Saturday, February 13, 2016

Ash Wednesday in the Year of Mercy

Jesus, I trust in you!
Let us hasten to the Inner Room to meet the Father

We once again open the Lenten season with the celebration of Ash Wednesday. During this season, we engage in acts of penance and piety. We fast, we pray, and we give alms to the poor. We go to Church today in the age-old tradition of receiving ashes on our heads as a sign of sorrow for our sins. In the Old Testament, people wore sack cloth and put ashes on their head as they fasted and prayed. We do the same today. Let us remember that the ashes on our heads are signs of true contrition for our sins. Publicly, we acknowledge that we have sinned and by acts of penance, we want to take responsibility for what we have done as we seek the forgiveness of the Lord.

On this Year of Mercy, let us listen to God’s Word which invites us to return to the Lord: “Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord your God!” The prophet Joel emphasizes the importance of interior conversion: Rend your hearts, not your garments! Even the Lord Jesus teaches us of the primacy of the heart, that “inner room” where we should go and meet the Father who sees everything in secret.  We do not need to put up a show, to make an elaborate production number to entertain judges. All the Lord wants us to do is to fast in secret, to pray from the heart, and to be sincere in our charity. This is what it means to rend our hearts and not our garments.

But why do we return to the Lord? What is the motive of our interior conversion? We return to the Lord because the Lord has revealed himself to us as a Father who is rich in mercy: “Return to the Lord your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.” St. John Paul II said that when Israel broke her covenant with God by worshiping the golden calf, “The Lord himself triumphed over this act of breaking the covenant when He solemnly declared to Moses that He was a ‘God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.’ It is in this central revelation that the chosen people…will find, every time that they have sinned, the strength and motive for turning to the Lord to remind him of what He exactly revealed about Himself and to beseech His forgiveness.” (Dives in Misericordia, 4.)

This is exactly the reason why turn to him in spite of our sins: the Lord Jesus revealed to us that the Father is rich in mercy. Kaya nga malakas ang loob nating humingi ng awa ay sapagkat sinabi niya na mayaman siya sa awa. Kung walang awa ang Diyos, matatakot tayo at mag-aatubiling lumapit sa kanya. Kung walang awa ang Panginoon, walang sinuman sa atin ang aamin sa kanyang pagkakasala. Kaya nagtago sina Adan at Eba noong sila ay nagkasala ay sapagkat labis silang nahihiya sa kanilang ginawa at hindi nila naisip na kaya at gusto ng Diyos na magpatawad. Lumalapit tayo sa Diyos dahil madali siyang lapitan. Humihingi tayo sa kanya ng awa dahil mayaman siya sa awa.

Let this confidence in the Mercy of God accompany us in our Lenten journey. Let our return to the Lord be done with quick and joyful steps. Let us not walk like convicted men led to their execution. Rather, let us be like children who race to return to the Father’s house. Make your steps light by fasting. Let go of your baggage by alms giving. Let us be quick to enter that inner room to meet the Father who sees everything in secret. He waits for you there. Do not delay your reconciliation to him. Now is the acceptable time! Now is the day of salvation!

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

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