“Penitensya”, God’s sacrifice and Salvation in a Time of Quarantine

Bleeding backs, sore feet.

People passionately walk kilometers to witness the senakulo. Men roam the streets and flog their own backs until they bleed, while some would even willingly nail themselves on the cross in their penitensya.

It’s a usual scenario you’ve probably witnessed as Filipinos observe the Holy Week, hoping to recreate or experience a portion of the suffering Jesus endured at the calvary. In this tradition, devotees aim to show their love to God.

Just this week, a 19-year-old man was arrested in Pampanga while doing his own penitensya amid the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine. All Holy Week activities in the province were banned to ensure the safety of the public, and everyone is advised to stay home.

But, what does penitensya (penance, atonement) really signify? Why would devotees risk being caught to continue with the tradition?

According to Asian Journal, this tradition dates back to 1955 wherein hooded men cut and whip their backs, others would carry life-size cross, and be nailed on that cross as an act of faith, repentance, and appreciation of Jesus’ sacrifice. All because of love for Christ.

As spectators, you can empathize with these spiritual acts.

But now, take a moment to revisit what Jesus endured and accomplished on the Calvary, the very first penitensya in history.

Imagine Jesus, walking humbly to His death. As blood mixes with sweat, the scorching sun burns the Messiah’s skin. The Jews shouting and mocking. Carrying His own cross, He was flogged, slapped, and shamed. At this point, Jesus’ face was beyond recognition.

The sound of the hammer, the wood, and the flesh filled the air. An innocent God was crucified and breathed his last thinking of you. A loving savior died in the most gruesome way – all because of His unfailing love, for you.

But, why?

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23). Humans’ sinful nature separates you from God’s pure love. Making you deserve nothing but wrath, eternal death, and eternal darkness.

You were under the filth of your transgressions, but God – being rich in mercy, gave His Son, Jesus. He died and served as the ultimate ransom for your sins that you may come to your Father in heaven.

Amazingly, Jesus didn’t just die on the cross, He rose from the dead.

His resurrection destroyed the curse of your sins and breathed hope. When He defeated the grave, He also defeated your sinful past and strongholds.

It is finished. Your victory is won.

All you must do is to believe, accept and declare that He is Lord and Savior. Accept the eternal life He freely gives.

Then, you would be dead to sin and alive in God (Romans 6:11), because Jesus bore the ultimate penitensya – the greatest sacrifice, declaring the greatest love.

In light of the COVID-19, this year’s Lenten season is different from what the world had seen. Nevertheless, God still offers the same love He offered on the cross 2,000 years ago.

You may be staying at home but you can still find meaningful things to do as you spend your Holy Week on quarantine and step closer to the love of Christ in a time of social distancing.

Do you need someone to pray for you this Holy Week? Just call us at 8-737-0-700 if you’re in Metro Manila. If you’re outside Metro Manila or the Philippines, send us your prayer requests here.

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