11 February 2016, The Tablet

VIDEO: Pope calls on the Catholic faithful to be reconciled to God this Lent

Francis urges those receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday to know the love of God and be reconciled to Him

During Ash Wednesday Mass in St Peter’s Basilica, Rome, Pope Francis’ homily addressed the reconciliatory power of Christ and the factors that inhibit us from drawing close to God.

Taken from the second daily reading from the letter to the Corinthians, the Pope called on the faithful to listen to St Paul’s advice and “be reconciled to God”. Accept the forgiveness of God that is freely given, he said, and recognise the need for mercy.

“God is greater than our hearts,” he said, and has the power to overcome sin in our lives, if we trust in him. Sin and shame are what keep us from God, but the first step in the Christian journey is recognising our need for mercy. He went on to say we must listen to Jesus who provides rest and refreshment for the tired and oppressed.

The Gospel for the beginning of Lent, which is taken from Matthew chapter six, offers us three remedies for sin, he continued. These remedies are prayer, fasting and charity. But he warned against these being merely external acts. Rather, he said, they must come “from the depths of our very being…with coherence and authenticity, overcoming hypocrisy”.

The Pope called on those present to receive the ashes together as a Church called to know the love of God and be reconciled to Him. The Pope himself received ashes from Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St Peter’s.

At the end of Mass, Francis commissioned hundreds of ‘Missionaries of Mercy’ – more than 700 of the 1,142 priests from all over the world who have volunteered, or been nominated by their bishops, to embody the virtue of mercy in their communities.

Addressing the missionaries, Pope Francis said: “May Christ’s voice resound in their words and Christ’s heart in their gestures”.

In the Papal Bull announcing the Year of Mercy, the Pope described the 'Missionaries of Mercy' as “living signs of the Father’s readiness to welcome those in search of his pardon”. He said he conferred on them the authority to absolve “even those sins reserved to the Holy See”. Such sins would include an attempt on the life of the Pope or a priest who violates the seal of the confessional.



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