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Friday – Sixteenth week – OT1
Readings: Exo 20:1-17; Mt 13:18-23.
1/ First Reading: RSV Exodus 20:1 And God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 You shall have no other gods before me. 4 You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7 You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. 8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates; 11 for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. 12 Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the LORD your God gives you. 13 You shall not kill. 14 You shall not commit adultery. 15 You shall not steal. 16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 13:18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 When any one hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in his heart; this is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is he who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the delight in riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is he who hears the word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit, and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
I. THEME: Carefully listening and keeping God’s word
There are two different concepts about the laws. Many contemporary people think the laws put restraint on and limit their freedom; therefore, they think the less laws people have the better of their life shall be. There is a present movement that opposes the display of the Ten Commandments in the courts. In opposition, the Israelites are very proud of their Law, especially the Ten Commandments, because they are God’s law, giving to them out of love so that they know how to have a happy life.
Today readings emphasize the absolute importance of God’s word. In the first reading, God Himself appeared and gave the Ten Commandments to the Israelites through Moses before they enter the Promise Land. These laws are the guidelines for them to live a happy life in the Promise Land. In the Gospel, Jesus explained the parable of “the sower” for his disciples. He gives them the reasons why people, though all heard God’s word, have different results. Some harvest nothing; others might harvest thirty, sixty or a hundred fold.
1/ Reading I: The Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments (deca-logue in English and deka-logoi in Greek) are the ten words or sentences which God gave to the Israelites. These words are God’s priceless gift which God wants people to practice to achieve the eternal happiness. According to today passage of the Book of Exodus and the Book of Deuteronomy (5:6-21), God is the author of the Ten Commandments, because of these words from the beginning of the Ten Commandments, “God spoke all these words.” Some Scriptural scholars thought these are the laws which the Israel’s leaders combined and synthesized them through many generations. The Ten Commandments are divided into two parts: the first part has three articles and talking about people’s relationship with God, the second part has seven articles and talking about people’s relationship with others.
1.1/ The first part describes the relationship between God and human beings.
(1) “I am the Lord your God… You shall have no other gods before me” is the principal part. Other sentences were added with a purpose to explain it more clearly. The first commandment prohibits people to worship any other gods beside God.
(2) “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” This commandment forbids people to call God’s sacred name without any reason. They can only revoke His name to bless (Gen 4:26, Psa 72:19), not to curse or to falsely swear.
(3) Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: “Six days you shall labor, and do all your work;but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates;for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”
1.2/ To love others: Many people called the next seven laws as the natural laws which describe what people must keep in their relationship with others.
(4) “Honor your parents”: in order to be lived long in the land which the Lord, your God has given to you. This is the only commandment which has God’s promise, to be lived long.
(5) “You shall not kill”: This commandment wants to protect the sacredness of human life; however, this commandment doesn’t forbid of killing one’s enemies in the battle to protect one’s own life.
(6) “You shall not commit adultery”: The sixth commandment protects the sacredness of the matrimony and the rights of both husband and wife.
(7) “You shall not rob or steal”: This commandment protects the right to possess of all people in the society.
(8) “You shall not bear false witness.” The eighth commandment forbids bearing false witness both in the court and the daily life.
The Catholic tradition divides the last commandment in two. The last two commandments prohibit all unlawful desires.
(9) “You can’t desire other wife (or husband)”: This commandment is based on what Jesus teaches, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mt 5:28).
(10) “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
2/ Gospel: “The seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it.”
As a farmer prepares his land by ploughing for the soil to loose, by taking out of stony soil, thorns and thistles, by leveling the soil, watering and fertilizing it; people must also prepare their mind by spending some time in silence to eliminate all noisiness and worriness of life, by praying to the Holy Spirit so that he shall enlighten their mind and help them to understand God’s words. Jesus gave four concrete cases of those who listen to God’s words and their corresponding results.
(1) Along the sidewalk: Jesus explained: “The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.” These are people who have an insulted or indifferent attitude to God’s words. For examples, those who go to Mass just in order to fulfill the law. They come to Mass when God’s words had been proclaimed; they go out to smoke or to talk with others, they sleep or let their mind wander all places when the priest explains God’s words; they never attend the parish’s retreat or study God’s words. With such an insulted attitude, how could God’s words be in their mind and benefit them?
(2) In the stony ground: Jesus explained: “The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.” These are people who pay attention and hear God’s words, but don’t spend more time to learn, to meditate and to deepen God’s words. They spent much time for entertaining, talking or reading useless magazines or watching TV or romantic films; but always complain that thay have no time to learn or God’s words are hard to understand! If they don’t try, how can they understand God’s words and apply them in their life to benefit them?
(3) In thorny bushes: Jesus explained: “The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.” These are people who only concern or pay attention too much to the importance of material life. They put material gains above God’s love and the understanding of God’s words. They choose to attend who does the shortest Mass, the most convenient time and place for Mass even though they don’t understand God’s words or the sermon, so that they have more time to work or to entertain. These are also those who value material things above love for others; they aren’t dare to sacrifice material gains in order to witness for God’s words.
(4) In good soil: “But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.” These are those who always put God above all things. They desire to learn God’s words and put them into practice. They know how to prepare their mind by reading and meditating God’s words before they come to the church to attend Mass. Moreover, they always find opportunities to study more and to put God’s words in practice in all situations of life. It isn’t surprise when they advance in all aspects of life: spiritual, intellectual, psychological and human.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– The Ten Commandments do not limit people’s freedom; but are the most important laws to help people to live a happy life and to avoid all dangers in their life.
– In order for God’s word to enter deeply in our souls and to bear good fruits, we need to prepare our soul by having a quiet time, asking the Holy Spirit’s guidance and attentively listening every time we listen to God’s word.