Pope Francis recently shared a message for Lent 2023 that encouraged Catholics to listen to what Jesus wants to tell them through the Scriptures and through others. He used the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration as a launching point to address both the journey of Lent and the Catholic Church’s ongoing Synod on Synodality.

He started by recalling the command that God the Father addresses to the disciples on Mount Tabor as they contemplate Jesus transfigured. The voice from the cloud says: ‘Listen to him.’ The first proposal, then, is very clear: We need to listen to Jesus, he said. “Lent is a time of grace to the extent that we listen to him as he speaks to us.”

During this liturgical season, he continued, the Lord takes us with him to a place apart. While our ordinary commitments compel us to remain in our usual places and our often repetitive and sometimes boring routines, during Lent we are invited to ascend ‘a high mountain’ in the company of Jesus and to live a particular experience of spiritual discipline — ascesis — as God’s holy people.

Pope Francis compared the journey of Lent and the Church’s ongoing Synod on Synodality to a “strenuous mountain trek.” He acknowledged that the journey may be difficult and challenging, but encouraged believers to focus on their goals and stay committed. He reminded them that Lent is not an end in itself but a means of preparing for Easter. Similarly, the synodal process may be arduous, but the end result is undoubtedly something wondrous and amazing, which will help us to understand better God’s will and our mission in the service of his kingdom.

He urged Catholics to undertake Lenten penance, which is a commitment to overcoming their lack of faith and resistance to following Jesus on the way of the cross. He also reminded them that the Lenten journey is like an uphill mountain trek, which requires effort, sacrifice, and concentration.

In addition, The Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development will launch a communication campaign, “With him on the mountain: Lenten penance and the synodal journey,” based on Pope Francis’ message. Every week, the campaign will present a new “step” on the journey of Lent, including reflection questions based on the Scripture passages and the pope’s message.

In conclusion, Pope Francis reminds Catholics to take the time to listen to Jesus and embrace the spiritual discipline of Lent. Though the journey may be difficult, the end result will be a better understanding of God’s will and our mission in the service of His kingdom. He encourages them to stay committed, to confront the difficulties of daily life and to undertake the journey of Lent like an uphill mountain trek.

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