Cardinal Jose Advincula of Manila has challenged Catholics on Ash Wednesday to observe the season of Lent with sincerity and pure intention.
He said the traditional disciplines of prayer, fasting, and charity are not intended to be empty but to draw people closer to God and to a life lived out of faith.
“Let the ashes on our head remind us to pray with sincerity of heart, fast in genuine solidarity with the ones who are suffering, and give alms out of hearts that are truly contrite and compassionate,” Advincula said.
“This season is a blessed time for us to turn away from hypocrisy and worldly attachments and go home into the warm embrace of our loving God,” he said.
The cardinal made the remarks during Mass at the archdiocese’s chancery chapel in Manila’s Intramuros district.
People trooped to churches today as they observe the start of Lent, a 40-day period of prayer, penance and almsgiving in preparation for Christianity’s most solemn feast of Easter.
In Metro Manila, parish churches have reverted to the imposition of ashes on the faithful’s forehead for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic started.
Advincula said the Ash Wednesday practice of placing ashes on the forehead is a Biblical symbol of repentance, reminding the faithful of man’s sinfulness before God and his mortality.
The priest who imposes the ashes says, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” or “Turn away from your sins and believe in the Gospel.”
But while everything in this world will come to and end, the cardinal stressed that “only one thing is forever — the love of God.”
“The ashes we stain on our heads are shaped as crosses in order to remind us of the love of God,” he said. “We are created out of love, we are created for love.”