The Church, in one of her Lenten Prefaces, calls Lent this joyful season. These two points do not seem to go together.
Out of interest I went to the dictionary to see what it would tell me, and there I found that penance is sorrow for sin, evinced by acts of self-mortification. Is that all we mean by penance, repentance?
And the Lord himself led me among them [the lepers] and I had mercy upon them.
Here God has enabled Francis to accept the gift of penance offered to him and to put it into practice.
John the Baptist at the beginning of his public ministry preaches repentance. The Gospel ends with Christ commissioning his apostles to go and preach repentance to the nations. We cannot possibly believe that Christ, as He was leaving us to return to the Father, was telling His apostles to go and make life miserable for us by telling us we had to lead a life of penance – of misery. Of course not. Christ our God is a God of love and compassion and not a God of misery, though that might well have been the impression that we have given to others – the more it hurts the better it is for you: a ‘do-it-yourself’ kit to salvation.
And when I left them, that which seemed bitter to me was changed into sweetness of soul and body. And afterwards I lingered little and left the world.
Francis’ whole value system has been turned upside down.
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