Although Lent is commonly thought of in terms of darkness and sadness, it is rather, an intensely meaningful time for the Church, says Benedict XVI. The Pope stated this in a homily for Ash Wednesday, during a Mass he presided over in the Roman Basilica of St. Sabina.
“In common opinion, this time runs the risk of being marked by sadness, by the darkness of life,” the Pontiff stated. “Instead, it is a precious gift of God; it is an intense time full of meaning in the journey of the Church; it is the itinerary to the Lord’s Easter.”
He noted that Lent is “about putting into practice an attitude of genuine conversion to God — of return to him — recognizing his holiness, his power, his majesty.”
“And this conversion is possible because God is rich in mercy and great in love,” the Holy Father said.
“His is a regenerating mercy, which creates a pure heart in us, renews our interior in a firm spirit, restoring to us the joy of salvation,” he added.
Benedict XVI affirmed, “God, in fact, does not will the death of the sinner, but that he be converted and live.”
Lent is “a journey of forty days where we can experience in an effective way the merciful love of God,” the Pope said.
He noted that we are “called to convert our hearts to God, conscious that we cannot carry out our conversion by ourselves, with our own efforts, because it is God who converts us.”
“He offers us once again his forgiveness,” the Pontiff stated, “inviting us to return to him to give us a new heart, purified from the evil that oppresses it, to have us take part in his joy.”
He urged, “Our world needs to be converted to God; it needs his forgiveness, his love; it needs a new heart.”
The Holy Father observed, “We can all open ourselves to God’s action, to his love, with our evangelical witness.
He continued: “We Christians must be a living message; in fact, in many cases we are the only Gospel that the men of today still read.
“This is our responsibility, following the steps of St. Paul; here is another reason to live Lent well: to give witness of a lived faith to a world in difficulty that needs to return to God, which is in need of conversion.”
Benedict XVI urged, “Let us begin this Lenten itinerary confident and joyful.”
“Forty days separate us from Easter,” he said. “This ‘intense’ time of the liturgical year is a propitious time to attend, with greater commitment, to our conversion, to intensify listening to the Word of God, prayer and penance, opening our hearts to the docile acceptance of the divine will, for a more generous practice of mortification, thanks to which we will go more readily to help our needy neighbor: a spiritual itinerary that prepares us to receive the Paschal Mystery.”