February 17, 2021 – Ash Wednesday
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/021721.cfm)
The Season of Lent invites us to be closer to God. As Christians, we are challenged by the Gospel today to make ourselves available and free for God and for others. There are three best practices that by tradition would make this desire of closeness with God and others to be possible.
First, PRAYER. It is an invitation to be closer to God by becoming more aware of His presence in our life. Prayer is not limited with expressing and blurting out what we need and want. Prayer is our way of relating, communicating and being intimate with God who is so good to us, faithful and loving to us despite our sinfulness and imperfections. Prayer brings us closer into God’s presence. It allows us to encounter Him makes us humble before God to recognize our own limitations and sinfulness. Moreover, when our prayer focuses on God rather than our personal wants and needs, the more we also see and know clearly who we are. Hence, awareness of God brings us into self-awareness.
In prayer, we do not have to use plenty of words. To sit in silence for few minutes and being aware of God’s tremendous presence in those very moments would also suffice and bring us into a greater consciousness of ourselves and of others.
Second, FASTING AND ABSTINENCE. When we become aware of God, then, it helps us to be more aware of ourselves. Fasting and abstinence, then, is an invitation to recognize our thoughts, habits, behaviors and attitudes that continually prevent us from becoming closer to God and to others. To fast and to abstain is not just limited with abstaining from pork and beef or to our comfort foods. These are forms of self-denial to help our heart and mind be freed from what chained us. Thus, it would be good to ask, what is it that I will make myself free in this Season of Lent, what vice shall I stop or regulate? What habit or attitude shall minimize? – So that in doing this, I will make myself available for others, more generous and kind.
Third, ALMSGIVING. The Lenten practice of almsgiving is a way of making ourselves generous to those who are in need. If prayer makes us aware of God and ourselves, and fasting and abstinence is to make ourselves free for others, almsgiving is to become LIFE-GIVING. Almsgiving is, therefore, not limited to giving few coins to a poor beggar or a spare of our resources, but to generously give what is dear and special from us. Hence, we allow ourselves to be a gift to others. What is it then that I can generously give to others from myself in this lent? Is it my time and wealth? It is my presence and comfort? My helping hand and listening ear? My understanding and love? My concern and honesty?
Hopefully, in giving ourselves, we too shall be able to encounter real faces of our brothers and sisters even in this time of pandemic. Such encounter will certainly allow us to recognize God’s presence, making ourselves freer, closer and available for God and for others. Hinaut pa.