Please press here to listen to the homily or download
Eighth Sunday – Year B – Ordinary Time
Readings: Hos 2:16b, 17b, 21-22; 2 Cor 3:1-6a; Mk 2:18-22.
1/ First Reading (Hos 2:16b, 17b, 21-22): 16 Therefore, I will allure her now;
I will lead her into the wilderness and speak persuasively to her.
17 There she will respond as in the days of her youth,
as on the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.
21 I will betroth you to me forever:
I will betroth you to me with justice and with judgment,
with loyalty and with compassion.
22 I will betroth you to me with fidelity,
and you shall know the Lord.
2/ Second Reading (2 Cor 3:1-6a): 1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2 You are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by all, 3 shown to be a letter of Christ administered by us, written not in ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets that are hearts of flesh.
4 Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that of ourselves we are qualified to take credit for anything as coming from us; rather, our qualification comes from God, 6 who has indeed qualified us as ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter brings death, but the Spirit gives life.
3/ Gospel (Mk 2:18-22): 18 The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were accustomed to fast. People came to him and objected, “Why do the disciples of John and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. 20 But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day. 21 No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak. If he does, its fullness pulls away, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse. 22 Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins are ruined. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins.”
I. THEME: Pay attention to the inside love than the outside gushy behaviors.
Love is the only motivation of what God does for human beings and must also be the only motivation of what people do for God and others. Without love, everything shall be meaningless, and people do not want to do anything. Therefore, the most important thing people need to do is to feel God and people’s boundless love for them; and then after that they know how to return worthily their love.
Today readings concentrate on this necessary thing. In the first reading, God wants Israel to have the love which they loved Him from the beginning, not with the outside gushy love through offering sacrifices or keeping a few laws. In the second reading, when the Corinthian faithful were induced to doubt Paul’s love for them, He invited them to look into their lives to verify; they don’t need to find any more proof. In the Gospel, when someone questioned Jesus why His disciples didn’t fast, He stresses the importance of the relationship between Him and His disciples. Fasting is the only outside piety to express the inside and sincere love.
1/ First Reading: “I will betroth you to me with fidelity, and you shall know the Lord.”
1.1/ “She will respond as in the days of her youth, as on the day when she came up from the land of Egypt”: Hosea and Amos are the two prophets who exercised their prophetic missions in the north of Israel before this northern kingdom was taken by the Assyria in 721 BC. The main reason for this collapse because the king and his people turn their back to God and their faces to foreign idols. To express their betrayal, Hosea used the image and the language of married love: God is the husband, and the Israelites is the wife. He listed the three sins which Israelites committed against God:
(1) The sin of adultery: The Israelites betrayed her husband, God, to follow her lovers, foreign idols, and called them their gods.
(2) The sin of ingratitude: God unceasingly bestow so many blessings on them; but they consider them as bestowed by foreign idols.
(3) The sin of stealing God’s gifts and giving to her lovers. The prostitutes sacrifice their body to earn money for their home; in opposition, the Israelites took what belong to God to offer to foreign idols as their sacrifices. This sin is offending and saddening God.
Hosea’s passage has the historical background in the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. God let them to be on exile as to journey in desert. In the place of Assyrian exile. “I will lead her into the wilderness and speak persuasively to her” means He shall enlighten their mind so that they will open their eyes to recognize God’s sincere love for them. God recalls the original love which the Israelites had for them as they had just got out of Egypt when they recognized His power and love for them. They returned their love truthfully and affectively.
Trình thuật của Hô-sê hôm nay có bối cảnh lịch sử là cuộc Xuất Hành của Ít-ra-en ra khỏi Ai-cập. Thiên Chúa phải để cho dân bị lưu đày khổ cực như đi vào sa mạc. Trong nơi lưu đày, Ngài sẽ “thổ lộ tâm tình,” có nghĩa sẽ soi sáng cho trí khôn của họ, để họ biết mở mắt ra và nhận biết tình yêu chân thật của Ngài dành cho họ. Thiên Chúa nhớ lại tình yêu ban đầu Ít-ra-en dành cho Ngài khi họ mới ra khỏi Ai-cập. Khi đó, họ đã nhận ra uy quyền và tình yêu của Ngài dành cho họ và họ đáp trả cách thành thật và thương mến.
1.2/ The characteristics of the new covenant between God and human beings: God is the One who acts, people respond to His action. He shall establish the engagement with people. There are six qualities in this marriages covenant:
(1) An eternal engagement (ôlam): In the engagement, both husband and wife promise that they shall be loyal to each other forever. The same with the engagement between God and people, He shall sign with them an eternal covenant.
(2) A righteous (sedeq) and just (mispat) engagement: God shall behave righteously and justly with people. This means who does right thing He will award, and who does wicked thing He shall punish.
(3) An engagement in piety (hesed) and mercy (rahămim): If God only treats people righteously and justly, they shall never hope to have salvation; but because He also treat people with piety and mercy, they hope to be saved.
(4) A faithful engagement (êmunah): In engagement, the husband and wife promises to be faithful in prosperity and in difficulties, in healthy and in sickness; there is nothing that shall cause unfaithfulness or betrayal. In the new covenant, God is always faithful with people regardless of their unfaithful or betrayal. We as human beings can never fathom how these qualities mix in God’s divinity. We know only one thing is that if we are faithful to end, He shall forgive all our sins and give us the salvation as He promises.
“And you shall know God”: The verb “yadah” in Hebrews isn’t only mean to know sparely or to have knowledge of God but also to experience how God affects in our life. When people experience God’s love, they shall feel how deep is God’s love for them (Tv 91:11-14).
2/ Second Reading: “You are our letter, written on our hearts.”
2.1/ St. Paul said to the Corinthians: “You are Christ’s letter given to us to take care of.” There are three ways for us to trust a person or a product:
(1) Because of what people said or advertise: This way isn’t sure since people have a tendency to tell good about themselves or what belong to them. Moreover, some humble people are hesitant when they must talk about them.
(2) Because of others said about that person: either by a letter or by introducing him/her. This way though is better than the first way but is not completely guaranteed due to many reasons. On the side of the introducer, they might not be astute enough to know that person, or due to respect of person they give good remark, or due to hating that person they give bad remark. On the side of the introduced, he could hide bad things and display good things.
(3) Because we use the person’s product or live with him: This might be the best way but needs time to know and to certify. Many words of advertising and praising can’t be compared with one’s experience by seeing or living with that person or using his products. Therefore, the perfect way to judge a person is to look at that person or the product which he made with time and effort.
The third way is the way which St. Paul used to testify what he has done for the Corinthians. He wrote: “You are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by all, 3 shown to be a letter of Christ administered by us, written not in ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets that are hearts of flesh.” Paul intended to show that to know who is a good shepherd, people only need to look at the sheep which that person cares for.
2.2/ The difference between the two covenants: Paul writes, “Not that of ourselves we are qualified to take credit for anything as coming from us; rather, our qualification comes from God, 6 who has indeed qualified us as ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter brings death, but the Spirit gives life.” We can explain Paul’s thoughts in this sentence based on what he wrote in other places as follows:
(1) The Old Covenant is the covenant which God signed with the Israelites through the mediator, Moses on Mt. Sinai. The Old Covenant is the Ten Commandments, written in words on stony tablets so that people can read; but can’t give people power to keep them. This Old Covenant does not bring life but only brings death because no one can keep perfectly all the commandments. People only need to commit one time against one of the Ten Commandments is enough to be dead.
(2) The New Covenant is written in people’s mind. Though people don’t see the words; but they can experience acts which are expressed by the Holy Spirit inside. The Holy Spirit enlightens and provides power for the faithful so that they can keep what Jesus teaches, not out of fear but out of love (cf. Rom 8). The New Covenant brings life because Christ’s works take away all people’s past sins through the sacrament of Baptism and their future sins through the sacrament of Reconciliation. Moreover, people’s love for God and for others are increased through the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
3/ Gospel: “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?”
3.1/ The meanings of fasting: The time between the Old and the New Testament is the time for the Jewish people to increase fasting and ascetic works, not only for the sects but also popular for people to use them as religious practices. Fasting together with prayer and almsgiving are considered as three pillars of the religious life (Tb 12:8). The Book of Judith regards fasting is the way for God’s blessing (Jdt 4:9). John Baptist’s way of fasting and ascetism in the desert is to exalt the simple way of living and to depend completely in God’s providence. Jesus’ answer emphasizes two main points:
(1) The reason of fasting: When people fast they must have a purpose. Jesus gives a reason why His disciples are not fasting yet: “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.” Jesus identifies Himself with the bridegroom and the wedding guests are His disciples.
(2) The time of fasting: Fasting has its own time, not fasting all the time. Jesus indicates the time when His disciples shall fast, “But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.”
3.2/ One must have a new mind to welcome a new doctrine: Jesus is the indicated time to distinguish between old and new things. The Pharisees and John Baptist’s disciples are the representatives of the old time, Jesus’ disciples represent for the new people. In order to receive the new doctrines taught by Jesus, people need to have a new mind: large enough to recognize the imperfect of the Old Testament; at the same time, to welcome Jesus’ new doctrines to help them to be more perfect. Without a new mind, people shall stubbornly keep old doctrines; at the same time, they shall deny Jesus’ new doctrines. To help them to recognize the importance of having a new mind, Jesus used two examples very familiar with His audiences:
(1) An old cloak and a new patch: “No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak. If he does, its fullness pulls away, the new from the old, and the tear gets worse.”
(2) New wine and old wineskin: “Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins are ruined. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wineskins.”
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– When we come to God’s presence, we should not come with a reluctant or indifferent attitude or a habit; but with a sincere love. God knows all in our mind. To have a right attitude, we need to study to know God and all things He has done for us and humankinds.
– We need to be courageous to eliminate all pious things which only have showy display and don’t help to develop our deep relationship with God.