ROME (CNS) -- Lent is a time for Christians to get their
hearts in sync with the heart of Jesus, Pope Francis said.
"Let the Lord heal the wounds of sin and fulfill the
prophecy made to our fathers: 'A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I
will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give
you a heart of flesh,'" the pope said Feb. 14, celebrating Mass and
distributing ashes at the beginning of Lent.
After a brief prayer at the Benedictine's Monastery of St.
Anselm, Pope Francis made the traditional Ash Wednesday procession to the
Dominican-run Basilica of Santa Sabina on Rome's Aventine Hill for the Mass.
He received ashes on his head from 93-year-old Cardinal Jozef
Tomko, titular cardinal of the basilica, and he distributed ashes to the
cardinals present, three Benedictines, three Dominicans, an Italian
couple with two children and members of the Pontifical Academy for
promotes the traditional Lenten "station church" pilgrimage in Rome.
In his homily, he said the church gives Christians the 40
days of Lent as a time to reflect on "anything that could dampen or even
corrode our believing heart."
Everyone experiences temptation, the pope said. Lent is a
time to pause and step back from situations that lead to sin, a time to see how
God is at work in others and in the world and, especially, a time to return to
the Lord, knowing that his mercy is boundless.
Lent, he said, is a time "to allow our hearts to beat
once more in tune with the vibrant heart of Jesus."
Hitting the reset button, the pope said, requires taking a
pause from "bitter feelings, which never get us anywhere" and from a
frantic pace of life that leaves too little time for family, friends, children,
grandparents and God.
People need to pause from striving to be noticed, from
snooty comments and "haughty looks," he said; instead, they need to
show tenderness, compassion and even reverence for others.
"Pause for a little while, refrain from the deafening
noise that weakens and confuses our hearing, that makes us forget the fruitful
and creative power of silence," the pope said.
Use the pauses of Lent "to look and contemplate,"
he suggested. Christians can learn from seeing the gestures others make that
"keep the flame of faith and hope alive."
"Look at faces alive with God's tenderness and goodness
working in our midst," the pope said, pointing to the faces of families
who struggle to survive yet continue to love, the wrinkled faces of the elderly
"that reflect God's wisdom at work" and the faces of the sick and
their caregivers who "remind us that the value of each person can never be
reduced to a question of calculation or utility."
"See the remorseful faces of so many who try to repair
their errors and mistakes, and who from their misfortune and suffering, fight to
transform their situations and move forward," Pope Francis said.
But most of all, he said, "see and contemplate the real
face of Christ crucified out of love for everyone, without exception. For
everyone? Yes, for everyone. To see his face is an invitation filled with hope
for this Lenten time, in order to defeat the demons of distrust, apathy and
The invitation, he said, is to "return without fear to
those outstretched, eager arms of your Father, who is rich in mercy, who awaits
"Return without fear to join in the celebration of
those who are forgiven," the pope said. "Return without fear to
experience the healing and reconciling tenderness of God."