Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash and Oil

Lent begins. It is a season of penance, of conversion.

I want to convert and convert and convert until I am converted. I want to be born again, again. Wash my feet, Lord. Make me fragile and light, incarnating hope and expectation and wonder. Jesus. To set aside myself for her and him and you and them. I want Christ to be delivered into the heart of my world, to pick up where I have left off, to do what I have failed to do, to be when I am not.

I want to want it.

Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness.

Lent is the time to come back to our self. It is a time of particular intimacy with God, in the secret of the heart and of the conscience. It is in this private intimacy with God that the essential work of Lent is accomplished: the work of conversion.

And in this inner secret, in this intimacy with God in the full truth of the heart and of the conscience, words like those of the psalms of today's liturgy resound as one of the most profound confessions that man has ever done to God: “Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense. Wash away all my guilt; from my sin cleanse me. For I know my offense; my sin is always before me. Against you alone have I sinned; I have done such evil in your sight that you are just in your sentence, blameless when you condemn” (Ps 50,1-6).

These are words that purify, words that transform. They transform man from the inside. Let us recite them often during Lent. And above all, let us strive to renovate the spirit that leads them, the inspiration that has rightly so given these words a force of conversion. For Lent is essentially an invitation to conversion. The works of alms of which the Gospel speaks about today open the way to this conversion. Let us practice them as much as we can. But first of all, let us try to meet God interiorly in our whole life, in all it is made of, so as to reach this conversion in deepness, of which the penitential psalm of today's liturgy is filled.
– John Paul the Great, Homily for Ash Wednesday, 1983 (©Libreria Editrice Vaticana)

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