In February with his Message for Lent 2007 the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, offered the faithful a source of meditation and a means of living more intensely the forty days in preparation for Easter. “Lent - the Holy Father writes at the beginning of the Message - is a favourable time to stay with Mary and John, the beloved disciple, close to the One who on the Cross consummated for all mankind the sacrifice of his life”. This is why the Pope chose as the biblical theme for his Message, “They will look upon the One whom they have pierced” (Jn 19,37), and urges us : “With more fervent participation therefore in this time of penance and prayer let us direct our gaze at Christ Crucified who died on Calvary revealing fully to us the love of God”.
Just as the Pope focussed his Deus Caritas est Encyclical on the theme of love, so too his Message for Lent centres on God’s love highlighting its two fundamental forms agape and eros: “The term agape - the Pope writes - , which appears many times in the New Testament, indicates the self-giving love of one who seeks exclusively the good of others; the word eros on the other hand, denotes the love of one who desires to possess what he or she lacks and yearns for union with the beloved. The love with which God surrounds us is undoubtedly agape… But God’s love is also eros… eros is part of God’s very heart: the Almighty awaits the ‘yes’ of his creatures as a young bridegroom that of his bride. Unfortunately from its very origins, mankind, seduced by the lies of the Evil One, rejected God’s love in the illusion of a self-sufficiency that is impossible … God however did not give up. On the contrary man’s ‘no’ was the decisive impulse that moved God to manifest His love in all its redeeming strength.”
At the end of the Message, the Pope recalls those who suffer: “May Lent be for every Christian a renewed experience of God’s love given to us in Christ, a love that each day we, in turn, must ‘re-give’ to our neighbour, especially to the one who suffers most and is in need. Only in this way we will be able to participate fully in the joy of Easter”.
Pope Benedict XVI had special words of comfort and encouragement for the suffering and the sick their families and helpers, on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes 11 February on which the Church celebrates the annual World Day of the Sick. At the end of a special Mass St Peter’s, presided by Cardinal Camillo Ruini with thousands of sick people and their helpers frequent visitors to Lourdes (members of Unitalsi and Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi), the Pope went downstairs to the Basilica to address those present. “May no one, especially those who suffer, feel alone and abandoned. I entrust you all this evening to the Blessed Virgin Mary. After unspeakable suffering Mary was assumed into heaven where she awaits us and where we too hop to share one day in unending joy the glory of her Divine Son”.
As every year at the beginning of Lent the Holy Father with the Roman Curia made a week long retreat preached by the emeritus Archbishop of Bologna, Italy Cardinal Giacomo Biffi on the theme: “The things of above " (Col 3, 1-2).