St Paul writing to the Galatians in Chapter 6 verses 14 says; “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
World over this 26th day of February 2020 marks the beginning of the lent period in the Catholic church. A time for serious, disciplined self-examination, a time spent in intensive prayer and repentance before the cross of Calvary. Not that these things do not and should not happen all the days of our lives but the church with divine wisdom sets apart this time as a reminder for perhaps something that has been forgotten or watered down. It is a time for preparation for the celebration of the risen Lord on Easter.
This day is popularly known as ASH WEDNESDAY and one of the most significant things that happen on this day aside the celebration of mass is the administration of ashes on the forehead of every christian. This always reminds me of the book of Ezekiel, Chapter 9:3–6 where he writes “The glory of the God of Israel rose from above the winged creature where it had been, towards the threshold of the Temple. He called to the man dressed in linen with a scribe’s ink-horn in his belt and Yahweh said to him, ‘Go all through the city, all through Jerusalem, and mark a cross on the foreheads of all who grieve and lament over all the loathsome practices in it.’ I heard him say to the others, ‘Follow him through the city and strike. Not one glance of pity; show no mercy; old men, young men, girls, children, women, kill and exterminate them all. But do not touch anyone with a cross on his forehead. Begin at my sanctuary.’ So they began with the old men who were in the Temple.” As I moved to work and I saw all these people walking with their foreheads marked it brought me immense joy that I cannot begin to explain. Just the thought of identifying someone who understands this season and time was a sweet balm on my heart.
As the priest marks one’s fore head, he says the following words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” This mark is a visible symbol of penance. This calls me to humility and is a constant reminder for me that I am mere dust. It is only prudent to treat my neighbor in a manner I want to be treated. Like dust, my life can be out in a blink of an eye regardless of what I have or look like. The things of this world that seem so important and precious will one day be no more, they will not matter at all. What a reality check that each of us needs time and again!
The first reading today was taken from Joel 2:12–18, He urged us to tear not our garments but our hearts and come back to God for he is compassionate; which spells out the gist of the season, a time to seek repentance, like the prodigal son to come back to our senses and return to the father’s house. The gospel reading from Matthew 6:1–6, 16–18 gave us guidelines on how to fast and the major highlight for me is to have reason and purpose as I pray and fast in this season. Not because it is the season or to show off to anyone but a time to get closer to my savior like never before. Not forgetting the 3 major pillars of this season which is PRAYER, FAST, ALMS GIVING.
Catholics have been accused of being too traditional and conservative but I tell you the seasons that the church put in place remind us of these important aspects of our spiritual livelihood that we may perhaps have missed if the seasons were not in place. It makes me so happy to be a part of the universal church. I love my Catholicism and I can confidently say, I AM PROUD TO BE CATHOLIC
I wish you a fruitful lent period, a season of stretch.