MANILA, Philippines — Less than 2 months after the festive season of Christmas, the Catholic Church will begin the penitential 40 days of Lent through the observance of Ash Wednesday, February 22.
In his weekend program The Word Exposed, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle reminded Catholics to attend Church services on Wednesday and have ashes put on their foreheads “not only for the traditional compliance but out of sincere contrition for our sins and out of our desire to humbly submit to God.”
“Hinihintay tayo ng Ama na magbalik sa Kanyang piling. Huwag nating tigasan ang ating puso. Tayo’y maging bukas sa pagpapakumbaba at pagbabagong-buhay,” said Tagle, a renowned theologian and TV preacher. (The Father is waiting for us to return to Him. Let us not harden our hearts. Let us be open to humility and repentance.)
Catholics mark Ash Wednesday annually to begin the season of Lent, which commemorates the 40 days of Jesus Christ’s fasting in the wilderness “where he triumphed over the luring temptations of the devil,” Tagle explained.
Lent includes Holy Week, the last days of which are holidays in mostly Catholic Philippines. From Ash Wednesday, Catholics count about 6-and-a-half weeks before they celebrate Easter Sunday, the central feast of Christendom that celebrates the rise of Christ from the dead.
Why Ash Wednesday?
When putting ashes on the faithful’s foreheads, ministers pronounce one of two biblical verses:
- “Repent, and believe in the Gospel,” which comes from the Gospel according to Mark; and
- “Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return,” which comes from the book of Genesis
“This should teach us humility and gratitude,” Tagle said. “Incidentally, humus or humility means soil. The verse likewise reminds us of our common destiny – death. The transitory state of life on earth teaches us humility and invites us to live our God-given life to the full.”
“Let us not allow sin to ruin our loving and living relationship with God and our neighbors,” he added.
‘Correct your neighbor’
For his part, Pope Benedict XVI in his Lenten message, reminded Catholics to “be concerned for each other.”
“All too often, however, our attitude is just the opposite: an indifference and disinterest born of selfishness and masked as a respect for ‘privacy,’” Benedict said.
“What hinders this humane and loving gaze towards our brothers and sisters?” he asked. “Often, it is the possession of material riches and a sense of sufficiency, but it can also be the tendency to put our own interests and problems above all else.”
“Our hearts should never be so wrapped up in our affairs and problems that they fail to hear the cry of the poor,” the Pope said.
Benedict, however, noted the importance not only of caring for others physically and materially, but also spiritually. In particular, he said Christians should not hesitate to correct their brothers and sisters.
“We must not remain silent before evil. I am thinking of all those Christians who, out of human regard or purely personal convenience, adapt to the prevailing mentality, rather than warning their brothers and sisters against ways of thinking and acting that are contrary to the truth and that do not follow the path of goodness,” the Pope said.
Repentance among priests
The need for repentance extends to the ranks of Catholic Church leaders themselves.
In a series of stories this week, Rappler exposed the problems of a damaged Church ranging from sex scandals to profligate lifestyles.
The diocese of Pampanga, for example, faces the problem of having the highest incidence of priests engaged in illicit affairs.
Meanwhile, the controversial sports utility vehicles (SUV) from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office are reportedly still under the names of the bishops involved in the so-called SUV scandal.
Manila’s Tagle has called for accountability among erring priests. – Rappler.com