Reverend Fathers and deacons;
beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,
Today, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the blessed Season of Lent. We commence not only our forty-day preparation for Easter but also our journey back to the Father’s embrace, to our true selves, and to each other. After a year of feeling lost and wading in self-love, we are given this opportune time to find our bearings and re-orient our life’s direction.
The Lenten disciplines of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving help us to deny and de-center from ourselves in order to re-focus and make space for God and neighbor once again. As we die to our sins, we can live for God. As we are freed from our self-pre-occupation, we are made free to serve others.
The Holy Father has called us to offer our fasting today in particular for peace between Ukraine and Russia. Through our sacrifice, we are led to the desert where we can commune with God more intimately and intercede in solidarity for the needs of others. The asceticism of Lent gifts us with the grace of compassion, where the grace to suffer the pain in God’s heart because of this war, and to suffer with and for the innocent victims of this invasion.
Just like during Christmas time, our country is big on Lenten rituals. With the help of our readings, how can we further deepen our Lenten observances?
Firstly, our first reading and gospel teach us about the proper origin and intention of our almsgiving, prayer and fasting. They should be done from the heart and for the Lord. We are asked to rent our hearts not our garments and to perform these righteous deeds not in order for people to see them but so that the Father who sees them in secret, may reward us in secret.
Ito marahil ang unang biyayang hilingin natin sa pagsisismula ng Kuwaresma na madama ang pagpupunit ng puso at gumuguhit na pagsisi dahil sa ating mga kasalanan. Kung minsan, minamaliit natin ang mga ito o binibigyan ng dahilan, palusot at paliwanag. Yung iba sa atin, ni hindi na binabagabag ng konsiyensiya, at sinasabi pang uso naman at ginagwa ng lahat. Pero alam natin na hindi ito tama. Hindi ito totoo. Hindi ito ok.
When contrition and repentance are hard felt, the weeping, and mourning from within, purify everything and sanctify our sacrifice. Clear about the intention of our piety, the Lord and neighbor we have offended, our practices carry with them, authentic love, meaning, and devotion. Saganang ito, hindi magiging mababaw at mapagpaimbabaw ang ating Kuwaresma sapagkat ito’y mula sa puso at iniaalay sa puso.
Secondly, our reading reminds us of the communal dimension of this return to the Lord. We are invited to call an assembly, to gather the people, and notify the congregation. We are tasked to serve as ambassadors for Christ who appealed to others on behalf of God. Be reconciled to God.
Sa isang kultura na walang pakialamanan at pagkakanya kanya, nakukulong tayo sa ating mga sari sariling mundo. Hindi na natin naipapakita ang pagkakapatiran at pagmamalasakit – positibo man o negatibo ang nangyayari sa buhay ng ating kapwa. Sa pagsasabi natin na wala ako diyan, buhay niya yan, umaalingawngaw ang mga salita ni Cain na, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Ito ay mga salitang binaliktad ni Hesus sa kanyang buong buhay at turo. Sabi ng ating Panginoon, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.” Yes, indeed we are each other’s keeper.
Kaya naman huwag natin talikdan at sukuan ang bawat isa. Sa larangan ng kabanalan, huwag tayong mahiyang magtama at magpaalala. Hindi mula sa pagmamataas at paghuhusga, kundi mula sa tunay na pagmamalasakit at pagkalinga. Dahil nakita natin ang liwanag, ligaya at kapayapaan sa piling ng Panginoon, ibahagi at iparanas natin ito sa iba. Baka nais mamanhik ng Diyos sa iba sa ating pamamagitan. It is right, yes, we collectively confess our commonality and sinfulness. But we also together assert that we are here for each other, to help each other, not only in words but in the complicated task of entering each other’s scales to raise them up to the Lord. It is easier to make a return to the Lord if the whole community is striving for, supporting and facilitating such return.
Lastly, in all these, we are moved and motivated, not primarily out of fear of God and the pains of hell, but because of the realization of the unwavering mercy and unconditional love of God for us.
In the words of our first reading, “O gracious and mercifully is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness and relenting in punishment. He is ___ with concern and takes pity on his people. This image of God should encourage and inspire us since we are making a return not on to a vengeful and punishing God but to a Father who yearns for us more than we yearn for him, was long been waiting for our coming home to him.
Ito mga kapatid ang pinakamalalim na pundasyon sa lahat ng ating pagpupunyagi ngayong Kuwaresma – ang ating pag-aayuno, pananalangin at pagbibigay ng limos ay tugon lamang sa nakilala nating awa at pag-ibig ng Diyos sa atin. At kapag ikaw ay buhat buhat ng dinamismo ng pag-ibig, lagi itong alaya, makabuluhan, hinahangad, di sapat at di ikinakapagod.
As the ashes we impose on our foreheads remind us of the scale of our sins and our humble origin and end, we also recall that these are ashes from last year’s palms. Palms that we raise at the beginning of Holy Week, of the Passion of Christ, ng mga Mahal na Araw ng pagmamahal ni Kristo sa atin.
Thus, our Lenten journey does not end in Christ’s love for us on the cross. Our Lenten journey can only properly begin with the remembrance of Christ’s love for us in a form of ash crosses on our foreheads. We can thus, walk chin up after this Mass for while we may be sinners, while we may be dust, we are so cherished and loved. By Christ’s cross of love, we respond in love and we are saved.
And so with the words of the Psalms, we pray from the heart, “Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.” (RCAM-AOC| Photo by Rian Francis Salamat | Photogallery)