A.S.H. for LENT
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the forty days of fasting and abstinence, the traditional preparation for Easter in the Catholic Church. The forty days of Lent is the annual retreat of God's people in imitation of Jesus' forty days in the wilderness. Moses went to the mountain to seek the face of God for forty days in prayer and fasting. The people of Israel were in the wilderness for forty years in preparation for their entry into the Promised Land. Elijah fasted for forty days as he journeyed in the wilderness to the mountain of Horeb.
Ash Wednesday, Dies Cinerum, 'The Day of Ashes. Once a year, we, Catholic, do something strange. It's the day on which we have our foreheads marked with ashes in the shape of a cross. The application of ashes reminds us of two ideals: “we are dust". "Repent and believed in the Gospel". We will allow ourselves to be smeared with ashes, with dust. For the first time children get their faces dirty without having to be rebuked by mom. What do we have to do this season? We propose a Lenten attitude from the very word: "ASH” - We admit, We Step forward, We hope.
ADMIT. With ashes we admit that the darkness of sin of the world is rooted in the darkness and sin of our hearts. Especially this Lent we refrain from our favourite pastime” which is blaming others, finger-pointing, and refusing to accept responsibility. This Lent, we Admit, we face the truth of ourselves. My fault, my fault, my greatest fault.
STEP FORWARD. We know once a year who the Catholic are when we see the ashes on our forehead, we get to identify those who belong to the Church. This Lent, we step forward and identify ourselves as Catholics. We step forward because of Saint Paul says, "We are ambassadors of Christ". With ashes on our foreheads we will once again be singled out as Catholics. We dare to step forward because we have received a mission from God.
HOPE. In the end after humble repentance of our sins and confident acceptance of our mission, we hope in the Lord. We hope in God's grace and we trust in his loving mercy.
A group of bloodthirsty religious leaders dragged a woman caught in the very act of adultery, ready to stone her to death. When the accusation was made and Jesus' approval was sought for the shedding of blood, Jesus did a strange thing instead by writing in the dust. We wonder why he did this. One meaning of his writing is simple: "Jesus stops, he pauses, he gives people time to think, to reflect, to hesitate before they carry out the killing. And when he lifts his head there is release, there is freedom there is peace."
Year after year, as we receive the ashes on our foreheads, we remember that it is out of dust that we have come and that it is to dust that we shall return. It is in the sweat of our face that we eat bread, till we return to the ground out of which we were taken (Genesis 3: 10). And yet, for all our mortality, for all our inclination to sin, for all the sorrow with which we are afflicted, the ashes are always there, the symbol of repentance, humility and conversion.
At onset of Lent is neither the priest nor lay ministers but Jesus who will write in the dust once again, this time on our foreheads. And Jesus will trace in ash the shape of the cross. That which was a symbol of death was transformed by Christ's love into a symbol of lice and salvation. The cross is now the sign of God's boundless mercy and forgiveness which alone can make us new.
May the liturgical and ascetic season of Lent help us to open our heart to the loving mercy of the Lord Jesus who forgives, reconciles, enhances and makes us worthy. Only he can grant us freedom and peace. His grace alone can transform our lives into a pleasing offering to God. Because of our hope and his grace we can repeat St. Paul's words, "Now is the favourable time! Now is the day of salvation!" WE ADMIT, WE STEP FORWARD, WE HOPE.
Fr.Joseph Phinh Do
Advent the season of waiting and preparation in joyful hope
The first Sunday of Advent is with us again, a curtain raiser, ushering in a new year of the Catholic Church. It is primarily a time of spiritual preparation for Christmas - the feast which celebrates the birth of our Saviour and the beginning of our salvation.
Advent begins today! What is Advent all about - a time of Christian waiting? Yes, the Israelites wait for the Saviour's coming to deliberate them from the bondage of slavery of Egypt, and or wait for Moses' return after over 40 days and nights at the foot of Mount Sinai. Such is the season of Advent, the season of joyful and expectation of the day of the Lord when He shall judge between the nations and impose terms on many people. This fullness of truth will be the principle and foundation of definitive and universal peace, which is the hope of all humanity of goodwill.
Advent also means coming. There are three comings of God to humankind. 1) A physical way in Bethlehem 2021 years ago. 2) The triumph final coming of Christ in glory at the end of the world. 3) At our own death - This is a mysterious Advent. God calls each of us by the inspiration of grace and through the providential circumstances of our lives.
The season of Advent is a special time for each one of us, whether old or young, to reflect once again the good news. That is news indeed. For not every news is worthy celebrating. Not every news is good news. We celebrate the awesome news that the Eternal Word of God became flesh, that God kept His promise, that God became man. This is THE GOOD News. In the midst of all the unpleasant, horrifying and bad news that we hear each day, there will always be one good news for us to hear and celebrate, namely, Jesus became man because he loves us more that we know. But His Incarnation is not only an event in the past.
Every day, Jesus becomes flesh in the Holy Eucharist we feed on Him. Every day, Jesus becomes human, most especially in the person of the poor; we serve Him. Jesus becomes a neighbour in our own persons; we manifest Him. Jesus becomes tangible in all of creation; we touch Him and He touches us. Every day is a day of the Lord's Incarnation; let us be the presence of Christ Jesus in the world, in the family, and in our school today. Let us show Christ our welcome.
During Advent the Church makes an appeal for an improvement in our lives. It calls on us to make a fresh start at building a closer relationship with one another. During Advent, the Church eagerly encourages us to prepare these four weeks in Penance, Prayer, Acts of mercy and Mediating on the birth of Christ. He will come to us in our lifetime, whether in his triumph Second Coming, or in the coming to each individually at the time of our death.
Henceforth, Advent provides an opportunity to look around at what need to be put right, to see how we have failed, and to access the ways in which we can do better. Above all it is a time to deepen our friendship with God by thinking of his steadfast love for us in sending his Son as our Saviour. It is only fitting that in return we should show our love for Him. If we do so, our vision of Christ will become clearer and a driving force in our lives. May God help us to stay awake and prepare in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ! May God bless us all and have a blessed Advent!
Fr. Joseph Phinh Do
An Upcoming thought of 40 days of Lent 2021
The Primary purpose of Lent is spiritual preparation of Jesus’ death on Good Friday and His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. The Church tries to achieve this goal by leading the faithful to “repentance”, which leads us to reorder our priorities and challenge/change our values, ideals, and ambitions, with the help of fasting, prayer, and mortification. All Lenten observances are also intended to lead us to our annual solemn renewal of baptismal vows.
The Season of Lent begins with the liturgy of Ash Wednesday. It is a journey of 40 days that will lead us to the Easter Triduum – the Memorial of the Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection, the heart of the mystery of our salvation. It was a time of drawing near to the living God.
The Season of 40 Days introduces us into a precise spiritual context. Forty (40) in fact, is the symbolic number that the Old Testament and New Testament use to represent the salient moments in the life and faith of Israel. It is a number that expresses the time of waiting, of purification, of return to the Lord, of knowledge that God is faithful to His promises. This number 30 does not represent an exact chronological period of time, marked by the sum of its days. Rather, it indicates a patient perseverance, a long trial, a sufficient length of time to witness the work of God. It is a time of mature decisions.
Now let us recall the meaning of the number 40
- The 40 (days & nights of Lent) first appears in the story of Noah. Noah spent 40 days & nights in the Ark. And Noah waits another 40 days after the flood, before touching down upon dry land, saved from destruction.
- Moses leads the Jews out of Egyptian captivity to the promised land for 40 years. On the Mount of Sinai, Moses remains on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for 40 days and 40 nights to receive the Law or The Ten Commandments.
- God took 40 years to shape the tribes of Israel into a nation of his own special people.
- Elijah the prophet takes 40 days to reach Horeb, the mountain where he encounters God.
- For 40 days, the inhabitants of Nineveh do penance in order to obtain God’s pardon.
- 40 is also the number of years of the reign of Saul, of David, and of Solomon, the first three kings of Israel.
- Psalm 95 also reflects the biblical significance of the 40 years, “For 40 years I endured that generation and said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they do not know my ways.” (Psalm 95)
- Jesus spends in the desert 40 days and nights. For 40 days, the Risen Christ instructs his disciples before ascending into Heaven.
We can find in these 40 days that lead us to the Easter of Resurrection the renewed Hope that enables us to accept every difficulty, affliction, and trial with patience and faith, in the knowledge that out of the darkness, the Lord will make a new day to dawn.
If we’ve been faithful to our Lord Jesus by following Him along the way of the Cross, the world of light, truth and joy will be restored to us. Thus, we need to make Lent a time of renewal of life by penance and prayer; we need to convert Lent into a time of spiritual growth, and we need to use these 40 days of Lent as a time to fight daily against the devil within us and around us. A blessed journey of Lent to you all! Fr. Joseph Phinh Do