The rite of receiving ashes helps people reflect on “the transience of our human condition,” the pope wrote in his homily. It is like a medicine that has a bitter taste and yet is effective for curing the illness of appearances, a spiritual illness that enslaves us and makes us dependent on the admiration of others.”
“Those who seek worldly rewards never find peace or contribute to peace. They lose sight of the Father and their brothers and sisters,” he wrote. “Let us make a diagnosis of the appearances that we seek, and let us try to unmask them. It will do us good.”
Lent is also a journey of healing, he wrote, that requires living each day with “a renewed spirit, a different ‘style'” that is aided by prayer, charity and fasting, he wrote.
“Purified by the Lenten ashes, purified of the hypocrisy of appearances,” prayer, charity and fasting “become even more powerful and restore us to a living relationship with God, our brothers and sisters, and ourselves,” he wrote.
“Lenten charity, purified by these ashes, brings us back to what is essential, to the deep joy to be found in giving,” without pride and ostentation, but hidden and “far from the spotlights,” wrote the pope.
And, he wrote, fasting is not a diet for the body, but a way to keep the spirit healthy, freeing people from being self-centered.
Fasting should also not be restricted to food alone, he wrote. “Especially during Lent, we should fast from anything that can create in us any kind of addiction,” so that fasting will have an actual impact on one’s life.
“Prayer, charity and fasting are not medicines meant only for ourselves but for everyone: Because they can change history,” because those who experience their effects “almost unconsciously pass them on to others” and because these are “the principal ways for God to intervene in our lives and in the world,” he wrote.
In his written homily, the pope asked people to stop being in a rush and to find the time to stand in silence before God.
“Let us rediscover the fruitfulness and simplicity of a heartfelt dialogue with the Lord. For God is not interested in appearances. Instead, he loves to be found in secret, ‘the secrecy of love,’ far from all ostentation and clamor.”