Pope Benedict XVI: General Audience, Ash Wednesday 17 February 2010
Today, Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of the Church’s Lenten journey toward Easter. Lent reminds us, as St. Paul exhorts, “not to accept the grace of God in vain” (cf 2 Corinthians 6:1), but to recognize that today the Lord calls us to penance and spiritual renewal. This call to conversion is expressed in the two formulas used in the rite of the Imposition of Ashes. The first formula – “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel” – echoes Jesus’ words at the beginning of his public ministry (cf. Mark 1:15). It reminds us that conversion is meant to be a deep and lasting abandonment of our sinful ways in order to enter into a living relationship with Christ, who alone offers true freedom, happiness, and fulfillment. The second, older formula – “Remember, man, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” – recalls the poverty and death which are the legacy of Adam’s sin while pointing us to the resurrection, the new life, and the freedom brought by Christ, the Second Adam. This Lent, through the practice of prayer and penance and an ever more fruitful reception of the Church’s sacraments, may we make our way to Easter with hearts purified and renewed by the grace of this special season.
Kun, J. (Ed.). (2012). Lent with Pope Benedict XVI: Meditations for Every Day. Maryland: The Word Among Us Press.