Friday, February 15, 2008

Ash Wednesday without the ashes

To what extent are we willing to be enriched with the poverty of Jesus?

February 6 2008, was Ash Wednesday. According to the traditions of the Catholic Church it is a day of fast, abstinence, prayer and mass followed by imposition of ashes on our foreheads, reminding us of the mortal nature of our bodies.

Unfortunately this year these traditions were postponed to a later date because Ash Wednesday fell on the eve of the Chinese New Year. We, including the non-Chinese, do not want to be reminded of our mortal nature on this auspicious day of Chinese New Year.

Our Church, which is so strict with its rich traditions, is willing to give up its centuries-old practice of fast, abstinence and imposition of ashes for the worldly celebrations of the lunar New Year. We didn't even have the usual Eucharistic celebration, which is central to our faith, to mark this very important day in the calendar of the Catholic Church.

If the Church is so convinced that these traditions are so important in our worship, how can it give in to material demands? The contradictory stand of the Church at times really puzzles me; can man's laws over-ride God’s? It looks like they can under certain circumstances and for certain individuals.

It may be pertinent for us to ponder on what Pope Benedict XVI’s Ash Wednesday message, "Like the disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called not to idolise worldly goods, but to use them as a means to live and to help others in need, ... in imitation of Jesus who, as St. Paul says, 'was poor to enrich us with his poverty'".

Are we willing to be enriched with the poverty of Jesus, if so to what extent?

Dr.Chris Anthony

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