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Pope at General Audience: 'Let Lent Free Us From Our Slavery'

Tells Faithful in St. Peter’s Square This Ash Wednesday, That Lent Is a Time of Hope

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Lent is a time for us to no longer be slaves, but to be free and full of hope.
Pope Francis stressed this during the General Audience at 9:30 a.m. today, Ash Wednesday, in St. Peter’s Square. Continuing with the series of catecheses on Christian hope, in his address in Italian, the Pope focused his meditation on the theme: “Lent, Journey of Hope” (Exodus 3:7-8.10)
Francis recalled how the Church instituted Lent as a time of preparation for Easter and, therefore, the whole meaning of these 40 days draws light from the paschal mystery, to which it is oriented.
«We can imagine the Risen Lord, Who calls us to come out of our darkness, and we set out on the way to Him, who is the Light,» Francis said, reminding: «Lent is a journey towards the Risen Jesus.»
Lent is, by its nature, a time of hope, he stressed.
To understand better what this means, the Jesuit Pope highlighted, we must remember the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, narrated in the Book of Exodus in the Bible. While the point of departure is the condition of slavery in Egypt, he noted, the Lord has not forgotten His people and His promise. «He calls Moses and, with a powerful arm, has the Israelites leave Egypt and guides them through the desert to the land of freedom.»
«And these 40 days are, for all of us also,» Francis said, «a going out from slavery, from sin, to freedom, to the encounter with the Risen Christ. Every step, every effort, every trial, every fall and every recovery, all make sense only within the plan of salvation of God, who wants life for His people and not death, joy and not sorrow.»
Jesus’ Easter is His exodus, the Pope said, with which He has opened the way for us to attain full, eternal and blessed life. To open the way for us to eternal life cost Him all His blood, and, thanks to Him, we are saved from the slavery of sin.
«But this does not mean that He did everything and we have nothing to do, that He went through the Cross and we “go to Paradise in a carriage.” 
«It’s not so,» Francis clarified, saying, «Our salvation is certainly His gift, but, because it is a story of love, it requires our “yes” and our participation in His love, as our Mother Mary shows us and, after her, all the Saints.»
Lent, the lives of this dynamic, the Holy Father said, noting namely that in which Christ precedes us with His exodus, and we go through the desert thanks to Him and behind Him.
«Lent is a “sacramental sign of our conversion” (Roman Missal, Collect, First Sunday of Lent); one who undertakes the way of Lent is always on the way of conversion. Lent is the sacramental sign of our journey from slavery to freedom, ever to be renewed — a journey that is certainly demanding, as it is right that it should be, because love is demanding, but it is a journey full of hope.»
Rather, I will say more: the Lenten exodus is the journey in which hope itself is formed.
«The exhaustion of crossing the desert – all the trials, the temptations, the illusions, the mirages . . .–, all this is useful to forge a strong, solid hope on the model of that of the Virgin Mary, who in the midst of the darkness of the Passion and Death of her Son continued to believe and to hope in His Resurrection, in the victory of God’s love.»
Pope Francis concluded, praying, «Let us enter Lent today with a heart open to this horizon. Feeling ourselves part of the people of God, we begin with joy this journey of hope.»
«Today, Ash Wednesday,» Pope Francis said, «the Lord indicates the path of hope to follow. May the Holy Spirit lead you to fulfill a true journey of conversion, to rediscover the gift of the Word of God, to be purified from sin and to serve Christ present in brothers.»
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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': or

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