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Monday – Eleventh week – OT1
Readings: 2 Cor 6:1-10; Mt 5:38-42.
1/ First Reading: RSV 2 Corinthians 6:1 Working together with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says, “At the acceptable time I have listened to you, and helped you on the day of salvation.” Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 3 We put no obstacle in any one’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labors, watching, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, forbearance, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love, 7 truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, `An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; 40 and if anyone would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; 41 and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you.
I. THEME: The requirements of Christ’s disciples
To be a disciple of someone is to become like that person. If we want to be Christ’s disciple, we must try to learn about his life and lively express it in our life so that others also want to be his disciples.
Today readings concentrate on Christ’s teaching and the requirements of Christ’s disciples. In the first reading, St. Paul advised the Corinthian faithful not to let God’s blessings for them be ineffective; they must use them to serve the Gospel as he did. In the Gospel, Jesus demanded his disciples not only to keep their ancestors’ just law but also the law of love, so that people shall recognize them as his disciples.
1/ Reading I: Endure suffering for the sake of the kingdom.
1.1/ We should not let God’s grace be ineffective:
(1) The faithful must yield profit for God: The grace which God bestows on people is to serve and to announce the Gospel, not to keep for enjoyment. St. Paul clearly realized this, so he advised the faithful: “Working together with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At the acceptable time I have listened to you, and helped you on the day of salvation.” Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” We heard this message at the beginning of the Lenten season. The Church wants to remind us that God gives us grace and convenient time to repent and to work for our and others’ salvation. We need to be serious to do that or shall miss the acceptable time.
(2) Paul’s experiences: Looking back at his mission of the Gospel, Paul wants to say to his faithful with a purpose, not to brag about his achievements, but for them to imitate him as he imitated Christ. He said: “We put no obstacle in any one’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way.” During his serving of the Gospel, Paul must endure sufferings from all directions. Paul listed out these sufferings as follows:
– Those come from inside such as: tensions, fears and worries.
– Those come from outside such as: scourges, imprisonments and tumults.
– Those come during preaching such as: labors, lacking of sleep and hunger.
When facing these difficulties, Paul and his companions must be patient (hypomonê) to endure. Jesus also warned his disciples about difficulties and sufferings which they must face; but he promises to them: Do not be afraid because I am with you all the days of your life.
1.2/ God equipped his preachers to face these sufferings: St. Paul is so familiar with weapons and armors of the Roman soldier, so when he described a Christ’s preacher, he based his description on this image. Two main weapons which a soldier needs to have are the shield to protect his body from the attack and the sword to attack his enemies. Similarly, a preacher needs four virtues to protect him and four weapons to fight:
(1) The four virtues to protect as shields:
– Purity so that he might not be drawn into the worldly lifestyle;
– Wisdom to face different people and to adapt to different situations;
– Perseverance to endure sufferings and insults;
– Compassion to understand and to forgive.
(2) The four weapons to attack as a sword:
– Holiness to sanctify the world, not to let the world to assimilate him;
– A true love to sacrifice and to give unconditionally;
– Understanding the Gospel and eagerly preaching it;
– Believing in God’s strength: The disciple believes in God’s strength, not his own strength, as Paul said: “with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute.”
(3) The self-confident attitudes which the disciple must have: Besides the equipped weapons, a soldier must have self-confident attitude to fight. If not, he shall easily give up when he faces obstacles. Similarly, the preacher must also believe in God and himself. Based on his experience, Paul listed out the following confident attitudes:
– We are treated as impostors, and yet are true;
– As unknown, and yet well known;
– As dying, and behold we live;
– As punished, and yet not killed;
– As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;
– As poor, yet making many rich;
– As having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
2/ Gospel: : “Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”
2.1/ Don’t oppose the wicked: Jesus taught his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.”
The law, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” belongs to the Talionis’ law. This is the most ancient law of the world, also found in Hammurabi’s law, about 2250 BC. This law can also be found in the Old Testament at least three times (Exo 21:23-25; Lev 24:19-20, Deut. 19:21). Some important things about this law need to be addressed:
(1) It prevents the escalating revenge: If two parties keep increasing their revenge, death certainly happens not only for individuals but also for families and tribes.
(2) It is done by the judges, not by individual or familial members.
(3) It isn’t understood literally: It doesn’t mean that if the victim lost an eye, the one who caused it must also loose an eye; but it shall be calculated in the amount of money which the violator must pay to the victim.
(4) It isn’t the only principle of the Old Testament law: Besides, there are still many laws which mention love and forgiveness (cf. Lev 19:18; Pro 25:2; Lam 3:30).
What Jesus wanted to teach his disciples is that they can’t take revenge under any forms. First, this is a very wise teaching because it prevents the lost of life. The Vietnamese adage also advises people that “let material possession take the place of human life.” Secondly, revenge only increases hatred; but forgiveness shall stop hatred and has potential to converse an enemy to one’s friend. Lastly, Jesus’ disciples must believe that God is still controlling of this world. He shall not let the wicked to govern this world and the righteous to greatly suffer; however, trials and sufferings are also needed to test people’s faith and to practice virtues.
Jesus also prohibited even prosecution when he taught: “If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.” As discussed above, prosecution in civil court requires one to pay lots of money for lawyers, to spent much time and effort, and isn’t guaranteed a fair trial. Next, material gains aren’t the ultimate purpose of life for Christians; if someone need them more than us, let them have. Lastly, the Christians believe that God is the benevolent Father, He shall not let His faithful children to die of hungry or cold.
2.2/ Jesus’ disciple must ready to help others: Jesus continued to teach his disciples, “Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.” This saying means that Jesus’ disciples don’t stop at the fulfillment of their duty but also to do more than what they should. The Christians must not value material gains more than human dignity, “Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We are Christ’s disciples; therefore, we must study Christ’s life and apply it into our life so others could recognize we are his disciples and believe in him.
– We can’t be pleased with the keeping of the Ten Commandments since it is only the minimum requirement; but must satisfy the law of love’s requirement to bring people to God.