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The Pope invites us to return to what is essential in Lent

El Papa nos invita a volver a lo esencial en la Cuaresma

Paulinas Colombia |

In his homily during the Holy Mass on Ash Wednesday in the Basilica of Santa Sabina, the Pontiff encouraged all the faithful to return to God with all their hearts and to recognize ourselves for what we are: dust loved by Him.

Sebastian Samson Ferrari – Vatican City

“Enter into the secret”: this is the invitation that Jesus addresses to each of us at the beginning of the Lenten journey and that Pope Francis recalled at the beginning of his homily in the traditional Eucharistic celebration of Ash Wednesday in the Basilica of Santa Sabina.

This temple, headquarters of the General Curia of the Dominican Preaching Friars, was the arrival point of the statio and penitential procession that started from the Church of San Anselmo. From this sacred space, the Pontiff explained that “entering the secret means returning to the heart, as the prophet Joel exhorts.”

“It is a journey from the outside to the inside, so that everything we live, including our relationship with God, is not reduced to the exterior, to a frame without paint, to a covering of the soul, but is born from within and corresponds to the movements of the heart; that is, with our desires, with our thoughts, with our feelings, with the original core of our person.”

Lent, time to get rid of “makeup”

The Holy Father stressed that “Lent then immerses us in a bath of purification and stripping; He wants to help us remove all “makeup,” everything we put on to appear adequate, better than we really are.”

“Returning to the heart means returning to our true self and presenting it as it is, naked and stripped, before God. It means looking inside ourselves and becoming aware of who we really are, taking off the masks we often wear, slowing down our frenzy, embracing life and the truth of ourselves. Life is not a performance, and Lent invites us to get off the stage of fiction to return to the heart, to the truth of who we are. Return to the heart, return to the truth.”

Each one of us is loved with eternal love

Therefore, this afternoon, the Pope said, with a spirit of prayer and humility, we receive the ashes on our heads. The Bishop of Rome observed that “it is a gesture that wants to refer us to the essential reality of ourselves.” “We are dust, our life is like a breath (cf. Salt 39.6; 144,4), but the Lord—He and He alone—does not allow that dust that we are to vanish; He collects it and shapes it so that the impetuous winds of life do not disperse it and it does not dissolve in the abyss of death.” The Pontiff noted that “the ashes placed on our heads invite us to rediscover the secret of life.” “He warns us: as long as you continue to wear armor that covers the heart, camouflaging yourself with the mask of appearances, exhibiting artificial light to show yourself invincible, you will remain empty and arid. On the other hand, when you have the courage to bow your head to look inside, then you will be able to discover the presence of a God who has always loved you; “Finally the shells you have built for yourself will be shattered and you will be able to feel loved with an eternal love.” The Successor of Peter maintained that “each one of us is loved with eternal love.” “We are ashes upon which God breathed his breath of life, earth that He shaped with His hands (cf. Gn 2.7; Salt 119,73), dust from which we will rise to an endless life always prepared for us (cf. Es 26,19).

Almsgiving, prayer and fasting: paths that lead us back to what is essential

The Pope specified that “if the fire of God's love burns in the ashes that we are, then we discover that we are modeled by this love and that we are called to love; which takes shape in loving the brothers we have at our side, being attentive to others, living compassion, exercising mercy, sharing who we are and what we have with those who need it.” Therefore, he stated that “almsgiving, prayer and fasting cannot be reduced to external practices, but are paths that lead us back to the heart, to the essentials of Christian life.” "They make us discover that we are dust loved by God, he continued, and they make us capable of spreading the same love over the 'ash' of so many daily situations, so that hope, trust and joy are reborn in them."

Surrender to God

He also recalled that Saint Anselm of Aosta left us an exhortation that we can make our own this afternoon: “Flee for a moment from your occupations, separate yourself for a moment from your tumultuous thoughts. Get rid of the worries that overwhelm you and postpone your laborious chores. Surrender a little to God and rest for a moment in Him. “Enter the chamber” of your spirit, chase away everything except God and whatever helps you find Him, and once the door is closed, look for Him. Now say “my heart”, say everything now to God: I seek your face, Lord; your face is what I seek” ( Proslogion , 1).

The Pontiff invites us to listen to “the voice of the Lord who never tires of repeating to us: "Enter the secret , enter the secret, return to the heart." He considers it “a healthy invitation for us, who often live on the surface, who worry to be noticed, who always need to be admired and appreciated.”

Let's enter our inner room

“Without realizing it, the Holy Father assured, we find ourselves no longer counting on a secret place where we can stop and guard ourselves, immersed in a world in which everything, even our most intimate emotions and feelings, must become “ social ” — but how can it be social what does not spring from heart ?-". The Bishop of Rome noted that “even the most tragic and painful experiences run the risk of not having a secret place to guard them: everything must be exposed, flaunted, given over to the chatter of the moment.” “And this is when the Lord tells us says: Enter the secret , return to the center of yourself. Right there, where so many fears, feelings of guilt and sins also reside, the Lord has descended there to heal and purify you. Let us enter our inner room: there dwells the Lord, who welcomes our fragility and loves us unconditionally.” Let us return to God with all our hearts In these weeks of Lent, the Holy Father asks to leave space for silent prayer of adoration, “in which we remain in the presence of the Lord listening, like Moses, like Elijah, like Mary, like Jesus ”. Then, he questioned all the faithful: “Have we realized that we have lost the meaning of worship? Let’s get back to worship.”

Francis encourages us to “lend the ear of our hearts to the One who, in silence, wants to tell us: 'I am your God, the God of mercy and compassion, the God of forgiveness and love, the God of tenderness and application. […] Don't judge yourself. Don't condemn yourself. Don't reject yourself. Let my love reach the most hidden corners of your heart and reveal your own beauty. A beauty that you have lost sight of, but that will become visible to you again in the light of my mercy. The Lord calls us: Come, come, let me wipe away your tears, and let my mouth approach your ear and tell you: 'I love you, I love you, I love you'" (H. Nouwen, Way home. A spiritual journey , Buenos Aires 1997, 185-186). “Do we believe that the Lord loves us, that the Lord loves me?” asked the Pontiff. Towards the end of his sermon, the Successor of Peter encouraged us not to be afraid to “remove our worldly coverings and return to the heart, to what essential.”“Let us think of Saint Francis, who after having stripped himself completely, embraced with all his strength the Father who is in heaven. Let us recognize ourselves for what we are: dust loved by God, dust in love, and thanks to Him we will be reborn from the ashes of sin to new life in Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit.”


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