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Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, when ash is put on the forehead or head, as a  symbol of death and repenance.  Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, when ash is put on the forehead or head, as a symbol of death and repenance.   (AFP or licensors)

Indonesian cardinal urges 'right choices' during Lent

As Catholics worldwide begin their annual period of Lent on Ash Wednesday, the Archbishop of Jakarta urges the faithful to put their lives back on track in their relation to God in order to meet the challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

By Robin Gomes

“No matter how hard the reality we are facing is, we must keep believing that God is love,” wrote Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo of Jakarta in a pastoral letter.  “Just like last year, we enter the Lenten season during a difficult time caused by the coronavirus which has shaken all fields of life,” he recalled in the letter that was read in churches of the archdiocese on Sunday.

Ash Wednesday is the first of the 40 days of Lent (excluding Sundays), during which Christians give in a special way to prayer, penance, fasting, abstinence and good works, in preparation for their most solemn feast of Easter that commemorates Jesus’s glorious resurrection from death.  Ash Wednesday takes its name from the ash that is placed on the foreheads or heads, reminding Christians of death and the need for repentance.  Ash Wednesday, this year, falls on Feb 17. 

The perspective of faith

In his message, the Archbishop of Jakarta reminds his faithful that the pandemic is “not a punishment given by God because of our sins but is one of the horrible signs of the times, of which we must find the meaning from the perspective of our faith”.

He recalled a prayer that Pope Francis uttered during a special moment of prayer that he presided over in Rome’s St. Peter’s Square on March 27 last year, as death tolls soared in Italy amid a nationwide lockdown to fight the spread of the coronavirus. 

Making right choices

“You are calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing,” the Pope prayed.  “It is not the time of your judgement, but of our judgement: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others,” the Holy Father said.

Cardinal Suharyo acknowledged that “choosing what matters and what passes away” is not easy, as many tend to take the easy paths of fun.  “Lent,” he pointed out, “is a special time given by the Church to all of us to train ourselves to choose the right way.”  “Just like a man with leprosy who refused to give up to his helplessness and chose to get his life back on track with regard to God,” he said Catholics in the Archdiocese of Jakarta want to “choose the right way in this difficult time”. 

Lenten slogan

The 70-year old cardinal, who is also president of the Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia, formulated a slogan for Lent: ‘Love More, Involve More, Be Blessings More.’  He hopes “it will not be just a nice slogan but will be a guide for all of us to move forward as followers of Christ”.  He said Catholics can put this slogan without breaking health and social distancing protocols and by joining in the government’s Covid-19 vaccination drive, officially launched last month.

Indonesia has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. The health ministry reported 10,029 new cases of infection on Feb. 16, bringing the total to 1,233,959.  The death toll rose by 229 to 33,596.   

Lent culminates with the Holy Week, which celebrates the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, or Easter, which this year falls on April 4.  (Source: UCANEWS)

16 February 2021, 17:01