Pope Francis has appealed to Catholics around the world to disconnect from their cell phones and abstain from online trolling to “connect to the Gospel” for this season of Lent.
Speaking to thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square on Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis said Lent is also “a time in which to turn off the television and open the Bible.
“Lent is the right time to make room for the Word of God. It is a time to give up useless words, gossip, rumors, tittle-tattle and speak to God on a first name basis,” the Pope said.
He noted that Catholics should instead use this penitential period to give themselves to the Lord, who spent 40 days in the desert in fasting and prayer.
During Lent, Pope Francis said Jesus is “calling us into the desert” and “invites us to listen to what matters.”
“To the devil who tempted him, he (Jesus) replied: ‘Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God,’” the Pope noted.
“Like bread, more than bread we need the Word of God, we need to speak with God: we need to pray,” he added.
Like Jesus in the “desert,” Pope Francis urged the faithful to spend time in silence, away from the noisiness of modern life.
“We live in an environment polluted by too much verbal violence, by many offensive and harmful words, which the internet amplifies,” he said.
“We are inundated with empty words, with advertisements, with subtle messages. We have become used to hearing everything about everyone and we risk slipping into a worldliness that atrophies our hearts,” he added.
In this noise, Pope Francis said “we struggle to distinguish the voice of the Lord who speaks to us, the voice of conscience, of good.”
He noted that it’s not easy to make space for silence in one’s heart, but invited everyone to imagine themselves in the desert, surrounded by silence, with “no noises, apart from the wind and our breath.”
“It is the absence of words to make room for another Word, the Word of God,” he said.
The Pope also urged everyone to focus on what is essential in life.
“We chase a thousand things that seem necessary and in reality are not. How good it would be for us to get rid of so many superfluous realities, to rediscover what matters, to find the faces of those around us!” he said.
“Prayer, fasting, works of mercy: here is the road into the Lenten desert,” he added.
Pope Francis further noted that fasting is a way of seeking a simpler life “by giving up superfluous, vain things” and it’s not about “slimming down.”
“In the desert one finds intimacy with God, the love of the Lord,” he noted.
“The road that leads us from death to life opens up in the desert. We enter the desert with Jesus, we will go out savoring Easter… Have courage,” he concluded.
For the Catholics, Lent is a period of abstinence, fasting, repentance, and reflection.
It is common for the faithful to give up something for the 40-day season that leads up to Easter Sunday.
Many Christians gave up habits and vices as an act of penance.
They are also called on to practice more good deeds and to be closer to the needy.
Last year, Pope Francis urged the Catholics to give up gossip.
In 2018, he called on the faithful to slow down in a fast-paced world.