Ash Wednesday

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By Arnold Van Vugt

The Living Spirit

Saturday, March 8, 2014

LAST Wednesday, we had the ritual in the Catholic Church of the priest tracing ashes on the forehead in the form of a cross. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the 40-day season of Lent, which culminates on Easter Sunday. The cross on the forehead reminds the faithful of the mortality of man. Indeed we are mortal beings; we don’t live forever in this world.

Tomorrow, you may die and your family will bury your dead body 6 feet under the ground. When they exhume you, after some time, they will find only some bones left and the rest is dust. That is all that is left over of you. They may put some flowers on your grave, and on All Soul’s Day, they may visit your tomb, say some prayers and they may shed some tears. That is all what is left of you in this world.

This may sound rather pessimistic but that is the reality for most of us. However, the time of Lent can be a time of optimism for us if we take the advice of the Catholic Bishops. Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle came out with a pastoral statement. “This Lenten season, Christ invites all, but especially the laity, to oppose degrading and dehumanizing poverty and to embrace humanizing and sanctifying poverty. In other words, Christ invites us to imitate his example.” During this time of Lent, we are invited to practice material poverty by taking up a simple life style and works of mercy and justice, to attend to the poor and aim for an economy of inclusion. That means that aside from material poverty we must exercise also a moral poverty, by strengthening our resolve to practice solidarity with the neglected and to denounce injustice and all forms of radical inequality.


The 40-day season of Lent reminds us also of the Exodus story in the Old Testament. The Israelites were liberated from a life of slavery in Egypt and after 40 years they occupied the Promised Land. That was a journey of 40 years through the dessert, a journey with many obstacles and temptations. It was a long struggle for them to enter the Promised Land.

The Exodus story is symbolic for the struggle of the poor to liberate themselves from poverty and slavery, by uniting with each other in a spirit of cooperation and solidarity. All of us lay people in the Church must involve ourselves in that struggle.

I like to inspire the members of my family to involve themselves also in that struggle for liberation of the poor and oppressed. Two of them are already working in a volunteer program of community development here in Mindanao. They sacrifice their time for others instead of wasting their time with playing video games or using the cell phone 24 hours a day. I am proud of them. If I can inspire my family to have that attitude in life, then I am ready to die tomorrow and hopefully they will always remember me for that.


Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on March 08, 2014.


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