Friday – Twenty-ninth Week – OT1 (2)
Brothers and sisters:
I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh.
The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not.
For I do not do the good I want,
but I do the evil I do not want.
Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it,
but sin that dwells in me.
So, then, I discover the principle
that when I want to do right, evil is at hand.
For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self,
but I see in my members another principle
at war with the law of my mind,
taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
Miserable one that I am!
Who will deliver me from this mortal body?
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Jesus said to the crowds,
“When you see a cloud rising in the west
you say immediately that it is going to rain’and so it does;
and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south
you say that it is going to be hot’and so it is.
You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky;
why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
“Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?
If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate,
make an effort to settle the matter on the way;
otherwise your opponent will turn you over to the judge,
and the judge hand you over to the constable,
and the constable throw you into prison.
I say to you, you will not be released
until you have paid the last penny.”
I. THEME: Must be careful in searching for the truth.
On the jouney to search for the truth, people can use many different ways. They can use their reason, based on what they knew to find out what they know not. They can use experience, what happened in similar conditions, will happen next time. They can believe in what God taught through leaders or prophets. Or they can use the combination of all these ways.
Today readings invite us to carefully search for the truth to believe. In the first reading, based on his reason and experience, Paul wanted to demonstrate to the Jews that the Law has no power to motivate people to do good and to save them from sins. This is the reason they must believe in Christ, whom was sent by God to liberate people from sins and to help people to overcome temptations by his grace. In the Gospel, Jesus said to his audience: If their reason and experience can help them to recognize phenomenons happened on earth, they also can help them to recognize what is good or bad in morality of which they must follow or avoid. If they don’t recognize them, they still have to endure all results of their acts.
1/ Reading I: The Law helps people to know good or bad act; but gives them no power to do good and to avoid bad act.
1.1/ Men can recognize what is a good or bad act: To understand Paul’s argument, we need to understand Jewish mentality. To them, the Law of God is enough to liberate people from sins and to inherit God’s salvation. To Paul, the Law can only help people to recognize good or bad; but does not give them strength to do or to avoid them.
Paul used his reason and experience to convince the Jews as follows: “For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.
For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.”
1.2/ Men can desire but have no power to do good things: According to experience, from what one knows to what one puts into practice is not easy. There are many who knew a lots, but they did not act according to their knowledge; sometimes they acted totally against them. St. Paul described this torn feeling as follows: “For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Jesus himself also warned his disciples about the danger of the flesh and the need to be awared: “For the spirit is quick but the flesh is heavy.”
To help people to do good and to avoid evil, they need not only the Law, but also to put their trust in Christ, whom the Father sent to set people free from this inside battle. With Christ, people can do good and avoid evil, as Paul declared: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Paul did not explain in details how Christ helps people to avoid sins and to live righteously in today passage; but in the next chapter, Paul compared the two lives according to the flesh and according to the spirit. The tradition of the Church also emphasizes that the virtuous life by God’s grace and the human control of the flesh will help Christians to avoid sins and to live righteously.
2/ Gospel: Let use the intellect to search for the truth.
2.1/ Knowledge about weather: Our ancestors, though they did not have instruments used to predict weather as we have now, used their experience to predict weather and to teach future generation by simple maxims, easy to understand and to memorize. For example, “When you see a cloud comes from the east of Vietnam, you must run; but if you see it comes from the south, you can either continue to work or to play.” Their meanings are: If a cloud comes from the east of Vietnam, that is, from the sea of Nam Hai, then rain will certainly come; therefore, people must run as fast as possible to avoid rain. If a cloud comes from the south of Vietnam, it will not rain, people can continue what they are doing, either working or playing.
Jesus also used their ancestors’ experience when he said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, `A shower is coming’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, `There will be scorching heat’; and it happens.” Their meanings are: If a dark cloud comes from the west of Palestine, that is, from the Mediterranean Sea, it is certainly that rain will come (). If a wind comes from the south of Palestine, that is, from the Arabian desert, the weather will be hot.
2.2/ Knowledge about time: In the time period closed to the coming of Christ, almost every one of the Jews was looking for the Messiah, who will come to set them free from the foreign empire. According to prophets, God will give people signs to recognize when the Messiah comes; for example, according to the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” (Isa 61:1). But when Jesus reminded them that he is the one who Isaiah fortold (Lc 4:21), they were still not believed in him. This is the reason why Jesus scolded them: “You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky; but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?”
2.3/ Use knowledge about psychology to prepare for one’s future life: To prepare to face God’s justice on the Judgment Day, Jesus illustrated a case which people are so familiar: “As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out till you have paid the very last copper.” The meaning is that according to justice, we must render to people what belong to them. If we treat them unjust, we must compensate for them the sooner the better; if not, we will have to pay them back by the judge’s order and to endure possible jail time.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Human being is a rational animal: they know how to use experience to draw out a lesson for present life, and to use present to prepare for future. So, we should not quickly believe what others said without carefully verify them, and don’t let people to control our life.
– After knowing the truth, we must have courage to live and to witness for the truth to benefit our life and others.
– We cannot avoid sins and live righteously without Christ’s grace; therefore, we should frequently receive sacraments to have strength to avoid sins and to practice virtues.