Finding your Bearings – Jody Magtoto, SJ

Matthew 6:1-6; 16-18, Ash Wednesday
Having a GPS on my smartphone has saved me many a times, especially when traveling to an unfamiliar place. When I said mass for the Maria Auxiliatrice sisters near Meguro, they were surprised that I was able to navigate through the unlabeled streets and snaking alleys of their place. I was able to find my way.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. Lent is a season of prayer and sacrifice while contemplating on the Lord’s Passion. Our busy-ness makes us confused and our weaknesses and worldly worries make us lose our way. Lent is an invitation for us to pause and find our bearings. It’s when we ask ourselves: Where am I now? Where am I going? Which road will take me there?
As we bear the crosses written out of ash, we are reminded of our sinfulness. We are reminded of the many times we have hurt others and have failed to bother to love. Yet the very same cross that suggests our mortal sinfulness also points to our salvation in Christ. It shows we are on a journey. We are here but not yet. We are on our way.
Yet what about fasting and abstinence? What do they do? Surely a loving God does not revel in our suffering. Like the ashes that we will bear, these traditional disciplines of lent likewise help us find our bearings. These disciplines allow us to concretely realize the suffering present in this sin-ridden world. These allow us to empathize with those who are hungry, with those who are less fortunate. They remind us we are not alone on this journey, and that as Christians, we are called to lift each other up and help each other find our way.
During this Ash Wednesday, by our penitential acts and works of charity, let us turn on our GPS’s. As we struggle and continue in this journey of life, may we never lose sight of our destination– home, in the loving arms of God.
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