Gem of thoughtsIn a Sunday Mass at the Sto. Nino Church in Tacloban City, the parish co-pastor Rev. Fr. Isagani Petilos mentioned of what seemed to be an arresting word to some – the “discipline of Lent.” He talked of this in his homily as the universal Roman Catholic Church observes the onset of the Lenten Season, particularly with the Ash Wednesday on March 5. With the imposition of the blessed ashes on the faithful’s forehead are the works collectively called “discipline of Lent.”
Lent is widely known to be the season of penance, preparing the faithful to be worthy of celebrating Christ’s resurrection. “Lent is characterized by penance for our past sins, works of mercy especially toward the poor, and personal preparation for the renewal of our baptismal promises on Easter Vigil. Thus Lent has two features: penitential and baptismal. Our tears of penance renew in our hearts and souls the water of baptism,” states a preface in the 2014 Bible Diary published by the Claretian Communications Foundation, Inc.
In the Roman Catholic tradition penance are expressed by way of “good deeds such as prayer, fasting, almsgiving and listening to the Lord,” Rev. Fr. Rex Ramirez, the liturgist of the Archdiocese of Palo said. He expounded that listening to the Lord is not simply hearing but contemplating and following what Christ Jesus tells the faithful to do. These basic good habits which are known as discipline of Lent, are meant to strengthen the spirit of the believers towards their conversion or return to the Lord,” he added.
While there are those who would jest that fasting and abstinence are common nowadays among survivors of supertyphoon Yolanda and among those who are desperate to lose more weight through a fad diet, the local is consistent that these deeds should be done in the essence of penance and piety, giving alms to the poor.
The alms need not be handed directly to the poor themselves. As Rev. Fr. Oscar Florencio, the Rector of St. John the Evangelist School of Theology (SJEST) and originally was appointed in-charge of the relief operation of the Archdiocese of Palo’s disaster response committee, these alms could be coursed through the church for an organized way of giving to the poor. This has the same effect as that of almsgiving, he said.
He, nevertheless stressed in a phone interview, that doing these acts of piety during Lent should not simply be mechanical but should be coupled with contrite heart. He said that the faithful “gets indulgence and forgiveness of their venial sins if he has forgiveness in is heart,” underscoring the need for the penitent to “make amends and reconcile first with those you have wronged or has done you wrong.” Capital or mortal sins, as he and other priests would time and again reiterate, should always be sought forgiveness through the sacrament of confession.
Besides forgiveness, a truly penitent faithful who does the good deeds could also obtain a more exulting effect – bring him to closer to God and ultimately to Heaven, according to Fr. Ramirez. By this discipline, sins, which occur out of man’s weaknesses and which hinder the faithful in going nearer to the Lord, is pardoned. The penitential fasting, which are obligatory on Ash Wednesday (beginning of Lent) and Good Friday (the anniversary of the death of Christ), and voluntary on the other Fridays of Lent, is among the church tradition whereby the faithful could obtain graces, he added.
In a nutshell, as the abovementioned sources imparted, to obtain indulgence and graces, one should show his seriousness by disciplining himself through these traditions such penitential fasting and abstinence. However, being good should not only be during Lent, as they say, but all the days of a man’s life to attain the fruits of such discipline.
This reminders are not only meant for Christians, including this writer, but those who are yet to welcome Christ in their lives. The season of Lent could be a time for their conversion and getting closer to God through the Roman Catholic Church.