VATICAN CITY (ZENIT) Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s address during his weekly general audience on March 5.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Today, Ash Wednesday, the forty-day lenten itinerary begins, which will lead us to the Easter Triduum, memorial of the Passion, deathm and Resurrection of the Lord, heart and center of the mystery of our salvation. Lent prepares us for this moment that is so important, for this “intense” time, a turning point which can foster a change in each one of us, a conversion. We all have the need to become better, to change for the better. Lent helps us and thus [allows us] to come out of our weary habits and lazy addiction to the evil that deceives us. In the lenten season the Church addresses to us two important invitations: to have a more lively awareness of Christ’s redemptive work and to live our Baptism with greater commitment.
The awareness of the wonders that the Lord has done for our salvation disposes our mind and our heart to an attitude of gratitude to God, for all that He has given us, for all that He fulfills for His people and the whole of humanity. Our conversion begins here: it is our grateful answer to the stupendous mystery of the love of God. When we see this love that God has for us, we feel the need to come closer to Him: this is conversion.
To live our Baptism through and through — this is the second invitation — means not to be accustomed to situations of degradation and misery, which we meet when walking through the streets of our cities and our countries. There is the risk of accepting passively certain behaviors and to not be astounded in face of the sad realities that surround us. We are accustomed to violence, as if it were daily news taken for granted; we are accustomed to brothers and sisters sleeping on the street, who have no roof for shelter. We are accustomed to refugees in search of liberty and dignity, who are not received as they should be. We are accustomed to live in a society that pretends to do without God, in which parents no longer teach their children to pray or to make the sign of the cross. I would like to ask you: your children, do they know how to make the sign of the cross? Think about it. Do your grandchildren know how to make the sign of the cross? Did you teach them? Think about it and respond in your hearts. Do they know how to pray the Our Father? Do they know how to pray to Our Lady with the Hail Mary? Think and answer for yourselves. This addiction to non-Christian behaviors and to comfort drugs our heart!
Lent comes to us as a providential time to change course, to regain the capacity to react in face of the reality of evil that always challenges us. Lent is to be lived as a time of conversion, of personal and communal renewal through drawing close to God and confident adherence to the Gospel. In this way, it enables us also to look at our brothers and their needs with new eyes. For this Lent is the favorable time to be converted to love of God and of our neighbor; a love that is able to make its own the attitude of gratuitousness and mercy of the Lord, who “became poor, so that by His poverty we might become rich” (cf. 2 Cor. 8:9). By meditating on the central mysteries of the faith, the Passion, cross, and Resurrection of Christ, we will realize that the measureless gift of the Redemption was given to us by God’s gratuitous initiative.
Rendering thanks to God for the mystery of His crucified love; genuine faith, conversion, and openness of heart to brothers: these are essential elements to live the lenten season. On this journey we wish to invoke with particular trust the protection and help of the Virgin Mary: may She, the first believer in Christ, accompany us in our days of intense prayer and penance, to be able to celebrate, purified, and renewed in the Spirit, the great mystery of the Easter of her Son. Thank you!