Pope commences Lent with Ash Wednesday celebrations

Pope Francis on Ash Wednesday

  VATICAN CITY - On Wednesday morning, at the Altar of St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis celebrated the Holy Mass with the Rite of Blessing and Imposition of Ashes.

  The pope’s homily, marking the dawn of Lent, began by referring to the prophet Joel and the invitation from God: “Return to me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12), to remind the congregation of the importance of “returning to God,” since “Lent is a journey back to God.” The pope expressed the need to stop making excuses and postponing “praying and doing things for others,” simply because we think we do not have the time.

  “Lent is a journey that involves our whole lives, our whole selves,” he expressed. The necessity of self-reflexion and selfless love was at the heart of the homily, as Lent is “a time to check the paths we are taking, to find the way back home, to rediscover the fundamental bond with God, on whom everything depends. This is the centre of Lent: where is my heart oriented? Let us try to ask ourselves: where does the navigator of my life take me, toward God or toward my own self?”

 The 40-day Lent period signifies the 40 years it took God’s people to travel through the desert, to return to their homeland. They had to overcome the temptation to go back, just as our twenty-first century “journey back to God is hindered by our unhealthy attachments, it is held back by the seductive laces of vices, by the false security of money and appearance.”

  He went on to say how, in order to find the pathway back to God, one must follow the example of the prodigal son. Just like him, “we too have forgotten the smell of home, we have squandered precious goods on trivial things, and we have been left with empty hands and a discontented heart. […] God's forgiveness, Confession, is the first step on our journey back.” 

  The pope’s address highlighted the need to also return to Jesus, as: “all of us, we all have spiritual diseases, we cannot heal them alone; we all have deep-rooted vices, we cannot eradicate them alone; we all have fears that paralyse us, we cannot overcome them alone. We need to imitate that leper, who came back to Jesus and threw himself at his feet. We need Jesus' healing.”

  The closing message was that: “Lent is a humble descent within ourselves and toward others. It is understanding that salvation is not a climb for glory, but a lowering out of love.”