Monday – Thirty-third Week – OT1
Reading 1: [From the descendants of Alexander’s officers]
There sprang a sinful offshoot, Antiochus Epiphanes,
son of King Antiochus, once a hostage at Rome.
He became king in the year one hundred and thirty seven of the kingdom of the Greeks.
In those days there appeared in Israel
men who were breakers of the law,
and they seduced many people, saying:
“Let us go and make an alliance with the Gentiles all around us; since we separated from them, many evils have come upon us.”
The proposal was agreeable;
some from among the people promptly went to the king, and he authorized them to introduce the way of living of the Gentiles.
Thereupon they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem
according to the Gentile custom.
They covered over the mark of their circumcision
and abandoned the holy covenant;
they allied themselves with the Gentiles
and sold themselves to wrongdoing.
Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, each abandoning his particular customs.
All the Gentiles conformed to the command of the king, and many children of Israel were in favor of his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath.
On the fifteenth day of the month Chislev,
in the year one hundred and forty-five,
the king erected the horrible abomination
upon the altar of burnt offerings
and in the surrounding cities of Judah they built pagan altars.
They also burned incense at the doors of the houses and in the streets.
Any scrolls of the law which they found they tore up and burnt.
Whoever was found with a scroll of the covenant,
and whoever observed the law,
was condemned to death by royal decree.
But many in Israel were determined
and resolved in their hearts not to eat anything unclean;
they preferred to die rather than to be defiled with unclean food
or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die.
Gospel: As Jesus approached Jericho
a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging,
and hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what was happening.
They told him,
“Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”
He shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”
The people walking in front rebuked him,
telling him to be silent,
but he kept calling out all the more,
“Son of David, have pity on me!”
Then Jesus stopped and ordered that he be brought to him;
and when he came near, Jesus asked him,
“What do you want me to do for you?”
He replied, “Lord, please let me see.”
Jesus told him, “Have sight; your faith has saved you.”
He immediately received his sight
and followed him, giving glory to God.
I. THEME: Be faithful to God
We used to see two kinds of people in life: One kind advocates if a reign passes, they must also change their loyalty. Their purpose is to have many benefits for themselves and to avoid all sacrifices or sufferings. These are also people who “catch a fish by two hands;” for example, they worship both God and the god of Fortune. They think if God does not exist, or He does not grant what they ask, they still have the god of Fortune. The other kind has a determined intention; whoever they professed their faith in and whatever they promised, they firmly believe and keep their promise, even they must suffer or die.
Today readings show us these two opposite kinds of people in life. In the first reading, the author of Maccabees displayed two kinds of the Jews: (1) Those who changed their faith due to material profit. When they didn’t see God rewarded them for their keeping of the law, they turned their back to God and model their life according to the custom of the Greek king. (2) Those who firmly worshiped God and kept the law. They were ready to suffer and to die, rather than to deny God and to violate His law. In the Gospel, the blind of Jericho city determined to be healed by Jesus though he met opposition from the crowd who were accompaning Jesus. At last, he got what he desired because of his strong faith in Jesus.
1/ Reading I: They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the holy covenant.
1.1/ The immature people who advocated “going with the dominant power:” This was the time when the Greek governed the Jews, and many Jews forfeited their God and His law to follow temptations of Hellenistic civilization. The author of I Maccabees reported: “In those days lawless men came forth from Israel, and misled many, saying, “Let us go and make a covenant with the Gentiles round about us, for since we separated from them many evils have come upon us.” This proposal pleased them, and some of the people eagerly went to the king.”
The author continued: King Antiochus Epiphane “authorized them to observe the ordinances of the Gentiles. So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, according to Gentile custom, and removed the marks of circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant. They joined with the Gentiles and sold themselves to do evil. Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, and that each should give up his customs. All the Gentiles accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the Sabbath. Now on the fifteenth day of Chislev, in the 145 BC, they erected a desolating sacrilege upon the altar of burnt offering. They also built altars in the surrounding cities of Judah, and burned incense at the doors of the houses and in the streets. The books of the law which they found they tore to pieces and burned with fire. Where the book of the covenant was found in the possession of any one, or if any one adhered to the law, the decree of the king condemned him to death.”
Some of reasons might lead people to change their pledge: First, they don’t believe in God’s teachings and promises. Second, since they don’t believe in the eternal life, they put all their trust in this life. Lastly, they don’t love God. Once people don’t have love or run out of their love for God, they have no strength to witness for Him. In a word, when people don’t have the three theological virtues of faith, hope and love, they easily follow temptations of the three enemies of their own flesh, the world and devils, and can’t be faithful to God.
1.2/ Those who determined to be loyal to God: “Using fire to test gold, using suffering to test virtues.” If there were people who betrayed God when they met sufferings; but there were also “many in Israel stood firm and were resolved in their hearts not to eat unclean food. They chose to die rather than to be defiled by food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die.”
Some of main reasons that help people to be faithful to God all of their life: First, they believe in God, His teachings and promises for the faithful. Second, they have a firm hope in the life to come. They know God will return life to those who are ready to sacrifice their life to be a witness for Him. Lastly, it is their love for God. Love has power to help people to overcome all obstacles to be loyal to God. Once people possessed God’s love, nothing can allure them to betray Him.
2/ Gospel: Jesus healed the blind of Jericho city.
2.1/ The blind’s persisted petition: There is a Vietnamese idiom, “if you had an eye sore, you will have compassion for the blind.” Without sight, all beauty of the world are darkness to the blind, and the only job he could do to support himself is to beg for people’s compassion along the sidewalks. He is blind, but not deaf; when he has heard the crowd’s footsteps, he asked other to tell him what was happening. Some let him know it was Jesus who was passing by. He certainly heard something about Jesus’ power of healings so he took advantage of the opportunity and cried out: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. They didn’t understand his suffering; all were busy with their own thinking or calculations. Those who rebuked him might be angry because they couldn’t clearly hear what Jesus was teaching. But the blind cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” The reason why he loudly cried out might be because he feared that Jesus didn’t hear his voice; but also to express his persisted petition, there is nothing can prevent his confidence in God. With his disease, he might think this is his once in a life time to meet Jesus and to be healed by him.
2.2/ The reactions of Jesus, the blind and the crowd: Why doesn’t God have compassion on His child’s persisted petition! Jesus stopped, and commanded him to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me receive my sight.” The blind didn’t ask for anything except his sight because he knew the importance of it. Jesus told him: “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight and followed him, glorifying God.” The blind knew Jesus had compassion and he was the only person who could heal him. He was healed by Jesus so the fact that he followed him to praise God is the natural thing to do. All the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– A life with too many material attraction and enjoyment easily hardens people heart so that we are no longer sensitive with God’s love. We should enliven our first love for God by often remembering what He has done in our life to thank, to praise and to live a life worthy of His love for us.
– We should enliven our first love we had for others so that we always respect and forgive for each other. Those who easily betray other and change lovers as changing clothes, will certainly get bad results for their betrayal when they are old or in trouble.