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The Word, The Truth

True Openness Comes from Within

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40 Shades of Lent 2017
Day 01: Ash Wednesday, 01march 2017
Joel 2:12-18//2Corinthians 5:20-6:2//Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
Lent is a season inviting us into hiddenness and obscurity to find our true self and our first love, God. It is for this reason why there is also a sense of fasting of senses in our Lenten liturgy: no Gloria and alleluia, subdued music and no percussion instruments, bare altar without flowers while icons and statues are supposed to be covered during the entire season until Easter Vigil. Nothing fancy so that we focus more on the inside than on the outside. This is also the main point of Pope Francis in his Lenten message this year as he calls us to open to the word of God so that we may be cleansed from our sins and enable us to recognize those suffering people as our brothers and sisters. In our gospel today, Jesus shows us that true openness is always in the spirit of hiddenness.
“But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” (Mt.6:3-4,6,17)
True openness is to enter one’s self by leaving the outside world of what others always see and look for like physical appearances. It is turning away from the temptation of fame and popularity, of turning down the people’s clamor for what they expect or want from us. It is very difficult to open inside, to enter one’s self because that is when we confront our self for the real truth. It is always easier to open from the outside like what we always see on media because it is all a façade that can be easily put up. It does not have to be true at all for it is a show. It requires wearing of masks, which is “hypokritein” in Greek, or hypocrisy to be dramatic and impressive.
True openness is emptying our inner self of our bloated egos, masks, as well as excess baggages of pains and hurts from the past in order to create a space inside for Jesus to heal us. Again, it is very difficult because especially for us Filipinos, we love to keep trash inside like old clothes and empty bottles of wine, unused articles simply because we have grown accustomed with dirt. There are some who thrive in filth while others can’t let go of past glories because we refuse to accept changes and challenges in the present. True openness is living in the present, not in the past! St. Paul beautifully tells us in the second reading, “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. Working together, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.” (2Cor.5:20,6:1)
We live in a “mass-mediated culture” of so many spectacles to feast on Facebook and Instagram right in our smartphones, giant billboards and video walls on the streets or buildings, TV’s in our cars and every room in our home. Indeed, it could be a curse to go blind in this age of LED’s, holograms and interactive videos. Problem is that as we relish the sights and sounds outside, we fail to recognize the more essential and substantial within that we are becoming more and more superficial. Let us heed the prophet’s call to “Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God.” (Joel 2:13) Of the many signs that could be used to mark us on this day at the start of our 40 day journey into the Father’s house, our liturgy had chosen the lowly ash on our forehead because it is in itself the reality of what we have often tried to deny and escape inside us in life: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” A blessed Ash Wednesday!
Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista
Gov. F. Halili Ave., Sta. Maria, Bulacan

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Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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