A newspaper reported that Manny Pacquiao will start his serious training on Monday in Baguio City. He will climb the ring again for a 12-round title fight against former 3-time champion Shane Mosley on May 7 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Indeed Manny has come a long way since his days of selling bread in the streets of General Santos City. Today he has earned the distinction as an eight-division world champion; the first boxer in history to win 10 world titles in eight different divisions. Moreover, he is the only active boxer to become a congressman in the Philippines.
Currently, Manny is rated as the “Number One” pound-for-pound best boxer in the world by most sporting news and boxing websites. He was included by Time Magazine as one the world’s most influential people in 2009 for his exploits in boxing and his influence among the Filipino people. He was also included by Forbes Magazine in its annual Celebrity 100 list for the year 2009 joining Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie and fellow athletes Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant.
During the press conference at Beveryly Hills Hotel in California last month, Manny gave out a challenge “I hope you train hard for this fight” while looking in the direction where Mosley and his handlers sat. Then he was quick to say that he too “will train like hell!” He was not mincing words. Even his coach Freddie Roach says “no one trains as hard as Manny.” For indeed, during training camps he jogs; he does workout in 4 hours without break. He performs warming exercises and 4,000 sit-ups every day; he does the ropes, hit the mitts and spars. “Even though he’s pound-for-pound number one, he still trains very had” admires Amir Khan, the current WBA Featherweight Champion, referring to his work ethics. No wonder Manny Pacquiao has become the most exciting boxer of his era as he himself said “when you train hard, the fight is easy.”
The Church has also started its “training camp” through the season of Lent. It will be a 40-day period of preparation in order to celebrate the Resurrection. Forty, in Scripture, has been associated with cleansing, purification and preparation. The Israelites spent 40 years in the desert for cleansing and purification. It took that long for God to purify His Chosen People from disobedient and hard-headed members. Once purified, he guided them to enter the Promise Land. Even Jesus spent 40 days in the desert to fast and to pray in preparation for this Public Ministry (Mt 4:1-11). Satan came to dissuade him in pushing through with his mission. From this desert experience, Jesus came out stronger with a solid spiritual character and with a strong sense of purpose.
Ash Wednesday signaled the beginning of the Lent observance. Christian faithful had their foreheads imposed with ashes. There are two formula priests use during the ritual. One is: “Remember man you are dust and unto dust you shall return.” It is a poignant reminder to each believer that one day life will end. Each one will die. The 8.9 earthquake that struck Japan and its tsunami aftermath is a graphic example. Initial report from CNN said 900 plus have died. The number can still rise. It may be a morbid thought. But quoting from Mitch Albom’s book Tuesdays with Morrie, Morrie gives this insightful observation: “Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.”
The other formula is “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” It’s a reminder that we are all sinners. The payment of sin is death. Repentance will bring us to life in Jesus Christ. Thus the keyword of Lent is “returning to the Lord.” St. Paul, in writing to the Corinthians beautifully expressed it: be reconciled to God! Such returning will find expression in practicing the traditional Lenten discipline of prayer, fasting and works of charity. The focus of prayer is to be closer to God. The aim of charity is to be generous to others. Fasting focuses on self-deprivation to tame our greed and selfishness. The goal of the discipline is to strengthen our spiritual muscle in order to win the spiritual battle of life. We need to train really hard to constantly fight against temptation and evil in our lives.
A story is told that a group of mountain climbers met an old woodsman with an axe on his shoulder. “Where are you going?” they asked him. “I’m headed up the mountain to get some wood to fix my house.” But why go up the mountain?” they asked incredulously. “There are plenty of tree around here.” “I know. But I need a strong timber for my house and it grows only on the highest elevations where the trees are tested and toughened by the weather around them. The higher you go up, the stronger the timber grows.”
To stand the test of temptations, one’s spiritual muscles needed to be toughened and trained by constant acts of self-denial. For there can be no Easter victory without the cross of Calvary from Good Friday.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.