Pope Francis marked Ash Wednesday inviting the faithful to renew their hope in Christ's promises and their commitment to follow Him ever more closely. He was addressing the crowds gathered in St Peter's Square for the weekly General Audience. Pointing out that on Ash Wednesday we enter the liturgical time of Lent, Pope Francis said this time of penitence and mortification is actually a journey of hope as it is directs us on the path towards Resurrection, and help us renew our Baptismal identity.
To better understand what this means, he said, we must refer to the fundamental experience of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, in which the Chosen People journeyed towards the Promised Land and, through spiritual discipline and the gift of the Law, learned the love of God and neighbour.
The Scriptures, the Pope said, tell of a tormented journey that symbolically lasted 40 years, the time span of a generation, and that difficulties and obstacles represented continuous temptations to regret Egypt and to turn back. But, he said, the Lord stayed close to the people who finally arrived in the Promised Land guided by Moses.
Their journey, he explained, was undertaken 'in hope', and in this sense "it is an 'exodus' out of slavery and into freedom. "Every step, every effort, every test, every fall and every recovery has a sense within God's design for salvation, as He wants life - not death - and joy - not pain - for His people" he said.
The Pope said Easter is Jesus' own exodus, his passover from death to life, in which we participate through our rebirth in Baptism. He said that by following Christ along the way of the Cross, we share in his victory over sin and death; he explained that in order to open this passage for us, Jesus had to cast off his glory, he had to humble himself, he had to be obedient until death on the cross. "This doesn't mean that he did everything and we don't have to do anything" he said.
The Pope went on to highlight that it doesn't mean "he went through the cross and we will go to heaven in a carriage." That is not how it works.
He explained that our salvation is Jesus' gift, but it is part of a love story and requires our 'yes' and our participation.
With a heart open to this horizon, the Pope concluded, let us enter into Lent feeling that we belong to the holy people of God: "may we begin our journey of hope with joy."
Source: Vatican Radio