ROME, FEB. 18, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Human beings are fragile creatures destined to return to the earth — dust, yes, but dust that is loved and molded by the love of God, Benedict XVI says.
The Pope made this reflection Wednesday from the Basilica of Santa Sabina, where he celebrated a Mass for Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.
Like the other members of the congregation, the Holy Father had ashes placed on his head, according to the traditional rite.
The imposition of ashes, he said, is essentially “a gesture of humility that means: I recognize myself for what I am, a fragile creature made of earth and destined to return to the earth, but also made in the image of God and destined to return to him. Dust, yes, but dust that is loved and molded by his love, animated by his life-giving breath, capable of recognizing his voice and responding to him; free and thus also capable of disobeying him, of yielding to the temptation of pride and self-sufficiency.”
Cardinal Jozef Tomko, 85, retired prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, placed the ashes on the Pontiff. The cardinal is the titular bishop of the basilica.
The Holy Father, in turn, imposed ashes on numerous cardinals, among whom were his secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone; the vicar of Rome, Cardinal Agostino Vallini; and the former vicar of Rome, Cardinal Camillo Ruini.
Before the celebration, Benedict XVI had presided over the traditional penitential procession from the church of St. Anselm on the Aventine Hill to the Basilica of Santa Sabina.
In the homily, the Holy Father presented the whole Lenten journey based on “the omnipotence of the love of God, on his total lordship over every creature, which is translated in an infinite indulgence, animated by a constant and universal will to live.”
“Salvation, in fact, is gift, grace of God, but for it to have effect in my existence it calls for my consent, an acceptance demonstrated with deeds, that is, in the will to live like Jesus, to walk behind him,” he said.
Following Jesus in the “Lenten desert” is the necessary condition to participate in Easter, the Pope stated.
“Adam was expelled from the earthly paradise, the symbol of communion with God,” he said. “Now, in order to return to that communion and thus to true life, to eternal life we must pass through the desert, the test of faith. Not alone but with Jesus! He, as always, proceeds us and has already won the battle against the spirit of evil.”
“This is the meaning of Lent,” the Holy Father affirmed, “the liturgical time that, each year, invites us to renew our decision to follow Christ on the path of humility in order to participate in his victory over sin and death.”
— — —
Full text: http://www.zenit.org/article-28400?l=english