A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Francis Speaks On Ash Wednesday

Pope Francis receives the ashesTwo kinds of reward

At the start of his homily, the Pope notes that, as heard in the Gospel at today's liturgy, we need to beware of practicing our piety in order to be seen and praised by others, when instead we should seek from the Father the “eternal, the true and ultimate reward, the purpose of our lives.” The reward from others instead is “ephemeral” and is inward-looking, he notes, seeking out admiration for ourselves which is an illusion that leaves us unfulfilled.

Ashes as an austere sign

The rite of receiving ashes on our heads celebrated today, the Pope notes, protects us “from the error of putting the reward received from others ahead of the reward we receive from the Father,” and marks an “austere sign,” that helps us appreciate the transience of our human condition. It is like a bitter-tasting medicine, he added, “effective for curing the illness of appearances, a spiritual illness that enslaves us and makes us dependent on the admiration of others.” Jesus warns us that “even prayer, charity, and fasting can become self-referential,” the Pope points out, and we must strive to overcome our often hidden self-complacency, and unmask and recognise our own hypocrisies.

Pope Francis distributes the ashesPurified by the Lenten ashes

The ashes can represent the “emptiness” behind our search for worldly rewards, the Pope writes, and “remind us that worldliness is like the dust that is carried away by a slight gust of wind. We would do well,” he said, to make Lent a time to be “renewed, to nurture our interior life, and to journey towards Easter, towards the things that do not pass away, towards the reward we are to receive from the Father.” Lent is a journey of healing that goes day-by-day with a “renewed spirit”, he added, and prayer, charity, and fasting are part of the process.

Prayer, charity, and fasting

The Pope stressed that prayer - in the hiddenness of our rooms - becomes “the secret to making our lives flourish everywhere else,” as it is a warm and trusting dialogue that “consoles and expands our hearts.” May our gaze look at the Crucified Lord, he said, so that our hearts are opened to the “touching tenderness of God, and in his wounds place our own wounds and those of our world.”

Prayer put into practice should bear fruit in charity, he went on to say, since “Lenten charity, purified by these ashes, brings us back to what is essential, to the deep joy to be found in giving.” Almsgiving “practised far from the spotlights” can fill our hearts with peace and hope.

Finally, fasting helps us appreciate things for their true worth, the Pope notes, and it can include things other than food, suggesting that we fast “from anything that can create in us any kind of addiction.” And may our prayer, charity and fasting grow and be medicine for everyone, changing history for the better.

March 2 2022


Tagged as: , ,

Comments are closed.