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Friday – Twenty-sixth week – OT1
Readings: Bar 1:15-22; Mt 18:1-5, 10.
Reading 1 (Bar 1:15-22): During the Babylonian captivity, the exiles prayed:
“Justice is with the Lord, our God;
and we today are flushed with shame,
we men of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem,
that we, with our kings and rulers
and priests and prophets, and with our ancestors,
have sinned in the Lord’s sight and disobeyed him.
We have neither heeded the voice of the Lord, our God, nor followed the precepts which the Lord set before us.
From the time the Lord led our ancestors out of the land of Egypt
until the present day,
we have been disobedient to the Lord, our God,
and only too ready to disregard his voice.
And the evils and the curse that the Lord enjoined upon Moses, his servant,
at the time he led our ancestors forth from the land of Egypt
to give us the land flowing with milk and honey,
cling to us even today.
For we did not heed the voice of the Lord, our God,
in all the words of the prophets whom he sent us,
but each one of us went off
after the devices of his own wicked heart,
served other gods,
and did evil in the sight of the Lord, our God.”
Gospel (Mt 18:1-5, 10): Jesus said to them,
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!
For if the mighty deeds done in your midst
had been done in Tyre and Sidon,
they would long ago have repented,
sitting in sackcloth and ashes.
But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon
at the judgment than for you.
And as for you, Capernaum, “Will you be exalted to heaven?
You will go down to the netherworld.”
Whoever listens to you listens to me.
Whoever rejects you rejects me.
And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”
I. THEME: Know God and yourself.
When we reflect on God’s creation and providence, we cannot blame anything on Him because He provided everything for us to live a peaceful and happy life. He gave us the Ten Commandments so that we could have right relationship with Him and others. When we strayed from the Law, He sent His prophets to correct and to call us to the right path before He punishes us.
Today readings pay a special attention to God’s providence and human hardness of their sins. In the first reading, the prophet Baruch professed that God’s punishment of the Israelites is worthy of their sins. In the Gospel, Jesus taught his disciples to avoid the tendency of chasing after vainglory and power; but to be humble to recognize what God have done for them and to fulfill their duty of proclamation of the Good News.
1/ Reading I: We did not obey God’s voice.
The prophet Baruch was a scribe, and lived at the same time with the prophet Jeremiah. Many believed he was Jeremiah’s secretary. Both of them lived in a very difficult time of Judah kingdom until this kingdom was completely destroyed by the Babylon armies, the Temple was in ruins, and many people together with their king were on exile to Babylon. Today periscope was his profession of sins after he carefully examined his conscience in the relationship with God and with the Israelites.
1.1/ God’s love and education: Looked back to the past, Baruch recognized God’s love for the Israelites was so deep. He set free the Israelites from slavery in the land of Egypt and led them to the Promise Land, full of milk and honey, which He promised with their ancestors. He Himself gave the Ten Commandments to His people through Moses, so that they might know to live a right relationship with Him and others. When kings and people strayed from their path, He sent His Prophets to correct them – not only one but many times, not only one prophet but many prophets. They did not only listen to the prophets, they mocked and killed most of them.
1.2/ Sins and punishments: While God loved, educated, and found all possible ways to help the Israelites to repent, they were hard to change and insistently remained in their sins.
(1) Israelites’ sins: The Prophet Baruch confessed that “all of us had sinned against God.” He listed some of them:
+ Disobedience: We did not listen to the voice of the Lord God and obey His given Commandments.
+ Hardness of heart: We did not listen to the prophet’s corrections which God sent them to us.
+ Two main sins of the Israelites which were constantly reminded by the prophets are: (1) Turn their back to God and to worship foreign gods; and (2) Treat others unjustly.
(2) Punishments: God through Moses warned the Israelites that if they don’t keep the Ten Commandments, they will surely die. Now, the Israelites’ suffering on exile land is worthy with their sins; they had no reason to blame on God.
2/ Gospel: Know yourself in order to be not arrogant.
(1) Two Jewish cities, Chorazin and Bethsaida: The historian Eusebius and St. Jerome located Chorazin was a city about 2 miles north of Capernaum. Since it lied on a hill, one could see Capernaum and Galilee lake. Chorazin was very prosperous until 2 BC. Although the Gospel did not report Jesus’ mission at Chorazin; but because of its vicinity with Capernaum, its people must hear about Jesus or witness what Jesus did.
Bethsaida means the “house of fish” in Hebrew. This city was on the west of Tiberias. This was the native village of the apostles: Peter, Andrew, Philip, and also the place that Jesus frequently came to find rest (Mk 6:45, Lk 9 :10, Jn 1:44, 12:21). Here Jesus healed a blind (Mk 8:25) and Peter’s mother-in-law (Mt 8 :14, Mk 1 :30).
(2) Two Gentile cities, Tyre and Sidon: These two cities lie along the coast of Mediteranean Sea, north of the Israel, and now belong to Lebanon. They were very prosperous cities because of their locations, the connections between Asia, Europe and Africa. During Jesus’ mission, Jesus came to Tyre and Sidon only once, and reported by Matthew and Mark (Mt 15:21, Mk 7:30), to heal the daughter of a Canaanite woman. Although they were not directly heard from Jesus and saw miracles he performed as other Jewish cities, they probably heard about him or came to nearby Jewish cities to listen to him. Jesus was very surprise of the Canaanite woman.
When comparing between two Jewish cities with two Gentile cities, Jesus had to pronounce: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you.”
(3) Capernaum were cited 16 times by all the evangelists. Matthew and Mark reported Jesus began his mission at Capernaum after his temptation in the desert (Mt 4:13, Mk 1:21).
He frequently came back here to preach (Mk 2:2, Lk 4:31); and his important discourse on the Eucharist was given in the Capernaum synagogue (Jn 6). Here Jesus performed many miracles (Lk 4:23): healing the officer’s servant (Mt 8:5, Lk 7:10); expulsing devil (Mk 1:26, Lk 4:33); healing of a lame (Mk 2:12); and his first miracle, transforming water into wine at Cana, was in Capernaum’s proximity (Jn 2:11); healing the officer’s boy (Jn 4:52); quieting the storm (Jn 6:21).
But Jesus had to face many challenging and opposition at Capernaum (Mt 17:24, Mk 2:7). The people of Capernaum had many opportunities to hear Jesus’ preaching and to witness many miracles he performed; but they were still hardness of heart, arrogant, and unbelief. These were reasons why Jesus condemned them: “And as for you, Capernaum, “Will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to the netherworld.””
(4) The result of listening or of rejecting God’s word: Jesus declared: “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” This declaration shows us the important role of the disciples. Jesus gave them all things necessary for the proclamation of the Good News. They were God’s representatives, they had God’s authorities to preach and to heal. Whoever listens or denies them is listened or denied Jesus himeself. We have a tendency to despite a representative, consider him as not authority as his owner. We should not forget that their words have power to make God praising or punishing us.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We should listen to God’s word though the Ten Commandments and the Church’s teachings, in order to avoid sins and punishments.
– We must learn about God and His providence to avoid the sin of pride.