Brothers and sisters in the Lord, the season of Lent commences with the celebration of Ash Wednesday on February 10, 2016. In his Lenten message for 2016, the Holy Father, Pope Francis has asked us to “live Lent more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God’s mercy,” in line with his announcement that 2016 be considered the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.
There is a well-known Filipino dictum, “ang taong hindi marunong lumingon sa kanyang pinanggalingan, ay ‘di makararating sa kanyang paroroonan,”. I would like to paraphrase that dictum in this way:
Ang taong hindi marunong LUMUHOD (KNEEL), ay hindi makakamit ang ganap na Biyayang dulot ng Habag ng Diyos: ang buhay na Walang Hanggan.
Ang taong hindi marunong UMUPO (SIT), ay hindi makakamit ang ganap na biyayang dulot ng Habag ng Diyos: ang Buhay na Walang Hanggan.
Ang taong hindi marunong MAGLAKAD (WALK), ay hindi makakamit ang ganap na biyayang dulot ng Habag ng Diyos: ang Buhay na Walang Hanggan.
Following the Holy Father’s wish for us “to experience more deeply God’s mercy” – May I propose that we do three things this season of Lent: Let us KNEEL, let us SIT and let us WALK in communion with others.
To celebrate and experience more profoundly God’s mercy this Lent, let us learn how to kneel. There are several points to consider when we kneel. Kneeling expresses our recognition that we are in need of continual Conversion/Repentance. To Kneel signifies our interior desire to come back to the Lord in the spirit of repentance. “I will get up and go to my Father and say, ‘Father, I have sinned against God and against you’…” (Lk.15:18)
Thus, we see the importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation in Confession– our personal dialogue-encounter with Jesus where healing takes place. This encounter is an experience of being made whole again (renewed), because we have come back to the Lord even as we admit our own weakness, our own sinfulness, knowing that the Lord Jesus is kind and merciful, slow to anger, abounding and steadfast in His love.
To Kneel also signifies Adoration, our profession that the Lord is the God of our life. It means we are not God. In truth, God is the center, the goal of our life. He is the beginning, the center and the end of our life.
To Kneel finally means Service. To kneel is to serve. We stoop down in humility in order to wash our brother’s feet. When we learn to place God at the center of our life, we learn to move beyond our personal interest and develop a greater sensitivity to the needs of our brothers and sisters and a natural instinct to respond to them. “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother…”
To Sit down
There are many occasions during the season of Lent that we can marvel at the amazing and surprising ways God reveals His Merciful love for us. To discover and appreciate them, I invite you to step aside (stop momentarily what we are doing) and sit down in order to reflect and contemplate on the myriad ways God comes into our lives, often in unexpected and liberating ways!
To sit down means finding the opportunities to meditate, to enter into a retreat, to attend a recollection, to write a journal, to have a dialogue/discernment with your spiritual director, to make a daily examination of conscience, or better still, to make a daily examen of consciousness, or even, just to create an interior silence in your heart as you travel to and from your working place. In all these spiritual moments, we learn how to allow God to reveal to us the mystery of His Mercy and Love in the ups and downs of our lives, in the long and winding road of our journey towards Him.
To Walk with others
To walk means to leave behind the comfort zones of the security of our homes and to go out and get involved in the life of others, in the life of those who need our love and concern. It is to reach out to those who are hungry and thirsty, lonely and lost.
The Holy Father said:
“God’s mercy transforms human hearts; it enables us, through the experience of a faithful love, to become merciful in turn. In an ever new miracle, divine mercy shines forth in our lives, inspiring each of us to love our neighbour and to devote ourselves to what the Church’s tradition calls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. These works remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbours in body and spirit: by feeding, visiting, comforting and instructing them.”
This means that an authentic experience of God’s mercy moves one to be compassionate towards his neighbor, loving him by the exercise of the corporal works of mercy: that is, to feed the hungry; to give drink to the thirsty; the clothe the naked; to visit the sick; to harbor the harbourless; to ransom the captive; to bury the dead…and the spiritual works of mercy: that is, to instruct the ignorant; to counsel the doubtful; to admonish sinners; to bear wrongs patiently; to forgive offences willingly; to comfort the afflicted; and to pray for the living and the dead.
Brothers and sisters, let us all strive to kneel, to sit and to walk with others – making this season of lent truly a time of revival and renewal, a springtime of the spirit! God bless you!
MOST REV. JESSE E. MERCADO, D.D.
Bishop of Parañaque