The Vatican

Pope Francis: "We belong to the Lord, we belong to him".

Pope Francis presided at Holy Mass for Ash Wednesday, thus ushering in Lent, "the favorable time to return to what is essential, to divest ourselves of what weighs us down, to reconcile ourselves with God, to rekindle the fire of the Holy Spirit that dwells hidden among the ashes of our fragile humanity."

Paloma López Campos-February 22, 2023-Reading time: 3 minutes
Ash Wednesday homily

A moment of the Ash Wednesday Mass (Vatican News)

On February 22, Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lent 2023. Pope Francis presided at a Mass that was preceded by a penitential procession. The celebration included the rite of the imposition of ashes. This, in the words of the Holy Father, "introduces us to this path of return, invites us to return to what we really are and to return to God and to our brothers and sisters".

Indeed, Lent is the precise moment "to return to what is essential". The liturgy invites us, first of all, to return to what we really are. "The ashes remind us of who we are and where we come from; they lead us back to the fundamental truth of life: only the Lord is God and we are the work of his hands. This, the Pope said, should provoke us "as we bow our heads in humility to receive the ashes, to bring to the memory of our hearts this truth: we are the Lord's, we belong to him."

However, Francis pointed out that the faithful are not the only ones who live this period. God, "as a tender and merciful Father (...) also lives Lent, because he desires us, waits for us, awaits our return. And he always encourages us not to despair, even when we fall into the dust of our fragility and our sin, because "He knows what we are made of, he knows very well that we are nothing but dust" (Ps 103.14)".

Lent, a time to recognize the truth

Lent is therefore an ideal time to cleanse our gaze and remember "who is the Creator and who is the creature; to proclaim that God alone is the Lord; to strip ourselves of the pretension of being self-sufficient and of the eagerness to put ourselves at the center".

The Pope during the Ash Wednesday Mass (Vatican News)

"But there is also a second step: the ashes invite us to return to God and to our brothers and sisters. In fact, if we return to the truth of who we are and realize that our self is not self-sufficient, then we discover that we exist thanks to relationships, both the original one with the Lord and the vital ones with others." Lent, the Pope continued, is a time to reconsider our relationships with the Father and with our neighbor, "to open ourselves in silence to prayer and to leave the bulwark of our closed self," to enjoy the joy of encounter and listening.

Three ways of Lent

All these ideas entail concrete practices: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. In this regard, Francis warned that "these are not external rites, but gestures that must express a renewal of the heart. Almsgiving is not a quick gesture to clear one's conscience, but a touching with one's own hands and with one's own tears the sufferings of the poor; prayer is not ritual, but a dialogue of truth and love with the Father; fasting is not a simple sacrifice, but a strong gesture to remind our heart of what remains and what is fleeting." This is important because "in personal life, as in the life of the Church, what counts is not the exterior, human judgments and the appreciation of the world, but only the gaze of God, who reads love and truth".

Therefore, if lived with sincerity, "almsgiving, charity, will manifest our compassion for those in need, it will help us to return to others; prayer will give voice to our intimate desire to meet the Father, making us return to Him; fasting will be a spiritual gymnastics to renounce with joy what is superfluous and overburdens us, to be interiorly freer and return to what we really are".

In conclusion, the Pope issued a clear invitation for this period of Lent: "Let us set out on a journey through charity: we have been given forty favorable days to remind us that the world does not close in the narrow confines of our personal needs and to rediscover joy, not in things that accumulate, but in caring for those in need and affliction. Let us set out on the way through prayer: we are given forty favorable days to give God the primacy of our life, to return to dialogue with Him wholeheartedly, not in wasted moments. Let us set out on the way through fasting: forty favorable days are offered to us to find ourselves again, to stop the dictatorship of agendas always full of things to do; of the pretensions of an increasingly superficial and cumbersome ego; and to choose what really matters".

La Brújula Newsletter Leave us your email and receive every week the latest news curated with a catholic point of view.
Banner advertising
Banner advertising