Wednesday audience with the man-in-white.
Ash Wednesday was a day of new beginnings. On St Peter’s square, we got the first glimpse of spring as glorious blue skies surrounded a dazzling bright piazza, colonnades shining in the golden light that welcomed thousands of pilgrims to share in the first Lenten reflection of the man-in-white: our Holy Father.
Today was not just a foretaste of spring however, but of springtime in our faith, as we set off on our journey to Jerusalem.
“Today, Ash Wednesday,” Pope Francis began, “begins our Lenten journey of penance, prayer and conversion in preparation for the Church’s annual celebration of the saving mysteries of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.”
He explained that in the following days the Church invites each one of us to “ponder with joy and gratitude God’s immense love revealed in the paschal mystery and to live ever more fully the new life we have received in Baptism.”
It is springtime for our faith; a new beginning; a new journey, to Christ the Saviour and new life in Him.
“This journey of spiritual renewal in the footsteps of Christ” explains Francis, “also calls us to acknowledge and respond to the growing spiritual and material poverty in our midst.”
He talked about the importance of embracing the culture of life and “resisting the pressure of a culture that thinks it can do without God”; a culture of death, “where parents no longer teach their children to pray, where violence, poverty and social decay are taken for granted.”
Pope Francis prayed that during this Lent, both individuals and communities might embrace and “heed” the Word of God, that we use this time to “reflect on the mysteries of our faith, practice acts of penance and charity, and open our hearts ever more fully to God’s grace and to the needs of our brothers and sisters. “
He finished by greeting the pilgrims by language: “A big hello to all the English speaking pilgrims here at the audience today!” he beamed. “Especially those from Malta, Denmark, Sweden, Indonesia, Canada and the United States.”
“May the Lenten journey we begin today bring us to Easter with hearts purified and renewed by the grace of the Holy Spirit. I pray for joy and peace for you and your families in Christ our Redeemer!”