By Judaline F. Partlow
DUMAGUETE CITY, March 1 (PNA) -– Bishop Julito Cortes of the Diocese of Dumaguete on Wednesday called on the faithful to enter into a state of genuine and deep conversion as the entire Christendom now enters into the season of Lent.
Bishop Cortes presided a concelebrated mass at the Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria on Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of the 40-day Lent through Easter.
“Through the observance of Ash Wednesday, we start a period of reconciliation to God”, the prelate said in his homily during the noontime mass.
Lent is a time of prayer and sacrifice and mostly of generosity especially for the needy, he stressed.
Bishop Cortes also underscored conversion, prayer, penance and alms giving, which he described as “Lenten exercises”, but that these exercises should be done from the heart, as is the message in Wednesday’s mass readings.
“The battleground between good and evil is in our heart”, Cortes noted, as he pointed out the world’s many problems that are “fruits of sin”, whether personal or otherwise.
Cortes went on to say that people must have a conversion of hearts, depart from sin, begin a new life and strengthen their journey back to Christ.
“Rend your hearts, rather than your garments”, Cortes said, citing a passage in the book of Joel in the Bible, adding that he hopes that the conversion is not just superficial or “pakitang-tao” (showing off) alone.
The Marian devotee also reminded the churchgoers during the mid-day mass to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary and turn to her for her intercession.
The Our Lady of Fatima, who happens to be celebrating its centenary or 100 years this year since her first appearance to children in Fatima, had warned that unless people will not turn away from sin, nation after nation will vanish.
Bishop Cortes spoke of the wars in the Middle East, the crisis brought about by terrorism, nation fighting against another nation, and the plight of the refugees who flee their war-torn countries but are being rejected by other countries who are also facing their own social problems.
In Manila, thousands of Catholics also observe the beginning of Lent by attending an Ash Wednesday service.
The Philippines also has its own share of woes, such as the deaths due to extra-judicial killings, the illegal drugs problem, poverty, and corruption.
Cortes also appealed to the people to pray for the country’s congressional representatives who are to vote on a bill for the restoration of the death penalty.
As Catholics, the death penalty is unacceptable, Cortes stressed, pointing out Pope Francis’ statement that the Church rejects the death penalty and for the late pontiff, St. John Paul II, it is cruel and unnecessary.
It is cruel because a violation of the inalienable right to live and in fact, it is the government’s responsibility to protect life, Cortes pointed out.
He went on to say that it is also unnecessary because there is no scientific proof that death penalty has become an effective deterrent to crime.
“We will not be a party to such a wrongful law”, the bishop said, as he rallied the people to sign an ongoing signature campaign in the diocese opposing the reimposition of the death penalty.
The Diocesan Council of the Laity leads the signature campaign because the death penalty bill for its restoration is a political exercise, he explained.
Bishop Cortes ended his homily by reiterating an intense call to conversion during the Lenten season, going back to the Lord through repentance, prayer, sacrifice, fasting, and charitable acts not for one’s personal gain and motives but for God’s glory.
About Ash Wednesday
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