Thursday, March 6, 2014

Francis' Ash Wednesday reflections

    His homilies are not long and they are not flowery but they are thought provoking and inspiring.  I am speaking of Pope Francis, of course.  As promised yesterday, here are a few thoughts from his Ash Wednesday homily to begin our Lenten journey.  He speaks of three elements that lead to the conversion of the heart that is characteristic of this time of grace.  He says that "we are invited to embark on a journey in which, in defiance of the routine, we strive to open our eyes and ears, but especially our heart, to go beyond our 'little garden'."

     PRAYER is the first element.and is described as the strength of every believing person.  He says "In the weakness and frailty of our life, we can turn to God with the confidence of children, and enter into communion with Him.  In the face of so many wounds that hurt us and that could harden the heart, we are called to dive into the sea of prayer, which is the sea of God's boundless love, to enjoy its tenderness.  Lent is a time of prayer, a more intense, more diligent prayer, (one) more able to take care of the needs of the brethren, to intercede before God for the many situations of poverty and suffering."  Notice it is a prayer not for ourselves but for others.

     FASTING is the second element, and it is not something that should "satisfy" us, making us feel that everything is right and in order.  We are not speaking here of the formal fasting of the law.  "Fasting makes sense if it really affects our security, and also if a benefit to others comes from it, if it helps us grow in the spirit of the Good Samaritan, who bends down to his brother in need and takes care of him.  Fasting involves choosing a sober life, which does not waste, which does not 'discard'.  Fasting helps us train the heart to essentiality and sharing.  It is a sign of awareness and responsibility in the face of injustices, abuses, especially toward the poor and the little ones, and is a sign of our trust in God and His providence."

     ALMSGIVING is the third element and is a sign of gratitude for gifts received, for alms are giving to those from whom we expect nothing in return.  We are called to be a grateful people, aware that everything that we have is a free gift of God to us and not of our own deserving.  Gratefulness is a lost commodity in our everyday life.  The Holy Father says "Almsgiving helps us to live the gratuitousness of the gift, which is freedom from the obsession with possessing things, (freedom from) the fear of losing what one has, from the sadness of those who do not want to share their well-being with others."

     The Holy Father concludes by saying that "Lent comes providentially to rouse us, to shake us from our torpor, from the risk of moving forward (merely) by inertia. ... Why must we return to God?  Because something is wrong in us, in society, in the Church - and we need to change, to turn things around, to repent!"
Good words of challenge for the Lenten journey.

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