The Pope’s Lenten Sonata: Pause, See and Return

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21 Feb 2018

An invitation to spiritual renewal

At regular intervals Pope Francis provides prompts for reflection that can help us come more fully alive. In his homily for Ash Wednesday the Pope recommends three steps to ‘remedy the dissonant chords of our Christian life’ this Lent: pause, see and return. To take up the musical theme, the Pope’s three steps are similar to a sonata–a classical musical piece in three movements.

We play the Pope’s Lenten Sonata when we pause a little, see anew the way to life, and return without fear to the house of the Father.

In order we might turn our hearts to be in tune with the heart of Jesus, the Pope invites us to attend anew to the ways we may be led away from faith. He names the temptations of distrust, out of which flows apathy and resignation. These three temptations can ‘corrode, deaden and paralyse us.’ But so often we do not see these for what they are, so we need to unmask them through a pattern of pausing, seeing and returning.

To begin, Pope Francis assures us that our hearts can beat in tune with Jesus when we pause to enjoy the gift of our lives:

‘Pause a little; leave behind the unrest and commotion that fill the soul with bitter feelings which never get us anywhere. Pause from this compulsion to a fast-paced life that scatters, divides and ultimately destroys time with family, with friends, with children, with grandparents, and time as a gift… time with God.’

‘Pause a little; refrain from the deafening noise that weakens and confuses our hearing, that makes us forget the fruitful and creative power of silence.’

‘Pause a little; refrain from the attitude which promotes sterile and unproductive thoughts that arise from isolation and self-pity, and that cause us to forget going out to encounter others to share their burdens and suffering.’

When we pause we may remember the value of true relationship. We can find gratitude and uncover new depths to our journey.

In the Lenten Sonata’s second movement, the Pope invites us to open our eyes to see faces of parents, children and young people with a renewed appreciation of their efforts to move forward in life and love. He continues:

‘See our elderly whose faces are marked by the passage of time, faces that reveal the living memory of our people. Faces that reflect God’s wisdom at work.

‘See the faces of our sick people and the many who take care of them; faces which in their vulnerability and service remind us that the value of each person can never be reduced to a question of calculation or utility.

‘See and contemplate the real face of Christ crucified out of love for everyone, without exception. For everyone? Yes, for everyone. To see his face is an invitation filled with hope for this Lenten time, in order to defeat the demons of distrust, apathy and resignation. The face that invites us to cry out: “The Kingdom of God is possible.”’

Finally, the Pope calls each of us to return without fear to the Father. Lent is a time to be touched and returned to true life in fullness. It is the time to return to the feast for the forgiven.

‘Return without fear, to experience the healing and reconciling tenderness of God. Let the Lord heal the wounds of sin and fulfil the prophecy made to our fathers: “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36: 26).’

Playing the Pope’s three-movement sonata will ready us to celebrate Easter with joy.

James O'Brien is a graduate teacher who works as an Editorial Assistant with Jesuit Communications.
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