VATICAN CITY, FEB 5, 2002 (VIS) – Made public today was John Paul II’s message for Lent 2002, the theme of which is: “You received without paying, give without pay.” The text bears the date of October 4, 2001, and has been published in Italian, English, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese and Polish. Some extracts from the message are given below:
“‘You received without paying, give without pay.’ May these words of the Gospel echo in the heart of all Christian communities on their penitential pilgrimage to Easter. May Lent, recalling the mystery of the Lord’s Death and Resurrection, lead all Christians to marvel in their heart of hearts at the greatness of such a gift.
“Yes! We have received without pay. Is not our entire life marked by God’s kindness? The beginning of life and its marvelous development: this is a gift. And because it is gift, life can never be regarded as a possession or as private property, even if the capabilities we now have to improve the quality of life can lead us to think that man is the ‘master’ of life.”
“It is also worth repeating here that not everything that is technically possible is morally acceptable. Scientific work aimed at securing a quality of life more in keeping with human dignity is admirable, but it must never be forgotten that human life is a gift, and that it remains precious even when marked by suffering and limitations. A gift to be accepted and to be loved at all times: received without pay and to be placed without pay at the service of others.”
“Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus renews our life and makes us sharers in the divine life which draws us into the intimate life of God and enables us to experience His love for us. … This life is passed on to us in Baptism, and we must nourish it constantly by responding to it faithfully, both individually and communally, through prayer, the celebration of the Sacraments and evangelical witness.
“Since we have received this life freely, we must in turn offer it freely to our brothers and sisters. … And the first gift to be given is the gift of a holy life, bearing witness to the freely given love of God. May the Lenten journey be for all believers an unceasing summons to enter more deeply into this special vocation of ours.”
“The world prizes human relationships based on self-interest and personal gain, and this fosters an egocentric vision of life, in which too often there is no room for the poor and weak. Every person, even the least gifted, must be welcomed and loved for themselves, regardless of their qualities and defects. Indeed, the greater their hardship, the more they must be the object of our practical love. This is the love to which the Church, through her countless institutions, bears witness in accepting responsibility for the sick, the marginalized, the poor and the exploited. In this way, Christians become apostles of hope and builders of the civilization of love.”
“Dear Brothers and Sisters! Let this be how we prepare to live this Lent: in practical generosity towards the poorest of our brothers and sisters! By opening our hearts to them, we realize ever more deeply that what we give to others is our response to the many gifts which the Lord continues to give to us. We have received without paying, let us give without pay!
“What better time is there than Lent for offering this testimony of gratuitousness which the world so badly needs? In the very love which God has for us, there lies the call to give ourselves freely to others in turn. I thank all those throughout the world þ lay people, religious and priests þ who offer this witness of charity. May it be true of all Christians, whatever the circumstances in which they live.”