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.

Saturday, 5 March 2022 : 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, 5 March 2022 : 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, 5 March 2022 : 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.

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.

Friday, 4 March 2022 : Friday after Ash Wednesday, Memorial of St. Casimir (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, 4 March 2022 : Friday after Ash Wednesday, Memorial of St. Casimir (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, 4 March 2022 : Friday after Ash Wednesday, Memorial of St. Casimir (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.

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.

Thursday, 3 March 2022 : Thursday after Ash Wednesday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 9 : 22-25

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “The Son of Man must suffer many things. He will be rejected by the elders and chief priests and teachers of the Law, and be put to death. Then after three days He will be raised to life.”

Jesus also said to all the people, “If you wish to be a follower of Mine, deny yourself and take up your cross each day, and follow Me! For if you choose to save your life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for My sake, you will save it. What does it profit you to gain the whole world, if you destroy or damage yourself?”