Wednesday, 14 February 2018 : Ash Wednesday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we mark the beginning of the forty days of the season of Lent. On this Ash Wednesday, as we celebrate it every year, blessed ashes are imposed on the foreheads or heads of the faithful, reminding them of the penitential nature of this season. The time of Lent is a time of preparation for us to prepare ourselves in our hearts, minds and our whole being for the upcoming celebration of the mysteries of the Holy Week and Easter.

Ash Wednesday mark the beginning of this wonderful season and time, a time to turn inwards into ourselves and reflect about our lives, our actions and deeds thus far, whether everything has been going on well and whether we are in good standing with God, or whether we have lapsed and fallen along the way, due to the temptations we face in life, and due to our inability to resist the allures of the devil who is constantly trying to undermine us and drag us into sin.

On this day, the ashes are imposed on our heads with the words uttered by the priest, ‘Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.’ These words remind each and every one of us that we are mortals and mere creation, and that we were created from dust and had the breath of life given to us by God, as mentioned in the Book of Genesis. Without God we are nothing, and without His love and grace, our existence is empty and meaningless.

Yet, many of us have forgotten about God and His love for us, and instead, we were busy with our many concerns and pursuits in this world. We spent most of our time trying to earn ourselves more money, more prestige, more worldly goods, praise from others, more pleasure and other things that led to our further slide deeper and deeper into sin.

Many of us are also too proud to admit that we have been wrong and mistaken, sinful and unworthy. We think that nothing can go wrong in our own lives, and that we are in control of everything we do. We think that we are the masters of our own lives and everything have to go in accordance to what we desire it to be, and when things do not go according to our desire, we end up becoming angry, jealous and negative.

In the world we live in today, we are inundated and often overwhelmed from every possible sources with the subliminal and often hidden messages, which are the ways that the devil tempt us with, of the materialistic and hedonistic way of life many of us are familiar with. We are presented with a way of life centred on our very selves, on the ‘I’ and ‘Me’ at the main focus, and we are conditioned to be selfish, to put our needs and desires ahead of others.

But let us ask ourselves, what does gaining more power, more wealth, more glory in this world, more prestige and status and all the other things we often desire in our lives can do to us? Can all these things last forever? Can all of them withstand the test of time, fire and all other things that often cause us sorrow because they can destroy all these things we deem to be precious to us?

Can any of those things I mentioned extend our life in this world for even a single second, or even a small fraction of a second? No! None of these will come to any use when the time appointed by the Lord for each and every one of us come upon us, the time of our death. That is the fact and reality which all of us must understand and be aware of, that all man must die. Death is the only certainty in life, and nothing else is less certain than the time of death.

That is why beginning from this Ash Wednesday and throughout the season of Lent, we are all invited to take a break from our daily schedules, business and all the things that have preoccupied us all these while. Year after year, the season of Lent represent a time for us to prepare ourselves, in mind, heart and body, to be able to celebrate the most important mysteries and aspects of our faith with proper disposition and understanding.

We must realise that we are mere mortals, and we will one day die, and we have to face this fact. Many of us are in fact obsessed and desiring to find ways to prevent death, or at least postpone the onset of death. We spent many hours and much money trying to find ways to keep ourselves healthy and looking young, some even resorting to medicines and physical surgeries and modifications, in order to make ourselves look younger and healthier, but how do all these things benefit us?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as I have mentioned earlier, our existence and life has no meaning without God, for it is God Who gave us our life, the breath of life He has given to each one of us. And just as He has freely given this life to each one of us, He is also free to take back the life at the time of His choosing, and it is not for us to decide when we are to die. Today, we all receive the ashes on our foreheads as reminders for our mortality and our sins.

For sin has corrupted us all, as the disease that is slowly consuming us from within. Sin is caused by our disobedience and refusal to follow the Lord’s will, and instead, following our own desires and wants, we rebelled against God and sin entered into our hearts. And unless if we do something about our sinful and corrupted state, we will not be allowed to enter into the new life and the eternal glory which God has prepared for us, His people.

We must be purified and cleansed before we are considered worthy of the Lord, and in order to achieve this, we must be willing to repent and turn away from all the sins and wicked things we do in life. Some of us are afraid to do so, because we are afraid that God is angry with us and therefore we hide from Him, and pretend as if everything is going fine. But if we do so, we are only lying to ourselves, and just as He knew about the sins committed by Adam and Eve, who pretended at first not to know anything about what they had done, God Who knows everything also knows every single sins we have committed, from the smallest to the greatest.

God knows that we have sinned, and He is disgusted and angry at all the sins we have committed. But His great love for us is far greater than His anger and disgust at us, and instead of being angry, He is rather more worried about us, on what will happen to us should we continue to walk in our path of sin. He is always ready to give us another chance, to show us the way back to His embrace and to love us once again fully with all of His most loving heart. However, it is us mankind who have always been stubborn and rejected His attempts to reconcile us with Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, as we enter into this sacred and contemplative season of Lent, and as we receive the blessed ashes on our forehead, let us first and foremost recognise that we are sinners and we are in need of help. And there is no one else we can turn to besides the Lord Himself. He is ever ready to welcome us back and to love us back fully as He had done before, but are we willing to open ourselves to accept His free offering of love and forgiveness?

During this season of Lent, we practice fasting and abstinence, as ways for us to restrain our human desires and to open ourselves to contemplation and direct our thoughts towards the Lord. However, when we fast and abstain from certain pleasures in life, we must also keep in mind that we must do them with the right reason in mind, or else, as mentioned in the Gospel today, we will end up falling back into sin. Do not fast or abstain for the sake of being praised by others, but rather because we want to return to God’s loving embrace.

Let us all then renew our faith in God, and commit ourselves to a new life, turning away from all the past sins we have committed, discarding from ourselves, the anger, the jealousy, the greed, the worldly desires and all that have thus far been obstacles in our journey back towards the Lord. May this time of Lent be a turning point in our lives, that we may reorientate ourselves towards God, to He Who loves us and reconcile ourselves with Him. May God be with us always, throughout this journey of faith. Amen.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018 : Ash Wednesday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 6 : 1-6, 16-18

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Be careful not to make a show of your righteousness before people. If you do so, you do not gain anything from your Father in heaven. When you give something to the poor, do not have it trumpeted before you, as do those who want to be seen in the synagogues and in the streets, in order to be praised by the people. I assure you, they have already been paid in full.”

“If you give something to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your gift remains really secret. Your Father, Who sees what is kept secret, will reward you. When you pray, do not be like those who want to be seen. They love to stand and pray in the synagogues or on street corners to be seen by everyone. I assure you, they have already been paid in full.”

“When you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father Who is with you in secret; and your Father Who sees what is kept secret will reward you. When you fast, do not put on a miserable face as do the hypocrites. They put on a gloomy face, so that people can see they are fasting. I tell you this : they have already been paid in full.”

“When you fast, wash your face and make yourself look cheerful, because you are not fasting for appearances or for people, but for your Father Who sees beyond appearances. And your Father, Who sees what is kept secret, will reward you.”

Wednesday, 14 February 2018 : Ash Wednesday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

2 Corinthians 5 : 20 – 2 Corinthians 6 : 2

So we present ourselves as ambassadors in the Name of Christ, as if God Himself makes an appeal to you through us. Let God reconcile you; this we ask you in the Name of Christ. He had no sin, but God made Him bear our sin, so that in Him we might share the holiness of God.

Being God’s helpers we beg you : let it not be in vain that you received this grace of God. Scripture says : At the favourable time I listened to you, on the day of salvation I helped you. This is the favourable time, this is the day of salvation.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018 : Ash Wednesday (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 50 : 3-4, 5-6a, 12-13, 14 and 17

Have mercy on me, o God, in Your love. In Your great compassion blot out my sin. Wash me thoroughly of my guilt; cleanse me of evil.

For I acknowledge my wrongdoings and have my sins ever in mind. Against You alone have I sinned; what is evil in Your sight I have done.

Create in me, o God, a pure heart; give me a new and steadfast spirit. Do not cast me out of Your presence nor take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Give me again the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. O Lord, open my lips, and I will declare Your praise.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018 : Ash Wednesday (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Joel 2 : 12-18

YHVH says, “Yet even now, return to Me with your whole heart, with fasting, weeping and mourning. Rend your heart, not your garment. Return to YHVH, your God – gracious and compassionate.” YHVH is slow to anger, full of kindness, and He repents of having punished.

Who knows? Probably He will relent once more and spare some part of the harvest from which we may bring sacred offerings to YHVH, your God. Blow the trumpet in Zion, proclaim a sacred fast, call a solemn assembly. Gather the people, sanctify the community, bring together the elders, even the children and infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his bed, and the bride her room.

Between the vestibule and the altar, let the priests, YHVH’s ministers, weep and say : Spare Your people, YHVH? Do not humble them or make them an object of scorn among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples : Where is their God?

YHVH has become jealous for His land; He has had pity on His people.

(Usus Antiquior) Ash Wednesday (I Classis) – Wednesday, 14 February 2018 : Offertory, Secret Prayer of the Priest, Preface, Communion and Post-Communion Prayer

Liturgical Colour : Violet

Offertory

Psalm 29 : 2-3

Exaltabo Te, Domine, quoniam suscepisti me, nec delectasti inimicos meos super me : Domine, clamavi ad Te, et sanasti me.

 

English translation

I will extol You, o Lord, for You have uphold me, and have not made my enemies to rejoice over me. O Lord, I have cried to You, and You have healed me.

 

Secret Prayer of the Priest

Fac nos, quaesumus, Domine, his muneribus offerendis convenienter aptari : quibus ipsius venerabilis sacramenti celebramus exordium. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium Tuum, qui Tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

 

English translation

Make us duly fit, we beseech You, o Lord, for the offering of these gifts, with which we celebrate the beginning of the august sacrament itself. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who with You lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.

 

Preface of Lent

Vere dignum et justum est, aequum et salutare, nos Tibi semper et ubique gratias agere : Domine, Sancte Pater omnipotens, aeterne Deus : Qui corporali jejunio vitia comprimis, mentem elevas, virtutem largiris et praemia : per Christum, Dominum nostrum.

Per quem majestatem Tuam laudant Angeli, adorant Dominationes, tremunt Potestates. Caeli caelorumque Virtutes ac beata Seraphim socia exsultatione concelebrant. Cum quibus et nostras voces ut admitti jubeas, deprecamur, supplici confessione dicentes :

 

English translation

It is truly meet and just, right and profitable, for us, at all times, and in all places, to give thanks to You, o Lord, the Holy One, the Father Almighty, the Everlasting God, Who on those who chastise their bodies by fasting had bestowed the restraining of evil passions, uplifting of heart, and the enjoying of virtue with its reward. Through Christ our Lord.

Through Whom the Angels praise, the Dominations adore, the Powers, trembling with awe, worship Your majesty, which the heavens, and the forces of heaven, together with the blessed Seraphim, joyfully magnify. And may You command that it be permitted to our lowliness to join with them in confessing You and unceasingly to repeat :

 

Communion

Psalm 1 : 2, 3

Qui meditabitur in lege Domini die ac nocte, dabit fructum suum in tempore suo.

 

English translation

He who shall meditate on the Law of the Lord, day and night, shall bring forth his fruit in due season.

 

Post-Communion Prayer

Percepta nobis, Domine, praebeant sacramenta subsidium : ut Tibi grata sint nostra jejunia, et nobis proficiant ad medelam. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium Tuum, qui Tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

 

English translation

May the sacraments we have received, o Lord, give us help, that our fasts may be pleasing to You and profitable to us as a healing remedy. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who with You lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.

 

Prayer over the People

Oremus.

Humiliate capita vestra Deo.

Inclinantes se, Domine, majestati Tuae, propitiatus intende : ut, qui divino munere sunt refecti, caelestibus semper nutriantur auxiliis. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium Tuum, qui Tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

 

English translation

Let us pray.

Bow down your heads before God.

Look with favour, o Lord, on those who bow before Your majesty, that those who have been refreshed with the divine gift may ever be strengthened with heavenly aids. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who with You lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.

(Usus Antiquior) Ash Wednesday (I Classis) – Wednesday, 14 February 2018 : Holy Gospel

Liturgical Colour : Violet

Sequentia Sancti Evangelii secundum Matthaeum – Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew

Matthew 6 : 16-21

In illo tempore : Dixit Jesus discipulis Suis : Cum jejunatis, nolite fieri, sicut hypocritae, tristes. Exterminant enim facies suas, ut appareant hominibus jejunantes. Amen, dico vobis, quia receperunt mercedem suam.

Tu autem, cum jejunas, unge caput tuum, et faciem tuam lava, ne videaris hominibus jejunans, sed Patri tuo, qui est in abscondito : et Pater tuus, qui videt in abscondito, reddet tibi.

Nolite thesaurizare vobis thesauros in terra : ubi aerugo et tinea demolitur : et ubi fures effodiunt et furantur. Thesaurizate autem vobis thesauros in caelo : ubi neque aerugo neque tinea demolitur; et ubi fures non effodiunt nec furantur. Ubi enim est thesaurus tuus, ibi est et cor tuum.

 

English translation

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “When you fast, do not be as the hypocrites, sad. For they disfigure their faces, so that they may appear unto men as fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.”

“But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that you do not appear to men as fasting, but to your Father Who is in secret, and Who sees what is done in secret will repay you.”

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasure on earth, where the rust and moth consume, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither the rust nor moth could consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there is your heart also.”