Pope at Ash Wednesday Mass:

Jesus calls us to return to our heart this Lent

Pope Francis celebrates the beginning of Lent with Mass at the Basilica of Santa Sabina, and calls on the faithful to take up Jesus’ invitation to “return to the heart.”

By Christopher Wells

At the beginning of Lent, Jesus invites each one of us to “go into our inner room,” Pope Francis said in his homily for Mass on Ash Wednesday.

“Going into your inner room,” explained the Pope, “means returning to the heart... going from without to within, so that our whole life, including our relationship with God,” reflects the reality of our inner being.

The Pope said that Lent offers us the opportunity to “go back” to our authentic selves, removing all the masks and illusions that we too often wear.

This, he said, is why “in a spirit of prayer and humility, we receive ashes on our head"—the ashes remind us we are dust, but dust that is loved and preserved by God: “The ashes placed on our head invite us to rediscover the secret of life” and allow us to feel ourselves to be loved by God “with an eternal love.”

Called to love our brothers and sisters

The Pope went on to explain that the recognition that we are loved by God will in turn help us to see that we are called to love others in turn.

The traditional Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, he said, “are not mere external practices,” but “paths that lead to the heart, to the core of our Christian life.”

Hearing the voice of the Lord

Pope Francis invited everyone to listen to the voice of the Lord calling us to “go into your inner room,” to “return to your heart.”

Too often, he said, “we find ourselves no longer having an inner room," especially in a world where everything has become “social.” But it is precisely in the secret chamber within each one of us “that the Lord has descended in order to heal and cleanse you.”

“Let us enter into our inner chamber,” Pope Francis pleaded. “There the Lord dwells, there our frailty is accepted, and we are loved unconditionally.”

Return to God with all your heart!

The Pope concluded his homily with the appeal, “Let us return to God with all our heart!”

He encouraged the faithful during Lent to make time for silent adoration, for time to hear the voice of the Lord in our lives, and to not be afraid “to strip ourselves of worldly trappings and to return to the heart, to what is essential.”

Finally, Pope Francis said, “Let us acknowledge what we are: dust loved by God – and that, thanks to Him, we will be reborn from the ashes of sin to new life in Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit.”