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Friday – Twenty-second week – OT1
Readings: Col 1:15-20; Lk 5:33-39.
1/ First Reading: RSV Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; 16 for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
2/ Gospel: RSV Luke 5:33 And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.” 34 And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? 35 The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” 36 He told them a parable also: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it upon an old garment; if he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine desires new; for he says, `The old is good.'”
I. THEME: We need to know how to answer those who question our faith.
Whatever one believes, he shall live according to it. For example, if one only believes in his ancestral tradition, he shall oppose all new doctrines because they could threaten their faith. The faithful need to understand their faith, not because they doubt what they believe, but they can answer those who question their faith. If the faithful can’t answer the questions which heresies posed out, those who have a weak faith shall easily believe in those heresies.
Today readings emphasize the understanding of faith. In the first reading, the author of the Letter to the Colossians reminded them to hold firm to their faith in God and Christ so that they could avoid the false doctrines which surround them. In the Gospel, Jesus corrected the Pharisees and the scribes’ false understanding of praying and fasting. The purpose of praying and fasting is for people to unite with God and to help others, not to collect praises, to fulfill the law, or any other reason. If the disciples are having God’s presence which is Christ with them, they don’t need to fast. They shall fast and pray when Christ is taken away from them.
1/ Reading I: “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
1.1/ God created everything through His Word: Many people think Colossians 1:14-19 is an ancient hymn, was sung in gatherings or worshipping of the early communities to praise Christ, the Word of God. Some think the song was composed to oppose the Gnosticism, very popular heresy in nations who followed Hellenistic culture. A comparison between the song and the Gnosticism helps us to see the Church’s main teachings.
(1) Christ is the Son, the Word (Logos), the image (eikon) of the invisible God; whoever sees Christ, sees God Himself (Jn 14:9). The Gnosticism believes though Christ is above all creatures, he isn’t God because he carries in himself material; only God is completely immaterial.
(2) Christ is the firstborn of all creation: He is the Word, God’s wisdom. In Genesis’ first account of creation, God created everything by saying, “Let it be;” and everything is existed. God created everything “in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities.” St. John also said, “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (Jn 1:3). The Gnosticism believes in dualism, not only God created the world but also another god, the wicked one who opposes God, created wicked things in the world.
(3) God controls everything through Christ because he is God’s wisdom: “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” The Gnosticism doesn’t believe that, they believe the world can remain by itself.
1.2/ People are redeemed and reconciled with God through the Word.
(1) Christ redeems people by pouring out his blood on the cross to purify people’s sins, to save them from death and to give them the eternal life by his glorious resurrection. The Gnosticism believes the soul is saved from the body to unite with God by a special and secret knowledge which only they can provide for people.
(2) Christ reconciles people with God and others: He reconciles people with God by taking away people’s sin by his death on the cross. By this reconciliation, people have peace. The Gnosticism doesn’t believe in sins and reconciliation because God is unchanged and people are always bad because they are confined in material.
2/ Gospel: The scribes and Pharisees judged Jesus and his disciples.
2.1/ The reason for prayer and fasting: To the scribes and Pharisees, prayer and fasting are the two standards they used to judge one’s virtue of religion, and indirectly, to evaluate his master. By one question, they judged and condemned both Jesus and his disciples as irreligious because of gluttony. They said to him: “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and the disciples of the Pharisees do the same; but yours eat and drink.”
Jesus answered by questioned them, “Can you make the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?But the days will come, and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.”
The purpose of fasting according to Jewish tradition is to sacrifice one’s body to pray for God’s presence in one’s life. Jesus wanted to say that his disciples need not to fast because they are having God’s presence among them. The bridegroom is Jesus and the wedding guests are his disciples. There shall be the days when he will be taken away from them; at that time, they shall fast. It is a perfect answer for their question.
2.2/ The need to have an open attitude to welcome the new doctrines: In every generation, there is a tension between what is old and what is new. There are those who always oppose new things and find all possible ways to protect old things as scribes and Pharisees in today passage. Jesus didn’t completely oppose their old things because he knew there are some good old things needed to be protected; but Jesus wanted them to accept new things to perfect old things or to discard bad and old things. In order for them to accept new things, they need to have a new mind and a new heart. Jesus used two examples to illustrate this:
(1) “No one tears a piece from a new cloak to patch an old one. Otherwise, he will tear the new and the piece from it will not match the old cloak.” When people fix cloak, they used to choose a patch from extra fabric or old cloak, not to cut a patch from new cloak. Not only that, they used to choose a patch which has the same color and tension with old cloak; if not, the tension of the new patch shall make the tear cloak looking worse.
(2) “Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined. Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins. And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” The new wineskin has the contraction while old wineskin was dry and lost its contraction. New wine has much pressure, that is why it must be put on new wineskin. The scribes and the Pharisees are like those who prefer old wine because they always protected their tradition and turned their back to new changes.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We need to learn to understand our faith; if not, our faith is easily shaking by heresies or when others question our faith and we don’t know how to answer them.
– To be able to explain is very important in faith education for those whom we are responsible for. If there is no reasonable answer, people are easily losing their faith.
– We must keep the best of our tradition, but we also need to open our mind to welcome good and new things of each generation.