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Wednesday, February 17, 2010


NEW ORLEANS - FEBRUARY 6:  A woman prays after...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
I had a dinner conversation with a friend last night and the topic was on the matter of Lenten practices which we Catholics are familiar with and sometimes follow through with much devotional zeal.

We are already into Lent, today being Ash Wednesday. The practice of prayer, fasting and alms giving begin to take prominence as we move towards our 40 days of this penitential season into Easter later. We also have the abstinences for Fridays and other acts of charity that tend to affect on how we give an example or account for, in our day-to-day living as Catholics during this season.

All of these are to help us, the faithful, to take a break from our secular views and living, which we are so enamoured by, and to recollect and regain our spiritual identities as, truly, a People of God that we are. However, I am inclined to feel that, most of the time, this spiritual reality tend to be missed out altogether for something which borders on superficiality. Why so?

Perhaps, it may be that we see our ashen foreheads (or other Lenten practices) as 'badges of honour' that symbolise our 'heroic' gesture to fast and abstain, whose actions give fuel to our ego, instead of being more aware for the need towards repentance and a better acceptance of humility in our lives.

Perhaps, it may be our misunderstanding or total ignorance (or both) concerning the real reason why we abstain on Fridays which usually paints a superficially devotional picture to the whole practice. One of the usual replies given to the question on why we abstain, especially on Fridays, is that we want to remember Jesus who died on the cross and had suffered for us. While that may be noble, it doesn't address the real issue concerning Jesus' mission for humanity and what the commandment of love is all about. 

Our acts of abstinence in the context of our faith is to help us to become more aware of our fellow human beings who have no food or have to scrounge around for food just to survive the day. It is an act of Christian solidarity for the less fortunate and those who cannot get food on their tables and may have to go hungry for the day. This act may not be much but it certainly does give us a sense of emphathy and care that our abundance that we do have, can be shared when we look around and do something worthwhile to facilitate this need towards the poor and less fortunate.

When we reorientate our views concerning those practices which we have during this Lenten season, then we won't be quibbling about how to fast or abstain, is it 'sinful' if we forget to do so, how do we 'make up' for those fast or abstinence we 'missed', etc. It is all about getting down to our hearts and centre of our being for transformation, so that we can be life-givers to others. The Lenten practices must never become a source of pride on the one hand, or something oppressive on the other. It is a measuring stick for our individual practice. If we keep it faithfully, we must say: "We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do" (Luke 17: 10). It teaches us to seek our consolation in things of the spirit rather than of the flesh.
... return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God (Joel 2: 12 - 18)

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Young Minstrel said...

once a year only get to "show off (the Ash on our foreheads)" why not go leh! X3

(just joking lah)

Unknown said...

Some people questioned me..what is the different fasting on Friday and Ash Wed?.. and why have to wait 40days to fast and treat is as an obligation but not on every Friday...I did answered them but Im sure they not satisfied with that answer hehehe..


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