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Friday – Fifth Week – OT2
Readings: I Kgs 11:29-32, 12:19; Mk 7:31-37.
1/ First Reading: RSV 1 Kings 11:29 And at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him on the road. Now Ahijah had clad himself with a new garment; and the two of them were alone in the open country. 30 Then Ahijah laid hold of the new garment that was on him, and tore it into twelve pieces. 31 And he said to Jeroboam, “Take for yourself ten pieces; for thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, `Behold, I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon, and will give you ten tribes 32 (but he shall have one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel), RSV 1 Kings 12:19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.
2/ Gospel: RSV Mark 7:31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis. 32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech; and they besought him to lay his hand upon him. 33 And taking him aside from the multitude privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue; 34 and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And he charged them to tell no one; but the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well; he even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.”
I. THEME: Freedom and sin
Why do people sin? The Jews, through the Rule of the Community at Qumran, believed that human life on earth is the battle between God and the devils, the good and the bad, the children of light and the children of darkness. God wants people to do good because they are the children of light. In opposition, the devils want people to do bad so that they shall become children of darkness like them. People are torn between the two sides; they must use their freedom to decide what they should do and what they should avoid.
To help people to do good and to protect people from sin and death, God teaches people to differentiate between good and bad. He also warns them good results from their obedience and bad results from their disobedience. In contrast, to tempt people, the devils show people outside attraction and hide away damages; since if they display damages, people shall not fall into their traps. They make people to think what God commands them are wrong, and the results which God warned them shall not happen.
Today readings show us that sins happened when people made a bad use of freedom to disobey God. In the first reading, God tore Solomon’s kingdom into twelve parts. He gave Jeroboam, Solomon’s servant, ten parts. These parts shall form the Northern Kingdom, also called Israel, with its capital in Samaria. The descendants of Solomon could only keep one part which is the Southern Kingdom, also called Judah, with its capital in Jerusalem. This was the result of Solomon’s sin because he disobeyed God and built up altars for his wives’ gods. In the Gospel, though Jesus commanded the man, who was healed from deaf and dumb, not to spread out what he did for him; but he disobeyed Jesus and proclaimed it to everyone.
1/ Reading I: “I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon, and will give you ten tribes.”
Because king Solomon turned his heart away from God, He decided to divide his kingdom into two regions. Jeroboam was chosen by God to lead the kingdom of Israel in the north, while Rehoboam, Solomon’s son and successor, shall lead the kingdom of Judah in the south. Jeroboam is the son of Nebat, the Ephraimite, who lived in Zeredah. His mother, Zerua, is a widow. He served Solomon for many years. Since King Solomon recognized Jeroboam had talent and was responsible, he put him in charge of all workers of Joseph’s house.
1.1/ The symbolic action of tearing a coat into twelve pieces: The author reported: “At that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him on the road. Now Ahijah had clad himself with a new garment; and the two of them were alone in the open country. Then Ahijah laid hold of the new garment that was on him, and tore it into twelve pieces.” The duty of God’s prophet is to speak what God wants him to say; but a prophet sometimes uses a symbolic action as the prophet Ahijah tore his coat into twelve pieces in today passage. The purpose of his act was to help people to clearly understand what God wants.
1.2/ The meaning of Ahijah’s action: Then, Ahijah said to Jeroboam: “Take for yourself ten pieces; for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, `Behold, I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon, and will give you ten tribes.’ (But he shall have one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel).” One can put a question right away that what happens for one more tribe? The reason might be the Simeon tribe was assimilated to the Judah tribe at that time.
Look back to the Jewish history, king David is the one that united the twelve tribes of Israel; but this unity lasted only about 80 years: 40 years under David’s reign and 40 years under Solomon’s reign. After Solomon’s reign, Israel was divided into two kingdoms. Ten tribes in the north became the Kingdom of Israel with its capital in Samaria. Two tribes in the south, which were Judah and Simeon, became the Kingdom of Judah with its capital in Jerusalem. This division is still there today.
As in David’s case, his sins caused bad results not only for himself but also for his family and nation. Similarly, Solomon’s sin caused bad results not only for himself but also for his family and nation. Solomon’s sin was the cause of the disunity of the nation.
2/ Gospel: Jesus healed a man who was deaf and dumb.
2.1/ The way Jesus healed the man: Mark reported the miracle as follows: “And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech; and they besought him to lay his hand upon him. And taking him aside from the multitude privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue; and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.”
One can see there is a difference between this miracle and Jesus’ other miracles. In other miracles, the sick could remain at their position, Jesus needed only to say a few words and the sick was healed. The reason why Jesus took him aside from the multitude was because of his deafness. Jesus didn’t want him to be embarrassed because he didn’t understand Jesus’ command. Other reason for Jesus’ action was Jesus’ action helped the man to understand the cause of his sickness.
2.2/ Jesus’ command and people’s reaction:
(1) Why did Jesus prohibit them to spread the miracle? In Mark’s Gospel, we usually see Jesus prohibited this because he wanted to keep “the secret of the Messiah.” The Jews, as many others, easily accept a powerful Messiah who can work miracles to set free their people and nation from the foreign domination. They couldn’t accept a meek Messiah who was beat up and crucified on the cross, and liberated people from their sins by his sufferings. Jesus worked miracles because he had compassion for the sick. He also wanted them to believe in him through his power of doing miracles. What he didn’t want is people are so used with the image of a powerful Messiah that they don’t pay attention to his teaching and loose their faith when they see him to be crucified on the cross.
(2) People’s reaction: “But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well; he even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.”” Some people might think it is a right way to spread what Jesus did so that others will believe in him. Jesus didn’t want people to believe in him because of miracles, because their faith will quickly fade when they are no longer witnessing miracles. He wanted people’s faith to base on their understanding and love of God; only this kind of faith can help them to overcome all sufferings in their life. Under the foot of the cross, one can understand why Jesus didn’t want people’s faith to base on miracles or to multiply food.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– God creates everything good. What He teaches people to do is for the good of people. We need to obey Him and practice what he teaches us to do.
– All evil things that happened were caused by the devils and the people’s misuse of their freedom.
– We can’t win over the devils by our own power. We need to be guided by God’s words and empowered by His grace.