Wednesday, 17 February 2021 : Ash Wednesday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is Ash Wednesday and therefore we mark the beginning of the season of Lent, the time of renewal of our faith and of reconciliation with God. This season of Lent is truly a special time to remind us of the great and wonderful grace of God’s love, how He willingly embraced us and wanted us all to be reunited with Him, no longer separated from Him because of our sins.

On this day, all of us focus our attention on the most merciful love and generosity of God in loving us and in showing us so much compassion despite everything that we have done towards Him, all the times we have not obeyed Him and wandered far off away from His path. God has always sought us and tried to call us back to Him, and here we are now, bruised and broken, humbly seeking the Lord to be forgiven and to be reconciled to Him.

On this Ash Wednesday, as it is named, we receive the imposition of ashes on our heads as the symbolic and powerful reminder that first and foremost, we are all sinners, through our disobedience against God, and as said, that from the dust we have come from and thus to dust to we shall return. This highlights to us the mortality of our human bodies and existences, how vulnerable and weak we are, and how we need God to be with us, to be the strength and guidance that we need, at all times.

The imposition of ashes also reminds us of our humble selves, that we are truly nothing before the Lord, all of our achievements and prideful glory, all of our power and wealth, all are nothing compared to the glory of God. And there is nothing in this world that is also everlasting. If we think that our power, wealth and glory can be sustained forever, then it will take just a little for us to be reminded how limited we are, and how we will not bring all these with us on the journey to the life to come.

These ashes, made from the burning of the remnants of the dried blessed palms from the previous year is a reminder that nothing in this world is permanent, and death will come to us as surely as we know that no one can escape death, and that is why these ashes remind us both of our mortality as well as what awaits us, should we remain in the state of sin, unreconciled with God, unredeemed and unforgiven from our sins. Thus, we humble ourselves with these ashes, asking God for His forgiveness and mercy.

Today we also mark our commemoration of Ash Wednesday with fasting and abstinence, as we restrain our own physical desires and also focus our attention from our bodily needs, and refocus our attention on the Lord. Today we fast such that we only have a single full meal and two smaller meals, so that we can keep our mind away from the temptations of greed and desire, from the desire of worldly goods and to help control ourselves.

We also abstain from the consumption of meat today, as well as abstaining from other forms of vices and wicked deeds, actions and other things in our lives, so that we remind ourselves of the conscious efforts and work that we have to do if we want to be truly dedicated as Christians, as those who believe in the Lord and committing ourselves to a new life and existence, one no longer led and guided by our selfish desires but rather by our faith in God.

But as the Lord said in our Gospel passage today, are we truly genuine in our regret and remorse for our sins, in our practice of fasting and abstinence, as well as how we are going to spend this time and season of Lent? Are we sincere in our devotion to God and in our faith in Him? God has always loved us and wanted us to find the way to Him, and this is the time for us to rediscover the love we ought to have for Him. Let our fasting and abstinence be the genuine show of our sincerity in faith, our sign of true love for God.

During this period of time, we are preparing ourselves for the upcoming celebration of the Holy Week and Easter, when we shall celebrate and commemorate the occasion of Our Lord’s Passion, His suffering and death on the Cross, and finally His triumph and glorious Resurrection, the most important celebration of all in our Christian faith. It is so important that we are given this time and opportunity to properly get ourselves ready.

In order for us to prepare ourselves well for those series of celebrations and commemorations, that is why we have this entire season of Lent, a period of over forty days long, as it spanned forty days excluding the Sundays of Lent, which marked the time of preparation and spiritual renewal, a time of reconnection with God and a return to His righteousness and way.

That is why today we are called to reflect both on our lives and on our faith, and consider how each and every one of us can draw ourselves closer to God, to repent and turn away from our sins, abandon our recklessness in life and our ignorance of God and His ways. And in all of our Lenten observances, in our fasting and abstinence, let us all do them with genuine commitment and desire to be good and faithful Christians.

Let us all be exemplary in our actions and conduct, in how we live our lives so that we may help one another in reaching out to the Lord and find our way to His salvation. May the Lord help us and strengthen us to persevere in our faith, and help us in making our lives more and more Christ-like. Let us humble ourselves and seek the Lord for His healing, for all of the corruption and wickedness of our sins.

May God bless us all, and may He bless our Lenten observances beginning today. May these blessed ashes that we have been imposed with help to remind us of our humanity, mortality and sinfulness, and remind us also of the love that God has for us, in forgiving us and showing us compassion and enduring love. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 17 February 2021 : 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, 17 February 2021 : Ash Wednesday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 8 : 14-21

At that time, the disciples had forgotten to bring more bread, and had only one loaf with the in the boat. Then Jesus warned them, “Keep your eyes open, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” And they said of one another, “He saw that we have no bread.”

Aware of this, Jesus asked them, “Why are you talking about the loaves you are short of? Do you not see or understand? Are your minds closed? Have your eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear? And do you not remember when I broke the five loaves among five thousand? How many baskets full of letfovers did you collect?”

They answered, “Twelve.” “And having distributed seven loaves to the four thousand, how many wicker baskets of leftovers did you collect?” They answered, “Seven.” Then Jesus said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

Wednesday, 17 February 2021 : 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, 17 February 2021 : 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.