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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A "Purple" Reminder...Be Awaken!...

Today, we hear of a devastating earthquake, the second in five months, killing innocent people in New Zealand's second-biggest city of Christchurch, partially destroying, amongst other premises in the Diocese, the Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.  This was to be New Zealand's most deadly natural disaster for 80 years.  What sort of an Advent, Christmas, New Year and journey towards Easter will these Kiwi pilgrims experience? 

Just when you thought the revolution in Egypt has ended, deadly unrest and innocent bloodshed has begun in Libya; which is populated with around 80,000+ Catholics. 

Around the world, we observe crude oil prices soaring to a new high, European stock and other stock markets reacting to the mounting Libya worries.

Blatant political corruption schemes, murders, sex crimes, betrayals, racist sentiments, discrimination, suppressed democracy and conspired sodomy charges are being publicly promoted in a South East Asian country; whose state religion is Islam and Catholic pilgrims, a minority.  Where is justice?  Where is peace?  Why the spirit of destruction?  Where is the face of God?

“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying: Eli, Eli, lamma sabacthani? that is, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
(Matthew 27:46, Douay-Rheims)

With such distracting ‘noises’ and depressing ‘colors’ from all over the world, how does a simple sojourner on this earth even ‘pretend’ that there is even hope for repentance, healing, renewal and transformation?  What is happening (or not happening) in the world today?  Why is everyone so pre-occupied with everything else, destructing creation and missing or even forgetting the whole point of Lent?  How do people prepare to enter Lent? 

How easily people forget about the consequences of similar human condition expressed in the Old Testament of the Holy Scriptures...

Lent is the holy season where we commit to prepare ourselves to encounter Jesus and His sacrifice by humbly endeavoring to become more Christ-like ourselves. 

This Lenten journey towards transformation is about letting ourselves be filled with God’s presence so that we can be shaped by God’s grace. 

That way, we can love God, others and most importantly, ourselves a little bit more…become better stewards of God’s creation…our planet Earth.

Lent is the period of fasting leading up to the joyful celebration of Easter; recalling Jesus' 40-days of fasting in the wilderness.  Catholic Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends right before the evening Masses of Holy Thursday, although Lenten penance continues through Holy Saturday.  This year 2011, Lent will begin on March 9.  The evening of Holy Thursday begins the Easter Triduum, which spans from Holy Thursday through Good Friday to the Evening Prayer of Easter Day.

Against the backdrop of everything else that is ‘happening’ around the world today, Lent can often be one big mystery.  For some, Lent may be a period of going on a long overdue diet regime; for others, Lent would probably be a time when their Catholic friends wear ashes on their foreheads and eat fish on Fridays.  For the rest, Lent may just come and go without even a blink of an eye!

“Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads...
(Matthew 27:39, NIV)

Whatever the perception may be, the purpose of Lent still remains to be a season of fasting, self-denial, self discipline, Christian spiritual growth, penitence, repentance, conversion, simplicity and transformation.

Lent, which comes from the Germanic word meaning ‘springtime’, can be viewed as a spiritual ‘spring cleaning’; a time for taking spiritual inventory of ourselves and then cleaning out those 'unnecessary baggages' which hinder our community and personal relationship with Jesus Christ and ability to serve Him.  Lent is a time for us to pause and take a sincere honest look within ourselves.

We also notice the symbolic liturgical color of the season – PURPLE (to some, violet). The Lenten ‘purple’ or ‘violet’ is a more somber or solemn blue-violet, contrasting with the lighter purple of Advent, last Christmas.

“The soldiers led him away inside the palace, that is, the praetorium, and assembled the whole cohort.  They clothed him in purple and, weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him.  They began to salute him with, "Hail, King of the Jews!" and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him.  They knelt before him in homage.  And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him out to crucify him.”
(Mark 15:16-20, NAB)

The color 'purple' evokes a mood of solemn simplicity and helps us realize our dependence on a loving and merciful God who has become bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh that saves us; His obedient willingness to die on the cross.  The color 'purple' symbolizes the royal dignity of Jesus Christ, at the same time it is also associated with sorrow, mourning, self-discipline, repentance including the pain and suffering of the crucifixion…leading to the celebration of Christ’s resurrection and sovereignty.

“Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged. And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head, and clothed him in a purple cloak, and they came to him and said, "Hail, King of the Jews!" And they struck him repeatedly.  Once more Pilate went out and said to them, "Look, I am bringing him out to you, so that you may know that I find no guilt in him."  So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak.  And he said to them, "Behold, the man!"”
(John 19:1-5, NAB)

As we continue our journey towards Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, we should allow the 'purple' color remind us that this is a time for self discipline, a time for giving up something, speaking up against injustice in society, caring for the elderly, marginalized and vulnerable, responding to domestic, national and international disasters.

The message of the color ‘purple’ of Lent is relevant to all of us.  As we embrace this solemn 'purple', we are also reminded that we are all part of one race, the human race, journeying with each other in the same world, a world created by God, that needs looking after all the time; our stewardship.

Thus, if we keep awake and continue to journey prayerfully with perseverance, simplicity and awareness of our true self, we will surely encounter Jesus…come Lent...

I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, saith the Lord God, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.
(The Apocalypse Of Saint John 1:8, Douay-Rheims)

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