The Holy Father finished his homily on Ash Wednesday at Santa Sabina with an unusual expression: “polvere innamorata“, which the Holy See translated into English with “beloved dust“. This expression was used by Francisco de Quevedo (1580-1645) in a sonnet where he spoke of death.This expression has touched many of us at Santa Sabina. What was the message that the Pope intended to leave us?
Dust, ashes, they remind us of the precariousness of our human condition. According to the narration of the Genesis, the Lord blew his spirit into this dust which then became alive. We live in this duplicity: the fragility of our condition and the spirit that animates it unceasingly.
In his message for Lent, the Pope invited us to take seriously two gifts which we are being offered: the gift of His Gospel and the gift of the Other. I tell myself that the Other comes to us mostly with the signs of a fallen creation: poverty, suffering, sickness, defects…
But the Lord has faithfully loved His creation even with those signs of decay which have corrupted it. He has constantly loved this dust that we are, so many times without the sufficient strength of His Spirit that gives it structure. He has loved this dust that we are so much that death will never be the last word and, as Ezekiel prophesied, even the dried-up bones will come back to life.
All this tells us how we are called to discover the Other as a gift and a call, to love more without letting the defects of decay, to which our brothers and sisters are subject, prevail. The Dominican tradition is full of examples that encourage us to love and serve: Lataste and her sisters in prison, Dominic and the heretics, Catherine and the sentenced to death, Serge de Beaurecueil, and so on.
Seeing the Other as a gift really is a life program, perhaps starting by rediscovering those closest to us as a gift in which God becomes flesh for us; which is not always easy.
I wish you a good path to Passover. May the dust that we are retake that new breath that the Risen Lord offered to his disciples on the night of His Passover.