rising from the ashes

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“Remember, you are dust and to dust you shall return.”


Today, Ash Wednesday, ushers in the start of the Holy Season of Lent for the Roman Catholic Church.

Same day last year, I was hospitalized in Riyadh. Bedridden for several days. In pain and in agony.

But now, with God’s grace, I attended the Holy Eucharist. At 5:30am, it was a painful walk going to the church because of the swollen bunions in my feet due to gout. A bit slower pace that made me appreciate the things around me.

The sun was still asleep.

The hustle and bustle of the city just started.

Students hurriedly walking down the street. Workers waited at the tricycle station full of hope for the coming day. Market peddlers prepared their fresh goods with a welcoming smile. ‘Bili na suki.’ Stray dogs did their early morning hunt for scraps.

The smell of freshly baked pandesal infused the air.

Donned in a beautiful violet vestment that symbolizes the season of Lent, Fr. Mel Sandoval welcomed everyone at St. Martha Parish with hope for better days ahead.

During his homily, he reminded everyone to guard one’s self from self-seeking glory – a preoccupation of looking good and seeking praise from others while doing prayer, fasting/abstinence and almsgiving.

It made me reflect.

Before cancer, I was a very competitive person. Haughty & self-centered.

But, after being diagnosed with pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor (PNet), a rare type of cancer, I was humbled.

The Lord touched my heart. Made me bow down more.

I recognized the presence of a bigger God through my family, my relatives, my friends, my co-pilgrims and my neighbors – His love abounds.

In addition, the ashes on my forehead reminded me that I am a mortal being. A human who will turn to ashes soon. But, He gave us an opportunity every day to deepen our prayer life, to do fasting or abstinence and to do almsgiving.

The challenge was to do it in the most humbling way.

I am not perfect and I am a still a work in progress. How about you?

Let us pray:
“Lord Jesus, give me a lively faith, a firm hope, a fervent charity, and a great love of you. Take from me all lukewarmness in the meditation of your word, and dullness in prayer. Give me fervor and delight in thinking of you and your grace, and fill me with compassion for others, especially those in need that I may respond with generosity.”

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