Saturday, 25 February 2023 : Saturday after Ash Wednesday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we continue to progress through the season of Lent, each and every one of us are reminded through the Scripture passages today of the need for all of us to heed the Lord’s call for us to return to Him, abandoning our sinful actions and stubborn attitudes, listening to Him calling us to follow Him and to return once again to His loving embrace. Each and every one of us as Christians have been given the privilege of receiving the truth of God and we have witnessed this same truth being delivered and passed down to us through the Church and by the Wisdom given to us through the Holy Spirit. That is why all the more we should be more obedient to the Lord and dedicate ourselves and our time more to Him, and being more faithful to Him. But the reality is that, many among us Christians are lukewarm in our faith.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah,we heard the prophet speaking to the people of God about how if they were to stop committing sins and wickedness in their lives, distancing themselves from the many actions they had done in the past which were unworthy of their status as God’s chosen people. Historically and contextually, the prophet Isaiah made this comment and reminder to the people of God during a time when the people had been facing a lot of hardships and trials, difficulties, challenges and troubles. Back then, the remnants of the people of God only remained in Judah, the southern part of the once great and glorious kingdom of David and Solomon, as the northern kingdom that had separated and then committed grievous sins against the Lord had finally been destroyed, and most of its people were brought away by their Assyrian conquerors to distant lands in exile.

Then, the same forces of the Assyrians came up against Judah and Jerusalem itself, and almost conquered the city and the kingdom, bringing the same fate to all of the people of God there if not for God’s most timely and loving intervention. God crushed the forces of the Assyrians upon the prayers of the faithful king of Judah, King Hezekiah and the people of Judah, and through the intercession of the prophet Isaiah himself. Through all these experiences and examples, the Lord wanted all of His people to know that if they chose to remain in their state of sin and rebellion against Him, they would suffer the same fate as those who had rebelled and sinned against God. The Lord reminded all of them that on the other hand, if they were to repent from their sins and turn back to Him, they would receive the grace and blessings, the wonderful things that their faithful predecessors had once received.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord calling one particular tax collector named Levi, whom He called to follow Him, to become one of His disciples. This Levi as we all should know, would become St. Matthew, one of the Twelve Apostles and the Four Evangelists. Back then, the tax collectors were greatly hated and reviled by most of the society, and especially by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who deemed them as irredeemable sinners, wicked and greedy, and even as traitors to the Jewish nation, as their roles in collecting taxes and money for the Romans and the other rulers of the land, made them complicit in the minds of the people in betraying their own people to these rulers and conquerers. They were therefore often ostracised and rejected, hated and despised by much of the community of the people of God.

It was exactly to these people that the Lord went to minister, reaching out to them and calling on them to follow Him, just as He had done with Levi. While those Pharisees and teachers of the Law shunned and reviled the tax collectors and others whom they deemed as wicked sinners and those unworthy of God, God came straight at those people and reached out to them, showing them His love and kindness, the desire to be reconciled and reunited with them. He showed that He loved us all equally, and everyone had the same chance to be reconciled with the Lord and be saved, and in fact, as the Lord Himself said, it was those who were seemingly the furthest away from His salvation who needed the most help. That was why the Lord went straight at them and called them to come back to Him, and the response was truly amazing, as those tax collectors and others came to the Lord, and for St. Matthew, he even dedicated himself wholeheartedly to Him.

On the contrary, many among those Pharisees and teachers of the Law refused to believe in the Lord, all because they were full of pride and ego, thinking that they were superior and better than all others, and that they could not have been wrong in their way and judgments, and as such, they viewed the Lord’s actions negatively, in line with their prejudices and biases that they maintained, and refused to let go. They hardened their hearts and minds against the Lord and His teachings, His truth and Wisdom and hence remained in the state of sin and darkness, being dragged down by their own pride and wicked desires and greed for power, fame and glory. All these are reminders for each one of us that we should not let ourselves be swayed by those temptations, and we should instead follow the example of Levi, in rejecting the wickedness of sin and return to the Lord with faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we continue to progress through this season of Lent, let us all therefore reflect and discern carefully on our lives so that we may learn to walk down the right path in life, and journey well in faith. May all of us continue to live our lives with renewed zeal and dedication to God, keeping in mind what we do and say, so that we do not end up walking down the path of sin and wickedness. Let us remind ourselves that sin and disobedience against God will lead us down the path of ruin, while obeying God and persevering in faith in Him will lead us to true justification and happiness with God. Let us choose the right path and commit ourselves to follow the Lord, becoming good and worthy examples of our faith for others to follow, so that more and more may be inspired to follow the Lord through us, just as St. Matthew and many other innumerable saints turned sinners had done to inspire us.

Let us all remember that the Church is truly a hospital for sinners, and that even the worst of sinners who turn to the Lord and repent sincerely from their sins will be forgiven, and can become the greatest of the saints. Let us all look forward to a life truly worthy of the Lord and journey well through this holy and blessed season of Lent. May God be with us always and may He empower and strengthen us so that we may always be true to Him, and be strong in facing and enduring the many challenges of this world. Amen.

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