By Rosemarie Pace
Co-coordinator, Pax Christi New York State

“So then, let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.” (Thessalonians 5:6)

Pope Francis quoted these words of St. Paul in his 2023 World Day of Peace Message. He was emphasizing “an invitation to remain alert and not to withdraw into fear, sorrow, or resignation or to yield to distraction or discouragement,” but instead “to keep our hearts open to hope and to trust in God” … “keeping watch and ready to glimpse the first light of dawn, even at the darkest hour.” Pope Francis added that we must do this in solidarity with one another, because that is the way to “build peace, ensure justice, and emerge from the greatest disasters.”

sun on golden sky
Photo by Ernestos Vitouladitis on

Today, we are facing one of those “greatest disasters,” the war in Ukraine, which risks escalating into nuclear war. Reuters reports that U.S. Americans have been told to leave Russia. Poland is calling up over 200,000 men for military training, and NATO now has 10 times the number of their troops on Russian borders than last year. Tanks, planes, missiles, and drones flood Ukraine. One hundred Ukrainians are doing Patriot missile training in Oklahoma. Pope Francis rightly tells us it is time to “transform our customary criteria for viewing the world around us.” Rather, “we must think in terms of the common good, recognizing that we belong to a greater community” and that “the many moral, social, political and economic crises we are experiencing are all interconnected.”

It is time for us to change directions, especially as we enter the journey which is Lent. In this year’s Lenten Message, Pope Francis proposes two paths for us to follow, based on Jesus’s Transfiguration.

The first path leads us up the mountain where we hear God’s command to “Listen to him.” How do we listen to Jesus? Do we take seriously his commands to love our neighbor as ourselves, knowing that all are our neighbors, and to love our enemies, even Russians and Chinese? Are we willing to trust God more than we trust governments to lay down our arms, to stop the flow of weapons, to negotiate peace. In short, are we willing to press for peace in the name of the nonviolent Jesus? How well do we listen?

The second path takes us down the mountain where we are to face “reality and its daily struggles, its hardships and contradictions” without fear, because that is the way to Easter. Just as Jesus experienced the passion and cross graced with faith, hope, and love, we, too, can anticipate similar grace to conquer fear and build peace.

The questions remain before us: Will we use this Lent to enter this journey? Will we keep awake and be sober to “glimpse the first light of dawn, even at the darkest hour”? Are we ready to “build peace, ensure justice, and emerge from the greatest disasters”?

Please spend some time with this reflection. Also consider doing the following:

  • Read the complete World Day of Peace Message of Pope Francis at this link.
  • Read the complete Lenten Message of Pope Francis at this link.
  • Stay informed about current events and join with others to help reverse the causes of war like poverty, racism, environmental destruction, greed, and power lust.
  • Phone, write, and petition the president and Congress; join a rally; and pray for peace in Ukraine and all the other places where conflicts are tearing this world apart. 
  • Join the 41st Good Friday Way of the Cross organized by Pax Christi Metro New York (PCMNY) on April 7 beginning at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, E. 47th St. between 1st and 2nd Avenues at 8:30 AM.
  • Visit the Pax Christi websites for more ways to pray, study, and act: and
  • Share this reflection with others.

3 thoughts on “A reflection at the start of Lent 2023

  1. Rosemarie Pace gives us challenge to follow the nonviolent Jesus. One wonders how often parish priests or deacons urge their congregations to love their neighbors–Russian, Chinese, N Korean, Afghans etc…all our brothers and sisters. Sadly, not often. Nationalism and the flag overtake the words and deeds of the nonviolent Jesus.
    Yes, the suggestion for solidarity means we need to team with all our neighbors to not plan to kill or to give and sell our killing drones and missiles, tanks and planes to kill our neighbors. Yet, most of our preachers advise us all to pray for the troops while pleading God to Bless America.
    The hypocrisy of it all is depressing.

  2. Thank you, Rosemarie and Pax Christi, for this reflection and for sharing Pope Francis’ Lenten message. It is essential in this world of today to “listen to Jesus” in order to bring about a more peaceful and just world. I have to simultaneously do what I can do in my own little world and then I need to speak out and call for peace in the larger world in whatever ways I can do that.

  3. Not hearing from our religious leaders on topics of morality of war and weaponing building is to put it mildly, disheartening. Especially knowing they have been reminded and encouraged to do just that. What else really does matter in decisions of faith? Then I must remember, remember once again, that we are the church. The blindness, pragmatism or whatever causes others not to speak, is not for me to judge. Just as it was when Jesus lived, we must not wait for those in power. We each must stand and speak as Jesus taught.

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