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

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 5 : 27-32

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

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

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

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

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

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

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

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

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

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

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 58 : 9b-14

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

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

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

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.

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.

Thursday, 18 February 2021 : 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?”