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Monday – Tenth week – OT1
Readings: 2 Cor 1:1-7; Mt 5:1-12.
1/ First Reading: RSV 2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother. To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 5:1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. 2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. 7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. 8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.
I. THEME: Oppositions between God and human beings
There exist many oppositions between God and people: While people are looking for prosperity, God teaches “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” While people find all possible ways to dominate others, God teaches “Blessed are the meek.” While people try to avoid suffering and find all possible way to escape sadness, God teaches, “Blessed are those who mourn.”
Jesus’ homily on the Mount is considered by many “a revolution over all revolutions.” They are the greatest challenge for those who believe in Jesus. Is Jesus’ teaching so ideal? Does his teaching provide an opportunity for the capitalism to exploit the poor and the reason of social injustice? Two examples help us to understand these problems. First, Mother Teresa, though are admired by many for her good deeds; but they criticized that she took the rich’s exploited money to help the poor. They questioned why didn’t she voice her opinion to oppose the social injustice so that there is no more a gap between the rich and the poor? Such a solution shall wipe out forever classes and social injustice! Secondly, Jesus, though he has power to meet the Israelites’ expectation in the Messiah; but he chose to be a meek and suffered Messiah to redeem people’s sins. The devil tempted him in the desert to do what people are thirsting for, such as: to convert stones to bread; to perform lots of miracles and to give them glory and riches. If he could do as such, people shall believe in him. But do these people ever ask this question: if Jesus felt in the devil’s temptation and did as such, how many people of this world still believe in him! In reality, the more people have a satisfied life the further they are from God.
Today readings provide us material to meditate about God’s plan of salvation. In the first reading, St. Paul gives us two reasons for people’s suffering: to be consoled by God and to have sympathy for those who need it. In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus gave people seven beatitudes to practice in their life; these beatitudes are totally opposed with what people used to think about them.
1/ Reading I: Why do people need to suffer?
1.1/ There are two reasons for suffering: After greeting the faithful in Corinthians, St. Paul praised God as follow: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our affliction.” Why such a powerful God and rich in mercy doesn’t give to His children what they are looking for; instead, He makes them to go through all trials, pain and suffering! St. Paul gives us two main reasons.
(1) So that God has an opportunity to support and to console us: First of all, we need to understand that God isn’t wicked as He causes us to suffer so that He might have an opportunity to console us; but He let suffering happen due to changes in the universe or our abuse of freedom. Secondly, nothing is more important than the relationship between God and us; we must love God above all things, and suffering is the apt time for us to develop this relationship. St. Paul confirmed that, “He comforts us in all our afflictions.” Love used to develop and increase in time of needy and suffering, but be still or less developed when we are rich and happy.
(2) So that we might support and console each other: The second most important commandment is to love others. Suffering is helping us not only to develop our relationship with God but also our relationship with others, as Paul writes: “so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
A Vietnamese adage said, “If you hurt your eye, then you shall have compassion for the blind.” This sentence wants to say that the one who has a hurt eye shall feel very irritate; but can’t compare with the blind because they can’t see anything; all things to them are darkness. Similarly, when we passed through trials and sufferings; for example, hungry and thirsty, we know what these meant; therefore, when we see a mother with her child begs for food, we are easily compassionate with them and give them food.
1.2/ St. Paul suffered for the Corinthian faithful: Paul’s life is the good example to illustrate why God let people suffer. Before his conversion, Paul is so eager to the point of jealousy; he didn’t tolerate for those who lived against the law and the tradition. After that event, Paul gradually and completely changed because Christ wants him to suffer for preaching the Good News and extending it to Gentiles’ countries. Paul must endure misunderstanding, scourging, persecuting and even death; but he is still courageous to go forward because Jesus always accompanied and consoled him. These things help Paul to recognize God’s love and to be more generous in helping the faithful everywhere.
2/ Gospel: The Beatitudes
2.1/ “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This is a hard and difficult to understand teaching, we need to carefully study to find out what Jesus wants to say. Is poverty good? What happen if one is so poor that he steals or robs to have his food and to dishonor God’s name? Or he rebukes God for forsaking him? Many people compare living in poverty as in hell! In opposition, is richness bad? What happen if the rich use their God’s given richness to help messengers in their missionary as Lydia helped Paul to have a place to live and to preach the Gospel?
In general, poverty helps people to hope in God, whereas richness makes people to believe in their power and effort so it is easy for them to forget about God. When people have everything they need in this world, they shall not look for God’s kingdom. The poor have a better condition to look for God’s kingdom and to believe in God. An example shall illustrate my point. In Vietnam, all the churches are full of the faithful; they still live though poor and have time for God. In many developed countries, the churches are empty or have only the elders; they use time to work for money to the point that they have no time for God. In Vietnam, there are so many vocations for priesthood and consecrated life to the point that the seminaries and religious orders don’t have rooms for all. In Europe and North America, the vocations are scarce to the point that many seminaries and religious orders closed their places. Many of them, in order to survive, must come to Vietnam or Africa to get vocation.
2.2/ “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” A female saint said that whomever God loves more, He shall send more suffering to that person. Therefore, she wished that it is better for her to have suffering and to be consoled by God than to live happy without feeling of God’s love and consolation.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Where our material things are, our mind shall be. If the kingdom of God is our desired treasure, we shall live as Jesus teaches us in the first beatitude.
– Whomever God loves more, He shall send to that one more suffering. He shall be consoled by Him and easily to sympathize with those who are in the same situation. If we desire to love God and others, we shouldn’t complain when God gives suffering to us as the third beatitude teaches us.