Repent and believe in the Gospel

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By Luci Lizares

Thursday, March 6, 2014

YESTERDAY, we ushered in the Season of Lent. This year, the Season of Lent starts with Ash Wednesday, March 5, and ends with Holy Saturday, April 5. Lent is a 40-day season.

Some might think that only Catholics observe Ash Wednesday, but other Christian denominations like the Anglicans, Lutherans and Methodists also participate in the rituals and the practices of what is asked for the season.

Car falls into river
BACOLOD. A priest marks the faithful with ashes in their foreheads during Ash Wednesday on March 5, 2014. (Contributed photo)

When the ashes were placed on my forehead, Msgr. Louie Galbines said, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” Only five words but with a whole lot of meaning.


“To repent” embodies so many activities. It does not only mean being sorry for our sins, it also comes with the sacrifices that go with the repentance.

So what does sacrifice entails? Does it mean not playing video games, or eating “to die for food and sweets,” fasting from Facebook or Twitter (oh my!!!), refraining from marathon favorite television series, or abstaining from listening to Bruno Mars on your MP3 player, perhaps cutting down smoking (woooooooo!!!) or giving up alcohol?

The Season of Lent goes beyond these things. Lent is the time for purification and its time table doesn’t begin with Ash Wednesday and end in Holy Saturday.

When ashes are placed on our foreheads, these are reminders to jolt us to right the wrongs we have done. That’s why Lent is the season to confess our sins. It is called the sacrament of Reconciliation because once again, we come before God in all our ugliness and beg His mercy.

With confession, we are transformed into clean slates, purifying us and encouraging and driving us to healthy spiritual practices. Ashes are reminders that in the end, when our life on this earth terminates, back to ashes we will be whether cremated or buried whole with all our human composition.

We cannot carry our fortune, our fame, or our power. What will perpetuate us will be the good we have done to other people. What immortalizes a person is the love she/he has bequeath to another. It is the charity of time and patient sacrifices extended to another and given with love that eulogies are made of.

Sacrifices should not be within the time framework of the season of Lent. To practice the giving up of something or being kind and good to another only during Lent is not authentic generosity or self-giving.

Lent processes us to acquire this lifestyle and continue to grow in it. It is a difficult journey when we do challenging tasks in this purification but as Jesus says: “Do this in remembrance of Me.”

The burden becomes light because there is a significance to the offering. There is a lot of getting lost, detours taken in this journey but to try and to strive to get back in the imitation of the Life of Christ is the very essence of the journey.

We are not Christ (although made in His image and likeness), but getting there through the wounds we suffer, the mistakes we make along the way, prepares us for our own resurrection. When we care for our soul, then we cure it along the way.

During Lent, when we do our sacrifices, we must not flaunt them. Let us not be hypocrites as Christ says and announce the alms we have given to the poor or the good deeds we have done for this season or any season. Our good deeds will have their just rewards.

Pope Francis says that in the imitation of Jesus, “we are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters, to touch it, make it our own and take practical steps to alleviate it.”

He further says there are three types of destitution: material, moral, and spiritual.

Material destitution is for the people living in conditions opposed to human dignity. They are deprived of the very basic of rights. We must struggle to end violations of human dignity, discrimination and all types of abuse in the world.

He states, “When power, luxury and money become idols, they take priority over the need for a fair distribution of wealth. (Don’t we listen to this daily in the news?) Our consciences thus need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity and sharing.”

Moral destitution is when we have lost all meaning of life. They are victims of their own slavery to vice such as alcohol, drugs, gambling or pornography.

And finally Pope Francis adds spiritual destitution. They are the people who turn away from God and reject God’s love. Only God alone can truly save and free us from our inclinations to evil. As Msgr. Louie says as he places the ashes on our heads: “Repent and believe in the Gospel”, he is just echoing what Pope Francis says: “The Gospel, the Good News of Jesus which we Christians are called to proclaim, that God forgives sins and gives us the strength to overcome our compulsions to sin because God loves us and calls us to share eternal life with Jesus.”

Believing in the Gospel is a decision to follow Jesus no matter where He leads us. And following Jesus during Lent in our lives must include self-denial. He asks, “What can we give up in order to help others by our own poverty, and our willingness to do with less so that we might share with others whose basic needs are not being met?”

Lent calls us into solitude, silence and prayer. The basic necessities to come into close contact with God as expressed by Henri Nouwen. We can best care for our souls if we take time out to really listen to our hearts in silence.

Lent is a good time to be away from the noisiness of the world. We need not go to far-off places or make a pilgrimage to do this. All we need is to afford ourselves a little time to be with God to express all our nothingness, our unworthiness, our ugliness. This is prayer.

God accepts us in whatever state we are and His loving mercy will always see us through in all forms of our destitution. Taking time out to care for our souls allows that time to cure it.

Lets us be giving, foremost to ourselves, in our soul care because in curing it, we can extend care and cure others as well.

A Blessed Lenten to all of us!

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on March 06, 2014.


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