Back to Basics, Back to God

Ash Wednesday

We have heard this expression, “back to basics.” What is meant by this expression? Returning to the fundamental aspects of something; going back to fundamental principles; returning to the most important things; stressing simplicity. Another way of saying, “back to basics” is to “go back to the root”. Root in Latin is radix and some English words are derived from it: radical, radicate, radix in mathematics, or radicle in Biology. These words refer to the base, the root, or the basic and fundamental.

Today we start the holy season of Lent with the celebration of Ash Wednesday. Part of today’s Mass is the imposition of ashes on the forehead, but since we are in this time of the pandemic, we shall have instead the sprinkling of ashes on the head. We might ask ourselves, why use ashes on this day? The ashes had always been a symbol of repentance for the Jews since the Old Testament times. To show contrition the Jews would sit on ashes. The ashes remind them of death. When they die and would be buried, it won’t be long that they would turn to dust. It is a sign of repentance of their sins committed in life so that they will enjoy the heavenly bliss. The formula used on the distribution of ashes says it all: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (“Hinumdomi tawo nga ikaw abog ug sa abog ikaw mobalik”). We are all invited to go back to the basics, to the very root of our existence in God.

In today’s Readings we hear these same words, “return” and “go back.” This is the message of the prophet Joel in the First Reading. He motivates the people to the return to the Lord for He is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.” This is our God, one who is full of mercy and love to all of us. This is also the very reason why we have the courage to return to Him especially during these days of Lent for we know that we are always welcomed by His mercy and love. Let us make the most of the sacraments during this Lent especially that of the Eucharist and Reconciliation. We want to return to the Lord for we know that we will be received wholeheartedly and with open arms despite our sins and failures. We are encouraged to uproot those that needed to be removed in our lives—vices, inordinate passions, unforgiveness, and the like. A story is told of a landowner who walked around his garden one day. He noticed some weeds among the vegetables. Immediately he instructed one of the workers to remove them. Days after, he saw again some weeds. He once more told the man to remove them. But seeing the weeds some other time, he asked for an explanation from the worker, “Why are the weeds still around?” “I always removed them every time you told me to, sir,” was the man’s reply. “But did you uproot them?” said the owner. We need to go into the roots of our sins and vices in order to change and truly repent of our sins. Let us not be afraid, we have a loving and merciful God.

Jesus, in today’s Gospel, invites us to go back to the very reason/intention why we do things. This is the advice of the Lord Jesus for all of us: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them” but let the Father who sees your good acts in secret repay you. Why do we do good acts? Is it to please people or to make our goodness known to all or is it to receive a reward/prize or is it to sincerely extend ourselves to our brothers and sisters in need? Our Lord Jesus is asking us to go back, to return to the reason/intention of why we do acts of charity. There are 3 pillars in our celebration of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. These three are presented to us in the Gospel. How can we go back to our life of prayer and deepen our relationship with God this Lent? What do I need to fast from in order to lessen/remove the focus on myself? In what way can I truly make myself charitable to my brothers and sisters through acts of charity and almsgiving?

Brothers and sisters, Lent is a time given to us by the Church to go back to the basics, to return to our roots and it is symbolized by the ashes that will be sprinkled on us in a little while. Let us not be afraid to repent of our sins and go back to the Lord, for we have a merciful and loving God who welcomes us wholeheartedly. Let us also go back to the roots of why we do things, especially our acts of charity. In this Season of Lent, let this be our prayer: Lord, with your loving care guide the penance we have begun. Help us to persevere with love and sincerity. Amen.

Disclaimer: This section of the website is a personal creative writing of the author and does not necessarily reflect the official views, opinion, or policies of the Salesians of Don Bosco – Philippines South Province. For concerns on the content, style, and grammar of this piece, please contact us.

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