Ash Wednesday launches the Catholic Church into the season of lent. On Ash Wednesday we are given a grim reminder by the church “You are dust, and unto dust you shall return.” The liturgy allows the use of Jesus Christ’s inaugural message as he entered his public life: “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” (Mk 1:15). This is said as the ashes are imposed on the forehead.
It is season of Lent. “Quaresma,” it is also called. Season of penance and mortification. Season of “pabasa,” the common singing of “pasyon.” Season of the Stations of the Cross every Friday. The season leads to Palm Sunday… the Visita Iglesya on Holy Thursday…the Seven Last Words on Good Friday…the Empty Tomb on Easter Sunday.
Jesus Christ’s invitation of “Repent” in this season of lent takes on a peculiar perspective in the context of our national situation. It is a call to transformation. Considering the social, economic and political crises we are in, the vision of change and transformation becomes a growing passion and obsession. We want the Resurrection to new life brought by Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday observed and experienced not only on the spiritual level but also as a transformation in our economic, social and political life.
Lent as a call to transformation means that out of the repentance of believers in the Gospel, the slum dwellings are transformed to permanent shelters, the poor are given health benefits, the marginalized are offered liberating education, the exploited are given dignified employment and malnourished children sufficient food. Transformation of society is the fruit of repentance and reform of life.
While political priorities occupy many of our leaders, the most immediate and urgent priority of the common Filipinos is their daily struggle to earn their livelihood. Poverty, despite the professed development at the macro-level, remains the heaviest burden the country bears.
I repeat what the Bishops had said in their Pastoral Statement Renewing Our Public Life: “At the bottom of our political chaos is a crisis of moral values, a crisis of truth and justice, of unity and solidarity for the sake of the common good and genuine peace.” Renewal of moral values in the service of the common good means converting the energies that one used for graft and corruption into energies for better public service. We hope that from the “ashes” of political crisis and corrupted institutions will resurrect a transformed nation, a truly moral society, built up in truth, justice, freedom and love.
+ANGEL N. LAGDAMEO
Archbishop of Jaro
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
February 28, 2006