One of the things that I've been very grateful for in Benedict XVI's papacy is his clear and thoughtful writing, often much more accessible than John Paul II's works. Thinking about this, and about what to do for the Lent which marks the end of Benedict XVI's pontificate, I'd decided that my religious reading project for Lent would be to re-read Benedict's three encyclicals.
Today I can across the text of Benedict's homily at today's Ash Wednesday mass in St. Peters. It's fairly short and definitely worth reading. This passage in particular struck me, as I think it speaks to a problematic tendency in our current culture:
The prophet says: "return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting in punishment" (v. 13). It is possible to return to the Lord, it is a 'grace', because it is the work of God and the fruit of faith that we entrust to His mercy. But this return to God becomes a reality in our lives only when the grace of God penetrates and moves our innermost core, gifting us the power that "rends the heart". Once again the prophet proclaims these words from God: "Rend your hearts and not your garments" (v. 13). Today, in fact, many are ready to "rend their garments" over scandals and injustices – which are of course caused by others - but few seem willing to act according to their own "heart", their own conscience and their own intentions, by allowing the Lord transform, renew and convert them.