‘Life begins, ends up only with God’, prelate reminds faithful for Ash Wednesday observance

Published February 16, 2021, 10:41 AM

by Christina Hermoso

As millions of Roman Catholics observe Ash Wednesday on Feb. 17, a Catholic Church leader has reminded the faithful that “we all came from God and that sin destroys our relationship with our Creator.” 

(PNA photo by Avito C. Dalan / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

“Ash Wednesday is the very first day of Lent. It is characterized by penitential service wherein the Catholic faithful receive ashes in the sign of the cross on their foreheads. What does the imposition of ashes on one’s forehead signify? That we are all created by God and that sins destroy our life and our relationship with God,” said Balanga Bishop Ruperto C. Santos in his pastoral reflection for Ash Wednesday.

 “We came from God. We must pattern ourselves to Him. He must be our model whom we have to imitate and follow. Our whole life begins with God, so must end up only with God. Our life must be only for Him. It is imperative for us to live a life worthy of Him. We must do everything to make our lives pleasing to God,” Santos said.

He warned the faithful that sins destroyed “our life and our relationship with God.”

“Ash is totally black. It is s stain. It is dirty. This reminds us what sin does to our souls. Sin makes us dirty, disgraced before God. Sin is a black spot in our relationship with God. Thus, the sacramental sign of putting ashes in the form of the cross on our foreheads reminds us of the grave consequence of sinning. It also reminds us of the need for repentance and thus makes us truly contrite for those sins we have committed,” he said.

 Santos called on the faithful to fast, give alms, and to pray always, as Roman Catholics start the Lenten pilgrimage.  

“As we now begin our Lenten journey, let us take the way of almsgiving, of sacrifices, of holiness. Let us pray constantly and consistently, imploring our almighty God to lead us to safety and make us strong, help us from this dangerous pandemic and eventually heal us all,” he said. 

Because of the pandemic, the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship issued a directive on Jan.12, 2021 for all parish priests around the world to follow regarding the distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday. 

The 40-day Lenten season, a time of reflection and repentance, begins tomorrow – Ash Wednesday.

Pope Francis is scheduled to celebrate Holy Mass, Blessing and Imposition of Ashes at the Altar of the Chair, in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The General Audience will not take place. On Ash Wednesday and on Good Friday, Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59, except those who are ill, are permitted to consume only one full meal, which may be supplemented by two smaller meals, which together, should not exceed the full meal.

Those who are 14-years-old and above are also required to abstain from meat today and on all Fridays for the duration of the Lenten season. 

Also called Day of Ashes, the burning of palm fronds is traditionally done in churches Tuesday afternoon.

Four ancient prayers are recited in the burning of the ashes, which are sprinkled with Holy Water and fumigated with incense.

The blessed ashes are then mixed with a little oil. Ash Wednesday recalls the 40 days and nights of Jesus’ suffering, from His Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane to His arrest, trial, and crucifixion.

In the Holy Bible, a mark on the forehead symbolizes a person’s ownership which makes the symbol of the cross on one’s forehead a sign of “surrender to Christ.” 

Gospel reflections will focus on Jesus’ warning against hypocrisy as well as His teachings on alms-giving, works of piety and charity, praying, and fasting which, He said,  must be done with the right intentions, “not for others to see, but in secret, so that the Father who sees in secret will give His just reward.”

 As the season of Lent begins, Church officials encourage the faithful to reflect, do charity work, and to go to confession for spiritual cleansing in preparation for the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday.