Vatican City, Feb 26, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- On Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis called on Catholics to go to Confession during Lent to experience God’s healing love.
“We can receive God’s forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance because there the fire of God’s love consumes the ashes of our sin. The embrace of the Father in confession renews us inside and purifies our heart,” Pope Francis said in his Ash Wednesday homily Feb. 26.
“Only Jesus, who knows and loves our heart, can heal it. Lent is a time of healing,” he said in the Basilica of Santa Sabina.
Before going to confession, Pope Francis recommended, people should stand in front of the Crucifix and contemplate Christ on the cross.
While looking at the crucifix, the pope said one can repeat the following prayer: “Jesus, you love me, transform me.” After welcoming God’s love and crying in front of the cross, receive God’s forgiveness in Confession, he said.
“Let’s look inside, into our hearts: how many times do we extinguish the fire of God with the ashes of hypocrisy,” Pope Francis said.
“How often do we do things only to be recognized, to look good, to satisfy our ego? How often do we profess to be Christians, yet in our hearts readily yield to passions that enslave us? How often do we preach one thing and practice another? How many times do we make ourselves look good on the outside while nursing grudges within?” he asked. “We need to be cleansed of all the dust that has sullied our hearts.”
Pope Francis said Lent is not a time “for useless sermons,” but instead it is “a time of grace” to welcome God’s loving gaze and then to change one’s life.
To mark the start of the Lenten season, Pope Francis prayed silently at St. Anselm Church on the Aventine Hill in Rome before processing the short way to the Basilica of Santa Sabina for the offering of the Mass and the imposition of ashes.
As the procession of cardinals, bishops, priests, Benedictine monks, Dominican friars, and lay people made their way between the two churches, they sang the Litany of the Saints.
The tradition of a Lenten pilgrimage by the Bishop of Rome and Catholics in the city to the tombs of the martyrs dates back to the early fourth century.
“The ashes we receive on our foreheads should affect the thoughts passing through our minds,” Pope Francis said in his homily.
“If I live only to earn money, to have a good time, to gain a bit of prestige or a promotion in my work, I am living for dust,” he added. “That is not why we have been put in this world. We are worth so much more. We live for so much more, for we are meant to make God’s dream a reality and to love.”
The pope said that the earthly goods we possess will fade away, but the love we give to our families, to our work, in the Church, and in the world will remain forever.
“Ashes are sprinkled on our heads so that the fire of love can be kindled in our hearts,” he said.
“May we allow ourselves to be reconciled, in order to live as beloved children, as forgiven and healed sinners, as wayfarers with him at our side. Let us allow ourselves to be loved, so that we can give love in return,” Pope Francis said.