Lenten words of truth and encouragement from soon-to-be-Saint John Paul II, from his General Audience on Ash Wednesday in 1998:
2. The humble act of receiving blessed ashes on the head, strengthened by the invitation that rings out in the liturgy today: “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel”, counteracts the proud gesture of Adam and Eve who by their disobedience destroyed the bond of friendship with God the Creator. Because of this initial tragedy, we all run the risk, despite Baptism, of yielding to the recurring temptation that spurs human beings to live in arrogant autonomy from God and in perennial antagonism towards their neighbour.
Here then is revealed the meaning and necessity of the Lenten season which, by its call to conversion, leads us through prayer, penance and acts of fraternal solidarity to renew or reinvigorate our friendship with Jesus in faith, to free ourselves from the deceptive promises of earthly happiness and once again to savour the harmony of the interior life in authentic love for Christ.
3. I make my own what St Leo the Great said in one of his Lenten sermons: “Works of virtue do not exist without the trial of temptations; no faith goes unopposed; no struggle is without an enemy, no victory without a battle. We live our lives amid snares and struggles. If we do not want to be deceived, we must be watchful; if we want to win, we must fight” (Sermon XXXIX, 3).
Dear brothers and sisters, let us accept this invitation. It demands arduous discipline, especially in today’s social context which is frequently marked by easy escape and practical atheism. The Holy Spirit comforts and strengthens us in this struggle. He “helps us in our weakness”, as the Apostle Paul assures us, “for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (Rom 8:26).