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.

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.

Friday, 28 February 2020 : 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, 28 February 2020 : 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, 28 February 2020 : 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.

Friday, 8 March 2019 : Friday after Ash Wednesday, Memorial of St. John of God, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are yet reminded again of the matter of fasting and how important this practice of fasting for each and every one of us. As Christians we practice fasting as well as abstinence at certain times in the year, and the practice of fasting have to be done with full understanding and appreciation of what it can do to us, if we truly practice fasting as well as abstinence with the right reasons and purpose.

What we heard today in our first reading taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah as well as the Gospel passage today ought to jolt us and to make us realise that we do not fast or abstain from meat and from other things we want to abstain from, just because it is a formality and an obligation to do so. That is because it is easy for us to practice certain acts of piety and devotions, and yet, we did them not out of love for God, but because we want attention to ourselves, or that we want to satisfy our pride, ego and greed.

That was what happened to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law during the time of Jesus. When the Pharisees asked the disciples why they did not fast just as they have done, the Lord answered them that they would fast when the time was right, when He was to be taken away from them, and then they would fast. They did not fast just because they wanted to be seen or to be praised for doing so, unlike the Pharisees who made a lot of fuss and brought plenty of attention to their activities and pious acts.

When they fasted, they did so mainly because they were swayed by their pride, ego, desire and ambition. They wanted the people to praise them and respect them because of the things that they did. God did not have place of honour in their hearts and minds, as He should have received. God should have been the focus and at the centre of our every actions and works. But without that genuine love and dedication that each and every one of us should have for Him, we will not be able to remain faithful to Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, during this time and season of Lent we are called to redirect our focus in life as well as our attention back towards the Lord, by means of fasting and abstinence. When we fast, we must have the right focus and attention at heart, which means that we fast because we want to restrain our inner desires, all the wicked temptations that are within our hearts and minds, that caused us to sin against God.

When we abstain, we also restrain our own predisposition to sin, our vulnerability to the disobedience against God. Thus instead of following the examples of the Pharisees who used their practice of fasting and abstinence in the entirely wrong direction and intention, using those as excuse to indulge in their own ego, desires and pride, we should reject those prideful thoughts and temptations inside our hearts and minds.

Satan is ever busy and ready to strike at us through these temptations, the desires and greed within us, and by turning our ego, ambition and pride against us. Unless we make the conscious effort to resist the pull of desire, pride, ego and ambition, and dedicate ourselves to reject the pull of sin, we will likely end up falling deeper and deeper into the trap of sin. And this is where, during this time and season of Lent, we should make use of these opportunities given to us to repent from our sinful ways.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. John of God, a holy and devout servant of God, whose life and examples should become inspiration for ourselves, in how we ought to live our lives faithfully before God. St. John of God was remembered well for his service to the people of God, especially for the sick, the poor and those who have suffered physically and in unfortunate conditions. St. John of God dedicated his life, his time, his efforts and works to care for all of them.

Are we able to follow in the footsteps of this holy saint, brothers and sisters in Christ? God has given us the time, opportunity and ability to give our talents and abilities to be of benefit to one another, especially those who are weak, poor, oppressed and unloved. We are called to love God in ways that St. John of God and many others of our holy predecessors had done. Are we able to do this, brothers and sisters in Christ?

Let us progress through this season of Lent, with a new commitment to love God, as well as to love one another. Let us all get rid from ourselves all the pride, the ego and ambition, the greed and worldly desired that can prevent us from truly attaining the fullness of salvation and grace in God. Let us all make good use of this time of Lent to rediscover our faith in God. May God bless us all and may He guide us in this journey of faith. Amen.

Friday, 8 March 2019 : Friday after Ash Wednesday, Memorial of St. John of God, Religious (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.”