Ash Wednesday 2011

We have entered into the sober atmosphere of Lent and, beginning the Eucharistic celebration, we have just prayed to the Lord to help us to begin the journey of true conversion[1]. In few minutes, by receiving ashes on our head, we will hear once again a clear and strong invitation to conversion: Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel, or: Remember, man, that you are dust and unto dust you will return.

[Precisely due to the richness of the symbols and of the biblical and liturgical texts] Ash Wednesday is considered the "door" to Lent and today's liturgy indicates the fundamental dimension of Lent: the conversion of the heart to God, and interior change.

My brother, my sister, we have 40 great days to deepen this extraordinary ascetical and spiritual experience. In the Gospel that has just been proclaimed, Jesus mentions some of the useful instruments to accomplish an authentic interior and communitarian renewal: the works of charity (almsgiving), prayer and penance (fasting)[2]. They are the three fundamental practices because they contribute to the purification of man before God[3]. These exterior gestures are acceptable to him if they express the determination of our heart to serve him with simplicity and generosity.

One of the Lenten Prefaces also reminds us: with fasting the spirit is raised[4]. For this reason fasting and the other Lenten practices are considered the traditional Christian spiritual "arms" used to fight evil, and unhealthy passions. Concerning this, I would like to listen, together with you, to a brief comment of St. John Chrysostom.

«As at the end of winter, he writes, the summer season returns and the navigator launches his boat into the sea, the soldier polishes his arms and trains the horse for battle, the wayfarer strengthened, continues his journey, and the athlete sets aside his vestments and prepares for the race; so we too, at the start of this fast, like returning to a spiritual springtime, we polish the arms like the soldiers, and as mariners we launch the boat of our spirit to confront the waves of senseless passions, like the wayfarer we continue the journey to heaven, and as the athlete we prepare ourselves for the fight by totally setting aside everything»[5].[6]

Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI in his Message for Lent invites us to live these 40 days of special grace as a "Eucharistic" time. He says: “Drawing from the inexhaustible font of love that the Eucharist is, in which Christ renews the redemptive sacrifice of the Cross, each Christian can persevere on the journey that we solemnly begin today”.

Let us ask Mary, our blessed Mother, to help us and to accompany us so that, at the end of Lent, we may contemplate the Risen Lord, interiorly renewed and reconciled with God and with our brothers and sisters ■


[1] Cf Pope Benedict XVI, Homily on Ash Wednesday, 2007 at Basilica of Santa Sabina on Rome's Aventine Hill.
[2] Cf. Mt 6:1-6, 16-18.
[3] Idem
[4] Ieiunio... mentem elevas: Preface IV
[5] cf. Homily to the People of Antioch, n. 3
[6] John Chrysostom (c. 349–407, Greek: Ἰωάννης ὁ Χρυσόστομος), Archbishop of Constantinople, was an important Early Church Father. He is known for his eloquence in preaching and public speaking, his denunciation of abuse of authority by both ecclesiastical and political leaders, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, and his ascetic sensibilities. After his death (or, according to some sources, during his life) he was given the Greek surname chrysostomos, meaning "golden mouthed", rendered in English as Chrysostom. 

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris