St. John Paul II explained how news stories should increase our acts of charity to those around us.
While Lent is often seen as a time of fasting, St. John Paul II believed it should be above all a time of charity towards your neighbor. In fact, he stressed this message nearly every year during his annual Lenten messages.
In 1986 he highlighted the role of media in our practice of Lent and how it should be connected to an increase in charity.
Every day the media engage our eyes and hearts, bringing us the urgent and desperate appeals of millions of our less fortunate brethren, afflicted by some natural or man-made disaster, those who are hungry, wounded in body or soul, sick, dispossessed, exiled, isolated and deprived of all help. They reach out to us Christians who wish to live the Gospel and the one great Commandment of Love.
Thus we are well informed. But do we feel involved? After reading our newspaper or watching our television screen, how can we travel as indifferent tourists or make judgments on events, without venturing outside our comfortable milieu?
This message rings true, especially in the age of social media. How is our heart affected by all the stories and images we see on our Twitter feed?
St. John Paul II challenges us, “Can our Christian conscience remain uncaring in the midst of this world full of suffering? Does the parable of the Good Samaritan still have something to say to us?”
While we can’t always give material help to those who are suffering in various parts of the world, we can help those who are suffering in our local community. This could involve participation in a local soup kitchen, or even reaching out to an old friend who is clearly in a great deal of pain or suffering from loneliness.
St. John Paul II concludes his message with a strong appeal, one that should prick our consciences and lead to a more loving, charitable Lent. May the images and stories we see have a real effect on our lives and lead us outside of our selves, bringing the Gospel of love to those around us.
At this beginning of Lent, the season of penance, reflection and generosity, Christ appeals to all of you once more. The Church wishes to be present in the world and especially in the world of suffering, and she counts on you…Charity does not hesitate, for it is the expression of our faith. So open your hands wide and share with all those who are your neighbors.