We commence this year’s Lent journey, which begins with the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday. What sense would this have in the context we live nowadays? On the one hand, we enjoy a lot of progress, such as making purchases online, communicating instantaneously with people in different continents, teleworking, etc.; on the other hand, we feel powerless in the face of wars in many parts of the world: in Myanmar, Ukraine, Syria… and other armed conflicts in different countries that have been relegated to the background of the media, but that thanks to the recent trip of Pope Francis to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, we have been able to verify their existence.
Faced with this reality, we ask ourselves, what does Ash mean or symbolize in these times? As in all times, its significance hasn’t changed. It helps us to be aware of our human fragility; reminds us that despite human greatness, we are weak, and we need to pause along the way to reflect. It introduces us to Lent, a time of grace that invites us to take a closer look at our relationship with God, how we have allowed ourselves to be transformed by his love and that often arouses in us the desire to change many aspects in our lives, not only in the external details, but above all in our inner self, in the roots, in totality.
The Church invites us once again to deepen the three practices that it proposes for this time: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Prayer unites us with God; it centers us on Him, and helps us establish an order of priorities. Sisters, I believe that we have a lot to work on in this aspect. Is Christ really the treasure of our life? If so, we will discover that we do not need so many material things. This will lead us to fasting, to let go of unnecessary things and share with others; and even more, to get rid of our attitudes that prevent a true fraternity in community life. The alms that please the eyes of God are those that spring from a grateful heart, self-giving and sharing with others. This becomes concrete by partaking in the sufferings of our most needy brothers and sisters, showing gestures of solidarity especially to those who cannot give anything in return.
The Holy Father, reflecting on the Gospel about the Transfiguration of Jesus in his message for this season, points out that going up Mount Tabor, “Jesus took with him three disciples, chosen to be witnesses of a unique event.” This makes us understand “that our Lenten journey is “synodal”, since we make it together along the same path, as disciples of the one Master.” This path has as its goal a personal and ecclesial transfiguration.
In the same message, the Holy Father proposes two ways to reach our goal: first, listening to Jesus through the Word of God that the liturgy offers us daily. This listening “often takes place in listening to our brothers and sisters in the Church”. The second: “not to take refuge in a religiosity made up of extraordinary events and dramatic experiences, out of fear of facing reality and its daily fatigues, its hardships and contradictions.” Lent is not an end in itself, it is oriented towards the Resurrection and this should encourage us to continue walking and building synodality in our communities without fear.
Sisters, during this season may we allow ourselves to be transfigured by our communion with Jesus and, consequently, allow Him to transform our way of seeing life, free ourselves from our slavery and heal our wounds. “Transfigured”, we will grow in our evangelical responsibility and, hence, proclaim with joy and conviction the Resurrection of our Lord and love of God that we have experienced to our brothers and sisters.
May Mary, our Mother, take us by the hand along this path.
With my fraternal embrace and prayer
Sor Mª Asunción González, O.P.