Catholics have ashes imposed on their heads during a service at Manila Cathedral on Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the Lenten season. (Photo: Manila Archdiocese)
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has released a Lenten message to nearly 80 million Filipino Catholics celebrating Ash Wednesday on Feb. 17.
Ash Wednesday, a day for fasting and abstinence, marks the beginning of the Lenten season.
The prelates said churchgoers should remember that life is never “only” about passion or suffering as Christ experienced on the cross. The resurrection of Jesus Christ gave meaning to all his suffering and death, they said.
“During Lent, we are inspired and reminded to carry our cross with confidence and with hope that we will triumph in the end … we are well disposed to meet the risen Lord in our celebration,” said the bishops in their message.
The prelates called churchgoers to revisit their “baptismal gift” as configured creatures like Christ.
“My hope and prayer during these very trying times, because of the pandemic and its multifaceted negative consequences affecting all of us, is that we come to a deeper appreciation of our being configured to Christ,” said CBCP president Archbishop Romulo Valles.
Archbishop Valles also said that hope is not lost if mercy and compassion are imminent in churchgoers’ life.
“To be reconfigured to Christ concretely means to do deeds of mercy and compassion, simply carrying our own cross and helping and inspiring others to carry theirs,” he added.
CBCP vice-president Bishop Pablo Virgilio David also said that the Lenten season is a time to humble oneself before God and fellow human beings.
“Today we enter again into a season of penance and fasting, and we are called upon by our readings to humble ourselves before God and before one another. We have ashes imposed on our heads, as close to our brains as possible, as a way of being reminded: keep this in your head — we are but dust and ashes,” said Bishop David in his homily on Ash Wednesday.
The season did not only call upon churchgoers to practice fasting and abstinence but to do works of mercy for the poor and for the nation, according to Bishop David.
He recalled the sacrifices of victims of injustice in Philippine society, particularly the families of drug war victims.
“I wonder how many people are unjustly detained in our country today … our cries to heaven bounce back to us when we ourselves are unable to hear the cries of widows and orphans [of drug war victims],” said Bishop David.
“We will all end up as dust and ashes. This is the statement that we make as we enter again into the season of Lent; it is a statement that becomes meaningful only if we learn to strip ourselves of any kind of boastfulness, arrogance or haughtiness.”
Meanwhile, Manila apostolic Bishop Broderick Pabillo had urged churchgoers to begin scrutinizing the backgrounds of politicians who will run in the 2022 national elections.
“The voters should be discerning … they should start their research on them [potential candidates]. Who are these people? What have they accomplished? What can they contribute to the country? As early as now, people should be talking about it,” Bishop Pabillo said in his homily at Manila Cathedral.