Pope Francis has called on Catholics to use the season of Lent to beware of “snake charmers,” “charlatans,” and “swindlers” who offer “easy and immediate solutions to suffering.”
Pope Francis’ message for Lent, which begins Feb. 14 for Latin-rite Catholics, was released at the Vatican Feb. 6 but dated Nov. 1, 2017, Solemnity of All Saints.
Titled, “Because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12), the pope’s Lenten message looks at Jesus’ apocalyptic discourse to the disciples on the Mount of Olives and cautions against false prophets and deceit, selfishness, greed, and a lack of love.
False prophets, “can appear as ‘snake charmers,’ who manipulate human emotions in order to enslave others and lead them where they would have them go,” the pope said.
“False prophets can also be ‘charlatans,’ who offer easy and immediate solutions to suffering that soon prove utterly useless,” he wrote.
“These swindlers, in peddling things that have no real value, rob people of all that is most precious: dignity, freedom and the ability to love,” the message said.
Pope Francis also called on people to see “if we are falling prey to the lies of these false prophets.”
He called for an interior reflection of things “beneath the surface” and “ask ourselves how it happens that charity can turn cold within us. What are the signs that indicate that our love is beginning to cool?”
The most evident signs of this lack of love the pope said were: “selfishness and spiritual sloth, sterile pessimism, the temptation to self-absorption, constant warring among ourselves, and the worldly mentality that makes us concerned only for appearances, and thus lessens our missionary zeal.”
The pope said that more than anything else, what destroys charity is greed for money, “the root of all evil” and a rejection of God and peace that soon follows.
This, he said, “leads to violence against anyone we think is a threat to our own ‘certainties’ the unborn child, the elderly and infirm, the migrant, the alien among us, or our neighbor who does not live up to our expectations.”
The pope in his message also invites those “beyond the bounds of the Catholic Church” and all people of goodwill who are open to hearing God’s voice.
“Perhaps, like ourselves, you are disturbed by the spread of iniquity in the world, you are concerned about the chill that paralyzes hearts and actions, and you see a weakening in our sense of being members of the one human family. Join us, then, in raising our plea to God, in fasting, and in offering whatever you can to our brothers and sisters in need!” the pope wrote.
For the entire message in English from the Vatican, click here.