew words for Adam's mandate in the garden "to till it and keep it" – abodah and shamar – appear together elsewhere in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) only to describe the ministry of the priests and the Levites in the holy sanctuary (Num 3:7-8; 8:26; 18:5-6). This shows that God intended Creation to be a royal temple built by a heavenly king and served by a priest, a divinised creature, who through his holy work, is also a co-creator with God.

This was the primary work of the Patriarchs (or "Fathers") after Adam. They fulfilled the priestly role within their families. It was Noah who built an altar and offered sacrifice on behalf of the household. So did Abraham, so did Jacob. They were mediators for their tribe, ministers of sacrifice, custodians of the covenant with God. By means of their blessing, they passed their priesthood on to their first-born sons. From the priesthood belonging to every father of the family, the ministerial priesthood passes on to one clan, the family of Aaron and his sons, to serve the nation of Israel as priests, after the Israelites' shameful act of idolatry in the desert.

Growing impatient with Moses and Aaron, the Israelites turn to the worship of an Egyptian idol, a golden calf. As Adam had forfeited his priesthood through his act of disobedience, the family patriarchs also forfeit their own. The only tribe that did not participate in this shameful act was the tribe of Levi. And so God gave the priesthood to this tribe, who went on to fulfil that role in Israel for a millennium and a half.

With the coming of the New Covenant, Jesus restores the original, natural priesthood of Adam to all those who receive Baptism and a new life in Him. Christians are a kingdom of priests, and Christ is the new Adam. Yet, Jesus also established an order of priests to serve His Church through sacramental ministry. St Paul considers himself a priest and a spiritual father – "For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel." (1 Cor 4:15-16) Hence, acting in the person of Christ, the ordained priest is the image of the Heavenly Father. In the priest, we see a fatherhood that goes beyond the biological dimension. A priest's life, like Adam's, is intended to be an act of total self-giving. He holds nothing back, just as Christ gave His life for His Church. That is the reason for the priest's celibacy.

The six young men to be ordained for the Archdiocese of Bombay on March 28, are called to be "Fathers" in this sense—spiritual fathers to the people they will serve, becoming living channels for God's people to experience the loving 'Fatherhood' of God. To be faithful to this role, priests must keep themselves close to Mary, the new Eve, the "mother of all the living" (Gen 3:20). The sacred Ordination of a priest in a diocese is a sign of new life and the perpetuation of God's Fatherly love and care for His children. Just as there is great rejoicing in a home with the birth of a child, the Church in Mumbai will erupt with gladness when these six young men rise as God's holy priests, uniting themselves in spirit to the Fathers right from the dawn of Salvation History.

(with excerpts from Scott Hahn's 'Many are Called' (2010))

Fr Joshan Rodrigues is on The Examiner Editorial Board, with the additional duty of Managing Editor.

Thirst for Living Waters

Fr Anthony Charanghat


The Gospel reading of the third Sunday of Lent this year is about the Samaritan woman who went to draw water from the well and found Jesus sitting there, tired from the journey. In His conversation with the woman at the well, He said to her, "Give me a drink." Just as in that Samaritan afternoon, Jesus comes into our life, halfway through our Lenten journey, telling us, as He did to the Samaritan woman: "Give me a drink" (Jn 4:7) thirsting to offer us living waters to eternal life.

"Give me a drink," he asks us. But really, what He wants of us is what He wanted of her – our hearts and all our love. His material thirst, says Pope John Paul II symbolises a far deeper reality; it expresses His ardent desire that His dialogue partner and her fellow-citizens will open themselves to faith.

If we give in to His request, we will simply be responding to His love for us; there will be an exchange. He will give us His heart. Jesus spoke of a 'living water' that He could offer her that would be able to quench her thirst, and become in her 'a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'

When the woman at the well encountered Jesus, she made fairly quick assumptions about Him. She was instantly able to see that Jesus was Jew unlike her, a Samaritan, and because of the resentment that existed between them, she thought He would not want anything to do with her. Besides, she was a woman and on the margins of the society in which she lived. She expected Him not to reach out to her.

His discourse with her demonstrated that He knew the state of her personal life, and proved her wrong in her assumptions. He does not share the prejudices of His people, or others' judgmental attitudes and gender discrimination. He very gently leads her on a journey of discovery. He shows her who – and what – she is. He shows her that He accepts her, will not condemn her or dismiss her. He gives her time, treats her with respect, acknowledging her dignity.

Patiently, He leads her to a deeper understanding of what He is offering. He is not put off when she brings up the differences between her people and Jesus' own traditions. Then, when she is ready, Jesus reveals who He is. In response to her intuitive remarks about the Messiah, He reveals that the hour has come to adore the one true God in spirit and truth.

Lastly, He entrusted her with something extremely rare: that He is the Messiah. Finally, she is so taken up with Jesus, that she spreads the message and brings others to meet Him, so that they also can spend time. The episode speaks to us of this dialogue that ends up in a salvific barter where the Lord, so 'deeply thirsted' for the salvation of the Samaritan woman, that 'he set on fire in her the flame of God's love'.

Even today, Jesus continues to 'thirst', namely, to desire humanity, 'thirst' for our faith and love, 'thirst' for our response of faith to so many Lenten invitations - to conversion, to change, to reconcile with God and our brothers, to prepare ourselves, as much as we can, to receive a new life of resurrection in the coming Easter.

'I who am talking to you, I am He' (Jn 4:26)—this direct and clear acknowledgment by Jesus of His mission, which He had never done before with anyone else, shows likewise God's love, a love that undergoes more in quest for the sinner and promise of salvation, that will abundantly satiate the human desire for true Life. This is why, in this same Gospel, Jesus will proclaim: If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water" (Jn 7:37b-38). So your commitment this Lent is to go out of yourself and tell all men: 'Come and see a man who told me…' (Jn 4:29).

Each for Equal

More than a century after the institution of International Women's Day (IWD) on March 8 to end discrimination against women, the campaign for change continues, because equality and gender parity still remain elusive for women around the world.

The theme of IWD 2020 is 'EACH FOR EQUAL'. It is drawn from the notion of 'collective individualism'. We are all parts of a whole, inter-related and interdependent. Our thoughts, attitudes and beliefs impact the way we speak and act in our relationships with others. Rosa Parks' defiance of Alabama's segregation laws gave momentum to the Civil Rights movement in the US. Dr Rukhmabai's petition for release from a child marriage contract and her refusal to back down generated public debate in colonial India and Britain, and influenced the enactment of the Age of Consent Act, 1891.

The struggle for equality for women in the family, workplace, social and religious institutions has been long and arduous; more so, because women fought it alone. Men decried it, believing that the rise of women would spell the fall of men. Later, even though patriarchal attitudes changed, men saw it as a women's issue, and stayed away. However, men's engagement is crucial. In fact, men's advocacy on the issue in recent years has accelerated the pace of progress. By questioning stereotypes and bias, they have put gender balance firmly on the agenda. Progressive leaders in business and political circles have come to accept what gender-related research has unequivocally substantiated – that equality is not just a women's issue.

Gender equality is a business issue. Talent, skill, leadership is not gender-specific, and bias only cripples business. Statistics show that the low percentage of women in the organised workforce has stifled the growth of nations' health and wealth. Further, research studies indicate that with women entering the echelons of board and management, the paradigms of leadership have changed for the better. This is reflected in the long-term gains that companies with women in leadership and management positions have reaped in market profits, working conditions and personnel retention.

Gender equality is a development issue. Human rights are not the privilege of a few. They are applicable to every individual on this planet, by virtue of being a human being. So when women, who make up half of the world's population, are denied their human rights in any form by the other half who think it is their right to do so, imbalance and injustice prevails, and peace and prosperity is threatened. Global gender reports reveal that countries that rank highest in gender equality (Iceland and Norway) also rank highest in development. And not surprisingly, five of the ten most gender-equal countries have women in charge!

Gender equality is an environmental issue. When it comes to making decisions on how to combat the effects of climate change, women are typically left out. Yet it is they who bear the brunt of the degradation, be it water scarcity, flood, famine, displacement, ruptured livelihoods. And again, it is women who find sustainable solutions.

Gender equality is a community issue. Surveys have shown that couples who see each other as equals have a stronger marriage in terms of quality and long-term stability. Their mutual respect enables them to pursue individual passions without rancour, and this personal fulfilment in turn strengthens their marriage. Also, this understanding and stability forms a firm foundation for inculcating gender equality in generations that follow. This obviously translates into socially adjusted individuals, and how can a community not be the better for it!

Gender equality is everyone's issue. Gender equality affects everyone, including men. Psychologists say the pressure on men to be macho, to be the provider and 'head of the household' takes a toll on their emotional and physical health. Much of the violence against women and children stems from this bias. It is well-known that domestic violence affects the physical and emotional development of children, and thereby the fabric of society – an outcome that circles back to men's well-being.

With movements like #MeToo and #Time's Up, awareness on gender balance is now at the fore, yet its implementation still remains dismal. The IWD 2020 campaign calls for every individual to take up the cause, wherever they are. As its brief states: Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day. We can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender equal world. Because an equal world is an enabled world!

Jean Saldanha (former Secretary of the Archdiocesan Commission for Women)

Coping with the Job Loss scenario

Vincent D'Silva,

PRINCIPAL CONSULTANT, SILVA MANAGEMENT SERVICES

Retrenchment is no longer a dirty word, and many professionals have been affected by it at some stage of their working lives. The business dictionary defines retrenchment as a "forced lay-off of employees, usually to cut down its payroll costs". Just like you would bid your shiny gym membership goodbye when your finances take a nosedive, companies retrench their employees to stay afloat in tough times. It could happen due to fierce competition in the market, failure to adapt to big industry trends, less-than-stellar financial performance and progressive dips in revenue over the years, sometimes caused by poor leadership and questionable business decisions.

Technology has been killing entry-level jobs, and with rapid transformations across the business eco-system, the skill-gap in the workforce continues to grow wider. In banks, machine software today approves a person's request for a loan. In a car manufacturing line in Gujarat and a battery production plant in Bengal, automation has resulted in a workforce reduction of over 50%. With the first automatic T-Shirt manufacturing and export plant coming up in Burma, three million jobs in the garment manufacturing sector in India could be at risk.

Outsourcing is on the rise across industries, and except for the R&D (innovation) and marketing or sales functions, the concept of a lean workforce in large organisations is fast catching up. Jobs in startups are uncertain, since if the business model fails, funding dries up, and the employees become redundant. The changing global economic and political climate is another factor. It is said that companies are increasing their hiring numbers in the US, despite higher costs, to counter the stringent norms of the H-1B visa plan. And given India's slowing economy and the impact of the coronavirus issue in many countries, we should expect more bad news on this front.

At the same time, we need to discern what we read. A recent press headline said, "India's largest engineering conglomerate has shed 14,000 employees from its workforce." The company responded with, "Pink slips – yes, but we also hired 15,000 people." In other words, old jobs are going out, and new ones are coming in. One study indicates that India is the only country in the world that has a talent surplus at the moment. However, our poor education system and weak up-skilling programmes haven't helped us match the demand for niche technologies. The 'one job for life' mantra is a distant memory, and it is normal for people to change jobs seven times in a 30-year work career.

For those of us who appear to be "safe" at the moment, we must (a) Proactively assess and acquire the right competencies and get future-ready for a career transition. Earlier, competitive advantage belonged to people who knew the most, while today it accrues to those who learn the most; (b) Showcase our skills, values, talents and achievements on our online profile, so that, as a brand, we are able to attract the next employer when we need to; (c) Develop the explorer's mindset; be curious about the unknown and question the status quo. Take risks, experiment and expect setbacks; just as we throw away our old clothes, we need to give up our old mindsets; (d) Grow our network, connect with the right people in the industry, and be willing to ask for help.

The key skills sought by industry today include critical thinking and problem solving, collaborating across networks, leading by influence, effective oral and written communication, adaptability and agility, accessing and analysing information, curiosity and imagination and initiative and entrepreneurship. The growth sectors include life sciences and healthcare, analytics and cloud computing, leisure and tourism, banking and finance, telecom and infrastructure, retail and logistics, automobile and components. While Automation and Artificial Intelligence would replace roles predominantly performed by the hands and the mind, jobs involving the heart, including front-line customer service and nursing will be in demand for some more time.

For those who have been retrenched, it is natural to go through the emotions of shock, anger, depression, guilt and acceptance. For some people, there may be positive feelings such as knowing that they will be receiving a severance package, be released from a stressful job or a feeling of excitement of a new career that lies ahead. Being kind to yourself and staying positive will help keep your emotions intact and cope with the situation better.

During the redundancy process, refrain from being negative and unproductive. Instead of blaming the managers for the decision, take a step back and think about the emotions they may be going through, as most of these decisions are made from higher in the hierarchy, and the poor managers have to implement the same, wearing a brave face and the company hat. Don't take it personally, and never allow it to diminish your self-confidence and self-worth. Rather than complaining, venting and making your bosses and colleagues feel like they owe you something. Make your last days count, and don't burn your bridges. Your colleague could end up being your future boss, and you still need to rely on your current company for a reference.

The job market is tough, so develop a priority list and get started on your job hunt immediately. Update your biodata, and ensure that its content and format captures the attention of a recruiter in a few seconds. Find a mentor who can support, guide and inspire you, and help you acquire the confidence and belief in your abilities. Make sure that you are readily available for interviews, and get enough sleep, exercise and relaxation to ensure that you are prepared to land your dream job. Assess your current finances, and understand how long you can remain self-sufficient, while looking for new opportunities. Opt for a frugal lifestyle, postpone that long awaited Singapore vacation and the late night celebrations, and instead look for a part-time job until you find a more suitable position.

Focus on up-skilling and re-skilling by enrolling for free courses at coursera, edX, khan academy or udemy, and get that firepower to land another job easily. Use the time at hand to discover your purpose and true calling by considering what you would love to do, what you are good at, what the world needs and what you can be paid for. Some of the most successful global icons like Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey and J K Rowling emerged stronger and made significant contributions, after they were forced to find their life's purpose anew.

And even if you seek a job in a Christian business enterprise or institution, you will need to show commitment to the organisation's mission, ambition for your career growth and passion for delivering results. Be flexible. You may need to look for a position in a different industry or endure a dramatic pay cut until you find the right opportunity. If you are highly skilled or have a professional or trade skill, you might want to consider teaching part-time at your local college or volunteer at a community organisation. It's a great feeling to know that you have had the opportunity to pass on your knowledge and help someone else in the process. Lifelong learning is the key for survival in the new age of automation. For better or for worse, the pink slip culture will become India Inc.'s new normal, but the right level of readiness and coping mechanisms will help us overcome the challenges in the months to come.

Pope's Message for Lent 2020

Lent is a time for deeper dialogue with God through prayer, for renewed gratitude for God's mercy and for increased compassion for people whose lives are under attack, Pope Francis has said in his annual Lenten message. People must not only show generosity through charitable giving, but they should also work for a real structural change to today's "economic life," the Pope continues.

Contemplating the great mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus and putting it at the centre of one's life "means feeling compassion toward the wounds of the crucified Christ present in the many innocent victims of wars, in attacks on life from that of the unborn to that of the elderly, and various forms of violence," the Pope says in his message. These wounds are "likewise present in environmental disasters, the unequal distribution of the earth's goods, human trafficking in all its forms and the unbridled thirst for profit, which is a form of idolatry," he writes.

Not only are Christians called to generously share the richness of the Gospel and gifts from God, "today, too, there is a need to appeal to men and women of good will to share, by almsgiving, their goods with those most in need, as a means of personally participating in the building of a better world," he says. "Charitable giving makes us more human, whereas hoarding risks making us less human, imprisoned by our own selfishness," he says."We can and must go even further, and consider the structural aspects of our economic life."

The theme of the Pope's message—"We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God"—is taken from the Second Letter of St Paul to the Corinthians (5:20), which reflects the invitation to return to God through constant conversion and reconciliation, and experience new life in Christ. "Life is born of the love of God our Father, from His desire to grant us life in abundance," Pope Francis writes. "If we listen instead to the tempting voice of the 'father of lies,' we risk sinking into the abyss of absurdity, and experiencing hell here on Earth, as all too many tragic events in the personal and collective human experience sadly bear witness," he says.

"Despite the sometimes tragic presence of evil in our lives and in the life of the Church and the world," he writes, "this opportunity to change our course expresses God's unwavering will not to interrupt His dialogue of salvation with us" and his desire that people also engage in fruitful dialogue with each other. God's dialogue with humanity "has nothing to do with empty chatter," which "characterises worldliness in every age; in our own day, it can also result in improper use of the media," he says.

At a news conference to present the message, Cardinal Peter Turkson further elaborated on what the improper use of media would look like. He told reporters that different forms of communication can either promote content that is "empty" or "rich" in that it helps build up human character and society or fosters new ideas. For example, he said, when media outlets cover certain tragic events, like the coronavirus or wars and conflict, they might actually be setting up a kind of "barrier" between the event and the people hearing about it. "You see something is happening, but at the same time, you can see that you are not involved," as if the person is above it all and untouched by others' circumstances, the cardinal said. Instead, what is needed is a situation where after seeing and hearing about such events, people feel inspired or driven to try to get involved or do something useful to help the situation, he said.

Pope Francis asks in his message that the Lenten season lead people to open their hearts "to hear God's call to be reconciled to Himself, to fix our gaze on the Paschal Mystery, and to be converted to an open and sincere dialogue with Him" so that everyone become "what Christ asks His disciples to be: the salt of the earth and the light of the world."

Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service