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‘Embrace truth of who we are’

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GREETING: Pope Francis addressed visitors gathered in St. Peter's Square to pray the Angelus on Feb. 18. (Credit: CNS photo/Vatican Media)

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ROME — In an age when even one’s most intimate thoughts and feelings can become fodder for social media, Lent is a time to cast aside appearances and to find God at work in the depths of the heart, Pope Francis said.

Without realizing it, Christians have become immersed “in a world in which everything, including our emotions and deepest feelings, has to become ‘social,’” the pope said while celebrating Mass at the Basilica of Santa Sabina to mark the beginning of Lent on Feb. 14.

Today, “even the most tragic experiences risk not having a quiet place where they can be kept,” he said. “Everything has to be exposed, shown off, fed to the gossip mill.”

Pope Francis said Lent is a chance for Christians to ensure their relationship with God “is not reduced to mere outward show.”

Lent “immerses us in a bath of purification,” he said. “It means looking within ourselves and acknowledging our real identity, removing the masks we so often wear, slowing the frantic pace of our lives and embracing the truth of who we are.”

The Lenten practices of “almsgiving, prayer and fasting are not mere external practices; they are paths that lead to the heart, to the core of the Christian life,” he added, encouraging Christians to “love the brothers and sisters all around us, to feel compassion, to share all that we are and all that we have with those in need.”

Pope Francis recalled the day’s Gospel reading from St. Matthew, in which Jesus tells His disciples not to make a public show of their prayer but to rather “go to your inner room” to pray.

Jesus’ message “is a salutary invitation for us, who so often live on the surface of things, who are so concerned to be noticed, who constantly need to be admired and appreciated,” he said.

The pope urged Christians to “return to the center of yourself,” where “so many fears, feelings of guilt and sin are lurking.”

“Precisely there the Lord has descended to heal and cleanse you,” he said. “There the Lord dwells, there our frailty is accepted and we are loved unconditionally.”

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