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Monday – Sixteenth week – OT1
Readings: Exo 14:5-18; Mt 12:38-42.
1/ First Reading: RSV Exodus 14:5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people, and they said, “What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” 6 So he made ready his chariot and took his army with him, 7 and took six hundred picked chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. 8 And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt and he pursued the people of Israel as they went forth defiantly. 9 The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and his horsemen and his army, and overtook them, encamped at the sea, by Pihahiroth, in front of Baalzephon. 10 When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them; and they were in great fear. And the people of Israel cried out to the LORD; 11 and they said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, in bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Is not this what we said to you in Egypt, `Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” 13 And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be still.” 15 The LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. 16 Lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go on dry ground through the sea. 17 And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen. 18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”
2/ Gospel: NAB Matthew 12:38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 He said to them in reply, “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. 40 Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. 41 At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and there is something greater than Jonah here. 42 At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.
I. THEME: We should firmly believe in God’s promise and power.
God owes nothing from men; in opposition, men owe everything from God. Out of love for people and to arouse faith in them, God gives people many opportunities to hear His words and to see His wonderful deeds. People must take advantage of these opportunities to strengthen their faith. They can’t continue to ask for more chances to hear His words or to demand more wonderful deeds according to their will; especially to test His patience before they put their trust in Him.
Today readings illustrate the cases which people tried to test God’s patience. In the first reading, King Pharaoh continued to test God even though he has heard God’s demand through Moses to release the Israelites from Egypt and seen the seven terrible plagues which God poured out on his people. After the seventh plague which is the killing of all Egyptian firstborn male children, he let Moses and the Israelites go. After letting them go, the Egyptian king regretted of the great amount of slaves which the Israelites provided for him, he gathered all of his armies to chase after the Israelites and to take them back. Even the Israelites, though were taught and witnessed many God’s wonderful deeds, they were still afraid and murmured against God and Moses and Aaron when they saw Pharaoh’s armies chasing after them. In the Gospel, even Jesus announced many times about his resurrection, but Mary and Jesus’ apostles still didn’t believe that he could rise from the death. Mary was still looking for his dead body and wept when she didn’t find it until Jesus, out of love for her, appeared and commanded her to announce his resurrection for his apostles.
1/ Reading I: “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today.”
1.1/ The Egyptian king’s reaction: After the last plague which God’s angels killed all the Egyptian firstborn children and animals, King Pharaoh agreed to let Moses lead the Israelites out of Egypt because he couldn’t endure the result of this plague; but he changed his mind when the Israelites had gone. What is the reason for his change?
(1) He feared of loosing a great amount of slaves: This is the reason reported by the author, “When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people, and they said, “What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?”So he made ready his chariot and took his army with him,and took six hundred picked chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them.” This is also the main reason why God wants to liberate the Israelites. People have no right to treat others as their slaves.
(2) God hardened Pharaoh’ heart: The author also reported, “And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt and he pursued the people of Israel as they went forth defiantly.”
There are many people who questioned God’s love in this sentence: Why did God love the Israelites and hate the Egyptians when both are His children? Why didn’t God enlighten King Pharaoh’s heart so he won’t be hardened but recognized the truth and won’t be destroyed in the Red Sea?
This is only the Jewish way of expression because they believe all things that happen are from God; they didn’t concern about the logic of theological explannations as in our time. According to the theological viewpoint, God gives people the intellectual light to recognize the truth from all falsities and the freedom to do it. God sent Moses and the elders to come to the king and to ask for the release. When the king didn’t permit, God sent the plagues; not one or two, but seven plagues. Therefore, the fault is not on God; but on the king and his people’s stubbornness and their unjust ways of treating the Israelites, their neighbors.
1.2/ The Israelites’ reaction:
(1) They didn’t firmly believe in God though they have seen all His seven plagues: When they saw the Pharaoh’s mighty armies chasing after them, the Israelites cried out to God and rebuked Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, in bringing us out of Egypt?Is not this what we said to you in Egypt, `Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”
The heroic people prefer to gloriously die than to shamefully live; the Israelites preferred to shamefully live than to gloriouslly die! There are two Israelites’ sins we can recognize here: Firstly, they had no firm faith in God though they saw two many God’s power through the choosing of Moses and the seven plagues. Secondly, they preferred to be the slaves for the Egyptians than to be freed and lacking of food. When their faith is tested, they didn’t show God that they believe in Him. God knows their weak faith and chooses to strengthen their faith through many tests in the deserts.
(2) Moses’ firm faith in God: He said to the Israelites, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be still.” What God promises He shall achieve. Moses displayed his firm faith in God. This is the very important virtue of a leader, especially in the critical situation as he was facing in today passage. His faith shall have a positive effect on the Israelites’ weak faith. They don’t need to fight, they only need to be still.
2/ Gospel: Some of the scribes and Pharisees demanded some signs from Jesus before they believe in him.
2.1/ The sign of Jonah: The people who asked the question could witness the miracles which Jesus did in Israel, or at least they heard about his teaching and his miracles. Israel isn’t very big, people can know what happened by rumors. In today passage, they wanted to test Jesus by asking him to let them see a sign so that they can believe in him. Jesus denied to satisfy their request; but he promised to let them see a big one later.
In the Book of Jonah, the prophet denied to preach repentance at Nineveh; instead, he went to buy a ticket to Tarsus. Something happened in the ship, he was thrown to the sea and swallowed by a whale. He stayed in the whale’s belly for three days and nights before the whale vomitted him out at the seashore. Jesus used this miracle to tell the scribes and Pharisees that they shall witness a big miracle in which Jesus shall stay three days and nights in the tomb before he shall resurrect and go out of it. This miracle, which they never hear of, is his death, burial, resurrection and ascension.
2.2/ No man is a hero to his valet: Jesus, the Son of God, incarnated and lived among people to reveal and to teach them God’s wisdom which they never heard before; at the same time, he let them see miracles which they never saw from the foundation of the world. But they still insulted and tested him as shown in today Gospel. Therefore, Jesus warned them:
– People of Nineveh city shall accused them of hardness of heart because they repented when they heard Jonah’s preaching only once; while these people had heard Jesus’ preaching and seen his miracles many times, but they still didn’t believe him!
– The queen of Sheba shall accused them too, because she must come from a far distance and bring many tributes to king Solomon in order to listen to his wisdom; while they didn’t have to travel from afar and pay a single coin, but they still refused to listen to the Son of God’s wisdom.
Why “No man is a hero to his valet”? There are many reasons, some of the main ones are following:
(1) Since they are so used to it, they think that it is natural for it to happen. When they heard Jesus’ preaching or witnessed his miracle for the first time, they might be surprise and believe; but when they heard and witnessed many times, they were bored with and lost their first faith.
(2) Pride and prejudice: Many people have a habit of overvaluing of people from outside, those from outside are esteemed as good, those from their family, village and nation are insulted and degraded. For examples, Nathanael said to Philip: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (Jn 1:46). These Pharisees, could see something which are different in Jesus, still insulted him, “Is he not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother named Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? Are not his sisters all with us? Where did this man get all this?” (Mt 13:55-56).
(3) Jesus taught and told them to do what they didn’t like: People don’t like who tells them to discard habits which they so get used to them, especially accuses them of their sins. They have a tendency to like what is easy to do and what is comfortable to them.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We have no right to demand God to show His wisdom and power; we must be humble to learn and to recognize these in the universe.
– When are tested, we must show our unshakable faith in God. We should never choose material gains over God and His truth.