On this day, marked by the austere symbol of ashes, we enter the season of Lent, beginning a spiritual journey that prepares us for celebrating worthily the Easter Mysteries.
The blessed ashes imposed upon our forehead are a sign that reminds us of our condition as creatures, that invites us to repent, and to intensify our commitment to convert, to follow the Lord ever more closely. Lent is a journey, it means accompanying Jesus who goes up to Jerusalem, the place of the fulfilment of his mystery of Passion, Death and Resurrection; it reminds us that Christian life is a "way" to take, not so much consistent with a law to observe as with the very Person of Christ, to encounter, to welcome, to follow....
It is above all in the liturgy, by participating in the holy mysteries, that we are led to make this journey with the Lord; it means learning at the school of Jesus, reviewing the events that brought salvation to us but not as a mere commemoration, a remembrance of past events. In the liturgical actions Christ makes himself present through the power of the Holy Spirit and these saving events become real. There is a keyword that recurs frequently in the liturgy to indicate this: the word "today"; and it should be understood in its original and practical, rather than metaphorical, sense. Today God reveals his law and we are granted to choose today between good and evil, between life and death (Dt 30:19). Today the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel (Mk 1:15). Today Christ died on Calvary and rose from the dead; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father; today the Holy Spirit is given to us; today is a favorable time....
Dear friends, on this Lenten journey let us be careful to accept Christ's invitation to follow him more decisively and consistently, renewing the grace and commitments of our Baptism, to cast off the former person within us and put on Christ, in order to arrive at Easter renewed and able to say, with Saint Paul: It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me (Gal 2:20). I wish you all a good Lenten journey!
Pope Benedict XVI. "Beginning Our Lenten Journey." from the General Audience (March 9, 2011).
Reprinted with permission of Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Pope Benedict XVI is the author of Jesus of Nazareth, Vol II, Jesus of Nazareth, Vol I, Caritas in Veritate: Charity in Truth, Saved in Hope: Spe Salvi, God Is Love: Deus Caritas Est,The End of Time?: The Provocation of Talking about God, Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions, Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam, Salt of the Earth: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church at the End of the Millennium, God and the World: Believing and Living in Our Time, In the Beginning: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall, The Spirit of the Liturgy, The Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church, Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Introduction to Christianity, Called to Communion: Understanding the Church Today, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977, Behold the Pierced One, and God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life.Copyright © 2011 Libreria Editrice Vaticana