Pontiff Notes Hopeful Element in 'To Dust You Shall Return'

Says Through That ‘Dust,’ God Became Unthinkably Near

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By Kathleen Naab

ROME, FEB. 23, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says the somber Ash Wednesday declaration «You are dust and to dust you shall return» is not only an invitation to humility, but also an announcement of the path to salvation.

The Pope made this reflection Wednesday as he celebrated evening Mass for the start of Lent at Rome’s Basilica of Santa Sabina.

Referring to the Genesis description of the fall of Adam and Eve and God’s response, the Holy Father explained: «When [God] says to man, ‘You are dust and to dust you shall return!’ together with the just punishment he also intends to announce a path of salvation, which will travel through the earth, through that ‘dust,’ that ‘flesh’ that will be assumed by the Word.»

«It is in accord with this salvific perspective that the verse of Genesis is taken up by the Ash Wednesday liturgy: as an invitation to penance, to humility and to an awareness of our mortal condition, but not to end up in desperation, but rather to welcome, precisely in this mortality of ours, God’s unthinkable nearness, which, beyond death, opens the passage to the resurrection, to paradise finally rediscovered,» he added.

The Pontiff spoke of the possibility of divine pardon as depending «essentially on the fact that God himself, in the person of his Son, wanted to share our condition, but not the corruption of sin. And the Father raised him with the power of his Holy Spirit; and Jesus, the new Adam, became, as St. Paul says, ‘life-giving spirit’ (1 Corinthians 15:45), the first fruits of the new creation.»

Benedict XVI concluded with a prayer that all might find the way to «our true homeland.»

«That God who banished our first parents from Eden, sent his Son to our earth devastated by sin,» he said. «He did not spare him, that we, prodigal sons, might return, contrite and redeemed by his mercy, to our true homeland. May it be so for each one of us, for all believers, for every man who humbly recognizes his need of salvation.»

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Full text: www.zenit.org/article-34352?l=english

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