Sermon of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
(Fontgombault, February 18, 2015)
Memento, homo, quia pulvis es,
et in pulverem reverteris.
Remember, man, that thou art dust,
and unto dust thou shalt return.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My dearly beloved Sons,
These words, which the priest said when he made the sign of the Cross on our forehead, seem at first sight to be words of death. What is man worth indeed if he is but dust, and if dust is to be the ultimate end of his life?
What is the good of laying up treasures for oneself on earth, where the rust, and moth consume, and where thieves break through, and steal? (cf. Mt 6:19)
Yet, even as we refuse to believe that our lives are utterly in vain, a question arises from the innermost part of our hearts: Who then could give a body to the dust that I am? Who could give a new life to my bones, that someday will be dry? The answer lies within the gesture with which the ashes have been placed on our foreheads: the Cross of Jesus, the mercy of God, Who by His Cross bends down towards my misery and forgives me. The Cross must thus be the highest point in our lives. Christ must be the centre of our lives.
He who shall meditate upon the law of the Lord day and night, shall bring forth his fruit in due season. (Communion verse, Ps 1:2)
The law of Christ is to imitate Him. Let us imitate Christ Who prays, by making our prayers more devout and more assiduous, by meditating frequently the Gospel.
Let us imitate Christ Who fasts, by giving up voluntarily food or other goods. Self-denial should not jeopardize our lives, but it should rather be the occasion for us to remember that food and earthly goods are gifts of God, created to refresh us and not to shackle us. Moreover, fasting brings us closer to all those in the world who are deprived of food out of poverty, either because they are denied access to it, or just because there is no food.
Almsgiving is often conceived as a gift to poor people or to charities. Is that enough? It often costs less to give money than to give love or something coming from one’s heart. Let us not disregard the alms of a good word or of forgiveness.
But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face, that thou appear not to men to fast. (Mt 6:17-18)
On these holy days let us therefore enter anew the school of Jesus, and let us try to know Him better and better. Let us go up to Jerusalem, so as to die to the world and to evil, and so as to
rise with Jesus.
Let us entrust to Mary our Lenten path. May we remain with her even unto Calvary.Amen.