Ashes are a sign of weakness and human frailty. This residue becomes crucial thanks to the presence of a God who loves to mold His creatures out of mud and His vital breath. This composition makes the image and similarity to the Author of life visible. Every man needs to feel and touch these ashes, in order to enjoy beauty of being a person and going beyond the bodily dimension.
In ancient penitential practice, the rite of ashes was an appointment during which the penitent was called to repent publicly, renewing his commitment to conversion to the Lord.
Thus, on this day called “Ash Wednesday” begins the special time of Lent. This time, however, everything is even more special because of the Jubilee of Mercy and some of Pope Francis’ unique actions. Precisely today, for the first time in the history of the Church, the Pope sends his priests ministers to represent him in the world and absolve sins whose forgiveness is reserved to the Holy Father.
The other historic step is the upcoming meeting between the Successor of Peter and the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church in Cuba. There is an incredibly complex and delicate work that is invisible to many people. More than that, the majority of those who work in the “parlor” sometimes seem to be more committed to gossiping rather than observing with deep knowledge and making an objective analysis.
Bergoglio is leaning towards the most delicate nerve center of our times, that is, peace in the world. He is aware of the dramatic consequences that may be triggered worldwide if we do not commit to political dialogue. The Holy Father does his job, that is, he tries to build bridges of understanding to solve the most difficult knots. Francis’ most extraordinary characteristic is ability to talk to the hearts of the individuals, showing his deep knowledge of the human soul with a disarming open-mindedness; at the same time, he has the gift of interacting also with those world powers that had never shown openness to dialogue before. Yet, many Catholics, unable to grasp the true meaning of his actions, take them for a dangerous relativistic aberration.
There can be no hope for a peaceful future for the peoples if we do not feed the flame of dialogue instead of the flame of arms. The successor of the Apostles tells us that what save the word is not judgment, but the love of God. We must think with our heart, accepting diversity but without selling out our faith.
Christians have the Lenten journey ahead to look deep within their conscience, asking Jesus to grant them the light of real change and sincere conversion revealed in the Gospels.
We need to go beyond perception and look inside the person to be truly able to partake in History. Thus, the man will find out again that he is not only ashes.