VATICAN CITY, FEB. 17, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Drawing on the two possible formulae for the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday, Benedict XVI today offered a reflection on fundamental elements of Lent: conversion and human weakness.
The Pope took up this theme at the general audience in Paul VI Hall. The two formulae used in the liturgy for the imposition of ashes are “Repent and believe in the Gospel,” and “Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.”
Regarding the first text, the Holy Father suggested that the word conversion should “be taken in its extraordinary seriousness, discovering the amazing novelty it contains.”
“The call to conversion, in fact, uncovers and denounces the easy superficiality that very often characterizes our way of living,” he explained. “To be converted means to change direction along the way of life — not for a slight adjustment, but a true and total change of direction.
“Conversion is to go against the current, where the ‘current’ is a superficial lifestyle, inconsistent and illusory, which often draws us, controls us and makes us slaves of evil, or in any case prisoners of moral mediocrity.”
Conversion, on the other hand, aims one to the “lofty measure of Christian life,” the Pontiff said. “We are entrusted to the living and personal Gospel, which is Christ Jesus.
“His person is the final goal and the profound meaning of conversion; he is the way which we are called to follow in life, allowing ourselves to be illumined by his light and sustained by his strength.”
“In this way,” the Holy Father proposed, “conversion manifests its most splendid and fascinating face: It is not a simple moral decision to rectify our conduct of life, but it is a decision of faith.”
Hence being converted and believing in the Gospel are really just two expressions of the same reality, the Bishop of Rome stated.
“Conversion is the total ‘yes’ of the one who gives his own existence to the Gospel, responding freely to Christ,” he said.
Taking up the second formula, Benedict XVI said the Word of God “reminds us of our frailty, including our death, which is the extreme expression of our frailty.”
He added that “the Lenten liturgy on one hand reminds us of death, inviting us to realism and to wisdom but, on the other hand, it drives us above all to accept and live the unexpected novelty that the Christian faith liberates us from the reality of death itself.”
“Man is dust and to dust he shall return, but he is precious dust in God’s eyes, because God created man for immortality,” he declared.
“The Lord Jesus also wished to freely share with every man the lot of frailty, in particular through his death on the cross; but precisely this death, full of his love for the Father and for humanity, has been the way for the glorious resurrection,” the Pope continued.
We are invited “to live the time of Lent as a more conscious and more intense immersion in the Paschal Mystery of Christ, in his death and resurrection, through participation in the Eucharist and in the life of charity,” he said.
“With the imposition of ashes,” the Pontiff reflected, “we renew our commitment to follow Jesus, to allow ourselves to be transformed by his Paschal Mystery, to overcome evil and do good, to have the ‘old man’ in us die, the one linked to sin, and to have the ‘new man’ be born, transformed by the grace of God.”
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