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Ash Wednesday essay

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Today is the start of this year’s Lenten Season…

ASH WEDNESDAY: TURN AWAY FROM SIN
Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas
(reposted from the Philippine Daily Inquirer)

MANILA, Philippines — The season of Lent is a preparatory period for the celebration of Easter. Easter is the central point around which revolves the message of Christianity. If Christ did not rise from the dead, our faith would be meaningless, irrelevant and purposeless.

We open the season of Lent today by putting ashes on our foreheads as the Church admonishes us, “Turn away from sin and believe the Gospel.”

Without God, nothing has value. Without God, we are nothing. With God, everything is beautiful. With God, everything is possible. God has become like us so that we may become like Him.

Who are you? Who are we? Who are we in relation to the material things we have? Who are you in relation to your possessions? Who are you in relation to the earth? Who are you in relation to other people? Who are you in relation to the times and seasons and years of your lives? Who are you in relation to your talents and your intelligence?

Are you an owner?

The owner says this money is mine. The owner says this land, this house, this car, this property is mine. The owner says I am free to use all my properties and possessions as I wish. The owner says I can enjoy what I have because I worked hard for them.
I have absolute rights over my body and over my properties. I can use my time however I wish. I can waste it. I can use it—my time is mine.

I have people I pay for serving me, they are mine. I can dismiss them. I can use them provided I pay them justly according to our contract. I am the boss. I am the owner. I do not need to account to anyone. I am the master of my life and I am the captain of the ship of my life.

But you are not an owner! You are only a steward.

Everything is grace

My time, my talents and my treasures were entrusted by God to me temporarily. The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord, says Psalm 24:1.

If what I have is God’s and not mine, therefore, I must use my material blessings according to the plan of God and not just according to my whim and pleasure and comfort.

The steward’s rights are not absolute. The steward will one day return what has been entrusted to him by the real Owner. Christ died for you. By your baptism, you have become a recipient of the life and love of Christ Himself.

The source of our stewardship is our baptism. When we were baptized, God entrusted to us the honor of being His children. “You belong no longer to yourselves. Remember at what price you have been bought and make your body serve the glory of God.” (I Cor 6:19).

Everything is grace. You have done nothing to merit being a child of God. None of us is self-made. When God created us, he looked at us and found us very good.

Life, time are borrowed
The ashes on our foreheads remind us of the temporariness of all things and all peoples. When we were born, we were born with a twin sister — Sister Death. Death is a sure part of the story of everyone born on earth.

Our life is borrowed. Our time is borrowed. At a time we do not know, we will return to ashes from where we came and God will judge us if we had been wise and faithful stewards or pretentious and self-serving owners.

Do not forget — you are not an owner. You are only a steward.

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