In his 2011 message for Lent, Pope Benedict emphasized that Baptism releases men and women from the “burden” of materialism and self-centeredness and enables them to participate more deeply in the Church's reflection on the death and resurrection of Christ.
On Feb. 22, the Vatican released the Pope's 2011 Lenten message, which has the theme: “You were buried with Him in Baptism, in which you were also raised with Him.”
Those participating in the press conference on the message included Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum,” Msgrs. Giampietro Dal Toso and Segundo Tejado Munoz – secretary and under secretary of the same council, respectively – and Myriam Garcia Abrisqueta, president of the Spanish charity group "Manos unidas."
Pope Benedict highlighted the significance of Baptism during his remarks as a means of “immersing ourselves into the death and resurrection of Christ” during the upcoming Lenten season.
Through “the Sacrament of Baptism,” he said, “we are moved to free our hearts every day from the burden of material things, from a self-centered relationship with the 'world' that impoverishes us and prevents us from being available and open to God and our neighbor.”
Rather than being a mere “rite from the past,” the Pope said, Baptism is a living “encounter with Christ, which informs the entire existence of the baptized, imparting divine life and calling for sincere conversion.”
He also noted during his message that the traditional practices of fasting, almsgiving and prayer during Lent are “an expression of our commitment to conversion,” and help teach “us how to live the love of Christ in an ever more radical way.”
The pontiff then explained that fasting during the upcoming liturgical season “takes on a profoundly religious significance for the Christian.”
By “rendering our table poorer, we learn to overcome selfishness in order to live in the logic of gift and love; by bearing some form of deprivation – and not just what is in excess – we learn to look away from our 'ego', to discover Someone close to us and to recognize God in the face of so many brothers and sisters.”
“For Christians,” he said, “fasting, far from being depressing, opens us ever more to God and to the needs of others, thus allowing love of God to become also love of our neighbor.”
Pope Benedict also discussed the Lenten practice of almsgiving, which he said helps offset “the temptation of accumulating and love of money that undermine God's primacy in our lives.”
“The greed of possession,” he said, “leads to violence, exploitation and death; for this, the Church, especially during the Lenten period, reminds us to practice almsgiving – which is the capacity to share.”
The Pope noted that the “idolatry of goods” not only “causes us to drift away from others, but divests man, making him unhappy, deceiving him, deluding him without fulfilling its promises, since it puts materialistic goods in the place of God, the only source of life.”
He also emphasized the importance of Confession during Lent, calling the season a “favorable time to recognize our weakness and to accept, through a sincere inventory of our life, the renewing Grace of the Sacrament of Penance, and walk resolutely towards Christ.”
Pope Benedict concluded his Lenten message by saying that “through the personal encounter with our Redeemer and through fasting, almsgiving and prayer, the journey of conversion towards Easter leads us to rediscover our Baptism.”
“This Lent, let us renew our acceptance of the Grace that God bestowed upon us at that moment, so that it may illuminate and guide all of our actions.”