ROME, FEB. 22, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Works of charity, prayer and fasting are spiritual weapons to combat evil, Benedict XVI said during Mass on Ash Wednesday.
In his homily, delivered in the Basilica of St. Sabina on Rome’s Aventine Hill, the Holy Father presented these “useful instruments” as the condition “to live authentic community renewal.”
“They are the three fundamental practices, also appreciated by the Jewish tradition, because they contribute to purify man before God,” the Pope said. “These external gestures, which should be done to please God and not to win the approval and praise of people, are pleasing to him if they express the heartfelt determination to serve him alone, with simplicity and generosity.
“Fasting, to which the Church invites us during this time, is not born from motivations of a physical or aesthetic order, but springs from the need the person feels for interior purification, to be detoxified from the contamination of sin and evil.”
Benedict XVI said that fasting educates in “those healthy self-denials that free the believer from his ‘I,’ and make him more attentive and ready to listen to God and to serve his brothers.”
“For this reason, fasting and the Lenten practices” of prayer and works of charity, in particular almsgiving, “are considered by the Christian tradition spiritual ‘weapons’ to combat evil, evil passions and vices,” the Pope said.
On a rainy afternoon, the Holy Father went from the Vatican to the Aventine Hill, for the traditional procession from the Basilica of St. Anselm to that of St. Sabina.
Cardinals, prelates, Benedictine monks of St. Anselm, and Dominican priests of St. Sabina, as well as some faithful, took part in the procession.
The Pontiff received ashes from Cardinal Jozef Tomko, retired prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and titular cardinal of St. Sabina.
Afterward, the Holy Father imposed ashes on some of those present.