Friday, 26 February 2021 : 1st Week of Lent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 5 : 20-26

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “I tell you then, if you are not righteous in a much broader way than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to our people in the past : Do not commit murder; anyone who does kill will have to face trial. But now I tell you : whoever gets angry with a brother or sister will have to face trial.”

“Whoever insults a brother or sister deserves to be brought before the council. Whoever calls a brother or a sister, ‘Fool!’ deserves to be thrown into the fire of hell. So, if you are about to offer your gift at the altar, and you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar, go at once and make peace with him, and then come back and offer your gift to God.”

“Do not forget this : be reconciled with your opponent quickly when you are together on the way to court. Otherwise he will turn you over to the judge, who will hand you over to the police, who will put you in jail. There you will stay, until you have paid the last penny.”

Friday, 26 February 2021 : 1st Week of Lent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 129 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-7a, 7bc-8

Out of the depths I cry to You, o Lord, o Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears pay attention to the voice of my supplication.

If You should mark our evil, o Lord, who could stand? But with You is forgiveness.

For that You are revered. I waited for the Lord, my soul waits, and I put my hope in His word. My soul expects the Lord more than watchmen the dawn.

O Israel, hope in the Lord, for with Him is unfailing love and with Him full deliverance. He will deliver Israel from all its sins.

Friday, 26 February 2021 : 1st Week of Lent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Ezekiel 18 : 21-28

If the sinner turns from his sin, observes My decrees and practices what is right and just, he will live, he will not die. None of the sins he committed will be charged against him, he will live as a consequence of his righteous deeds. Do I want the death of the sinner? – word of YHVH. Do I not rather want him to turn from his ways and live?

But if the righteous man turns away from what is good and commits sins as the wicked do, will he live? His righteous deeds will no longer be credited to him, but he will die because of his infidelity and his sins. But you say : YHVH’s way is not just! Why, Israel! Is My position wrong? Is it not rather that yours is wrong?”

“If the righteous man dies after turning from his righteous deeds and sinning, he dies because of his sins. And if the wicked man does what is good and right, after turning from the sins he committed, he will save his life. He will live and not die, because he has opened his eyes and turned from the sins he had committed.”

Thursday, 25 February 2021 : 1st Week of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded of the power of God’s love and providence, and how fortunate we all truly are for having the Lord by our side, constantly loving us and providing for us, as He has also showed to all those who have been faithful to Him. And we only have to ask Him and seek Him for help, to put our trust in God and to have faith in Him and His providence.

In our first reading today, we heard of the prayer of Queen Esther of Persia asking for the Lord’s help and intervention for the sake of her people. Queen Esther herself was a Jew, and by the grace of God she was chosen out of many to be the Queen of Persia, then the mightiest power in the world. At that time, many of the descendants of the Israelites, the Jewish people, were scattered all across the lands of the Persian Empire, and some among them were living in the lands of the Persians, including Queen Esther and her relative, Mordechai.

Queen Esther sought God’s help because the enemies of the Jewish people, led by Haman the Agagite and his family plotted the downfall of the Jewish people, making use of Haman’s powerful position and connections, as well as the animosity and ill-feeling that many had against the Jewish people, as previous generations of Jews had been favoured by the rulers of Media and Persia, and therefore earned the ire and animosity of others. The prophet Daniel for example, had been challenged and encountered opposition from his enemies during his lifetime.

At that time, Haman and his plots managed to result in the king declaring solemnly in the irrevocable formal law of the land, for the destruction of the entire nation and people of the Israelite descent, for the Jewish people to be eradicated completely. And thus, the existence of the entire people of God was under dire threat at the time, and they had no one else to turn to but God. Mordechai, Queen Esther’s relative came to her asking for her help in the matter, and Esther therefore prepared herself to meet the king for the showdown.

Esther’s position was especially precarious because in doing so she would be disobeying her husband, the King. Her predecessor, Queen Vashti was deposed and exiled for precisely the same reason, for her refusal to obey the King and for acting contrary to the orders of the King. As she was not allowed to come to the King uninvited, to do so would be tantamount to her walking the same path as Queen Vashti, therefore risking her position, life and everything she had.

But Esther was ready to do it all for the Lord and for her people, and she asked for the courage, for strength and guidance to walk the path that she was about to take. And God did guide her and help her, with wisdom and strength, and the love that the King had for Esther prevailed, as together Esther and him managed to defeat and overturn Haman’s plots against the Jewish people, allowing the latter to fight back against all those who sought to destroy them.

As we can see here, and as reiterated clearly in our Gospel passage today, God truly is our loving Father Who cares for us and Who desires nothing else other than our own good. If only that we ask Him, seek Him and entrust ourselves to Him, then He shall give us what we need, He shall guide us and strengthen us with wisdom and proper guidance. Alas, many of us were often too impatient, or think that God does not listen to us simply because we thought that He did not grant us what we want and what we desire. But God gives what we truly need, and not what we wanted.

The question is, are we willing to trust the Lord and to entrust ourselves to Him? Are we willing to seek the Lord and to make the effort to find Him and to follow Him wherever He leads us to? Do we have the courage and the love of God, as well as the faith and dedication like that of Queen Esther? Esther has shown us all that if we trust the Lord and ask Him, He will surely provide for us, and we have nothing to fear at all. We may encounter challenges, trials and indeed, suffer a lot, but in the end, we shall be triumphant together with God.

Therefore, these days, as we navigate through the many challenges of life and the various trials we encounter in life, let us all renew our devotion to God, our faith and trust in Him. Let us all not be afraid to seek the Lord and ask Him for protection and guidance. And let us also trust Him when He leads us forth into the journey He has shown us. Let us all follow the Lord from now on and commit ourselves wholeheartedly to His path, now and always. Amen.