Therefore, in the punishment, and also in the malediction of the soil, there remains a good intention that comes from God. When he says to man, “You are dust and to dust you shall return!” together with the just punishment he also intends to announce a path of salvation, which will travel through the earth, through that “dust,” that “flesh” that will be assumed by the Word.
It is in accord with this salvific perspective that the verse of Genesis is taken up by the Ash Wednesday liturgy: as an invitation to penance, to humility and to an awareness of our mortal condition, but not to end up in desperation, but rather to welcome, precisely in this mortality of ours, God’s unthinkable nearness, which, beyond death, opens the passage to the resurrection, to paradise finally rediscovered. — Benedict XVI, Ash Wednesday, 2012
UPDATE: Thanks to Elizabeth, here is the English translation of today’s Papal speech. It is almost certainly the last public homily of Papa Benedetto’s papacy – a context that gives his call to trust, hope, and conversion more meaning than ever:
Dear brothers and sisters, we begin our Lenten journey with trust and joy. May the invitation to conversion , to “return to God with all our heart”, resonate strongly in us, accepting His grace that makes us new men and women, with the surprising news that is participating in the very life of Jesus. May none of us, therefore, be deaf to this appeal, also addressed in the austere rite, so simple and yet so beautiful, of the imposition of ashes, which we will shortly carry out. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and model of every true disciple of the Lord accompany us in this time. Amen!
(Image HT: Thomas L. McDonald)