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Monday – Tenth week – OT2
Readings: 1 Kgs 17:1-6; Mt 5:1–12
1/ Reading I: RSV 1 Kings 17:1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” 2 And the word of the LORD came to him, 3 “Depart from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, that is east of the Jordan. 4 You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” 5 So he went and did according to the word of the LORD; he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. 6 And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook.
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: Believe in God’s loving providence
All things in the universe belong to God because He creates everything and gives them for people to use when they live in the world; but many people, instead of give thanks to God, they consider what they have are due to their effort and skill. Instead of worshipping the Creator of all things, they worship things made by Him. Therefore, God said through the prophet Isaiah about these people as follows, “The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people does not understand” (Isa 1:3).
Today readings remind people that the true happiness isn’t the enjoyment of material things; but is to believe in God’s providence. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah commanded to close the gate of heaven so that no rain or dew shall fall down on the earth until he commanded again. The purpose of this punishment is for the Israelites to recognize their sins and to return to God. In the Gospel, Jesus abbreviates his teachings in the Sermon of the Mount; all things that people need to do to be blessed by God.
1/ Reading I: “As the LORD the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”
1.1/ The reason of Elijah’s command: The prophet was sent by God to say these words to King Ahab because the king and all the Israelites forsook Him, the true God, and worship the Baal.
Not only God created all kinds of plants and seeds to become food for animals and people, He also sends sunshine, wind, dew and rain to help plants and seeds to grow. If these elements are lacking, plants and seeds can’t become food for animals and people. Without rain and dew, people and animal shall die because of thirst; plants and seeds can’t grow and become food for animals and people, and they shall die also because of hunger.
To help the king and the Israelites to recognize God’s providence in sending these elements, God gave Elijah the power to close the heaven so that no rain or dew shall fall down on the Israel’s land until the prophet commands again. The prophet hopes that when the king and the Israelites must face death, they shall recognize God’s power and believe in Him.
1.2/ God’s providence for Elijah: When there is no rain or dew, the prophet Elijah must endure the same result as the king and the Israelites; but God arranged so that the prophet can survive the famine. He said to Elijah, “Depart from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, that is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” So the prophet went and did according to the word of the Lord. He went and dwelt by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and in the evening; and he drank from the brook.
This story teaches us an important lesson: If people don’t recognize and thank all the favors which they received from God, He can take them away and people shall die due to lacking of them; but if people acknowledge God’s favors and believe in Him, He shall arrange so that people can have food and meat to eat, and water to drink even in the famine time.
2/ Gospel: The Beatitudes
There are many scholars who commented about this Gospel; but no one has a clear and deep commentaries as St. Augustin and St. Thomas Aquinas. According to these two saints, there are only seven, not eight beatitudes; because the so called “eighth beatitude” is only the explannation of the fourth beatitude. Moreover, according to Jewish tradition, the number seven is considered the most perfect number. They compared the Seven Beatitudes with the Holy Spirit’s seven gifts and found out that the latter are in opposite order with the former. They also set a virtue corresponding with each beatitude. Lastly, they compared the Seven Beatitudes with the seven petitions in the Our Father; they found out that these seven petitions are also corresponding with the Seven Beatitudes. In short, they recognized the beautiful correponding between the Our Father, the Seven Beatitudes and the Holy Spirit’s seven gifts. I shall be brief in this homily, but shall develop more when I have an opportunity.
(1) “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”: Poverty isn’t meant about material things, but in spirit; it is meant to trust in God, the “anawim.” The poor recognize they are nothing before God; whatever they have are completely out of God’s mercy, not of their effort. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the exemplar for this first beatitude. Although is given the title “Mother of God” by Gabriel, Mary humbly acclaimed, “For he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed” (Lk 1:48).
In opposition with the poor in spirit is the sin of pride—taking what belong to God as one’s own. The proud steal what belong to God, their parents and others. People need to acquire the virtue of humility which is “poor in spirit” to trust in God, instead of in themselves. The Book of Wisdom considers this is the most important virtue in the process of educating people. Parents need to teach their children this most important virtue because if their children revere God, they shall also honor and obey their parents. When their children don’t revere even God, they shall have little regards for their parents. If the proud have no regards for God, they shall violate all kinds of sin.
The first petition of the Our Father, “Hallowed be Thy name,” is corresponding with the first beatitude and the Holy Spirit’s gift “fear of the Lord”. All things belong to God; therefore, people need to glorify God. Glorifying God and helping people to recognize God’s Holy Name must be our first duty.
(2) “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth”: Meekness is the necessary virtue for the intercourse between people. The meek shall not maltreat and be unjust with others; but always respect and give to others what belong to them. Those possess this virtue must revere and love God; and because of that, they also love others. The reward which they shall have is the inheritance which God promises to give them in heaven.
The second petition, “Thy kingdom comes,” is corresponding with the Holy Spirit’s gift of piety and the second beatitude. When all people “love God and others,” God’s kingdom indeed comes right on this life, and certainly, it is also the Last Day which God and all people wish for it.
(3) “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”: Those who have more knowledge are easily recognize their sins against God and others. When people recognize their sins, they shall begin the process of reconciliation. Those who don’t want to learn shall not recognize their sins; as a result, they shall not repent in order to be reconciled and forgiven.
The third petition, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10), is corresponding with the third beatitude and the Holy Spirit’s gift of courage. Those who always repent easily recognize God’s will and have courage to do it, not to satisfy their own will and lowly desires.
(4) “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied”: The righteous are those who put their complete trust in Christ; but faithfully living this faith in all moments of life isn’t easy. They need to obey what Christ teaches and to have the virtue of courage to witness for him. What people usually call “the eighth beatitude” is included in this fourth beatitude because those who are persecuted and ready to be martyrs are those who must have a firm faith in Christ.
The fourth petition, “Give us this day our daily bread” is corresponding with the Holy Spirit’s gift of counsel and the fourth beatitude. People’s tendency is to store up things for them to enjoy. Those who only ask to have their daily food need a strong faith and counsel to overcome their lowly desires for material things.
(5) “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy”: Those who have compassion know how to open up themselves to welcome and to understand others, not to close their mind and to condemn others. The merciful shall receive God’s compassion.
The fifth petition, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” is clearly corresponding with the fifth beatitude and the Holy Spirit’s gift of knowledge. Those who don’t forgive shall never receive God’s forgiveness.
(6) “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”: Those who keep their mind pure shall understand God more, and at the end, God shall give them the reward “to see God as He is.”
The sixth petition, “And lead us not into temptation” is corresponding with the sixth beatitude and the Holy Spirit’s gift of understanding. In order to overcome temptations, people need to understand all causes and consequences which they must receive.
(7) “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God”: Peace is built on the two foundations which are truth and charity, not just the absence of war. Peace which isn’t based on truth and only on compassion isn’t a true peace; it shall not last long and wait for war to explode.
Wisdom is the first gift of the Holy Spirit which helps people to recognize what belong to God to acquire, at the same time, to recognize what are evil and temporal to avoid. The seventh petition, “Deliver us from evil,” demands people to have the divine wisdom to recognize what belong to God and to this world.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Material things are only the mean, not the ultimate goal of our life. We should not live far away from God because of material things.
– Only God can satisfy our desire for happiness. To attain God, we need to desire and to acquire all virtues.
– Suffering due to the religion is the opportunity for us to express our faith in God. If we desire to suffer because of Christ, he shall let us share in his glorious glory.