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Friday – Thirteenth week – OT1
Readings: Gen 23:1-4, 19, 24:1-8, 62-67; Mt 9:9-13.
1/ First Reading: RSV Genesis 23:1 Sarah lived a hundred and twenty-seven years; these were the years of the life of Sarah. 2 And Sarah died at Kiriatharba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan; and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her. 3 And Abraham rose up from before his dead, and said to the Hittites, 4 “I am a stranger and a sojourner among you; give me property among you for a burying place, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.” 24:1 Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years; and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things. 2 And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his house, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh, 3 and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, 4 but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.” 5 The servant said to him, “Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land; must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?” 6 Abraham said to him, “See to it that you do not take my son back there. 7 The LORD, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my birth, and who spoke to me and swore to me, `To your descendants I will give this land,’ he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. 8 But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine; only you must not take my son back there.” 62 Now Isaac had come from Beerlahairoi, and was dwelling in the Negeb. 63 And Isaac went out to meditate in the field in the evening; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, there were camels coming. 64 And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she alighted from the camel, 65 and said to the servant, “Who is the man yonder, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself. 66 And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. 67 Then Isaac brought her into the tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.
2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 9:9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. 10 And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, `I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
I. THEME: Only the sick need doctors.
As leaders of people, such as: parents, pastors, superiors, we have the duty to take care both the healthy and the sick sheep. The sick requires even more of our attention. We should recognize not only the sickness of our sheep, but also effective ways to heal them.
Today readings give us some exemplars of good shepherds. In the first reading, the patriarch Abraham knew that Isaac, his son, was very sad when he lost his mother. He prepared to find for him a good wife so that he might not be sad and begin to build up his own family. In the Gospel, once again Jesus acted as the Good Shepherd by looking for the lost sheep. He found Matthew, a tax collector, and wanted him to be one of his apostles. When he came to Matthew’s house for dinner, some Pharisees criticized him of sitting in the same table with tax-collectors and sinners, Jesus forcefully said to them, “For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
1/ Reading I: Isaac loved Rebekah and was comforted after his mother’s death.
1.1/ Sarah passed away: There is nothing which causes more sad for Isaac than losing a dear mother. Sarah took a good care of her son because he is her only child in her old ages; all of her love was for him.
After buried her wife, Abraham knew that it is about time to find a wife for Isaac, his son, so that he might be comforted after the death of his mother.
1.2/ Abraham put his faith in God when he looks a wife for his son: Abraham must face three big difficulties in this task:
(1) He couldn’t go back to his country to find a wife for his son because he is too old.
(2) Abraham didn’t want to take a Canaan girl to be Isaac’s wife; he wanted to have a girl who lives in his same town because he believed marriage is for life. Like most of Oriental parents, Abraham wanted to have a background check on the girl’s family whom his son shall marry. Abraham and his head servant knew all those who live in his town; but they know nothing of Canaanites whom they are living with. Therefore, Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his house, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh, and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.”
(3) Abraham didn’t want his son to move back to Urs, his original country; but to stay in Canaan to inherit the Promise Land which God promises to give him. The head servant recognized a difficulty which might happen, so he asked Abraham, “Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land; must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?” Abraham said to him, “See to it that you do not take my son back there. The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my birth, and who spoke to me and swore to me, `To your descendants I will give this land,’ He will send His angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there.”
Abraham knew that to satisfy both conditions isn’t easy; therefore, he said to his servant, “But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine; only you must not take my son back there.” Abraham believed God shall find a good wife from his original country for his son. During Abraham’s life, God always keeps His promise. He blessed Abraham and his family in all things.
1.3/ Issac received Rebekah as his wife and forgot about his mother’s death: The marriage between Isaac and Rebekah was indeed in God’s providence. To understand this point, we must read chapter 24 in the Book of Genesis. Today passage briefly reported how Abraham’s servant found Rebekah and convinced her to leave her parent to come to Canaan with Isaac. She agreed and “Isaac brought her into the tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.”
2/ Gospel: “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.”
2.1/ The Pharisees’ reaction: For them, the tax-collector like Matthew was considered as a public sinner as a prostitute because he helped the Roman emperor to exploit his own people. Therefore, when they saw Jesus sit on the same table with Matthew and his companions, they said to Jesus’ disciples: “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
If we consider only human aspect, they had a reason to criticize Jesus because like most of Vietnamese parents, they often teach their children: “If you live near the ink you shall be dark; and if you live near the lamp you shall be as light.” But this standard can’t be applied to the experienced, the righteous, and especially Jesus.
2.2/ Jesus’ reaction: He answered them: “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
Physically, if a doctor is afraid of catching a disease from a patient, he can’t come close to a patient to heal him. Jesus likened him as the healer of spiritual sickness, though he hates sins; but he must be close to sinners and find ways to lead them back. Jesus invited the Pharisees to examine of two things:
(1) God loves those who have mercy more than of their sacrifice, because sacrifices are animals without souls; but mercy brings back to God His children.
(2) If the Pharisees carefully examined of their conscience, they shall find out that they also need God’s mercy because they all are sinners. Only because of pride and self-labelling themselves as the righteous, they refuse to receive God’s mercy.
Jesus is the first one who preaches and describes God’s mercy for the sinners. In today passage, Matthew was so touched by Jesus’ calling that he stood up and immediately gave up everything to follow him. Jesus might be the first one who treated him like a person; all others condemned and prevented him to enter the temple. Similar things also happened to Zacchaeus, the head of tax-collectors (Lk 19:5) and to the adulterous woman (Jn 8:1-11). Those who had many sins are easy to recognize their sins and to repent than those who call themselves righteous.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– As leaders, we must be wise to recognize the sickness of those who God gives to us and to find effective ways to heal them.
– We should never criticize or prevent sinners to come to God. All of us are sinners and need God’s forgiveness.