Saturday, 5 March 2022 : Saturday 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 Scriptures we are all called to continue this journey of purification of our whole entire beings, as we are called to do in this season of Lent. We are reminded to get rid from ourselves the excesses of worldly temptations and corruptions, seeking the Lord for His forgiveness and mercy, and to grow ever further in our love for Him, dedicating and spending our time and effort to walk in His presence always.

In our first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard the words of the prophet reminding the people of Judah to whom he had been sent to, calling on them to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and reject the sins and the wicked ways that they and their ancestors had done. The prophet relayed the words of the Lord to the people, calling on them to reject sin and evil, to follow once again the path that the Lord has shown them. The Lord wanted all of them to turn back towards Him and to find healing and consolation in Him.

The people of Judah and Israel at that time as well as during the time of their ancestors had fallen far away from the path that God has shown them, as they followed the pagan gods and idols, persecuted the prophets and the many messengers that God had sent to them in order to remind them and help them. They had torn down the altars of God and built altars for the pagan gods and idols in their place. And despite all of these, God still loved His people above all else, and despite having been betrayed and abandoned by those same people, God was still willing to welcome them all back to His embrace, provided that they all repented from their sins.

This is what the Lord Himself had shown us in our Gospel passage today, as He called upon Levi, the tax collector to be His follower. Levi listened to the Lord, abandoning everything behind and followed the Lord henceforth, becoming one of His disciples and eventually as one of the Twelve Apostles, St. Matthew, he became a very important and fundamental part of the development of the Church of God. St. Matthew and many other followers of the Lord such as St. Mary Magdalene, among others, were considered as sinners and unworthy by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

Yet, those were the same ones who willingly devoted their lives to God, rejecting their past, sinful way of life, embracing God’s forgiveness and mercy at its fullest, and walking down the path of God henceforth. The Lord called all sinners to come to Him, all of us the sons and daughters of man, without exception, as He wants us to be healed from the sickness and corruptions caused by our sins, and free us from the tyranny and bondage of those sins and evils. In God alone we can find healing and liberation, and He has generously extended to us this offer of love and compassionate mercy.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard all these words from the Scriptures, we are all reminded that we are so fortunate to have the Lord and His kindness by our side, and yet, many of us are still unaware of this and remained away from the Lord, separated from Him and remaining in the state of sin. This time of Lent we are all reminded that God’s mercy and love for us persists, and what we all need to do is to embrace that mercy and love. It is unfortunate that many of us have not taken up the opportunities presented to us to embrace God’s love and still ignored His generous offer of mercy and forgiveness.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to make use of the opportunities given to us in this season of Lent to be more attuned to God and to be more aware of our mortality, our weaknesses and our sins, remembering just how we should have suffered the terrible consequences for those sins, and yet, God gave us the opportunity to be redeemed and to find our way to His salvation and grace. He has opened for us the path to eternal life with sure guarantee, only if we are willing to follow Him. We have to strive to resist the many temptations of the world present all around us.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be like St. Matthew, and all the other sinners and rebels who have responded to the Lord’s call and committed themselves to a new life that is free from sin and full of Christian virtues and righteousness. St. Matthew and the others have shown us that there is a great future for us sinners, as long as we have that desire to seek the Lord for His forgiveness and commit ourselves to follow Him wholeheartedly from now on.

Let this season of Lent be a time of renewal and a rediscovery and rejuvenation of our faith, as we come closer to God and His throne of mercy and love. Let us all spend more time with the Lord and deepen our relationships with Him, through prayer and more genuine efforts to communicate with Him, spending quality time together and doing more to walk faithfully in His path. Let us be more humble and be more committed to the Lord as we go through this season of Lent, and practice our Lenten observances with genuine faith and desire to love the Lord more and purifying ourselves from the many corruptions of sin.

May the Lord be with us all and help us as we journey with faith through this time of preparation and purification, and may He inspire in us the courage and strength to continue living our lives with dedication and commitment at each and every moments of our lives. May God be with us all, now and always, through this season of Lent and beyond. Amen.

Friday, 4 March 2022 : Friday after Ash Wednesday, Memorial of St. Casimir (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures and as we embark on this journey of the Lenten season, all of us are called to remember why we observe this season of Lent, with plenty of fasting, abstinence and almsgiving. We are reminded that all that we have done, we did them not for ourselves or for our own satisfaction and convenience. All of these we have done because we desire to seek the Lord and to be forgiven from our many sins and faults, to be reconciled fully with our most loving and compassionate God.

In our first reading today, we heard from the prophet Isaiah, the words of the Lord chastising His people in the kingdom of Judah, where Isaiah was ministering in. The Lord chastised His people because they had not truly been faithful to Him, and those who professed to be faithful, did not truly follow Him in the way that they should have, as they merely paid lip service through their actions. It was mentioned how they fasted and yet at the same time, they oppressed the weak and the poor, bringing sorrow and hardships to others, all for their own personal benefits and glory.

This was what the Lord chastised His people for, which was their attitude that did not reflect true faith and commitment in the Lord and His path. He told them that they could not profess to believe in Him and yet, acted in ways contrary to what they have believed in. Otherwise, they would be hypocrites and lacking in true faith. They have to be truly faithful and not just doing things and obeying the rules and laws just for the sake of obeying them. If they fasted and yet, they bickered and oppressed others who were less fortunate, then whatever virtues and good things they have gained would have been nulled by the wickedness they committed.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord speaking to the disciples of St. John the Baptist who came to Him asking why His disciples did not fast the same way that they and the Pharisees had fasted. Contextually, we have to understand that the disciples of St. John and especially the Pharisees had followed a very strict interpretation of the Jewish laws and customs, and which particularly for the Pharisees, they took great emphasis and care in enforcing that fast and how the fast were to be done, and criticised all others who did not fast the way that they had done it.

This was where the Pharisees had ended up losing sight on the true intention and meaning of fasting, of why fasting was done in the first place. For as the Lord Himself had said in our first reading today, if we fasted and then yet, we oppressed, persecuted and made others’ life difficult, through how the Pharisees had criticised and persecuted the Lord, His disciples and the other people, then what they had done were not in accordance with God, His teachings and truth. They did not fast as how the Lord wanted them to fast.

For their fasting ended up serving their own desires, in wanting to be recognised and praised for their own piety, in their faith and virtues. They sought that glory and worldly fame, attention, influence and other things, that they ended up forgetting why they ought to have fasted, which was in fact contrary to what they had done. Fasting was meant to curb all those desires instead of embracing them, and fasting was meant to bring one closer to God and help one to focus on God rather than to end up focusing more on oneself and their own’s selfish desires.

That is why, today as we remember these words from the Scriptures, all of us are yet again reminded that in our Lenten practices and observances, we must not do them blindly and without understanding their true significance and importance. It means that we should not just fasted and abstained from meat like for example on this day, being a Friday, on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and any other Fridays, but we have to have an interior conversion and change of heart and mind. For fasting and abstinence must not just be an end on themselves, but they must lead to a genuine conversion and change of heart.

It means that we have to grow ever more in our faith in the Lord, and be sincere in our desire to follow the Lord. We must not merely pay lip service in our faith, and this Lent should be a great opportunity for us to embrace the Lord and His mercy and love. This Lenten season should be a time for us to grow more in humility and in our relationship with God rather than for us to show off our faith with pride or worse still, for us to compare with one another who is being more worthy and holier in our ways before the Lord.

Today we should be inspired instead by the good examples set by our predecessors, especially that of St. Casimir, whose feast we are celebrating today. St. Casimir was a prince of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania in the late Middle Ages, the second son of the King of Poland-Lithuania. Even in his youth, he was renowned for his great piety and faith in God, in his many charitable and generous actions for the poor and the sick, as he dedicated himself to the care of the less privileged. He also dedicated himself to a life of virtue and holiness, not indulging in the excesses of worldly living as what many of the royalty and nobles at that time often enjoyed.

Through his faith, life and dedication, St. Casimir, faithful servant of God has shown us all how we can also be faithful to the Lord in our own actions. Are we then willing and able to commit ourselves to the Lord in the same way, brothers and sisters in Christ? Can we be more humble in life, recognising our sinfulness and our vulnerabilities and weaknesses, and at the same time also growing ever more generous in loving and giving to others, in the manner that St. Casimir and many others of our holy predecessors had done?

Let us all make great use of this blessed time of Lent for us to reorientate our lives back towards the Lord, to return to Him and to embrace Him with genuine love once again. Let us all turn towards Him with faith, and commit ourselves to a new life of virtue and faith, renewed with zeal and courage, to take up our crosses in life and following the Lord, walking in the path that He has shown us all. May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us, and may He empower us all to be able to serve Him at all times, through our lives and examples. Amen.

Thursday, 3 March 2022 : Thursday after Ash Wednesday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures speaking to us regarding the matter of following God and His commandments, to obedient to Him, His Law and all that He has given and revealed to us through His Church. All of us as Christians are called to follow the Lord wholeheartedly, to devote ourselves, our lives and actions to adhere to His path. And as we begin this season of Lent, it is indeed most timely for us to consider this carefully.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Deuteronomy in which the Lord spoke to His people, the Israelites, through Moses, the leader whom God had appointed and sent to free the Israelites from their enslavement in Egypt, bringing them all out through the power of God as they journeyed towards the Promised Land of Canaan. The Lord placed His Law and commandments to them all, passing them His Law and precepts to be followed and obeyed, that they might remain on the right path in life.

Unfortunately, as we all likely have known, no sooner that God revealed His Law, His Covenant and love for the people, that the same people disobeyed Him, refused to follow Him and fell back into their sinful path, as they forced Aaron to build a golden calf idol to be their god and master, just so soon after the Lord had liberated them from the slavery in Egypt and from the hands and forces of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh. Even though they had seen the love and the might of God, they still betrayed Him and abandoned Him for a pagan idol.

Thus, that was why Moses spoke to the Israelites, in that occasion, just as he was already getting old and having led the Israelites on their forty years of detour and journey in the desert due to the infidelity and the lack of faith that the Israelites had shown. He reminded the whole people of Israel how fortunate they were for having been chosen as God’s own people and how He has favoured them and guided them all the way. God has presented His Law, commandments and ways, and the choice was therefore the people’s, on whether they would want to follow Him or not.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard how the Lord told His disciples very plainly that He was to suffer rejection and even death at the hands of His enemies and opponents, the ones who despised Him and would make it difficult for Him to perform His works and missions, namely many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, the many members of the Sanhedrin, the chief priests and elders, the Sadducees and all those who opposed the truth and the wonders that the Lord had brought unto this world.

All those things happened because of the stubbornness of mankind, their attachments to worldly glory, power and fame, all that led to the people mentioned opposing the Lord and His good works, because they feared losing their influence and power in the society, the status and privileges that they had experienced and gained from the world. They saw the Lord as a rival and threat to all these, and that was why, despite being the ones who were the most knowledgeable about the Law, ironically they were the ones who rejected the Lord with the greatest fervour.

Just like the people of Israel of old, their ancestors, it was their desire for worldly things and their attachments that led them to disobey the Lord, and therefore fell deeper and deeper into the path of sin. Thus, the Lord reminded His disciples and all of us truly require that commitment and the genuine desire to follow Him wholeheartedly. We cannot truly call ourselves Christians and God’s disciples unless we are willing to carry our crosses together with the Lord, knowing fully that in following Him, sooner or later, we would face rejection and condemnation from the world, just as the Lord Himself had experienced.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in this season of Lent, all of us are called to renew this commitment we have in the Lord, to purify our hearts, minds, bodies and souls, our whole entire beings, in following God from now on with greater fervour and dedication. All of us are called to make that conscious choice to stand with the Lord, willing and ready to carry our crosses in life, devoting our effort, time and attention to serve the Lord by being exemplary as Christians in life. We are all called to follow the path that God has shown us and definitively reject sin and all of Satan’s many temptations and efforts to turn us away from God.

May the Lord continue to be with us and bless us in our respective journeys of faith. May He continue to watch over us and grant us the strength to persevere through the challenges and trials of our faith and life, and help us that we may draw ever closer to Him and His salvation, from now on and always, that we may help and inspire one another to become ever closer to God and be better Christians, through this wonderful time and season of Lent. Amen.

Wednesday, 2 March 2022 : Ash Wednesday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we begin the blessed season of Lent with the Ash Wednesday, the first day of the Lenten season. On this day we mark this special occasion with the imposition of ashes on our heads, as a very symbolic act of us recognising our own mortality and the fragility of our existence. And as we impose the ashes on the crown of our heads, it represents our willingness to embrace God’s love and mercy, with repentant hearts and open minds, desiring to follow Him once again and to walk in His presence.

In our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Joel, we heard the Lord speaking to His people calling on them all to return to Him, to repent from their sinful and wicked ways so that they would not end up being separated forever. The prophet Joel, according to history and tradition, lived during the years after the return of the exiles of Israel and Judah from their humiliating exile in Babylon and other places, where for many decades they had to endure the sufferings and humiliation of having no place that they could call home.

They also had to endure the destruction of their homeland, their cities and capital Jerusalem, the Temple and House of God destroyed, and them scattered among the nations. They had to endure all that shame, but God did not forget about them, and as He Himself had promised to their ancestors, that He would rescue them and bring them back to the lands they and their ancestors once owned, thus, God fulfilled His promises to the people, who had atoned for their sins by their struggles and by remaining faithful to Him despite their predicaments. Many of them have regretted their ancestors’ and their own infidelity.

Thus, the Lord has shown mercy and compassion on them, embracing them as He moved the heart of Cyrus, the King of Persia to allow them all to return to their homeland, and not only that, but also to rebuild their cities and the Temple and House of God in Jerusalem. The Lord showed how He still loved them no matter what, and regardless of all that they had done in disobeying Him and betraying Him. However, the Lord also called on them to repent and to change their ways, so that they would sin no longer.

God has always remembered us, and He has given many opportunities to us to listen to Him and to change our ways for the better. St. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians called on all the faithful to embrace this mercy, compassion and love that God has shown. And today as we listened to these words, we are all reminded of just how fortunate we are that God has always made this available to us, for us to return to Him and to find our way back to Him, and this season of Lent is a perfect opportunity and time for us to return to our most loving and merciful God.

That is why as we begin this season of Lent today, we are all reminded of the importance of this season as a time to prepare ourselves, our hearts and minds, our bodies and our whole entire beings so that we may be ready to welcome the Lord into our midst, to walk with Him and to be in His presence once again. The ashes that came from the remnants of the blessed palms of last year’s Palm Sunday are blessed and then imposed on our heads as the clear sign of our desire to come closer to God and to embrace His mercy, compassion and love especially during this penitential and blessed season of Lent.

And it is important that we understand fully the practices involved in this season of Lent and also on this particular Ash Wednesday. We fast and abstain on this day to mark this occasion of the Ash Wednesday, as we commit ourselves to a time of purification and reorientation of our lives, of our desire to abandon the excesses of worldly attachments and temptations. That is indeed why we practice fasting and abstinence today, and with regards to abstinence which we practice on each Fridays not just during the season of Lent but throughout the entire year as well.

We fast by restricting our intake of food to just one full meal a day with two smaller collations because we want to remind ourselves not to be overcome by greed and by our desires, and to remind ourselves that our physical bodies and existence, the desires of our flesh can and should be transcended, and through this we can also help ourselves to focus better on the Lord. And by abstaining from meat on this day and on other Fridays of the year, we are reminded to focus our attention on the Lord, especially to His most loving sacrifice on the Cross for us, on Good Friday. By the shedding of His Body and Blood, Our Lord has brought salvation upon all of us.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord is therefore reminding us that as we enter into this season of Lent, we should not blindly do what the Church and the Law had instructed us to do, in our fasts and abstinences. We should not fast and abstain because we want other people to see just how devout, holy and committed we are to the Lord, and we should not fast and abstain just because we want to be seen by others and to be praised by them. If we fast and abstain, or do any other forms of Lenten observations and piety for the sake of doing it, or for appearances, then we are not doing it right, brothers and sisters in Christ. Our fasting and abstinence, among other things, are meant to bring us closer to God.

That is why today, on this Ash Wednesday, we must not be superficial in faith any longer. If we have not committed ourselves to a change in our attitudes in life, our outlook and focus, our efforts and others, then we have to seriously begin that change at this very instant. This season of Lent is that time of renewal of our hearts, our minds, our bodies, our souls and indeed, of our entire beings, as we are all called by God to return to Him, to His love and truth, to embrace once again His righteous and virtuous path, His grace and salvation. We may have fallen astray on the path, and have been tempted and dragged once again into the depths of sin, but God has never given up on us. He has kept giving us, again and again, the many opportunities for us to return to Him.

Hence, as we receive the imposition of these blessed ashes, let us not just show our repentance outwardly only, but also strive for a total internal repentance, reorientation and change of our lives, our actions, and indeed, everything that we are, all that we have done thus far. We have to wear those ashes on our heads, as a sign of total humility before God instead of pride. It is not a sign to be shown off as a symbol of piety or superiority over others, as quite a few would have inadvertently ended up making it a show of their faith, or as a measure of holiness and worthiness before God. And in that pride and ego, there can be no true forgiveness and reconciliation, brothers and sisters in Christ.

That is why, more than just receiving the imposition of the ashes on our heads, the crown of our body as a visible and tangible sign of our repentance, what is even more important is for us to rend our hearts, our minds, our bodies, our souls and our entire beings, casting out from them all the vestiges of pride and ego, of ambition, hubris and greed, of all the things that have kept us away from God for so long all these while. We have to cast all these away and renew our hearts, our whole entire beings by humbling accepting God’s freely offered love, forgiveness and mercy. We have to let Him enter into our hearts, to touch our minds and be present within us, in our being, as He dwells in us and among us. We have to allow the Lord to transform our lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore commit ourselves this Lent, to be a better person and to be better Christians, ever more committed and dedicated disciples, followers, and children of Our most loving God and Father. Let us all draw ever closer to His throne of mercy, seeking Him and beseeching Him to welcome us back into His presence, as we come to Him not just with ashes on our heads, but even more importantly with the ashes that cover the whole of our hearts, our minds and our entire inner beings, as we show great regret and shame over our many, innumerable sins. Let us all ask the Lord to forgive us and to help us, so that we all may come ever closer to Him and find our true life and salvation through Him.

May God be with us all, and may He bless our Lenten journey and experience starting today, so that we may strive to be ever better Christians, not just in name, but also in words and deeds, in all things. Let us be more loving and charitable this Lent, and also resist the temptations to sin, in various forms and ways, by our faithful practice of fasting and abstinence, done right with the right focus and intent, not for ourselves but for the greater glory of God. May God bless us all, all of our actions, words and deeds, our many upcoming Lenten observances and works, that we may be worthy of Him in the end, when He comes again to gather all of His faithful. Amen.

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.

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.

Thursday, 18 February 2021 : Thursday after Ash Wednesday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we remind ourselves with the help of the readings of the Scripture of the path that we ought to take as we proceed forward in life. We are reminded that we have been given the free will and the opportunities to choose the path we are to take in life, to choose between God’s righteousness and virtues, or that of evil and wickedness, sin and the falsehoods of the devil, all of his false and empty promises.

In our first reading today taken from the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses the leader of the Israelites during their Exodus from Egypt after having revealed the Law and commandments of God that he has received from the Lord, presented to the elders and all the people of Israel, the choice between following what is right and just according to the Law, or to continue to be disobedient and walking down their own paths, in opposition against God.

Moses made it known to all of the people that their actions and choices would be held against them, and if they so chose to disobey and walk the path of sin and disobedience then they would not be part of the glorious inheritance and blessings that the Lord has intended for all of His faithful people. The Lord will bless those who have chosen His path, and those who have not, He will still call them to Himself and attempt to bring over to Him.

However, if they constantly and consistently refuse to believe in Him, then it was by their own conscience and by their own choice that they have chosen their lot among those condemned and rejected, for it was themselves who rejected God and His most generous and loving kindness towards us. We have to choose between God and the world, between Him and the temptations of wealth, glory and human desires.

In our Gospel today, we heard the Lord making His point before His disciples, saying that He Himself would suffer at the hands of those who refused to believe in Him, and He, the Son of Man, would be persecuted and crushed for the sins of mankind, condemned to die on the Cross and through His death, bring about the salvation of all mankind through His resurrection.

And the Lord said that in order to be His followers, they would have to deny themselves, pick up their crosses and follow Him wholeheartedly, or otherwise, they could not become His true disciples. He pointed to them the same choice that Moses had presented before the whole assembly of Israel, the choice between following God and following their own human ambitions, desires, pride, ego and all the temptations present in the world.

As Christians all of us are called to heed this call, and realise this choice which we have to make, in choosing between following and obeying God or to follow the whims of our desires and all the temptations present around us. Are we willing to commit ourselves to the Lord, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to make the effort and give the necessary contributions and sacrifices to be good and faithful Christians?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all spend time to discern these and how we are to lead a more wholesome and faithful Christian living from now on. Let us all make good use of this season of Lent to redirect our lives and actions, to change our lives for the better and to dedicate ourselves from now on for the greater glory of God, and being good examples in life, to show what it truly means to be Christians, in living up our faith, and in picking up our crosses and follow the Lord.

May God be with us always and may He strengthen us with conviction and courage that all of us may come to stand up for our faith, and be filled with genuine desire of love for the Lord and our fellow brothers and sisters from now on. Amen.

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.

Saturday, 29 February 2020 : Saturday after Ash Wednesday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are called by God to leave behind our past lives of sin, of disobedience against God, of rebelliousness and waywardness in life, of all sorts of temptations and things that have separated us from the fullness of God’s love among other things. We are called to embrace instead the fullness of God’s love and mercy as we continue to progress through this blessed season and time of Lent.

The Lord has given us this wonderful opportunity through His Church in the institution of the time of Lent to precede the glorious season of Easter as a reminder that all of us are sinners and are in need of purification and change in our way of life. God will guide us in this journey of reconciliation and forgiveness, if we allow Him to guide our path and open our hearts and minds to welcome Him into our midst. On the other hand, if we are stubborn and refuse to change or be open to God, then we will not have any progress in this regard.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us now take a closer look at what we have just heard in our Gospel passage today. In that occasion, the Lord Jesus called a tax collector named Levi to follow Him, and Levi readily obeyed, leaving everything behind, his work and all, and followed Jesus. Then, before he was to proceed, Levi’s fellow tax collectors had a dinner with the Lord, which was frowned upon by the Pharisees who considered the tax collectors as traitors and sinners.

Tax collectors had always been reviled and hated during the time of Jesus because not only that they were the ones who collected the much hated taxes that saw people’s incomes being diminished due to the tax for the state, but even more so because at that time the Roman Empire reigned supreme in the Mediterranean region and including over Judea, Galilee and all the lands of the Israelites, those taxes were levied by the Romans and the tax collectors were seen as traitors to the nation and as collaborators of the Romans.

To that extent, the tax collectors faced not just intense hatred and dislike but also plenty of prejudice and bias against them. They were seen as dirty, unworthy, wicked, corrupt and evil and were generally shunned by the rest of the society. And this is precisely the sentiment made popular and spread by the Pharisees, who saw themselves as the antithesis of those tax collectors, being pious, good and obedient to the Law, as role models for the people and worthy inheritors of God’s promise.

The Pharisees looked down on the tax collectors and they severely criticised the Lord for His willingness to eat in the house of the tax collector and with those tax collectors no less. But they forgot a very important fact, that just like the tax collectors, they themselves were sinners, but unlike the tax collectors who were willing to listen to the Lord Jesus and accepted His truth, the Pharisees instead hardened their hearts and minds and refused to believe in Jesus.

In what the Lord Jesus then spoke before all of them, that He came into this world seeking those who are sick and troubled, as sins are truly the sickness of our deepest beings, corruptions upon our souls, thus, comparing the attitudes of the tax collectors and the Pharisees, we can easily see which of the two would in the end reap the benefit and wonders of God’s mercy and love. The tax collectors though sinners, they wanted to be healed by God and opened themselves to God’s mercy. And one of their own number, Levi, later to be known as Matthew, became a great saint, one of the Lord’s own Twelve Apostles and one of the Four Evangelists.

Meanwhile, the Pharisees, though also sinners, they did not see the depth of their sins and refused the healing that God has offered them. They kept themselves in their pride and refused to allow God’s healing to work in them. Nonetheless, the Lord continued to be patient with them, and we can see how He even forgave them all at the moment of His ultimate suffering on the Cross, asking His heavenly Father to forgive them their sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what can we learn from all these? It is the fact that all of us are sinners who have been privileged to have such a loving, caring, compassionate and merciful God, willing to embrace us and to heal us from our afflictions of sin. And we are sinners who have been called to a new existence with God, to embrace a new life filled with God’s grace and free from the corruption of sin. God despises our sins, but not us sinners, and therefore, we should make use of this opportunity especially during this season of Lent, we should draw ourselves closer to God.

May the Lord continue to be with us and watch over us as we journey through life and through this penitential season of Lent. May the Lord bless us and our many good endeavours of faith, and may He strengthen our faith and help us to love Him more and more with each passing moment. Amen.

Friday, 28 February 2020 : Friday after Ash Wednesday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are brought yet again to the topic of fasting as a practice that we commonly do during the season of Lent. Especially our brothers and sisters in the Eastern Rites traditions practice fasting throughout the season of Lent, and while we in the Roman Rite are required to fast only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, it will be good for us to discern deeper on the significance of fasting to us.

Fasting is meant for us to remind us of the limitations of our physical bodies and also to restrain our ever-present desires, for the nourishment and satisfaction of food. We know how easily we succumb to the temptation to snack and to gobble as much good food as we are able to lay our hands on. Whenever our eyes look upon good food, naturally we will crave and desire for them, and we want to satisfy ourselves with them.

That is why fasting as a practice trains us in our endurance to resist the many temptations present all around us that are threatening to drag us deeper and deeper into sin. All these temptations distract our focus and attention from God and make us to carry on our lives following the wrong path that is the path of sin and darkness, the path of selfishness, greed and pride that will lead us even further down into the trap of sin.

That is why today we are reminded to fast with the right intention and purpose, and not just fasting but also all sorts of our observances and practices for this Lenten season. It is important that we have the right disposition and direction as we move along through this time of purification and repentance. This Lenten season is a good time for us to reorientate ourselves and our lives, as we seek to redress our sins and our past wicked ways of life, and embrace once again God’s love and embrace His mercy.

However, it is very easy for us to end up falling into the trap of following the laws and practices of the Church as mere formality and customary, as we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah when the Lord spoke to His people about the kind of fasting that pleased Him. He mentioned how fasting was not just about putting on sackcloths and ashes on oneself as were customary at that time in show of repentance and regret, but more importantly, fasting must be accompanied with a change from within and not just the outside.

For the Pharisees in the Gospel passage today criticised the Lord and His disciples as the disciples did not fast as how the Law of Moses has prescribed fasting on certain days and customs. The Pharisees looked down on them because they in particular treasured the Law and how they observed the Law with great particularity and zeal, to the point that they actually had forgotten the purpose of what they were doing. The Pharisees fasted and did all that because they wanted to be praised for what they have done and they liked it when others looked up to them for their piety and commitment.

If that is the way that we observe our Lent and our fasting and abstinence, then it will not do us any good as when this happened, our hearts and minds are filled not with the love and desire for God and to be forgiven our sins and faults, but instead we are filled with the sin of pride and greed. And the devil knows this very well, so that is why he is busy trying to distract us and to lead us down the path of pride, seeking glorification and satisfaction for our actions and for our piety that defeat the purpose of our Lenten observances in the first place.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on how we can make best use of this Lenten season by turning ourselves and our whole being towards God. Let us not be distracted by vanity and pride, and in fact, let us humble ourselves before God, stripping ourselves free from all the corruption of ego, pride, ambition, greed and desire that had clouded our judgment all these while, leading us down the wrong path of sin. Let us all sincerely repent from our sins and make best use of this opportunity that God has given to us, His wonderful and generous mercy that He has provided us. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.