ROME, MARCH 1, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Prayer, fasting and penance are a Christian’s weapons against hatred, Benedict XVI explained at a Mass where he celebrated the rite of imposition of ashes.
In an Ash Wednesday homily, the Pope said that Lent reminds us “that Christian life is a constant battle.”
“To struggle against evil, against all forms of egoism and hatred, and to die to oneself to live in God, is the ascetic path that every disciple of Christ is called to undertake with humility and patience, with generosity and perseverance,” the Holy Father explained.
In keeping with tradition, the afternoon Mass was held in the Basilica of St. Sabina, on Rome’s Aventine Hill, with the participation of cardinals, archbishops and bishops, Benedictine monks, Dominican priests and lay faithful.
Shortly before, in the nearby Church of St. Anselm, a moment of prayer took place, which was followed by a penitential procession to St. Sabina.
“The docile following of the divine Teacher makes Christians witnesses and apostles of peace,” Benedict XVI said in his homily, before having ashes administered to him. “We can say that this interior attitude helps us also to underline better what the Christian response should be to the violence that threatens peace in the world.”
“It is certainly not vengeance, hatred and even less so refuge in a false spiritualism,” continued the Pontiff. “The response of the one who follows Christ is rather to undertake the path that he chose who, in the face of the evils of his time and of all times, embraced the cross with determination, following the longer but more effective path of love.
“Following his footsteps and united to him, we must all be committed to opposing evil with good, lies with truth, hatred with love.”
Benedict XVI pointed out that “in the encyclical ‘Deus Caritas Est,’ I wished to present this love as the secret of our personal and ecclesial conversion.”
Love, he said, “must then be translated into concrete gestures toward one’s neighbor, especially toward the poor and the needy.”
“Concrete love is one of the essential elements of the life of Christians, whom Jesus encourages to be light of the world so that, seeing their ‘good works,’ men will give glory to God,” the Pope concluded.
Cardinal Jozef Tomko, retired prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, administered ashes to Benedict XVI, who then administered them to those present.