20

CELEBRATION OF PENANCE
COMMUNAL RECONCILIATION SERVICE
WITH INDIVIDUAL CONFESSION AND ABSOLUTION

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica
Friday, 13 March 2015

[Multimedia]

 

This year again, on the eve of the Fourth Sunday of Lent, we are gathered to celebrate the penitential liturgy. We are united with the many Christians who, today, in every part of the world, have accepted the invitation to live this moment as a sign of the Lord’s goodness. The Sacrament of Reconciliation, indeed, allows us to draw near to the Father with trust to have the certainty of his forgiveness. He is truly “rich in mercy” and extends it abundantly upon those who appeal to Him with a sincere heart.

 

Being here to experience his love, in any case, is above all a fruit of his grace. As the Apostle Paul reminded us, God never ceases to demonstrate the wealth of his mercy throughout the centuries. The transformation of the heart that leads us to confess our sins is a “gift from God”. We can not do it alone. The power to confess our sins is a gift from God, it is a gift, it is “his work” (cf. Ephesians 2:8-10). Being touched with tenderness by his hand and moulded by his grace allows us to draw near to the priest without fear for our sins, but with the certainty that we will be accepted by him in the name of God, and understood despite our wretchedness; and even to approach without a defence attorney: we have the One who alone gave his life for our sins! It is He who always defends us before the Father, He always defends us. As we exit the confessional, we will feel his strength which gives new life and restores ardour to the faith. After confession we are reborn.

The Gospel we have heard (cf. Luke 7:36-50) opens to us a path of hope and comfort. It is good to feel Jesus’ compassionate gaze upon us, just as it was felt by the sinful woman in the house of the Pharisee. In this passage two words persistently return: love and judgment.

 

There is the love of the sinful woman who humbles herself before the Lord; but before that is the merciful love of Jesus for her, which drives her to approach him. Her tears of repentance and joy wash the feet of the Master, and her hair dries them with gratitude; the kisses are an expression of her pure love; and the perfumed ointment poured in abundance attests to how precious He is in her eyes. This woman’s every gesture speaks of love and expresses her desire to have unwavering certitude in her life: that of having been forgiven. And this certitude is beautiful! And Jesus gives her this certitude: in accepting her He demonstrates the love God has for her, just for her, a public sinner! Love and forgiveness are simultaneous: God forgives her many sins, He forgives her for all of them, for “she loved much” (Luke 7:47); and she adores Jesus because she feels that in Him there is mercy and not condemnation. She feels that Jesus understands her with love, she who is a sinner. Thanks to Jesus, God lifts her many sins off her shoulders, He no longer remembers them (cf. Isaiah 43:25). For this is also true: when God forgives, He forgets. God’s forgiveness is great! For her now a new era begins; through love she is reborn into a new life.

 

This woman has truly encountered the Lord. In silence, she opened her heart; in sorrow, she showed repentance for her sins; by her tears, she appealed to divine goodness to receive forgiveness. For her there will be no judgment but that which comes from God, and this is the judgment of mercy. The hero of this encounter is certainly love, a mercy which goes beyond justice.

Simon, the master of the house, the Pharisee, on the contrary, doesn’t manage to find the road of love. Everything is calculated, everything is thought out.... He stands firm on the threshold of formality. It is an unpleasant thing, formal love, he doesn’t understand. He is not capable of taking that next step forward to meet Jesus who will bring him salvation. Simon limits himself to inviting Jesus to lunch, but did not truly welcome him. In his thoughts Simon invokes only justice and in doing so he errs. His judgment of the woman distances him from the truth and prevents him from even understanding who his guest is. He stopped at the surface — at formality — incapable of seeing the heart. Before the parable of Jesus and the question of which servant would love more, the Pharisee responds correctly: “The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more”. Jesus doesn’t fail to observe: “You have judged rightly” (Luke 7:43). When Simon’s judgment is turned to love, then is he in the right.

 

Jesus’ reminder urges each of us never to stop at the surface of things, especially when we have a person before us. We are called to look beyond, to focus on the heart in order to see how much generosity everyone is capable of. No one can be excluded from the mercy of God; everyone knows the way to access it and the Church is the house where everyone is welcomed and no one is rejected. Her doors remain wide open, so that those who are touched by grace may find the assurance of forgiveness. The greater the sin, the greater the love that must be shown by the Church to those who repent. With how much love Jesus looks at us! With how much love He heals our sinful heart! Our sins never scare Him. Let us consider the prodigal son who, when he decided to return to his father, considers making a speech, but the father doesn’t let him speak. He embraces him (cf. Luke 15:17-24). This is the way Jesus is with us. “Father, I have so many sins....” — “But He will be glad if you go: He will embrace you with such love! Don’t be afraid”.

 

Dear brothers and sisters, I have often thought of how the Church may render more clear her mission to be a witness to mercy; and we have to make this journey. It is a journey which begins with spiritual conversion. Therefore, I have decided to announce an Extraordinary Jubilee which has at its centre the mercy of God. It will be a Holy Year of Mercy. We want to live in the light of the word of the Lord: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (cf. Luke 6:36). And this especially applies to confessors! So much mercy!

 

This Holy Year will commence on the next Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and will conclude on Sunday, 20 November 2016, the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe and living face of the Father's mercy. I entrust the organization of this Jubilee to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, in order that it may come to life as a new step on the Church’s journey in her mission to bring the Gospel of mercy to each person.

 

I am confident that the whole Church, which is in such need of mercy for we are sinners, will be able to find in this Jubilee the joy of rediscovering and rendering fruitful God’s mercy, with which we are all called to give comfort to every man and every woman of our time. Do not forget that God forgives all, and God forgives always. Let us never tire of asking forgiveness. Let us henceforth entrust this Year to the Mother of Mercy, that she turn her gaze upon us and watch over our journey: our penitential journey, our year-long journey with an open heart, to receive the indulgence of God, to receive the mercy of God.

Even I don’t like it, this is the fact: “I am dust and to dust I will return.”

But Daddy God who created me out of nothingness and can restore me to wholeness again, see how he did this to the dry bones through the Prophet Ezekiel  > Ezekiel, Chapter 37: 1-14  (Encouragements-90).

Is there a possibility that He will refuse?

“When he regrets for having made me”? See for yourself the record in Genesis 6: 5-9. Do you see such people in the Commercial World?

Extracted from Genesis 6: 5-9:

“5 Yahweh saw that human wickedness was great on earth and that human hearts contrived nothing but wicked schemes all day long.

6 Yahweh regretted having made human beings on earth and was grieved at heart.

7 And Yahweh said, 'I shall rid the surface of the earth of the human beings whom I created -- human and animal, the creeping things and the birds of heaven -- for I regret having made them.'

8 But Noah won Yahweh's favour.

9 This is the story of Noah: Noah was a good man, an upright man among his contemporaries, and he walked with God.”

And the flood came and destroyed them all, only Noah and his family were saved.

可憐!為什麼損人又不利己?應該積德又積福才對。

ASH WEDNESDAY 

HOMILY OF JOHN PAUL II

Wednesday, 8 March 2000 

 


1.
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your holy Spirit from me" (Psalm 51: 10-11).

 

Today, Ash Wednesday, this is how the Psalmist, King David, prays:  a great and powerful king in Israel, but at the same time frail and sinful. At the beginning of these 40 days of preparation for Easter, the Church puts his words on the lips of all who take part in the austere liturgy of Ash Wednesday.

 

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, ... take not your holy Spirit from me". We hear this plea echoing in our hearts, while in a few moments we will approach the Lord's altar to receive ashes on our forehead in accordance with a very ancient tradition. This act is filled with spiritual allusions and is an important sign of conversion and inner renewal. Considered in itself, it is a simple liturgical rite, but very profound because of its penitential meaning:  with it the Church reminds man, believer and sinner, of his weakness in the face of evil and especially of his total dependence on God's infinite majesty.

 

The liturgy calls for the celebrant to say these words as he places ashes on the foreheads of the faithful:  "Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you will return"; or, "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel".

 

2. "Remember, ... to dust you will return".

 

Earthly life is marked from its beginning by the prospect of death. Our bodies are mortal, that is, subject to the inevitable prospect of death. We live with this end before us:  every passing day brings us inexorably closer to it. And death has something destructive about it. With death it seems that everything will end for us. And here, precisely in the face of this disheartening prospect, man, who is aware of his sin, raises a cry of hope to heaven:  O God, "create in me a clean heart and put a new and right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your holy Spirit from me".

 

Today too, the believer who feels threatened by evil and death calls on God in this way, knowing that he has reserved for him a destiny of eternal life. He knows that he is not only a body condemned to death because of sin, but that he also has an immortal soul. Therefore he turns to God the Father, who has the power to create out of nothing; to God the Only-begotten Son, who became man for our salvation, died for us and now, risen, lives in glory; to God the immortal Spirit, who calls us to life and restores life.

 

"Create in me a clean heart and put a new and right spirit within me". The whole Church makes the Psalmist's prayer her own. These are prophetic words that penetrate our spirit on this special day, the first day of the Lenten journey that will bring us to the celebration of Easter during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

 

3. "Repent and believe in the Gospel". This invitation, which we find at the beginning of Jesus' preaching, introduces us into the Lenten season, a time to be dedicated in a special way to conversion and renewal, to prayer, to fasting and to works of charity. In recalling the experience of the chosen people, we too set out as it were to retrace the journey that Israel made across the desert to the Promised Land. We too will reach our goal; after these weeks of penance, we will experience the joy of Easter. Our eyes, purified by prayer and penance, will be able to behold with greater clarity the face of the living God, to whom man makes his own pilgrimage on the paths of earthly life.

 

"Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your holy Spirit from me" - this man, created not for death but for life, prays in exactly this way. Although he is aware of his weaknesses, he walks sustained by the certainty of his divine destiny.

 

May almighty God hear the prayers of the Church which, in today's Ash Wednesday liturgy, lifts up her heart to heaven with greater trust. May the merciful Lord grant us all to open our hearts to the gift of his grace, so that we can all take part with new maturity in the paschal mystery of Christ, our only Redeemer.

LENTEN STATION PRESIDED OVER BY THE HOLY FATHER
IN THE BASILICA OF ST. SABINA ON THE AVENTINE HILL

HOMILY OF JOHN PAUL II

Ash Wednesday, 5 March 2003

 

1. "Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast; / call a solemn assembly; / gather the people, notify the congregation" (Joel 2:15-16).

 

These words of the Prophet Joel, that we have just heard, emphasize the communal dimension of penance. Certainly, repentance can only come from the heart, that, according to biblical anthropology, is the "seat" of the deepest human inclinations. However, penitential acts should be lived together with the members of our community.

 

Especially, at difficult moments, after a misfortune or when danger threatened, the Word of God on the lips of the prophets used to call believers to a penitential mobilization. All were called, no one was left out, from the elderly to infants; all were as one in imploring from God compassion and pardon (cf. Joel 2:16-18).

 

2. The Christian community listens to this vigorous invitation to conversion as it gets ready to undertake the Lenten journey that begins with the ancient rite of the imposition of ashes. This gesture, that some might consider outmoded, certainly clashes with the modern mentality, but this forces us to look for its deeper meaning, to explain its effective impact.

 

As the priest places the ashes on the heads of the faithful, he repeats the phrase:  "Remember ... you are dust and unto dust you shall return". To return to dust is the fate that human beings and animals seem to have in common. However the human being is not just flesh, but also spirit. If the flesh is destined to become dust, the spirit is made for immortality. In addition, the believer knows that Christ is risen, conquering death in his body. In hope the believer moves towards this future reality.  

 

3. Receiving the ashes on the head, means recognizing that we are creatures, made of earth and destined to return to it (cf. Genesis 3:19); it also means proclaiming that we are sinners, in need of God's pardon in order to be able to live according to the Gospel (cf. Mark 1:15); finally, it means reviving our hope in the definitive encounter with Christ in the glory and peace of Heaven.

 

This prospect of joy obliges believers to do everything possible to anticipate at the present time something of the future peace. This calls for the purification of heart and reinforcing of communion with God and with the brethren. This is the aim of the prayer and fasting to which, in the face of the threats of war looming on the horizon, I have invited the faithful. With prayer, we abandon ourselves totally into God's hands, and from him alone we await true peace. With fasting, we prepare our hearts to receive peace from the Lord, his greatest gift and the privileged sign of the coming of his Kingdom.

 

4. Prayer and fasting, however, must be accompanied by works of justice; conversion must be translated into welcome and solidarity. The ancient Prophet warns: "Is not this the fast that I choose; to loose the bonds of wickedness, / to undo the thongs of the yoke, / to let the oppressed go free, /and to break every yoke?" (Isaiah 58:6).

 

There will be no peace on earth while the oppression of peoples, social injustices and existing economic imbalances continue. Yet for the great and hoped for structural changes, extrinsic initiatives and mediations are not enough; above all, we need the unanimous conversion of hearts to love.

 

5. "Return to me with all your heart" (Joel 2:12). We could say that the message of today's celebration is compressed into God's heartfelt exhortation to conversion.

 

The Apostle Paul repeats the invitation in the second reading:  "We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.... Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation!" (II Corinthians 5:20; 6:2).

 

Dear brothers and sisters, now is the favourable time to review our attitude toward God and our brothers and sisters!

 

This is the day of salvation on which to examine in depth the criteria that guide us in our daily behaviour.

 

Help us, Lord, to return with all our heart to you, the Way that leads to salvation, the Truth that sets us free, the Life that knows no death!

In the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, I wanted to present this love as the secret of our personal and ecclesial conversion. Referring to Paul's words to the Corinthians, "the love of Christ urges us on" (II Corinthians 5: 14), I stressed that "the consciousness that, in Christ, God has given himself for us, even unto death, must inspire us to live no longer for ourselves but for him, and, with him, for others" (n. 33).

Furthermore, love, as Jesus says today in the Gospel, must be expressed in practical acts for our neighbour, and especially for the poor and the needy, always subordinating the value of "good works" to the sincerity of the relationship with our "Father who is in Heaven", who "sees in secret" and "will reward" all whose good actions are humble and disinterested (cf. Matthew 6: 1, 4, 6, 18).
The manifestation of love is one of the essential elements in the life of Christians who are encouraged by Jesus to be the light of the world,
so that by seeing their "good works", people give glory to God (cf. Matthew 5: 16).

This recommendation to us is particularly appropriate at the beginning of Lent, so that we may understand better and better that "for the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity... but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being" (Deus Caritas Est, n. 25).

True love is expressed in acts that exclude no one, after the example of the Good Samaritan who, with great openness of heart, helped a stranger in difficulty whom he had met "by chance" along the way (cf. Luke 10: 31). - Pope Benedict XVI

PENITENTIAL PROCESSION PRESIDED BY THE HOLY FATHER
IN THE BASILICA OF SANTA SABINA ON THE AVENTINE HILL

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Ash Wednesday , 1st March 2006


Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,


The penitential procession with which we began today's celebration has helped us enter the typical atmosphere of Lent, which is a personal and community pilgrimage of conversion and spiritual renewal.

 

According to the very ancient Roman tradition of Lenten stationes, during this season the faithful, together with the pilgrims, gather every day and make a stop - statio - at one of the many "memorials" of the Martyrs on which the Church of Rome is founded.

 

In the Basilicas where their relics are exposed, Holy Mass is celebrated, preceded by a procession during which the litanies of the Saints are sung. In this way, all those who bore witness to Christ with their blood are commemorated, and calling them to mind then becomes an incentive for each Christian to renew his or her own adherence to the Gospel.

 

These rites retain their value, despite the passing centuries, because they recall how important it also is in our day to accept Jesus' words without compromises:  "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9: 23).

Another symbolic rite, an exclusive gesture proper to the first day of Lent, is the
imposition of ashes. What is its most significant meaning?

 

It is certainly not merely ritualistic, but something very deep that touches our hearts. It makes us understand the timeliness of the Prophet Joel's advice echoed in the First Reading, advice that still retains its salutary value for us:  external gestures must always be matched by a sincere heart and consistent behaviour.

 

Indeed, the inspired author wonders, what use is it to tear our garments if our hearts remain distant from the Lord, that is, from goodness and justice? Here is what truly counts:  to return to God with a sincerely contrite heart to obtain his mercy (cf. Joel 2: 12-18).

 

A new heart and a new spirit:  we ask for this with the penitential Psalm par excellence, the Miserere, which we sing today with the response, "Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned" (The Sunday Missal).

 

The true believer, aware of being a sinner, aspires with his whole self - spirit, heart and body - to divine forgiveness, as to a new creation that can restore joy and hope to him (cf. Psalm 51[50]: 3, 5, 12, 14).

 

Another aspect of Lenten spirituality is what we could describe as "combative", as emerges in today's "Collect", where the "weapons" of penance and the "battle" against evil are mentioned.

Every day, but particularly in Lent, Christians must face a struggle, like the one that Christ underwent in the desert of Judea, where for 40 days he was tempted by the devil, and then in Gethsemane, when he rejected the most severe temptation, accepting the Father's will to the very end.

It is a spiritual battle waged against sin and finally, against Satan. It is a struggle that involves the whole of the person and demands attentive and constant watchfulness.

 

St Augustine remarks that those who want to walk in the love of God and in his mercy cannot be content with ridding themselves of grave and mortal sins, but "should do the truth, also recognizing sins that are considered less grave..., and come to the light by doing worthy actions. Even less grave sins, if they are ignored, proliferate and produce death" (In Io. evang. 12, 13, 35).

 

Lent reminds us, therefore, that Christian life is a never-ending combat in which the "weapons" of prayer, fasting and penance are used. Fighting against evil, against every form of selfishness and hate, and dying to oneself to live in God is the ascetic journey that every disciple of Jesus is called to make with humility and patience, with generosity and perseverance.

Following the divine Teacher in docility makes Christians witnesses and apostles of peace. We might say that this inner attitude also helps us to highlight more clearly
what response Christians should give to the violence that is threatening peace in the world.

 

It should certainly not be revenge, nor hatred nor even flight into a false spiritualism. The response of those who follow Christ is rather to take the path chosen by the One who, in the face of the evils of his time and of all times, embraced the Cross with determination, following the longer but more effective path of love.

 

Following in his footsteps and united to him, we must all strive to oppose evil with good, falsehood with truth and hatred with love.

 

In the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, I wanted to present this love as the secret of our personal and ecclesial conversion. Referring to Paul's words to the Corinthians, "the love of Christ urges us on" (II Corinthians 5: 14), I stressed that "the consciousness that, in Christ, God has given himself for us, even unto death, must inspire us to live no longer for ourselves but for him, and, with him, for others" (n. 33).

 

Furthermore, love, as Jesus says today in the Gospel, must be expressed in practical acts for our neighbour, and especially for the poor and the needy, always subordinating the value of "good works" to the sincerity of the relationship with our "Father who is in Heaven", who "sees in secret" and "will reward" all whose good actions are humble and disinterested (cf. Matthew 6: 1, 4, 6, 18).

The manifestation of love is one of the essential elements in the life of Christians who are encouraged by Jesus to be the light of the world,
so that by seeing their "good works", people give glory to God (cf. Matthew 5: 16).

 

This recommendation to us is particularly appropriate at the beginning of Lent, so that we may understand better and better that "for the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity... but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being" (Deus Caritas Est, n. 25).

True love is expressed in acts that exclude no one, after the example of the Good Samaritan who, with great openness of heart, helped a stranger in difficulty whom he had met "by chance" along the way (cf. Luke 10: 31).

 

Your Eminences, venerable Brothers in the Epsicopate and in the Priesthood, dear men and women religious and lay faithful, all of whom I greet with warm cordiality, may we enter the typical atmosphere of this liturgical period with these sentiments, allowing the Word of God to enlighten and guide us.

 

In Lent we will often hear re-echoing the invitation to convert and to believe in the Gospel, and we will be constantly encouraged to open our spirit to the power of divine grace. Let us cherish the abundance of teachings that the Church will be offering us in these weeks.

 

Enlivened by a strong commitment to prayer, determined to make a greater effort of penance, fasting and loving attention to our brethren, let us set out towards Easter accompanied by the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and model of every authentic disciple of Christ.

HOLY MASS PRESIDED BY THE HOLY FATHER
IN THE BASILICA OF SANTA SABINA ON THE AVENTINE HILL

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Ash Wednesday , 21 February 2007

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

 

With the penitential procession we have entered into the austere climate of Lent and, beginning the Eucharistic celebration, we have just prayed to the Lord to help the Christian people "to begin the journey of true conversion in order to victoriously face, with the arms of penance, the battle against the spirit of evil" (cf. Collect).

 

In a short while, by receiving ashes on our head, we will hear once again a clear invitation to conversion which can be expressed with a double formula:  "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. In effect, today's liturgy and the gestures that mark it, together form, in anticipation and in a synthetic way, the very physiognomy of the entire period of Lent.

 

In her tradition, the Church does not limit herself to offering us liturgical and spiritual themes for the Lenten journey, but also points out to us ascetical instruments and practices to benefit from them.

 

"[R]eturn to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping and mourning". The First Reading opens with these words of the Prophet Joel (2: 12). The suffering and calamities that afflicted the land of Judah in that time impel the sacred author to encourage the Chosen People to conversion, to return, that is, with filial trust to the Lord, rending their hearts and not their garments.

The prophet recalls, in fact, that [God] "is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, rich in kindness and relenting in punishment" (2: 13). Joel's invitation, addressed to his listeners, also applies to us, dear brothers and sisters. Let us not hesitate to rediscover the friendship of God lost by sin; encountering the Lord, we experience the joy of his forgiveness.

 

And so, almost responding to the words of the Prophet, we have made our own the invocation of the Responsorial Psalm: "Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned". Proclaiming Psalm 50, the great penitential Psalm, we appeal to divine mercy, we ask the Lord that by the power of his love he give us the joy of being saved.

 

With this spirit we begin the "acceptable time" of Lent, as St Paul reminds us in the Second Reading, to allow ourselves to be reconciled with God in Christ Jesus.

 

The Apostle introduces himself as an ambassador of Christ and clearly shows precisely how, in virtue of Christ, the sinner - that is each one of us - is offered the possibility of authentic reconciliation. "For our sakes God made him who did not know sin" he said, "to be sin, so that in him we might become the very holiness of God" (II Corinthians 5: 21).

 

Only Christ can transform every situation of sin into newness of grace. This is why the spiritual exhortation of Paul, addressed to the Christians of Corinth, has a strong impact:  "We implore you in Christ's name:  be reconciled to God"; and again:  "Now is the acceptable time! Now is the day of salvation!" (5: 20; 6: 2).

 

While Joel spoke of the future day of the Lord as a day of terrible judgment, St Paul, referring to the words of the Prophet Isaiah, speaks of the "acceptable time", of the "day of salvation". The future day of the Lord has become the "today". The terrible day is transformed by the Cross and Resurrection of Christ into the day of salvation. And this day is now, as we have heard in the Gospel verse: "If today you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts". The call to conversion, to penance, resounds today with all its strength, so that its echo accompanies us in every moment of life.

 

The Ash Wednesday liturgy indicates the fundamental dimension of Lent in the conversion of the heart to God. This is the evocative message contained in the traditional Rite of Ashes, which we will renew shortly.

 

It is a rite with a double meaning:  the first is related to interior change, to conversion and penance, while the second recalls the precarious human condition, as it is easy to understand from the two different formulas that accompany the gesture.

 

Here in Rome, the penitential procession of Ash Wednesday begins at the Church of Sant'Anselmo and concludes in this Basilica of Santa Sabina, where the first station of Lent takes place.

In regard to this it is interesting to remember that the ancient Roman Liturgy, through the Lenten Stations, elaborated a singular geography of faith, starting from the idea that, with the arrival of the Apostles Peter and Paul and with the destruction of the Temple, Jerusalem was transferred to Rome.

 

Christian Rome was understood as a reconstruction of the Jerusalem of the time of Jesus within the walls of the City.

 

This new interior and spiritual geography, inherent in the tradition of the Lenten Station Churches, is not simply a memory of the past, nor an empty anticipation of the future; on the contrary, it intends to help the faithful along the interior journey, the journey of conversion and reconciliation, in order to reach the glory of the heavenly Jerusalem where God dwells.

 

Dear brothers and sisters, we have 40 days to deepen this extraordinary ascetical and spiritual experience. In the Gospel that has been proclaimed, Jesus indicates some of the useful instruments to accomplish an authentic interior and communitarian renewal:  the works of charity (almsgiving), prayer and penance (fasting).

 

They are the three fundamental practices also dear to the Hebrew tradition, because they contribute to the purification of man before God (cf. Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18). Such exterior gestures, which are done to please God and not to obtain the approval and consensus of men, are acceptable to him if they express the determination of the heart to serve him with simplicity and generosity.

 

 

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28 March 2015, 7:00am SGT