Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Lent, which starts today, Ash Wednesday, is an “opportunity to become Christian again”, to “rediscover our baptism”, which “often is not very efficient in our daily life”. Ash Wednesday, “a particular day, characterized by an intense spirit of meditation and reflection” was the theme tackled by Benedict XVI today when he addressed the faithful who took part in the general audience. The event was once again held in two parts, first in the Basilica of St Peter and then in Paul VI Hall to accommodate the number of people present: around 7,000 in the hall and 3,000 in the basilica.
Speaking during the general audience, Benedict XVI said that Ash Wednesday, which he will celebrate this afternoon in the Roman basilica of Santa Sabina, introduces the period of the 40 days separating it from Easter “a time of listening to the Word, prayer and penitence: days in which to revive the stages of salvation”.
The pope recalled that in the early Church, Lent was a “time of immediate preparation for Baptism, to be administered during the Easter vigil” as an invitation to “rediscover” and to give new strength to baptism. Today it has become a “renewed catechumenate to renew our baptism in depth”, “an occasion to become Christians again”.
A time of conversion, then, because “conversion is never made forever”, rather it is a “journey” which “cannot be limited to a particular time, it must embrace the entire span of our existence, every day of our life.” Converting, in the words of the pope, means “seeking God”, “going with God”, “humbly following the teachings of his son Jesus”: “It is not an effort to realize ourselves”, because “the human being is not architect of himself, we did make ourselves.” “Conversion consists precisely in not thinking that we are our own creators, and thus discovering the truth, accepting with love to depend in everything on love from God” because “depending on this love is not dependence but freedom”. “It is no use pursing our personal success, which is something that passes”. Rather, for the Christian, Christ must become “my all in all”, said the pope, citing as phrase of Mother Teresa.
In Lent, then, we are ever more stimulated to “tear out” the roots of vanity, to “educate our heart to love God”. The sincere desire for God “leads us to reject evil and to do good, which is above all a free gift of God”, “our true happiness”. This is why Lent, “while inviting us to reflect and to pray, also urges us to emphasize penitence, prayer and fasting” and works of charity towards our brothers, “spiritual paths to follow to return to God in response to the continued calls of conversion in today’s liturgy.”
May the Lenten period, added Benedict XVI, “be for all a renewed experience of the merciful love of God, who on the cross poured out his blood for us. Let us submit ourselves humbly to his teaching to learn how to give, once again, our love to our neighbours in our turn, especially those who are in difficulties.”