Rend your heart, not the clothing of artificial penance without [an eternal] future.
Rend your heart, not the clothing of technical fasting of compliance that [only serves to keep us] satisfied.
Rend your heart, not the clothing of egotistical and superficial prayer that does not reach the inmost part of [your] life to allow it to be touched by God. Rend your heart, that we may say with the Psalmist: “We have sinned.” “The wound of the soul is sin: Oh, poor wounded one, recognize your Doctor! Show him the wounds of your faults. And, since from Him our most secret thoughts cannot hide themselves, make the cry of your heart felt [to Him]. Move him to compassion with your tears, with your insistence ¡beg him! Let Him hear your sighs, that your pain reaches Him so that, at the end, He can tell you: The Lord has forgiven your sins.” (St. Gregory the Great)
This is the reality of our human condition. This is the truth that approaches authentic reconciliation between God and men. This is not a matter of discrediting [one’s] self-worth but of penetrating, to its fullest depth, our heart and to take charge of the mystery of suffering and pain that had tied us down for centuries, for thousands of years, [in fact,] forever.
Rend your hearts so that through this opening we can truly see.
Rend your hearts, open your hearts, because only with [such a] heart can we allow the entry of the merciful love of the Father, who loves us and heals us.
Rend your hearts the prophet says, and Paul asks us — almost on his knees — “be reconciled with God.” Changing our way of living is both a sign and fruit of a torn heart, reconciled by a love that overwhelms us.
This is [God’s] invitation, juxtaposed against so many injuries that wound us and can tempt us temptation to be hardened: Rend your hearts to experience, in serene and silent prayer, the gentle tenderness of God.
Rend your hearts to hear the echo of so many torn lives, that indifference [to suffering] does not paralyze us.
Rend your hearts to be able to love with the love with which we are beloved, to console with the consolation with which we are consoled and to share what we have received.
The liturgical time the Church starts today is not only for us, but also for the transformation of our family, of our community, of our Church, of our Country, of the whole world. They are forty days so that we may convert to the same holiness as God’s; that we become collaborators who receive the grace and the potential to reconstruct human life so that everyone may experience the salvation which Christ won for us by His death and resurrection.
Next to prayer and penitence, as a sign of our faith in the force of an all-transforming Easter, we also begin, as in previous years a “Lenten Gesture of Solidarity.” As Church in Buenos Aires, marching towards Easter and believing the Kingdom of God is possible we need that, in our hearts torn by the desire of conversion and by love, grace may blossom. [We need] effective gestures to alleviate the pain of so many of our brothers who walk alongside. “No act of virtue can be large if it does not also benefit another… Therefore, no matter how you spend the day fasting, no matter how you may sleep on a hard floor, and how you may eat ashes and sigh continuously, if do not do good to others, you do not accomplish anything great.” (St. John Chrysostom)
This year of faith we are traversing is also an opportunity God gives us to grow and to mature in an encounter with the Lord made visible in the suffering face of so many children without a future, in the trembling hands of the elders who have been forgotten and in the trembling knees of so many families who continue to face life without finding anyone who will assist them.
I wish you a holy Lent, a penitential and fruitful Lent and, please, I ask you all that you pray for me.
May Jesus bless you and may the Blessed Virgin care for you.
Card. Jorge Mario Bergoglio S.J.