March 4, 2024 // National

Pope Proposes Lenten Resolution: Keep Your Eyes on Jesus

By Justin McClellan

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – This Lent, Christians should become “seekers of light” by keeping their sights set on the light of Jesus through prayer and participating in the sacraments, Pope Francis said.

“This is a good Lenten resolution: cultivating a welcoming outlook, becoming ‘seekers of light,’ seekers of the light of Jesus, both in prayer and in people,” he told visitors in St. Peter’s Square before praying the Angelus with them on Sunday, February 25.

The pope had canceled his previous day’s meetings because of mild flu-like symptoms, Vatican officials said, but he spoke to the estimated 20,000 people gathered at the Vatican without obvious signs of difficulty.

Reflecting on the day’s Gospel reading from St. Mark, Pope Francis said that Jesus’ transfiguration – when He radiated before His disciples in a dazzling white light – “reveals to them the meaning of what they had experienced together up to that moment.”

Pope Francis greets visitors gathered to pray the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Feb. 25, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

“The preaching of the Kingdom, the forgiveness of sins, the healings, and the performed signs were, indeed, sparks of a greater light – namely, of the light of Jesus, of the light that Jesus is,” he said. “And from this light, the disciples are never to direct their eyes away, especially in moments of trial, like those of the Passion, which was near at this point.”

Pope Francis said the message of the Transfiguration is that Christians should “never direct your eyes away from the light of Jesus,” and he encouraged them to be like farmers who keep their eyes fixed on a distant point to stay in a straight line when plowing fields.

“This is what we are called to do as Christians while we journey through life: to always keep the luminous face of Jesus before our eyes,” he said.

The pope told Christians to “be open to welcome the light of Jesus,” who is love and “life without end.”

“Along the roads of existence, which can be tortuous from time to time, let us seek His face, which is so full of mercy, fidelity, and hope,” he said.

Prayer, listening to the word of God, and participating in the sacraments – especially confession and the Eucharist – “help us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus,” the pope said.

“Do I make space for silence, prayer, adoration?” Pope Francis encouraged Christians to ask themselves. “Do I seek out every little ray of Jesus’ light, which is reflected in me and in every brother and sister I encounter? And do I remember to thank Him for this?”

After praying the Angelus, Pope Francis marked the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale attack on Ukraine.

“How many victims, people wounded, destruction, anguish, tears in a period that is becoming terribly long and whose end is not yet in sight,” the pope said, reminding some 20,000 visitors in St. Peter’s Square that Russia launched its major offensive on February 24, 2022.

“It is a war that not only is devastating that region of Europe but is unleashing a global wave of fear and hatred,” Pope Francis said.

Although his voice was deeper than normal, the pope did not show signs of feeling unwell; he did not cough or seem to experience trouble breathing as he has in the past when Vatican officials said, as they did on February 24, that he was experiencing “flu-like symptoms.”

Dozens of people in the crowd on February 25 held up rainbow banners bearing the word “Nonviolence” in Italian.

“While I renew my deepest affection for the tormented Ukrainian people and pray for all, especially for the numerous innocent victims,” the pope said, “I plead for that little bit of humanity to be found that will allow the creation of the conditions for a diplomatic solution in search of a just and lasting peace.”

Pope Francis also asked the crowd to pray “for Palestine, for Israel, and for the many peoples torn apart by war, and to concretely help those who suffer! Think of all the suffering; think of the wounded children – innocents!”

Casting his gaze even wider, the pope said he is concerned about the increasing violence in eastern Congo, and he joins the nation’s bishops in asking everyone to pray for peace, “hoping for a cessation of the fighting and the search for a sincere and constructive dialogue.”

Pope Francis also joined the bishops of Nigeria and the leaders of the Dicastery for Evangelization in denouncing “the increasingly frequent kidnappings in Nigeria.”

“I express my closeness in prayer to the Nigerian people, hoping that efforts will be made to ensure that the rapid spread of these incidents be curbed as much as possible,” the pope said.

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