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Monday – Thirteenth week – OT1
Readings: Gen 18:16-23; Mt 8:18-22.
1/ First Reading: RSV Genesis 18:16 Then the men set out from there, and they looked toward Sodom; and Abraham went with them to set them on their way. 17 The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 seeing that Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by him? 19 No, for I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice; so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” 20 Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry which has come to me; and if not, I will know.” 22 So the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom; but Abraham still stood before the LORD. 23 Then Abraham drew near, and said, “Wilt thou indeed destroy the righteous with the wicked?”
2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 8:18 Now when Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. 19 And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” 21 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”
I. THEME: Negotiation with God!
Human beings have a habit of calculation and negotiation; therefore, they even negotiate with God. For examples, they negotiate that if God wants me to believe in Him, make me free of sickness, or let me find a good job, or make my children to obey me. If God wants me to become a priest, please take care and protect my parent and family, etc. However, human negotiations are always changeable: sometimes they say it is justice if God should act like this, at other time they say it is unjust when God acts as such.
Today readings illustrate some cases of human negotiation with God. In the first reading, God wants to destroy two cities on the east side of the Dead Sea, Sodom and Gomorrah, because of their sins. Abraham wants to save Lot, his nephew and family, so he negotiated with God, “Will Thou indeed destroy the righteous with the wicked?” In the Gospel, when a man wanted to follow Jesus but negotiated, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father;” Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”
1/ Reading I: “Will Thou indeed destroy the righteous with the wicked?”
1.1/ God’s concern for Abraham: There are two reasons for God’s concern: First, because Abraham is the patriarch of all the nations. As the patriarch, Abraham must know God’s way to educate his descendants. That is why God said to Himself, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by him? No, for I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice.” Secondly, because of what God promises with Abraham’s descendants through him. According to the promise, Abraham’s descendants must live a good like in order to enter the Promise Land and to be protected by God. If they don’t these two promises shall never be achieved. So, God revealed to Abraham the fates of two cities, Sodom and Gomorrah.
1.2/ Abraham negotiated with God.
(1) God’s judgment: God said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry which has come to me; and if not, I will know.” In the role of readers, we know these two cities are sinful; they committed so many wicked sins against God and their neighbors and God’s punishments for these two cities. We also know God is just when He returns to people punishments according to their sins.
(2) Abraham’s thinking: He questioned God, “Will Thou indeed destroy the righteous with the wicked?” According to him, it is not just for God to destroy the righteous together with the wicked. There are many theological difficulties here:
– If Abraham believes the righteous’ good deeds are enough for God to forgive the sins of the wicked, he must accept their sins also have effects on the righteous; therefore, God could destroy both of them. Moreover, the sins of the wicked might be resulted from the righteous’ indifferences. For examples: parents didn’t educate their children to walk in God’s way; society ignored the needs of the poor. Due to their indifferences, they unintentionally pushed others on the sinful way. Therefore, sins have the character of both individual and communal; there is no individual sin which doesn’t affect or is came from the community. If we want the community to be good, every member of the community has duties to educate and to care for all members of the community.
– God can destroy both of them at one time; but shall separate them either at the individual or the last judgment. Therefore, He is still just when He destroys them.
– If God doesn’t destroy the wicked, some shall complain that He isn’t good; He let the wicked to trample the righteous.
– When Abraham negotiated with God, he reduced the number of the righteous, from fifty to ten, because he believed the righteous’ good deeds could be enough for God to forgive the sins of the wicked. But how people know when the good and the evil shall be balanced because they aren’t material things for people to weight.
2/ Gospel: “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.”
2.1/ The cost of the discipleship: Jesus was very realistic. He talked to his disciples about the reward which they shall have, and he didn’t hide from them the cost they must endure for their discipleship. This makes one to carefully think: If he accepts glory through the way of suffering, he must give up everything, carry the cross daily and follow Jesus to the end. If he thinks that he can’t follow, he must have courage to decide it from the beginning, so that he shall not give up half way through, and loose both this life and the life to come. Jesus wanted the scribe to recognize two things:
(1) He must accept an unstable future: The preacher of the Good News must constantly move, not to live in one place as a majority of people. When he fulfills his mission in one place, he must come to other place and start anew.
(2) He must live simply: The preacher doesn’t have a house or property, but completely live according to God’s providence for him.
2.2/ A disciple must respect God above all others: Jesus’ saying: “Let the dead bury their dead” isn’t easy to understand. Many think that Jesus taught people to dishonor their parents!
According to Oriental tradition, one of two things is considered as ungrateful when a child lives far away from his parent at their old age. Children, especially the firstborn son, must live with his parents to care for them when they are old; especially to bury them before he can think about his future.
Jesus required a disciple to do God’s will above all other wills, including his parents’ will as he taught, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides” (Mt 6:33). When one must choose between to follow God or stay at home to care for one’s parents, he must choose God as the first commandment teaches. However, God never let his follower without help, He shall arrange so that there is somebody who shall take care of them. Moreover, God wants people to seize the opportunity and to immediately do it. He knows that if one doesn’t do His will right away, he shall hardly do it.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We should let God act as the Lord of heaven and earth. Don’t negotiate and ask Him to think and to act as a changeable being like us.
– When we accepted to be Christ’s disciples, we voluntarily follow the suffering way to reach glory. We must love and serve him above all people and all things.