Saturday, 20 February 2021 : Saturday after Ash Wednesday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day the Lord speaks to us through the words of the Scriptures that we have just heard, in which we heard a message of repentance and forgiveness from God. Through what we have heard, we are all reminded that God extends His mercy and forgiveness to all those who come and seek Him, and provided that we change our ways and sincerely seek to be reconciled with Him, we shall be forgiven our sins.

The prophet Isaiah came and preached at the pivotal moments in the history of the people of Israel, as he lived during those years when the northern kingdom of Israel, covering most of the ten tribes of the Israelites had been destroyed recently by the forces of the Assyrians, and most of its people brought off into forced exile in far-off lands in distant Assyria and Mesopotamia, away from the lands of their ancestors.

And at that time, the southern kingdom of Judah itself had been existentially threatened by its powerful neighbours, including from the Assyrians themselves, who came up to Jerusalem and besieged it, as king Sennacherib of Assyria almost conquered all of Judah and Jerusalem if not for the divine intervention of the Lord that wiped out the Assyrian forces and sent the king of Assyria back to his lands in shame.

All those were because of the lack of faith in the people of Israel, as they had abandoned the ways of the Lord, disobeyed the laws and commandments of God again and again, and refusing to listen to the many prophets and messengers that had been sent into their midst to call them back and remind them to stop their rebellious ways and turn back towards God.

Yet, the Lord never gave up on us, and He did not stop trying to seek us out and to turn us back towards Him, that we may be reconciled to Him, be forgiven from our many sins, and thus, He tirelessly continued to seek us out, and He gave us all the best of all gifts in this regard, that is the gift of our salvation through His own most beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have received the new assurance of eternal life and glory in God.

In our Gospel passage we heard of the calling of Levi, the tax collector by the Lord, Who called him to follow Him to be His disciple. Levi listened to the Lord’s call and immediately left everything behind and followed the Lord. Through this call, the man once known as Levi became a new man, called by God to be His Apostle, St. Matthew, who was also one of the Four Evangelists, in writing the Gospel attributed to him.

We see therefore how this man, a former tax collector, widely condemned and ostracised at his own time by the rest of the general community due to the strong prejudices that then existed on the tax collectors in labelling them as traitors to the nation and the people, as well as being greedy and exploitative of others, could become a great saint and one of the Apostles and the Evangelists no less.

We need to know that no one is truly away from God’s salvation and grace, and just as God Himself is also consistently and actively reaching out towards us, then in fact the mercy and forgiveness of God are truly readily and easily accessible for us, and the story of many of our predecessors, turned from sinners to saints, only serve to highlight this fact even more.

However, the main obstacle preventing us from finding our way to God is in fact our own reluctance, doubt and refusal to accept God’s generous offer of mercy and forgiveness. Many of us are unwilling to commit to the Lord and continued to live in the state of sin. That is why so many people still failed to receive the rich bounties of God’s grace and mercy. As long as we allow the many temptations present in the world to tempt us away from the Lord, then we are likely to remain distant from Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore do our best to overcome the temptations of worldly desires and all other obstacles that are in the way of our reconciliation with God. Let us all be courageous in responding to the Lord with a renewed faith from now on, that we will remain faithful to the path that the Lord has showed us, and that we will always strive to walk faithfully in His presence, now and always. May God bless us and guide us in our path going forward in life. Amen.

Saturday, 20 February 2021 : Saturday after Ash Wednesday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 5 : 27-32

At that time, after Jesus healed a paralytic man, He went out, and noticing a tax collector named Levi, sitting in the tax office, He said to him, “Follow Me!” So Levi, leaving everything, got up and followed Jesus.

Levi gave a great feast for Jesus, and many tax collectors came to his house, and took their places at the table with the other people. Then the Pharisees and their followers complained to Jesus’ disciples, “How is it, that you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

But Jesus spoke up, “Healthy people do not need a doctor, but sick people do. I have not come to call the just, but sinners, to a change of heart.”

Saturday, 20 February 2021 : Saturday after Ash Wednesday (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 85 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Listen, o YHVH, and answer me, for I am afflicted and needy. Preserve my life, for I am God-fearing; save Your servant who trusts in You.

Have mercy on me, o YHVH, for I cry to You all day. Bring joy to the soul of Your servant; for You, o YHVH, I lift up my soul.

You are good and forgiving, o YHVH, caring for those who call on You. Listen, o YHVH, to my prayer, hear the voice of my pleading.

Saturday, 20 February 2021 : Saturday after Ash Wednesday (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 58 : 9b-14

If you remove from your midst the yoke, the clenched fist and the wicked word. If you share your food with the hungry and give relief to the oppressed, then your light will rise in the dark, your night will be like noon.

YHVH will guide you always and give you relief in desert places. He will strengthen your bones; He will make you as a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters never fall. Your ancient ruins will be rebuilt, the age-old foundations will be raised. You will be called the Breach-mender, and the Restorer of ruined houses.

If you stop profaning the Sabbath and doing as you please on the holy day, if you call the Sabbath a day of delight and keep sacred YHVH’s holy day, if you honour it by not going your own way, not doing as you please and not speaking with malice, then you will find happiness in YHVH, over the heights you will ride triumphantly, and feast joyfully on the inheritance of your father Jacob. The mouth of YHVH has spoken.