July 13, 2024

There is a beautiful link and consoling revelation from the passages in Genesis 3:19, John 3:16 and Acts 3:19. Notice the numbers and find a formula.
We started the Lenten season with the celebration of Ash Wednesday highlighting it with the imposition of ashes.
During the season of Lent, the penitential act, the singing of “Glory to God and the gospel acclamation “Alleluia,” are omitted. Flowers are removed from the sanctuary, and violet vestments that lead us to the penitential character of Lent adorn some parts of the church.
On the eve of Ash Wednesday, the community of Kilong in Sagada, Mountain Province gathered to collect palm branches from the previous Palm Sunday to burn and bless them. It was significant and memorable because young and old people attended the rite.
Kilong Elementary School (KES) started to celebrate Ash Wednesday last year. Hopefully, it will be institutionalized to help educate the children so they will eventually appreciate liturgical celebrations.
While I was imposing the ash on the kindergarten pupils, one kid after receiving the ash, stood by my side. She was innocently gazing and cheering at her classmates who were also receiving the ashes. She was curious and carefree but starting to know. The children did not understand the celebration but having them in the rite will incite interest and induce questions that will help them long for the liturgical activities.
The ashes are reminders of the biblical verse, Genesis 3:19, “Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.” The ash is a reminder of our transitoriness. Nobody among us will live forever. We will all die. Our bodies will decay and eventually turn to dust. We are all temporary.
The ashes are reminders of repentance and conversion. Prophet Joel narrates, “Rend your hearts and not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God.”
The ashes remind us of our nothingness in the eyes of God. Psalm 51 will speak elaborately of the mercy and compassion of God. The responsorial psalm says it all, “Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.” Only the humble and honest person can say such.
The Letter St. Paul to the Corinthians 5:20 unveils the spiritual reality that “we are ambassadors for Christ.” The gauge of a successful church is not the population of church goers but the effort that touched people to conversion and therefore are brought closer to God.
The ashes must remind us of the disciplines of Lent that must become virtues by its daily practice.
Why was the ash imposed on our forehead in a form of a cross? The gospel of John 3:16 should be the answer. “From dust you shall return but God so love the world that He gave us his only begotten Son to redeem us through the cross. We will not return to dust anymore but to his Father in heaven.”
Acts of the Apostles 3:19 will tell us “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that he will forgive your sins.” The formulary then for lent is, Ash + Repentance = Love.
Here are some doable spiritual disciplines you may add to fasting and abstinence, alms giving, and prayer. Attend regularly the Stations of the Cross every Friday. Approach the priests for a regular sacrament of reconciliation. Go for recollections and retreats.
Saying sorry or apologizing is not a sign of defeat but expressions of humility and valuing relationship. We don’t become lesser persons if we apologize. Instead, we become more and we receive more blessings from God. The Lenten season will help us to examine our life and lifestyle. Lent will make us more moral beings. Lent must help us restore our integrity.
Integrity is not what we do, not what we have, and not what people say about us. If we see ourselves as the volume of work we do, then we will abuse ourselves. If we see ourselves as our accumulation of wealth, then we can live a dishonest life and even step on people and their rights to have more. If we live to what people will say, we will be frustrated when they will not agree with us or speak ill against us.
Our integrity is our wholeness in God. When God is in us, our life will always be the incarnation of our words. Integrity is life witnessing. Life witnessing is the most powerful tool to educate the millennial students and pupils. They will feel us, they will see us, they will listen to us, and they will learn from us. We can only testify if we bear witness.
A junior high school girl with beautiful rosy cheeks approached me after the Ash Wednesday Holy Mass. She was sobbing. She requested for a pray over. She ventilated herself as someone abused and she is suffering from brokenness. She is longing for healing. From the crowd, I brought her to one of the corners of the school with her three supportive friends. We prayed for her healing and justice. We must help her gain her integrity.
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