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Monday – Twentieth week – OT1
Readings: Judg 2:11-19; Mt 19:16-22.
1/ First Reading: Judges 2:11-19 11 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals; 12 and they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; they went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were round about them, and bowed down to them; and they provoked the LORD to anger. 13 They forsook the LORD, and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. 14 So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them; and he sold them into the power of their enemies round about, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. 15 Whenever they marched out, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had warned, and as the LORD had sworn to them; and they were in sore straits. 16 Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the power of those who plundered them. 17 And yet they did not listen to their judges; for they played the harlot after other gods and bowed down to them; they soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the LORD, and they did not do so. 18 Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. 19 But whenever the judge died, they turned back and behaved worse than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them; they did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways.
2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 19:16 And behold, one came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which?” And Jesus said, “You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have observed; what do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.
I. THEME: God is still loyal even when people betray Him.
Reading the Israelites’ history, we are surprised about God’s love and loyalty for them though they were disobedient and betrayed Him many times. Looking into our relationship with God, the same thing happens, God is always loyal even though we sinned and betrayed Him many times in our life.
Today readings illustrate God’s faithful love though people forsook Him and chase after worldly gods. In the first reading, the Israelites forsook God to serve Baals and Ashtaroth, the goddess. The results of this unfaithfulness are they were defeated when they fought and became slaves for the nations around them. God is still patient and sent the judges to liberate them from their enemies’ hands. In the Gospel, when a young man came and asked Jesus about the way to perfection, Jesus told him to come home and to sell all his properties to help the poor and then coming back to follow him. The young man sadly came away because he has many belongings.
1/ Reading I: The Israelites’ infidelity and God’s faithful love
1.1/ The Israelites’ betrayals: If one reads the Book of Judges, one could recognize the pattern of the Israelites, as reported in today passage as following:
First, the Israelites forsook the Lord and followed the foreign gods. The author reported, “They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; they went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were round about them, and bowed down to them; and they provoked the Lord to anger. They forsook the Lord, and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth.” Baals could be any god and Ashtaroth, according to Holman Bible Dictionary, “is the plural form of Ashtoreth, a Canaanite goddess of fertility, love, and war and the daughter of the god El and the goddess Asherah… In Canaanite mythology, she appears to be the sister of the goddess Anath and the spouse of the god Baal. Anath also was the spouse of Baal, as well as the goddess of love and war.”
Secondly, the bad results which the Israelites must receive: The author reported the general results, “So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them; and he sold them into the power of their enemies round about, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil, as the Lord had warned, and as the Lord had sworn to them; and they were in sore straits.”
Thirdly, God’s merciful love: God can leave them in their misery, but He chose to show love for them, as reported by the author, “Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the power of those who plundered them… Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them.”
Lastly, the Israelites continued to betray, “But whenever the judge died, they turned back and behaved worse than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them; they did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways.”
This four-part cycle continued to happen in the whole Book of Judges.
1.2/ Why did the Israelites continue to betray God? Looking back at the Israelites’ history and then reflecting on our life, we see that our infidelity is the same as the Israelites because every time we committed a serious sin, we betrayed God’s love! Why do we sin against Him? Is it because we don’t believe in God? No! We believe in God; but because of our human weakness, we felt into the temptations of the devil, the world or our own flesh. Is it because we don’t love God? No! Because when we come to the sacrament of Reconciliation, we repented because we betrayed God’s love for us.
The truth is we ourselves can’t fight against the three enemies’ temptations; we need God’s grace in order to overcome temptations. The lesson which we learn from the Israelites helps us to believe in God’s faithful love so that we shouldn’t be hopeless when we felt; but be courage to confess our sins and to reform our life.
2/ Gospel: What good must I do to gain eternal life?
2.1/ Jesus’ first answer: Now someone approached him and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
While Mark and Luke reported Jesus’ first answer to the man is, “Why do you call me good?” (Mk 10:18, Lk 18:19), Matthew reported: “Why do you ask me about the good?” Both questions could happen but Matthews paid attention to action more than more than knowledge. Jesus’ answer in Matthew, “There is only One who is good” is proper for the young man’s question in Mark and Luke too. Then, Jesus continued his answer, “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
The young man asked him “Which ones?” And Jesus replied, “‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness;honor your father and your mother’; and ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.'”
Jesus intentionally mentioned the second half of the Ten Commandments which relates to human beings; not to the its first half, which relates to God. The reason is that Jesus wanted to pay attention to what relates from people to people before from people to God. He also reversed the Fourth Commandment to the end.
2.2/ The power of money: The young man said to him, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. “When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Analyzing Jesus’ statement and the young man’s reaction, we come to the following observations:
(1) He put material things before God: This seriously violates the first commandment because he loved material things more than God; he sadly went away. Jesus forewarns us, “You can’t serve both God and mammon” (Mt 6:24).
(2) He didn’t love others as himself as Jesus demands: He didn’t sacrifice his material things so he could give to the poor.
(3) He didn’t understand or believe in Jesus when he said to him, “You will have treasure in heaven.” Either he didn’t understand the meaning of “the treasure in heaven” or didn’t believe God could provide it for him.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Love God above all things must be the principle to guide our life. Don’t put anyone or anything above God.
– When we sin against God because of our weakness, we should not be discourage; but rely on God’s faithful love for us.
– We need to learn to recognize God’s love, power and grace for us in our life so that we know how to deservedly respond.