Create and Make in us New and Contrite Hearts

Create and Make in us New and Contrite Hearts
OM’s Message to the Church
on Ash Wednesday and Lenten Season.

TO DEARLY BELOVED PEOPLE OF GOD In the Iglesia Filipina Independiente.

  1. We begin to observe today the Season of Lent, and we invite all IFI members all over the world to celebrate the said season, like the other seasons in the liturgical calendar, with utmost devotion. We all know that the Season of Lent is a forty-day period to begin today, Ash Wednesday, and to end on the start of the Holy Week, appropriated to prepare ourselves to solemnly observe the Lord Jesus’ passion and death, towards the great and meaningful commemoration of his glorious resurrection at Easter Sunday. It is associated with penitence and fasting, with alms-giving and charity works. Through the years, the Church is setting it as the period for catechetical work too in order to prepare candidates for baptism, and for confirmation as well, and, generally, for the faith-deepening of church members.
  2. The liturgy for the celebration of Ash Wednesday appropriately describes the Lenten Season as both “a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism” and “a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church.” Central to the Lenten Season is “the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior” and the recognition of “the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.” In order to solemnly observe the Season of Lent, we therefore have to engage self-examination and repentance; do prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and read and meditate on God's holy Word.
  3. The celebration of Ash Wednesday ushers us into the very meaningful observance of the whole Season of Lent as we come for the right beginning of repentance and receive the mark of our mortal nature with the imposition of ashes on our forehead in the form of the cross. The ashes remind us of what we are created from (Gen 2:7), which is being reinforced with the declaration of the minister: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” The cross reminds us of the victory of our Lord Jesus against death and makes us to recognize that he conquered our mortality and gave us hope of life everlasting. These ashes are solemnly prepared on Shrove Tuesday by burning the palm fronds blessed in last year’s Palm Sunday celebration which we heralded the Lord’s triumphal entry into our lives as King, Savior and Redeemer. After burning, the ashes are in turn collected and mixed with the Holy Oil of Catechumen, the oil used in baptism signifying our union and incorporation with Christ and the salvation we live in and enjoy from him. On Ash Wednesday we are made to feel our helplessness apart from the saving power of the Lord Jesus. This powerlessness becomes more evident in the prominent display of the veiled crosses and images throughout the Lenten Season to highlight our isolation from and dependency on the power, love and mercy of God as demonstrated by our Lord Jesus in his struggle in the wilderness for forty days and forty nights (Mt 4:1-11). This graphic intends to enable us realize that we cannot do anything with our own strength, only the grace of God is sufficient (2 Cor 12:9).
  4. We ask then all members of the IFI community to take the Season of Lent as an opportunity to contemplate on what our Lord Jesus really did and continue to do for us through his passion and death on the cross and eventually through his resurrection. We need to see his work of salvation wrought for us and the way he is leading us towards the unity and presence of God almighty, the Father in heaven. Last Sunday in the Transfiguration Story, we were told by the voice from the cloud through the reading to listen to him. As we fulfill all the rituals of the Lenten Season being asked from us - like for example the acts constituting our self-examination and repentance, our prayer, fasting, self-denial, alms-giving and charity works, and reading the Bible and meditation on God's holy Word – let us listen to him speaking to us as to where he is leading us especially in these days of continuing pandemic and persisting tyranny where untold human suffering is taking place either brought about by the worsening national economy or by the intensifying state repression.
  5. We hope that we hear and listen to him speaking to us to confess and repent our personal and individual sins, including naming the pressing social sins perpetuated by those powerful and mighty in our society. We have to ask forgiveness for our sins, as we likewise demand accountability of those who sit in our government and those who have command over our security forces. We have to call for their repentance for their excesses and abuse of power, for their violations against the human dignity of the poor and struggling sectors of our society, like the workers, farmers, urban poor, women and children, lumad communities and Moro people. We have to make them answer for the continuing impunity, for the vilification and red-tagging, for repression and oppression. These are systemic and structural sins abominable before God which deserve utmost condemnation and denunciation by God’s people.
  6. We hope that we hear and listen to him speaking to us to go down from our mountain-top experience and work with other Christians to accompany our people in their journey towards justice, peace, freedom, independence and sovereignty. We need to seek and find him among our people who are in need, deprived and vulnerable. As we work for the forgiveness of our own sins and demand repentance and accountability for social sins, we need to support one another, as Lent emphasizes, to stand and advocate for human dignity and sanctity of life. We have to listen to our Lord Jesus speaking to us in today’s gospel “when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret” (Mt 6:3-4) as expressions of our concern and commitment for the well-being of others. We need to show a kind of life which shares gifts and takes the burden of others as our own.
  7. We hope that we hear and listen to him speaking to us in the gospel that “whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting” (Mt 616). We have to listen to him that our fasting should relate with the desire for justice and peace; that our fasting shall not respond to religious duty or to health benefit but to address issues and situation of poverty and social injustice. We intentionally fast so that the resources that we supposedly consume unnecessarily will go and necessarily benefit those who are in want and in deprivation. In doing so, we listen to the prophetic witness: “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?” (Isa 58:6-7).
  8. We hope that we hear and listen to him speaking to us in this gospel that we need to spend time with God in prayer. The Lord Jesus exemplified to us the life of prayer and taught to us a pattern of praying (Lk 11:1-13). We have to listen to him teaching us that “whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others” (Mt 6:5). We need to understand that our time with God is decisive and critical. We have to recognize that we need to spend time with God in quietness and solitude in order for us to be enabled to listen to his still small voice, to hear the whispering of the Spirit and to discern answers on our prayers, especially ones which involve his desire and direction for us to undertake engagement in our response to the cries of our people and offer them our loving service and caring acts. He has shown us what he desires and wants to us to go towards this direction: “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic 6:8).
  9. And so today we start a spiritual journey to prepare us to fully understand the Lord’s gracious act for our salvation which he would complete in his passion, death and resurrection. May God bless us in this journey and show us the way. So we pray:
    Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
  10. May God be merciful and be gracious unto us all, create and make in us new and contrite hearts, now and through the days of our life-long journey. Keep safe always in this Season of Lent.


Obispo Maximo



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