Saturday after Ash Wednesday
1st Reading: Is 58:9b-14
Thus says the Lord: If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday; Then the Lord will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land. He will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails. The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake, and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up; “Repairer of the breach,” they shall call you, “Restorer of ruined homesteads.” If you hold back your foot on the Sabbath from following your own pursuits on my holy day; If you call the sabbath a delight, and the Lord’s holy day honorable; If you honor it by not following your ways, seeking your own interests, or speaking with malice. Then you shall delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will nourish you with the heritage of Jacob, your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Gospel: Lk 5:27-32
Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were at table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”
JESUS IS INTERESTED IN OUR “WOUNDEDNESS” AND THE FAST THAT IS PLEASING TO GOD! “Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday”. Fasting is real sacrifice. A Fast that pleases the Lord is not that of dietary, fitness, or sickness. It is a fast with love and sacrifice. It is a service to the needy, to the wounded. Jesus, the “Great Wounded Healer” is interested in our woundedness, and wants to heal and lead us to safety. Let us run to Him in this Lenten period, as Levi did in the Gospel. Let us trust and be committed to his paths. We shall surely cherish his grace and strength. May we also preach Jesus as Matthew did, by his words and actions.
PRAYER: O Lord, to follow You and be with You is my delight, Amen.
EROSION OF BROTHERHOOD: As we are reminded of the best way to fast: care for the hungry and the afflicted, there is need for courage to stand up against traditions, practices and customs that do not build lives. Jesus does exactly that when he dines with a tax collector, a social outcast during that time. His message is clear; I am here not for the righteous, but for the conversion of all. This is the true presence of God. Not even the piercing eyes of the Pharisees and the scribes, stopped him from dining with Levi, the tax collector. In our world today, walls separate communities. There is more divisive thinking today than thoughts of fellowship and fraternity. As Christians, we are called to bring down these walls that divide people into sinners and “saints”; fallen and righteous. Let us work towards unity as we establish a brotherhood of the people of God.
Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to be people of unity and not division.
BEWARE OF YOUR WOUNDEDNESS: Fog impairs visibility to the extent that travel may be interfered badly. Sin is to the soul what fog is to a driver. The prophet Isaiah alerts the children of Israel of the obstacle to their blessedness. He calls on them to free themselves for divine favor by turning away from oppression and malice, and by showing kindness to the poor and the afflicted. Only then shall light shine in their darkness, and their sorrow turn into joy. The foundation of sin is pride – the unwillingness to accept your woundedness. When driven by pride people hardly notice their mistakes nor the hurt they cause to others. They are self-righteous with a sense of entitlement and often judge others as undeserving of any good. However, in the maxim that the sick and not the healthy, need the doctor, Jesus seeks to correct this perception. He seeks to call on his disciples and all to give each person the chance to encounter the mercy of God. When we do not see our need, we exclude ourselves from the gifts intended for us by God. Sin is what allows us the opportunity to encounter divine mercy and forgiveness. To benefit from these divine good, we must open up to the reality of our woundedness, or our wounds will never be bound.
THE SUBTLE ART OF CARING: Jesus challenges the self-righteous and the self-sufficient, who judge others, as he reaches out to those in need of salvation. These self-righteous, see others as unworthy and not fit for association. Addressing them Jesus declares that his methodology is different. He engages with those seen lesser and sinful. He redeems and restores them through association. In this move, God invites each of us to make the face of the earth sweeter and beautiful, “And the foundations from ages past you shall raise up: “Repairer of the breach” they shall call you, restorer of the ruined homesteads” (Is 58:12). Our Christian calling is for this restoration. The aim of Jesus is to reclaim those who are mired in sin and slavery. Let us learn to take the role of a beacon of light and guide people away from the slavery of sin and misery. Let us move from self-centered lives to finding others in their situations. May we walk out of our comfortable zones and reach out to our neighbours in the squalor and dirt of their doors.