Friday, 19 February 2021 : Friday after Ash Wednesday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, we are all reminded that in our every Lenten observances and actions, such as fasting, abstinence, spiritual discernments and recollections, all these must be done with God as the focus and the centre of all things, or else we may end up losing sight on the true reason and purpose for those actions, all the fasting and abstinence we do.

In our first reading today, we heard the prophet Isaiah speaking clearly the Lord’s words and intentions, highlighting the folly of someone who practiced fasting and other actions as prescribed by the Law, and yet, at the same time, committing actions that are sinful such as being angry towards one another, quarrelling and fighting over certain matters with their fellow brothers and sisters. That is tantamount to being hypocrites, not truly believing in the Lord and doing the fast and other actions just for one’s own ego and benefits.

In the same reading then the Lord also highlighted how it is important for us to fast and to do our actions with sincere faith and genuine purpose, especially in showing that we are sincerely regretful and remorseful over our sinful ways, and that we are willing to reach out to the Lord, as well as showing His righteousness and virtues through our actions. That is why the prophet Isaiah spoke of how the kind of fast that the Lord wants is that of being loving and compassionate to one another, to reach out to the poor and the less privileged, among other things.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the confrontation between the Lord and the Pharisees, the latter whom complained that the Lord’s disciples had not been fasting in the manner prescribed by the laws of Moses, and especially that they did not follow the Law in the manner that the Pharisees themselves had done. Essentially, they were using themselves as a benchmark and point of reference especially in condemning others for their lack of faith and obedience.

In doing so, those Pharisees have lost the essence and meaning, the purpose and intention of doing the fast and other faithful actions in the first place. In criticising others for their difference in te way they lived their faith without understanding the context, first of all they had not done what the Lord had entrusted to them, the responsibility to teach and guide, to show and the lead the way by their examples. Instead, as the Lord pointed out in other occasions, they fasted and prayed to be seen and praised by others.

This is why through these readings today, all of us are called to reflect on how we are going to make good use of this time and season of Lent, the time to prepare ourselves for the great celebrations at Holy Week and Easter. That is why we are reminded now that as we carry out our Lenten fast, abstinence and other things we do in this period, we should remain focused on the Lord and not be distracted by other, less than noble pursuits just as the Pharisees had done.

That means we should fast and abstain because we know that we are sinners and are in need of discipline, to resist the temptations of our flesh, that we may focus our attention on the Lord better, rather than gloating over others and thinking that we are better than them, or that we are more righteous and virtuous than others. All of us are sinners before the Lord, whether our sins be great or small, and as fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord, we should help one another and show care and concern to others especially to those who are in need of our help.

In this season of Lent, let us especially remember our brethren who are needy and who are suffering, also because we have not yet completely weathered through this current pandemic and its fallout just yet. Many people are still suffering daily and are struggling to make ends meet for themselves and for their families. If we are able to help and provide assistance, then why not? And when we do help, let us help because we really want to help and not that we are looking for fame and glory, or any praise from our actions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore strive to do whatever we can in order to be good and faithful Christians in our respective communities, in showing the love of God to all those who are in need, to show that there is still hope and light present in this world despite the darkness and the many challenges that many people are facing at the moment in their lives. Let us all make our Lent observances a meaningful and good one, in dedicating ourselves to our fellow brothers and sisters, and ultimately to the Lord, our Saviour and God. Amen.

Friday, 19 February 2021 : Friday after Ash Wednesday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 9 : 14-15

At that time, the disciples of John came to Jesus with the question, “How is it, that we and the Pharisees fast on many occasions, but not Your disciples?”

Jesus answered them, “How can you expect wedding guests to mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The time will come, when the Bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then, they will fast.”

Friday, 19 February 2021 : Friday after Ash Wednesday (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 50 : 3-4, 5-6a, 18-19

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.

You take no pleasure in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, You would not delight in it. O God, my sacrifice is a broken spirit; a contrite heart, You will not despise.

Friday, 19 February 2021 : Friday after Ash Wednesday (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 58 : 1-9a

Cry out aloud for all you are worth; raise your voice like a trumpet blast; tell My people of their offences, Jacob’s family of their sins. Is it true that they seek Me day after day, longing to know My ways, as a people that does what is right and has not forsaken the word of its God?

They want to know the just laws and not to drift away from their God. “Why are we fasting?,” they complain, “and You do not even see it? We are doing penance and You never notice it.” Look, on your fast days you push your trade and you oppress your labourers. Yes, you fast but end up quarrelling, striking each other with wicked blows. Fasting as you do will not make your voice heard on high.

Is that the kind of fast that pleases Me, just a day to humble oneself? Is fasting merely bowing down one’s head, and making use of sackcloth and ashes? Would you call that fasting, a day acceptable to YHVH? See the fast that pleases Me : breaking the fetters of injustice and unfastening the thongs of the yoke, setting the oppressed free and breaking every yoke.

Fast by sharing your food with the hungry, bring to your house the homeless, clothe the one you see naked and do not turn away from your own kin. Then will your light break forth as the dawn and your healing come in a flash. Your righteousness will be your vanguard, the glory of YHVH your rearguard. Then you will call and YHVH will answer, you will cry and He will say, I am here.