The end of all things is at hand.
Therefore be serious and sober-minded
so that you will be able to pray.
Above all, let your love for one another be intense,
because love covers a multitude of sins.
Be hospitable to one another without complaining.
As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another
as good stewards of God’s varied grace.
Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God;
whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies,
so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ,
to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you,
as if something strange were happening to you.
But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ,
so that when his glory is revealed
you may also rejoice exultantly.
Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple area.
He looked around at everything and, since it was already late,
went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
The next day as they were leaving Bethany he was hungry.
Seeing from a distance a fig tree in leaf,
he went over to see if he could find anything on it.
When he reached it he found nothing but leaves;
it was not the time for figs.
And he said to it in reply, “May no one ever eat of your fruit again!”
And his disciples heard it.
They came to Jerusalem,
and on entering the temple area
he began to drive out those selling and buying there.
He overturned the tables of the money changers
and the seats of those who were selling doves.
He did not permit anyone to carry anything through the temple area.
Then he taught them saying, “Is it not written:
My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples?
But you have made it a den of thieves.”
The chief priests and the scribes came to hear of it
and were seeking a way to put him to death,
yet they feared him
because the whole crowd was astonished at his teaching.
When evening came, they went out of the city.
Early in the morning, as they were walking along,
they saw the fig tree withered to its roots.
Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look!
The fig tree that you cursed has withered.”
Jesus said to them in reply, “Have faith in God.
Amen, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain,
‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’
and does not doubt in his heart
but believes that what he says will happen,
it shall be done for him.
Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer,
believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours.
When you stand to pray,
forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance,
so that your heavenly Father may in turn
forgive you your transgressions.’
Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: The proper way to worship God
Religion isn’t merely about ceremonies in the church, but must also be extended to the faithful’s life to benefit themselves and others. The Mass isn’t ended up with the priest’s saying “Go in peace;” but is lengthened with sacrifices and services which the faithful do for others to share in Jesus’ Passion and to build up the Church.
Today readings help to recognize what are the essential of our religion to be practiced in life. In the first reading, the author of the First Letter of Peter listed out the necessary tasks which the faithful must do and the meaning of sufferings by which they endure. In the Gospel, St. Mark reported Jesus’ purification of the temple, sandwiched between two passages of the cursed fig tree. His puspose is to condemn those who used the temple to exploit of the poor and didn’t practice what God commands.
1/ Reading I: Live your relationships with God and others all moments of your life.
1.1/ What the faithful need to do while they wait for the Lord’s coming: The author advised the faithful to do four important things.
(1) Prayer: The first and most important task is a life of prayer. Jesus also taught his disciples to do the same. The author advised his faithful, “The end of all things is at hand. Therefore, be serious and sober for prayers.” The NAB translation doesn’t properly translate the first Greek verb “sophronéo” which means “to be of sound or right mind.” The RSV translated better as “to be sane.” The second Greek verb “népho” which means “to be sober, well balanced or self-controlled.” These two qualities are two necessary conditions for prayer. When people aren’t of right mind, they can’t concentrate on prayer. When the body is overloaded with food and drink, it is hard for people to keep vigil and to pray.
(2) Charity: The author advised the faithful, “Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins.” This sentence has two meanings, either when people in love, they easily forgive others’ weaknesses (cf. 1 Cor 13) or when people love others, their sins shall be forgiven by God.
(3) Hospitality: The author continued, “Be hospitable to one another without complaining.” Hospitality is very important virtue for the Church and the faithful. The early communities had no churches, the faithful must gather in the house of the members who had a big room to celebrate the Breaking of the Bread. Moreover, the faithful must also open their house to receive the preachers of the Good News who came from afar. To welcome those in need is to welcome Christ himself (cf. Mt 25).
(4) Service: Lastly, the author advised, “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” The Holy Spirit gives everyone different gifts to upbuild Christ’s Mystical Body which is the Church, not for boasting nor for their own material gains. The author paid attention to both words and deeds.
– In words: “Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God.” Preaching the Good News is preaching God’s messages, not the preacher’s own thought or messages.
– In actions: “Whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
1.2/ The purposes of trials: The author gave two reasons for sufferings:
(1) To strengthen one’s faith: “Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you,” because our faith need to be tested to see if it is true faith.
(2) To share in Christ’s suffering: The author had the same thought with St. Paul when he said, “But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly.” If the faithful deny to share in Christ’s suffering, they shall not be shared in his glory.
2/ Gospel: Whatever God said shall be achieved.
2.1/ The meaning of two reports: “The cursed fig tree” is only reported only by Matthews and Mark and one of passages difficult to explain. The reason for it is because most scholars paid attention to a detail mentioned by Mark, “for it was not the time for figs.” They question, “Why did Jesus look for figs and cursed it when it isn’t the season for figs?”
In the Gospel, Mark sometimes used the technique which is called “Intercalation or sandwiching.” The purpose of the author when using this technique is to highlight a meaning which both events aim at. For examples, in order to show that Jesus preached with authority, not like the scribes, Mark reported the miracle which Jesus expelled a demon between two passages of Jesus’ preaching (1:21-28). The miracle which Jesus healed the hemorrhage woman was put between the miracle which Jesus healed Jairus’ daughter (5:21-43) to stress that Jesus had power to heal the sick and to raise the death. And the report of John Baptist’s death was put between the event which Jesus sent out the Twelve to preach and they came back to him and report the results (6:7-30) to stress that sufferings shall be happened to preachers of the truth.
And in today passage, the event in which Jesus purified the temple was put between two passages of the cursed fig tree. The important task is to find out what is the common theme of two events.
– In the event of the cursed fig tree, Jesus said, “May no one ever eat of your fruit again!” This was achieved the next day when Jesus and his disciples passes the tree again. What God says shall be achieved, He didn’t concern if it is in or out of the season.
– In the event of the purification of the temple, Jesus said, “Is it not written: ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples’? But you have made it a den of thieves.” The Jerusalem temple was completely destroyed in 70 AD; and from that time, people worships God not in Jerusalem, but in spirit and in truth (Jn 4:21-24).
So, the common theme which Mark wanted to highlight is that everything which God created must bear good fruits; it not, God shall destroy or cut off so that others can take its place.
2.2/ Religion isn’t confined in ceremonies: The most important thing of religion is the faithful’s firm faith in God. Jesus stressed this point with his disciples: “Have faith in God. Amen, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it shall be done for him. Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours.”
Moreover, the love for God must be expressed through the love for others. Jesus taught his disciples, “When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance, so that your heavenly Father may in turn forgive you your transgressions.”
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We shouldn’t confine our religion on ceremonies celebrated in the church, but we must live our relationship with God through our prayer, our sacrifices for others and our sufferings which we are endured in life.
– We should never misuse the church: to convert it to a market place, to advertise for political purposes and to exploit the faithful.