Pope Francis offered reflections for Lent in a letter released by the Vatican that was broken into three sections: The redemption of creation, the destructive power of sin, and the healing power of repentance and forgiveness.
In the wake of January's World Youth Day in Panama, the recent summit of bishops on the protection of minors, and the sex abuse crisis engulfing the Church, it was perhaps fitting that he began with a quote from Romans 8:19 on the eagerly awaited "revelation of the children of God."
The pope described Lent, which begins on March 6, Ash Wednesday, and ends on April 18, as a "joyful season when we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery with mind and heart renewed…as we recall the great events that gave us new life in Christ."
"When we live as children of God, redeemed, led by the Holy Spirit and capable of acknowledging and obeying God's law… we also benefit creation by cooperating in its redemption" he wrote.
"Yet in this world, the harmony generated by redemption is constantly threatened by the negative power of sin and death."
Pope Francis argued that straying from God's path leads to destructive behavior toward oneself and others, as intemperance and a life of excess take over, while the godforsaken live without hope for the future.
This is why it is so important to stay focused on Easter and the prospect of salvation and resurrection, so as not to let greed and self-interest govern people's lives, he wrote.
Moreover, sin disrupts people's relationship with God as well as with the environment, he continued, as "sin leads man to consider himself the god of creation, to see himself as its absolute master and to use it, not for the purpose willed by the Creator but for his own interests, to the detriment of other creatures."
At this point, the strong prevail over the weak, Pope Francis said, leading to "the exploitation of creation."
"The path to Easter demands that we renew our faces and hearts as Christians through repentance, conversion and forgiveness, so as to live fully the abundant grace of the paschal mystery," he noted.
The fasting, praying and alms giving undertaken at Lent "is a sacramental sign of this conversion" to becoming "children of God," at if draws us away from selfish obsessions like hoarding and egotism and "the illusory belief that we can secure a future that does not belong to us," he wrote.
Urging the faithful not to let Lent pass in vain, the pope called on them to "stand beside our brothers and sisters in need, sharing our spiritual and material goods with them."