Shedding Indifference

The Holy Father on living well these 40 days

(photo: Shutterstock)

Pope Francis’ 2015 Lenten message attacked the “globalization of indifference” and asked the faithful to reflect and act on this problem during the liturgical season. Below are excerpts from his address, translated by Zenit news service.


Lent is a time of renewal for the whole Church, for each community and every believer. Above all, it is a “time of grace” (2 Corinthians 6:2). God does not ask of us anything that he himself has not first given us: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). He is not aloof from us. Each one of us has a place in his heart. He knows us by name, he cares for us, and he seeks us out whenever we turn away from him. He is interested in each of us; his love does not allow him to be indifferent to what happens to us.

Usually, when we are healthy and comfortable, we forget about others (something God the Father never does): We are unconcerned with their problems, their sufferings and the injustices they endure. … Our hearts grow cold.

As long as I am relatively healthy and comfortable, I don’t think about those less well off: Today, this selfish attitude of indifference has taken on global proportions, to the extent that we can speak of a globalization of indifference. It is a problem which we, as Christians, need to confront.

When the people of God are converted to his love, they find answers to the questions that history continually raises. One of the most urgent challenges that I would like to address in this message is precisely the globalization of indifference.

Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year, during Lent, we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets, who cry out and trouble our consciences. God is not indifferent to our world; he so loves it that he gave his Son for our salvation.

In the Incarnation, in the earthly life, death and resurrection of the Son of God, the gate between God and man, between heaven and earth, opens once for all. The Church is like the hand holding open this gate, thanks to her proclamation of God’s word, her celebration of the sacraments and her witness of the faith, which works through love (Galatians 5:6).

But the world tends to withdraw into itself and shut that door through which God comes into the world and the world comes to him. Hence, the hand, which is the Church, must never be surprised if it is rejected, crushed and wounded.

God’s people, then, need this interior renewal, lest we become indifferent and withdraw into ourselves. The love of God breaks through that fatal withdrawal into ourselves, which is indifference.

The Church offers us this love of God by her teaching and especially by her witness. But we can only bear witness to what we ourselves have experienced. Christians are those who let God clothe them with goodness and mercy, with Christ, so as to become, like Christ, servants of God and others. This is clearly seen in the liturgy of Holy Thursday, with its rite of the washing of feet. Peter did not want Jesus to wash his feet, but he came to realize that Jesus does not wish to be just an example of how we should wash one another’s feet.

Only those who have first allowed Jesus to wash their own feet can then offer this service to others. Only they have “a part” with him (John 13:8) — and thus can serve others. Lent is a favorable time for letting Christ serve us so that we in turn may become more like him. This happens whenever we hear the word of God and receive the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. There, we become what we receive: the Body of Christ. In this body, there is no room for the indifference which so often seems to possess our hearts. For whoever is of Christ belongs to one body, and, in him, we cannot be indifferent to one another: “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy” (1 Corinthians 12:26).

The Church is the communio sanctorum not only because of her saints, but also because she is a communion in holy things: the love of God revealed to us in Christ and all his gifts. Among these gifts there is also the response of those who let themselves be touched by this love.

In this communion of saints, in this sharing in holy things, no one possesses anything alone, but shares everything with others. And since we are united in God, we can do something for those who are far distant, those whom we could never reach on our own, because, with them and for them, we ask God that all of us may be open to his plan of salvation.

All that we have been saying about the universal Church must now be applied to the life of our parishes and communities. … In order to receive what God gives us and to make it bear abundant fruit, we need to press beyond the boundaries of the visible Church ... by uniting ourselves in prayer with the Church in heaven: The prayers of the Church on earth establish a communion of mutual service and goodness, which reaches up into the sight of God. … The Church is missionary by her very nature; she is not self-enclosed, but sent out to every nation and people.

As individuals, too, we are tempted by indifference. Flooded with news reports and troubling images of human suffering, we often feel our complete inability to help. What can we do to avoid being caught up in this spiral of distress and powerlessness?

We can pray in communion with the Church on earth and in heaven. ... We can help by acts of charity, reaching out to both those near and far through the Church’s many charitable organizations. ... If we humbly implore God’s grace and accept our own limitations, we will trust in the infinite possibilities that God’s love holds out to us. We will also be able to resist the diabolical temptation of thinking that by our own efforts we can save the world and ourselves.

During this Lent, then, brothers and sisters, let us all ask the Lord: Fac cor nostrum secundum cor tuum: Make our hearts like yours (Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus). In this way, we will receive a heart that is firm and merciful, attentive and generous, a heart that is not closed, indifferent or prey to the globalization of indifference. It is my prayerful hope that this Lent will prove spiritually fruitful for each believer and every ecclesial community. I ask all of you to pray for me. May the Lord bless you and Our Lady keep you.