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Friday – Seventh week – OT1
Readings: Sir 6:5-17; Mk 10:1-12.
1/ First Reading: RSV Sirach 6:5 A pleasant voice multiplies friends, and a gracious tongue multiplies courtesies. 6 Let those that are at peace with you be many, but let your advisers be one in a thousand. 7 When you gain a friend, gain him through testing, and do not trust him hastily. 8 For there is a friend who is such at his own convenience, but will not stand by you in your day of trouble. 9 And there is a friend who changes into an enemy, and will disclose a quarrel to your disgrace. 10 And there is a friend who is a table companion, but will not stand by you in your day of trouble. 11 In prosperity he will make himself your equal, and be bold with your servants; 12 but if you are brought low he will turn against you, and will hide himself from your presence. 13 Keep yourself far from your enemies, and be on guard toward your friends. 14 A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter: he that has found one has found a treasure. 15 There is nothing so precious as a faithful friend, and no scales can measure his excellence. 16 A faithful friend is an elixir of life; and those who fear the Lord will find him. 17 Whoever fears the Lord directs his friendship aright, for as he is, so is his neighbor also.
2/ Gospel: RSV Mark 10:1 And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again; and again, as his custom was, he taught them. 2 And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away.” 5 But Jesus said to them, “For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, `God made them male and female.’ 7 `For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” 10 And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
I. THEME: Be careful in choosing your wife and friends.
We are witnessing or having experiences about disloyalty, betrayal, adultery, separation and divorce. Social environment can be a reason, but the main reason for these failings is from the heart of people. Vietnamese adages have many precious advises for us to choose our friends or future spouse; for examples: “Carefully choose people to be your friends.” “Good wood is better than good paint; an unattractive but good man is better than an attractive but evil man.” “Don’t fall into one’s richness but his knowledge.” Whomever we choose, we must endure results of our choice.
Today readings teach us how to choose our friends or spouse who shall be with us all the days of our life. In the first reading, the author of the Book of Sirach helps us to understand the value of a loyal friend before to know the way how to choose such a friend. In the Gospel, when the Pharisees asked Jesus about the divorce, Jesus gave them a clear answer: “From the beginning of creation, `God made them male and female.’ `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. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”
1/ Reading I: Choosing a loyal friend
Friendship requires love and respect from both parties, it can’t be only from one side. When a person loves someone, he wishes and does the best for his lover. Of course, love and respect must first start from the lover. We can draw three important advices from today passage:
1.1/ The value of a good friend: The author of Sirach understood the value of a loyal friend when he said, “A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter: he that has found one has found a treasure. There is nothing so precious as a faithful friend, and no scales can measure his excellence. A faithful friend is an elixir of life.”
There exists a true story in Vietnam which highlights the value of the true friendship. There are two friends, Luu Binh and Duong Le. Since the latter one studied hard, he is successful and becomes the regional officer. The first one didn’t study so he fails and becomes poor. One day, Luu Binh came to see Duong Le for help. When Duong Le saw Luu Binh in poverty, he has compassion for his friend. Instead of helping his friend, Duong Le thinks of the way to make his friend to be successful, so he said to him: “People of the higher class like me doesn’t want to be friend with the poor.” Luu Binh feels indignant, he goes home and decides to diligently study with the hope of building up his life. Duong Le secretely sent Chau Long, his wife, to disguise herself to help Luu Binh during his study. Luu Binh likes Chau Long and wants to marries her, but she keeps delaying his plan until he is successful in study. When the next examination comes, Luu Binh passed the exam and also becomes the regional officer as Duong Le. He comes to see Duong Le to return his previous resentment; but when he comes, he sees Chau Long standing beside Luu Binh. He understands Duong Le’s love and sacrifice. From that time on, they become closed friends all their life and nothing can’t separate them.
1.2/ How to find a loyal friend: The author of Sirach gives us the two keys: Firstly, before looking for a loyal friend, he himself must be a loyal one. The author said, “for as he is, so is his neighbor also.” If one isn’t faithful, how can he expect other to be loyal to him? Secondly, a loyal friend is only for the one who reveres God, as the author said, “those who fear the Lord will find him. Whoever fears the Lord directs his friendship aright.” Therefore, the first virtue we should look for in choosing our friend is to see if he or she reveres God. Moreover, the author advised those who look for a good friend as follow: “A pleasant voice multiplies friends, and a gracious tongue multiplies courtesies. Let those that are at peace with you be many, but let your advisers be one in a thousand.”
1.3/ A good friend must be tested in difficult situation: When one is successful or prosperous, he shall be surrounded by those want to be his friends. The author advised us to be very careful to choose friend in those times, “For there is a friend who is such at his own convenience, but will not stand by you in your day of trouble. And there is a friend who changes into an enemy, and will disclose a quarrel to your disgrace. And there is a friend who is a table companion, but will not stand by you in your day of trouble.” People used to be friendly with the rich to be helped by them; but if they become poor and need to be helped, people shall turn them away and rebuke them without mercy.
2/ Gospel: Choosing a loyal spouse
2.1/ The problem of divorce: It happens everywhere and in all generations; it isn’t a new problem or only occurring in modern countries. Jesus’ answer is clear and the Church follows his teaching. Many people ask, “Why does the Church permit divorce if it is God’s law?” We need to differentiate two things. Firstly, the ideal which God wants people to attain. This ideal never changes and in reality, many couples reach this ideal when they are loyal with each other until death though they must overcome countless of sufferings. Secondly, weakness and sins prevent people from reaching this ideal. When people fail to reach the ideal, it isn’t meant that God’s ideal can’t be achieved or His law is wrong; but people must be humble and to recognize their weakness and sins and repent.
2.2/ Why does the Church absolve marriage? The Church annuls marriages because of human weakness and sins. There are many reasons for annulments. In general, people aren’t studied or despise the sacrament of Matrimony; for examples: Firstly, parents, due to their desire of power, fame or wealth, forced their child to marry the one whom he or she doesn’t like. In this case, their child lacks of freedom to marry. Secondly, people married without proper intention, such as: to marry in order to be settled in a foreign country, or to have money or any wrong intention. Most of these cases, the Church absolves their marriages due to the “lack of form” which means they didn’t follow the Church’s law; their marriages aren’t sacramental. Lastly, they didn’t carefully find out about each other before their marriage; for examples, they married the one who married, the one who is hindered to marry, the one who has not the same religion, etc.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– The loyal friend is only for those who revere God. We must have this condition and base on it to choose our friends or future spouse.
– Whomever we choose, we must endure results from our selection. So, we must take time to find out and to test their loyalty before making our decision.
– We shouldn’t learn from the Gentiles so that we change friends or spouse when we become rich or successful. If we do that, we shall receive bad results both from this life and the next life.