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Friday – Nineteenth week – OT1
Readings: Jos 24:1-13; Mt 19:3-12.
1/ First Reading: RSV Joshua 24:1 Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. 2 And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, `Your fathers lived of old beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods. 3 Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan, and made his offspring many. I gave him Isaac; 4 and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. And I gave Esau the hill country of Seir to possess, but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. 5 And I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt with what I did in the midst of it; and afterwards I brought you out. 6 Then I brought your fathers out of Egypt, and you came to the sea; and the Egyptians pursued your fathers with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. 7 And when they cried to the LORD, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and made the sea come upon them and cover them; and your eyes saw what I did to Egypt; and you lived in the wilderness a long time. 8 Then I brought you to the land of the Amorites, who lived on the other side of the Jordan; they fought with you, and I gave them into your hand, and you took possession of their land, and I destroyed them before you. 9 Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and fought against Israel; and he sent and invited Balaam the son of Beor to curse you, 10 but I would not listen to Balaam; therefore he blessed you; so I delivered you out of his hand. 11 And you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho, and the men of Jericho fought against you, and also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I gave them into your hand. 12 And I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out before you, the two kings of the Amorites; it was not by your sword or by your bow. 13 I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and cities which you had not built, and you dwell therein; you eat the fruit of vineyards and olive yards which you did not plant.’
2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 19:3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, `For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” 7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” 8 He said to them, “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery.” 10 The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.” 11 But he said to them, “Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.”
I. THEME: Be loyal with our vocations.
There are many reasons which people can lean on for not being loyal, such as: not knowing, environment, weakness, others; but God teaches that people must be loyal to Him and others in all situations of life. People are easily loyal to God and others when they are joyful, happy or at peace; but people can only prove their loyalty in difficult and suffering situations. For examples, St. Maximilian Kolbe proved his loyalty to God and other by volunteering being death for a young man so he could come back and take care of his family; many couples sacrificed their life to be loyal to their spouses and for their children to have both father and mother.
Today readings give some reasons why people must be loyal to God and others. In the first readings, Joshua gathered all the Israelites to remind them of God’s loyalty through all what He has done for their forefathers and them. The reason of this reminding is for them to recognize God love and to be faithful with Him forever. In the Gospel, some Pharisees came to ask Jesus whether it is possible for them to divorce because of any reason. Jesus plainly answered them “No!” because that is God’s will from the beginning. In addition, Jesus also talked about being loyal in the single life because of the heavenly kingdom: Due to the love for God and others, many volunteered to sacrifice their life for the salvation of others.
1/ Reading I: Since God is always loyal to you, you must also be loyal to Him.
Because of his love for God and people, Joshua gathered all the Israelites at Shechem to remind them of what God has done for them and the previous generations.
(1) What God did for their patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: They are three first forefathers of the Israelites. Beginning with Abraham, God chose him when Abraham didn’t know God and worshiped other gods. He chose and promised him two things. First, He promised to give him descendants as numerous as stars in the heaven and sand on the seashore even he had no child in his old ages. Secondly, he let him see the Promise Land where his descendants shall possess and live in it later. The first promise was fulfilled when God gave him Isaac in his old ages. From there, God let Isaac have two big descents which are Jacob and Esau. He let Esau possess the hill country of Seir while Jacob, together with his family, came down to Egypt.
(2) What God did for Moses and the Israelites: In God’s providence, when Joseph, Jacob’s son, was sold by his brothers to the Egyptian merchants, God arranged so that Joseph could be the second man after Pharaoh, the Egyptian king, to bring Jacob and all members of his family to come down to Egypt and to settle there. When the Israelites were maltreated by the Egyptians and cried out to God, He commanded Moses, who survived the Pharaoh’s ordeal, to lead the Israelites out of Egypt after God poured down many terrible plagues on the Egyptian lands, especially at the crossing of the Red Sea.
(3) What God prepared for the Israelites before He led them to the Promise Land: In order to enter and to settle in the Promise Land, the Israelites must fight again many nations who were living in those lands. In today passage, Joshua reminded them what God had just done for them, “Then I brought you to the land of the Amorites, who lived on the other side of the Jordan; they fought with you, and I gave them into your hand, and you took possession of their land, and I destroyed them before you.”
(4) What God had done for the Israelites in the Promise Land, beginning with Jericho: Joshua continued, “And you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho, and the men of Jericho fought against you, and also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I gave them into your hand. And I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out before you, the two kings of the Amorites; it was not by your sword or by your bow.”
Conclusion: With the victory at Jericho and many more later, God fulfilled His second promise which He promised with Abraham: “I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and cities which you had not built, and you dwell therein; you eat the fruit of vineyards and olive yards which you did not plant.” When reminding these things for the Israelites, Joshua wanted them to see God’s love and loyalty for the Israelites. God always achieves what He promises though the Israelites’ hearts were hardened and they betrayed Him many times. Joshua hoped that when the Israelites recognized God’s love and loyalty, they shall return with their love and keep God’s law as we shall hear tomorrow.
2/ Gospel: The problem of divorce
2.1/ Why is divorce prohibited? When some Pharisees and scribes came to ask Jesus, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” Instead of answering “yes” or “no,” Jesus gave them the principle which exists from the beginning when God creates human beings: “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate” (cf. Gen 2:23-24). God establishes the principle, not the law; and based on this principle, marriage is undivided.
2.2/ Why did Moses permit divorce? When they said to him, “Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss her?”He said to them, “Because of the hardness (schlerokardía = hard to teach) of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” This is the second time in the passage, Jesus called them to return to the beginning when God creates everything good; divorce only happens when people fall to temptation and Moses permitted them to divorce. However, what Jesus wanted to emphasize here is that the law was made by Moses because of people’s hardness of heart, not by God. If people want to return to the perfect beginning, they must not divorce.
There are differences between the Synoptists in the next verse: Mark and Luke didn’t list a single case which people are permitted to divorce; Matthew listed a case which people can divorce by saying, “whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.” The Greek noun in this case is “pornéia”which the NAB translated as “unlawful.” The commentators argued about this word because it has many meanings. According to Friberg lexicon, “pornéia” means fornication, is in wider sense than adultery which is “moikéia.” Pornéia can include any intercourse, such as: between two unmarried, prostitute or abnormal intercourse.
2.3/ Why are there unmarried people? When his disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry;”Jesus answered, “Not all can accept this word, but only those to whom that is granted.” Then He listed out three cases of those who don’t marry. First, some people are incapable of marriage because they were born so. This is the case of those who lack necessary physical or psychological elements to intercourse. Secondly, because they were made so by others. This is the case of eunuchs who work in the royal palaces; they were castrated so that they can’t intercourse with king’s wives and concubines. Lastly, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. This is the case of priests, religious brothers and sisters, and lay people who want to dedicate their whole life for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– To show our love for God and others, we must be loyal with our vocation, especially during the times we confront with trials and sufferings in our life.
– When God calls us to be perfect, He also gives enough grace so that we can fulfill that call. We fail to be loyal because we don’t fight with God’s grace, or we are indifferent with God and the sacraments which Christ established.