AFP of Lent
Next month, we will remember the first ever imposition of community quarantine in the country. It is almost a year now and yet the Covid-19 continues to thrive.
Three days after Valentine’s Day was Ash Wednesday. It simply means time is fleeting and we cannot control its passing.
We start the Lenten season by the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday. From Ash Wednesday, we count 40 days and 40 nights to Holy Week.
Ash Wednesday is not found in the bible, but ashes and number 40 are. Ashes are old elements even among the prophets for atonement of sin. Number 40 is vivid in the life of Jesus. He went to the desert to fast for 40 days and 40 nights.
Ashes symbolize the transitoriness of life. The formula for the imposition of ashes is “Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). Nobody is exempted from death, painful it may be.
Ashes are also signs of repentance. It is not enough to admit our sins and faults. Repentance insinuates reparation.
The ashes symbolize detachment from earthly desires and pleasures. Materialism will not exclude anyone but we can guard against it.
It symbolizes grief for our sins. We read Prophet Joel 2:12: “Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning.”
Ashes are elements for spiritual retreats in the Old Testament until today. These are actually the burned palm branches used from the previous Palm Sunday.
The Book of Psalm 51:5 underlines the healthy admission of fault and sin: “For I ack-nowledge my offense, and my sin before me always: Against you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” It’s in admission that we can find forgiveness and healing.
The boastful will never experience the beauty of healing and forgiveness. The humble does. When we admit our faults and sins, we don’t become lesser persons. We instead are exulted by the Lord. When we admit our sins, we offer them to the Lord for forgiveness. The natural consequence is reconciliation.
St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Forgiveness is a gift from God to those who admit their faults, seek God’s mercy and compassion, and undergo radical conversion. To say sorry or apologize is not enough. We must have penance for our sins. When we are sincerely penitent, there is no space for hypocrisy. We strive to overcome our sinfulness, to be vigilant against the cunnings of the devil and against temptation. Let us spend our Lent well with Jesus.
During Lent, AFP stands for admission of faults and sins, forgiveness of our faults and sins, and penance for our faults and sins.
I am elated to be with the Basic Ecclesial Communities of Sagada in celebrating the Ash Wednesday, which many of them have experienced for the first time.
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