The Catholic church celebrates Ash Wednesday today, 18 February and it is the official start of Lent, the beginning of our Lenten journey. I attended the 6am mass at St. Jude Parish, a beautiful celebration of reminding us what the season of Lent means, what the ashes symbolize.We are encouraged to attend mass in order to begin the Lenten season with proper reflection, conversion and repentance. It is a day of fasting and abstinence. Fasting means restricting the food we eat and the number of meals and the size of it while Abstinence is abstaining from eating meat.The imposition of ashes is a reminder of our sinfulness and unworthiness, it is a renewal of our commitment to follow Jesus and acknowledging the sacrifice He had made for our salvation. I think next to the Christmas blogs that I write every year, my Lent posts come close. I would like to share a post that I wrote four years ago because I think the message is never too old to appreciate and remember. I particularly like the beautiful Lenten reflection I found on EWTN entitled What To Give Up.
Give up complaining – focus on gratitude
Give up pessimism – become an optimist
Give up harsh judgments – think kindly thoughts
Give up worry – trust Divine Providence
Give up discouragement – be full of hope
Give up bitterness – turn to forgiveness
Give up hatred – return good for evil
Give up negativism – be positive
Give up anger – be more patient
Give up pettiness – become mature
Give up jealousy – pray for trust
Give up gossiping – control your tongue
Give up sin – turn to virtue
Give up giving up – hang in there.
Beautiful, isn’t it? And you might say, it is easier said than done, after all we are just human, capable of making repetitious mistakes, capable of abandoning good deeds and choosing the easy way out, more focused on material things that make life easier, or so we think. But everyday of our lives we are given the chance to do something good for others if not for our selves. I remember the time when I was in the hospital almost six years ago, it was my first time to undergo chemotherapy. I was expecting that just like the rest of the patients at the Ambulatory Care Unit at the hospital, I would lose my hair but the chemotherapy nurse assured me that I won’t . I was apprehensive at first, who wouldn’t be, but I gave up the thought of going bald and I was elated and grateful that chemo drugs for colon cancer treatments do not result to that grim scenario. That’s a small miracle for me. God must be thinking , I don’t trust Him enough.
We are sometimes too quick to judge other people. The thing is, we must look at our own inadequacies first. Unless we know what makes them the way they are, we are not in any position to pass harsh judgment. Think kindly thoughts and think positively. Trust in Divine Providence, give up worry. How often do we feel anxious about everything in our lives? We are endlessly worrying because we want everything to be perfect but this is not a perfect world. If it is, we won’t need friends or our neighbors or our families even, to make us smile. Benjamin Franklin said, “Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen. keep in the sunlight.”
Give up discouragement, be full of hope. I’d like to think that’s something I got lots of. Giving up hope is like giving up life. When you are confronted by a life changing situation, hope is a precious commodity that you cling to. No matter how painful your situation might be, you can and you will survive it as long as you don’t lose that thin thread of hope. Sometimes, trials are really just blessings in disguise. They are God’s way of telling us to trust Him, always.
It is not easy to forgive when you are full of hatred and bitterness. Let us not plant hatred in our hearts because in the first place, we are the ones greatly affected. Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
What better life this would be if only we can follow these simple steps. Happiness is the simple thought of trying not to give up, just hang in there.
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