Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Lent, which begins today, is a special time of conversion, which means "changing the direction of our lives not with a small change, but with a real turnaround", by no longer following "superficial trends" or “moral mediocrity", but the "high standard "of Christian spirituality". On Ash Wednesday, a rite that Benedict XVI will celebrate this afternoon in the Roman basilica of Santa Sabina, the Pope dedicated his discourse to seven thousand people present at the general audience to the meaning of this solemn feast.
The forty days of preparation for Easter is a favourable time, as indicated by the "appeal which the austere rite of ashes addresses to us and which is expressed in two formulas: Repent and believe the Gospel and You are dust and to dust you shall return". The first is a call to conversion, "a word that must be considered in its extraordinary seriousness". "The call to conversion, in fact, exposes and denounces the easy superficiality that often characterizes our life. Conversion means to change direction in the path of our life: not, however, a small adjustment, but a real turnaround. Conversion, is to swim against a current of lifestyle that is superficial, incoherent and illusory, a current that often drag us down, dominates us and makes us slaves of evil or at least prisoners of moral mediocrity. With conversion, instead, we aim for the high standard of Christian life, we entrust ourselves to the living and personal Gospel, which is Jesus. "
He is “the path we all are called to follow in life, allowing ourselves to be enlightened by His light and supported by His force that moves our feet". Conversion is not simply a moral decision, that corrects the way we live, but it is a choice of faith that draws us fully into intimate communion with the living and concrete person of Jesus . "
"His person is the final goal, He is the deepest meaning of conversion". Repent and believe the Gospel are not two different or casually combined things, rather they express the same reality. Conversion is the total yes of those who surrender their lives to the Gospel, responding freely to Christ who first offers Himself to man as the way, truth and life, as the only one who liberates and saves”.
"Repent and believe the Gospel is not only at the beginning of Christian life, but it accompanies us at every stage". "Every day is a time of favour and grace." "Every day, even when there are difficulties and fatigue, tiredness and falls, even when we are tempted to abandon the path of following Christ and close in on ourselves, in our selfishness, without realizing that we need to open ourselves to the love of God in Christ, to live the same logic of justice and love. "
In the other words "You are dust and to dust you shall return," the priest says when imposing the ashes, "we are sent back to the beginnings of human history, when the Lord said to Adam after he had committed original sin: By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground because you were taken from it, you are dust and to dust you shall return! '. Here, the word of God reminds us of our frailty, even to our death, which is the extreme form". "Faced with the innate fear of the end, and even more so in the context of a culture that in many ways tends to censor the human reality and the experience of dying, in the Lenten liturgy, on the one hand, we remember death inviting us to realism and wisdom, but on the other hand, it urges us to understand and live the unexpected news that the Christian faith radiates in the reality of death itself. "Man is dust and to dust you will return, but it is a precious powder in the eyes of God, because God created man destined to immortality." Also the new Adam, Jesus “wanted to freely share with every human the fate of frailty, especially through his death on the cross ". But this death was to be “the path to glorious resurrection, through which Christ became the source of a grace given to those who believe in Him and who are made participants of divine life itself. This life without end is already underway in the earthly phase of our existence, but it will be brought to completion after the resurrection of the flesh. The small gesture of Ashes reveals the extraordinary richness of its meaning: it is an invitation to experience the Lenten season as a more intense and knowledgeable immersion into the paschal mystery. "