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Ashes: Prayer, charity and fasting

21 febbraio 2023


The ashes highlight the nothingness that lies behind the frantic pursuit of worldly rewards. They remind us that worldliness is like dust, which is blown away by a little wind. Sisters and brothers, we are not in this world to chase the wind; our hearts thirst for eternity. Lent is a time given to us by the Lord to return to life, to be healed inwardly and to walk towards Easter, towards that which does not pass away, towards the reward with the Father. It is a journey of healing. Not to change everything overnight, but to live each day with a new spirit, with a different style. This is what prayer, charity and fasting are for.


Humble prayer, done "in secret" (Mt 6:6) becomes the secret to making life flourish outside. It is a warm dialogue of affection and trust, which comforts and opens the heart. Especially in this time of Lent, let us pray looking at the Crucified One: let us allow ourselves to be invaded by the moving tenderness of God, and let us place our wounds and the wounds of the world in his wounds. Let us not allow ourselves to be caught up in haste, it is "the secrecy of love", far from all ostentation and striking tones.


If prayer is true, it can only translate into charity. And charity frees us from the worst slavery, that from ourselves. It brings us back to the essential, to the intimate joy there is in giving. Almsgiving, done away from the spotlight, gives peace and hope to the heart.

Finally, fasting. It is not a diet; on the contrary, it frees us from the self-referentiality of the obsessive pursuit of physical well-being, to help us keep fit not the body, but the spirit. Fasting brings us back to giving the right value to things. In a concrete way, it reminds us that life is not to be subjugated to the passing scene of this world. And fasting should not only be restricted to food: especially in Lent, one should fast from that which is addictive. Let us each think about this.


Prayer, charity and fasting mature in secret, but their effects are not secret. Prayer, charity and fasting are not just medicine for us, but for everyone, because they can change history. First of all because those who experience their effects, almost without realising it, also transmit them to others; and above all because prayer, charity and fasting are the main ways that allow God to intervene in our lives and in the life of the world.


O Lord, Thou who seest in secret and rewards us beyond all our expectations, hear the prayer of those who trust in Thee, especially the humblest, the most tried, those who suffer and flee under the din of arms. Restore peace to our hearts, restore your peace to our days. And so be it.


(from Pope Francis' homily, Basilica Santa Marta)


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