At the crossroad between religion, culture, and expectations of life

For the last few years, the season of Lent started around the same time as the Chinese New Year. And this year, Ash Wednesday fell on the day before the eve of Chinese New Year. As we know, the eve of the Chinese New Year is when the traditional re-union dinner takes place. Meals seemed to be the most common item made as a sacrifice during Lent.

There seemed to be a clash and stirring because of this “impeccable” timing. The season of Lent usually means moderation, fast, and abstinence.

On the other hand, for the Chinese, the Lunar new year represents prosperity and abundance. The grand celebration of culture is met with the restrictive religious obligations.

How can you then be moderate in the midst of all the desire to bring about abundance?

“When you fast, do not be somber like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they already have their reward.” ~ Matthew 6:16

This verse usually lingers in my head throughout Lent. But a few occasions I have experienced made me understand it from the perspective of the hypocrites.

If you are living among a judgmental society, one filled with expectations how one should behave during every season, it is very natural for people to be pretentious so not to “rock the boat” or “ruffle the feathers”.

We tend to outcast people who are different from us. If God wanted and desired uniformity, don’t you think we will all have the same fingerprint and human cloning would be legal?

I believe some of us grew up practicing the faith our grandparents have taught us – some are obligations of the religion while others are various family traditions. I was having a conversation with my wife regarding this one incident that took place on a certain Friday. We were seated at a restaurant next to a friend from church. Upon seeing us having meat on a Friday, he tried giving us a “friendly reminder” that it was a day of fast and abstinence. Until this day and due to that incident, I vowed to have more meat during Fridays.

It annoyed me because I felt violated and infringed. I do not wish and refuse to practice the religion as how it has been passed on by someone’s ancestors. The various expectations and obligations imposed as how they are understood for generations. I have a personal relationship with God through the way he touched me in my life. I believe that everyone experiences it differently and one’s relationship with his or her creator is unique, special, and exclusive.

Furthermore, the prices of fish way surpasses the prices of meat now and if we are to abstain taking meat on Friday because it is taken as more expensive and “luxurious”, some practices need updating. If not, how can we keep up with the real world situation in all that it reflects in the practices of old?

In his conversation with David Marchese for the, Quincy Jones when asked if he was religious replied, “The Catholics have a religion based on fear, smoke, and murder”.

Quincy Jones is of course no God but how true and at the same time sad it is for a religion to be represented that way. It must have been how the religion has been practiced throughout the years.

Like the matrix, I sometimes feel that to practice a religion these days one requires to adhere and stay in line or else you will be treat as the little variant, glitch, or blip. Being different is often seen as being under the influence of the satan and one needs to be exorcised or receive the sacrament of reconciliation.

When often times, all we need to live this life is some love, common sense, and a good conscience. When everyone is doing it, it does not mean we ought to. Do we ever stop to ponder, reason, and listen to our inner voice. But wait, that voice could be of the devil’s we like to tell/accuse of ourselves.

So what’s the real deal?

The real deal is that I’ve got two family members stricken by 4th stage cancer. The thought of the possibility that I might lose two people I love this year is not only scary but frustrating at the same time. Do I need to restrict myself from being in celebratory mood if that means the world to them both during this time of celebration? I chose to make them happy.

We need to convince ourselves that everyone goes through their own struggles in life and no matter what, there is no “one size fits all” guide to life. That’s what “To Each His Own” means…