By FORMER SENATOR ATTY. JOEY D. LINA
Today being Holy Tuesday, we ought to start slowing down in our hectic activities and take time to deepen our Christian faith as we heed Pope Francis who asks us “not to allow this season of grace to pass in vain.”
In his Lenten message for 2019, Pope Francis said: “Let us ask God to help us set out on a path of true conversion. Let us leave behind our selfishness and self-absorption.” The Pontiff prods us to turn instead to the paschal mystery, the key concept of the Catholic faith pertaining to the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of mankind.
“The path to Easter demands that we renew our faces and hearts as Christians through repentance, conversion and forgiveness, so as to live fully the abundant grace of the paschal mystery,” Pope Francis explained. “Lent is a sacramental sign of this conversion. It invites Christians to embody the paschal mystery more deeply and concretely in their personal, family and social lives, above all by fasting, prayer and almsgiving.”
Fasting, prayer, and almsgiving are indeed the three elements that Christians need to do for spiritual growth during Lent, Pope Francis said.
“Fasting is learning to change our attitude towards others and all of creation, turning away from the temptation to devour everything to satisfy our voracity, and being ready to suffer for love, which can fill the emptiness of our hearts,” he explained.
The Pope said we are not to just follow the rules for Lenten fasting and abstinence, for that might lead to self-satisfaction. “Fasting makes sense if it really chips away at our security and, as a consequence, benefits someone else, if it helps us cultivate the style of the good Samaritan who bent down to his brother in need and took care of him,” he also said in a previous Lenten message, adding that fasting “allows us to experience what the destitute and the starving have to endure.”
On prayer, Pope Francis said that it “teaches us to abandon idolatry and the self-sufficiency of our ego, and to acknowledge our need of the Lord and His mercy.”
Amid all our troubles and suffering, refuge can indeed be found in prayer. “In the face of so many wounds that hurt us and could lead to a hardness of heart, we are called to dive into the sea of prayer, which is the sea of the boundless love of God,” the Pope had also said.
The giving of alms to the poor, the Pontiff explained, allows us to “escape from the insanity of hoarding everything for ourselves in the illusory belief that we can secure a future that does not belong to us.” In doing what are necessary for spiritual growth, Pope Francis said that the Lord wants a sincere approach and not that of hypocrites who “disguise themselves as good people” and think of themselves as “better than others.”
I’ve always considered the Lenten season an opportune time for us to strengthen our commitment to the unending task of bringing about God’s kingdom in this world—despite all the evil, inequality, and destitution around us.
Every time we pray to our heavenly Father – in the words Christ himself taught us in the Lord’s Prayer – we ask God: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven.” If true followers of Christ act on His basic teachings to perform corporal and spiritual acts of mercy to make the world a better place, I’m quite certain these would help bring about His kingdom right here on earth.
The key to salvation lies on the two greatest commandments – Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind; Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39).
As I’ve said before, to love is to serve. Love without service is nothing. Loving and serving go hand in hand. Otherwise, love is meaningless. And the best way to serve is through the corporal works of mercy – To feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, bury the dead.
And there are also the spiritual works of mercy – To admonish the sinner, instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, comfort the sorrowful, bear wrongs patiently, forgive all injuries, pray for the living and the dead.
To truly love God and our neighbor as ourselves, we need to utilize our time, talent, and treasure to serve others especially as we perform the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
May this Lenten season allow us to experience God’s love and bring us closer to His Kingdom as we show our love for our neighbor.