Israel is a luxuriant vine
whose fruit matches its growth.
The more abundant his fruit,
the more altars he built;
The more productive his land,
the more sacred pillars he set up.
Their heart is false,
now they pay for their guilt;
God shall break down their altars
and destroy their sacred pillars.
If they would say,
“We have no king?”
Since they do not fear the LORD,
what can the king do for them?
The king of Samaria shall disappear,
like foam upon the waters.
The high places of Aven shall be destroyed,
the sin of Israel;
thorns and thistles shall overgrow their altars.
Then they shall cry out to the mountains, “Cover us!”
and to the hills, “Fall upon us!”
“Sow for yourselves justice,
reap the fruit of piety;
break up for yourselves a new field,
for it is time to seek the LORD,
till he come and rain down justice upon you.”
Jesus summoned his Twelve disciples
and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out
and to cure every disease and every illness.
The names of the Twelve Apostles are these:
first, Simon called Peter, and his brother Andrew;
James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John;
Philip and Bartholomew,
Thomas and Matthew the tax collector;
James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus;
Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot
who betrayed Jesus.
Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus,
“Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town.
Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.'”
Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: Don’t take God’s blessings as your own effort.
In life, almost everyone hate the ingratitude; but there is some sins that are more serious than the ingratitude which are: to take other’s work as one’s own, and to assign to one the work which belongs to other. For example, a person whom God helped him to be successful; but he thinks it was due to his own effort or he attibuted it to “the lucky god” which he offered sacrifice. The prophet Hosea condemned this kind of person with very heavy words: She works as a prostitute not only without money, but also gives her husband’s money to her lover (Hos 2:7-10). The prophet wanted to say that God is the One that gave all things to Israel, but they thought it is Baal who gave it to them, and they used all things God gave to build up altars and to offer sacrifices for Baal!
Today readings want us to recognize that all what we have are from God; we need to recognize and to correspondingly return God’s love. In the first reading, the prophet Hosea displayed the Israelites’ sins. They were people “one heart with two stomaches:” one to store up God’s gifts, one to offer them for Baal. In the Gospel, Jesus selected, trained and gave graces to twelve apostles before he sent them out to preach, to heal and to gather souls for God. If the apostles can bring back any soul, it is because of God’s graces, not their own efforts. They are only God’s instrument to preach God’s words. Therefore, they need to avoid of two attitudes: to want others to compensate their effort and to think they are the ones that save others’ souls.
1/ Reading I: “Sow for yourselves justice, reap the fruit of piety.”
1.1/ The more riches people become the farther they live away from God: It is plain that people are closer to God when they are poor, painful or hopeless. Many people promised to God that if He saves them from their present dangers, they shall spend all of their life to worship God and to serve others. But when they overcame sufferings and became rich, they no longer remember what they promised. They are proud of what they have accomplished and believed that it is due to their own effort. Though they don’t publicly declare that they no longer believe in God; but their mind were already far away from Him and closer to all kinds of god: power, fame, material property and fleshy enjoyment.
These things happened to the Israelites. The prophet Hosea described them in the following words: “Israel is a luxuriant vine whose fruit matches its growth. The more abundant his fruit, the more altars he built; the more productive his land, the more sacred pillars he set up.”
Why do these things happen to them? There are many reasons, but the most important ones are pride and enjoyment. They want to be God and king for themselves, don’t want to listen to anyone and don’t want anybody to tell them to do things which they don’t like them. Hosea evaluated their circumstance, “If they would say, “We have no king”– Since they do not fear the Lord, what can the king do for them?” (Hos 10:3). Many people denied God, not because they didn’t believe in His existence, but because they don’t want to do what He commands. His commandments prevent their enjoyments.
1.2/ God must punish to bring people back to Him: If people recognized God’s blessings and lived righteously, God doesn’t need to punish them; but because people are “one heart with two stomaches,” God must punish them so that they might recognize that they can’t live without Him and return to Him. Therefore, punishment is necessary and a sign of love; if God doesn’t punish people, He shall loose children whom He created.
When God punishes, people shall recognize their sins and wrongful thoughts. They shall be ashamed and feared to face His immense love. The prophet Hosea described this state as followed, “Then they shall cry out to the mountains, “Cover us!” and to the hills, “Fall upon us!””
To avoid this terrible sitiuation, we should learn the historical lesson as Hosea taught, “Sow for yourselves justice, reap the fruit of piety; break up for yourselves a new field, for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain down justice upon you.” If we are living in God’s full care and happiness, we should thank God and properly use what He gave to us. If we are living in suffering and pain, we should pray so we can overcome it according to His will.
2/ Gospel: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
2.1/ Jesus gave his blessings to the apostles so they could distribute them to others: In God’s providence, Jesus didn’t work by himself, but he selected twelve apostles to train, to bestow his power, and to give them the mission of preaching the gospel to every people. Imitating Jesus, the Church, through many generations, still continues Jesus’ mission. On the one hand, she continually preaches the Gospel to all nations; on the other hand, she continues to form the preachers and to send them out so that they continue to preach the gospel for future generation. When we look back to the history of the Church, we undoubtely believe Christ’s presence in the Church.
2.2/ The list of Jesus’ twelve apostles: Matthew reported the names of the twelve as follows: “The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus; Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.”
– Looking at the list, the first thing we notice is that these people are plain, there isn’t anything special about them according to the worldly standard, not counting their sins and weaknesses. This shows that what they shall accomplish, completely depend on God’s strength and power. He help the plain people to accomplish wonderful works.
– People used to choose those who have the same interest or temperament. Jesus chose his apostles who had different temperaments to the point of conflict. Peter who was quick to talk to live with John, a thinker. Simon, a zealot who opposed all foreign power to live with Matthew, a tax-collector, who worked for Roman emperor. Thomas, a doubter, who denied to believe all other apostles’ witness that Jesus has risen. Jesus could help them to discard individual differences to live together and to accomplish the given mission.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We should never take God’s blessings as our own effort. We should always return God’s love for us by living a righteous life and helping others.
– We should always worship and live close to God in all situations, in poor and in richness; in peace and in sufferings.