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NOW IS THE FAVORABLE TIME

Homily of Pope Francis, Ash Wednesday, 22 February 2023


“Behold, now is the favourable time; behold, now is the day of salvation!” (2 Cor. 6:2)


With these words, the Apostle Paul helps us enter into the spirit of the Lenten season. Lent is indeed the “favourable time” to return to what is essential, to divest ourselves of all that weighs us down, to be reconciled with God, and to rekindle the fire of the Holy Spirit hidden beneath the ashes of our frail humanity. Return to what is essential. It is the season of grace when we put into practice what the Lord asks of us at the beginning of today’s first reading: “Return to me with all your heart.” (Joel 2:12). Return to what is essential: it is the Lord.


The rite of the imposition of ashes serves as the beginning of this return journey. It exhorts us to do two things: to return to the truth about ourselves and to return to God and to our brothers and sisters.


(...)


Dear brothers and sisters, let us bow our heads, receive the ashes, and lighten our hearts. Let us set out on the path of charity. We have been given forty days, a “favourable time” to remind ourselves that the world is bigger than our narrow personal needs, and to rediscover the joy, not of accumulating material goods, but of caring for those who are poor and afflicted.


Let us set out, then, on the path of prayer and use these forty days to restore God’s primacy in our lives and to dialogue with him from the heart, and not only in spare moments. Let us set out on the path of fasting and use these forty days to take stock of ourselves, to free ourselves from the dictatorship of full schedules, crowded agendas and superficial needs, and choose the things that truly matter.


Brothers and sisters, let us not neglect the grace of this holy season, but fix our gaze on the cross and set out, responding generously to the powerful promptings of Lent. At the end of the journey, we will encounter with greater joy the Lord of life, we will meet him, who alone can raise us up from our ashes.

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