March 9, 2000
volume 11, no. 49

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    Today we bring you the Holy Father's Weekly Papal Audience imparted yesterday on Ash Wednesday from Paul VI Hall where Pope John Paul II, on the first day of Lent, reminded all of the significance of receiving ashes on this day and invited all to cross through that door of conversion and embrace the spirit of Lent through fasting, abstinence, sacrifice, almsgiving and prayer and call upon Jesus to accept our sinfulness and purify us in His Most Merciful and Sacred Heart. The full English text was translated and provided by ZENIT news agency ZE00030820 .

The Holy Father's Weekly Papal Audience from yesterday, Ash Wednesday, March 8, 2000

    Dear Brothers and Sisters!

    1. Lent represents the culminating point of the path of conversion and reconciliation which the Jubilee Year, this privileged time of grace and mercy, offers to all believers for the renewal of their own attachment to Christ, one and only Savior of humanity. I wrote this in my "Message for Lent 2000," and with this conviction, let us embark today, Ash Wednesday, upon our Lenten itinerary of penance. The daily liturgy invites us to pray that the Heavenly Father may give to Christians a way of true conversion, beginning with fasting, so that they may use the weapons of penance to fight a victorious battle against the spirit of evil.

        This is the message of the Great Jubilee Year of 2000, which during Lent becomes even more eloquent. Humanity, every person, is urged to conversion and penance, and is driven to friendship with God, so that he may receive the gift of supernatural life, which fulfills the deepest aspirations of his heart.

    2. Receiving ashes on the head today makes us remember that we are dust, and to dust we shall return. This thought, a human certitude, is not confirmed in order to make us passively resigned to our destiny. Rather, while highlighting the fact we are mortal creatures, the liturgy reminds us of God's merciful initiative to make us participants in His own eternal and beatific life.

        In the evocative rite of the imposition of ashes there resounds for the believer an invitation to not let ourselves be chained to material realities, which, however valuable in themselves, are destined to pass away. Rather, he must let himself be transformed by the grace of conversion and penance, to reach the bold and peace-giving summits of the supernatural life. Only in God does man fully find himself and discover the ultimate meaning of his existence.

        The Jubilee door is open to all! Let all enter, all who are oppressed by sin and recognize they are lacking in merit, all who feel like that dust which the wind disperses; let all who are weak and disheartened come to obtain renewed vigor by the Heart of Christ!

    3. The imposition of ashes is accompanied today by the traditional practice of fast and abstinence. Surely these do not entail mere external observance or ritual fulfillment, but are eloquent signs of a necessary change of life. First of all, fasting and abstinence fortify the Christian person in the struggle against evil and for the service of the Gospel. In fasting and penance, the believer is asked to renounce goods and legitimate material satisfaction, in order to acquire better interior freedom. This disposes us to listen attentively to the Word of God and to give generous assistance to our brothers in need.

        Fasting and abstinence must therefore be accompanied by gestures of solidarity towards those suffering and going through difficult times. In this way penance becomes a sharing with the marginalized and needy. This is also the spirit of the Great Jubilee Year, which urges us all to show in a concrete way Christıs love for those of his brothers deprived of life's necessities, victims of hunger, violence and injustice. In my Lenten message, I wrote in this regard: "How can we ask for the grace of the Jubilee Year if we are insensitive to the needs of the poor, if we are not responsible for guaranteeing the necessary means for life with dignity to all people?" (n. 5).

    4. "Repent and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:15). Let us open our hearts to these words, which resound frequently during the Lenten season. The path of conversion and adherence to the Gospel, which today we embark upon, makes us feel that we are all sons of the one Father, and reinvigorates our yearning for unity of believers and concord among peoples. I ask the Lord that every Christian may feel profoundly, in this Jubilee Lenten season, his responsibility to be reconciled with God, himself and his brothers. This is the road on which the wish for full communion of all Christ's disciples will be realized. May we quickly reach the time when, thanks to the prayer and faithful witness of Christians, the world recognizes Jesus as its only Savior and, believing in Him, obtains peace.

        May Mary most holy guide us in these first steps on our Lenten path, so that, passing through the holy door of conversion, we may all hope in the grace of being transfigured into the image of Christ.


March 9, 2000
volume 11, no. 49

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