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Saturday – Eleventh week – OT1
Readings: 2 Cor 12:1-10; Mt 6:24-34.
1/ First Reading: RSV 2 Corinthians 12:1 I must boast; there is nothing to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven — whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3 And I know that this man was caught up into Paradise — whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows — 4 and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. 5 On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. 6 Though if I wish to boast, I shall not be a fool, for I shall be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. 7 And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. 8 Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; 9 but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, `What shall we eat?’ or `What shall we drink?’ or `What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.
I. THEME: Believing in God’s providence
Today readings help us to recognize God’s wonderful providence. In the first reading, St. Paul wanted to highlight two reasons for his suffering. First, it is for him not to be proud of himself because God let him see a vision about God’s kingdom. Secondly, it is for him to convict that his strength is come from God, not from his weak body. In the Gospel according to St. Matthew, Jesus demands people to choose either to serve God or to be slaves for the world; they can’t catch fish with both hands.
1/ Reading I: “When I am weak, then I am strong.”
1.1/ God’s strength: A man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven is Paul himself. He was given by God to see the vision of the heavenly kingdom. One thing he is not clear whether he is in the body or out of the body, because he was in ecstasy. What he saw we don’t know because Paul only reported one thing, “he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.” The important thing which Paul wanted to be proud of is God’s given power for him to see that vision, not of his own strength and power.
1.2/ Human weakness: Paul clearly recognized his strength came from God; his own body is weak and limited. According to human nature, he wanted to ask God to take away his weakness and limitation so that he could effectively work for Him; but God has His own way. Paul knew the reason as he said, “And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated.”
(1) What is the meaning of “a thorn was given me in the flesh”? There are many different explanations:
– It is a spiritual thorn: Calvin said it is “spiritual temptations.” Luther regarded as “oppositions and persecutions.” Some Catholic commentators thought it is “fleshy temptations.” Those who opposed these opinions said the Greek’s noun “skólopsh” implies a physical thorn, not a symbolic meaning.
– It is a physical thorn: Some said it is Paul’s weak stature (2 Cor 10:10). Other said he had a “light seizure” (Gal 4:14). Tertullian and Jerome thought Paul suffered a “chronic headache.” Others thought he still had a problem with eyes because of the event on Damascus (Acts 9:9), and the Galatian faithful were ready to give their eyes to Paul (Gal 4:15). Still others thought Paul had a “chronic fever” or a “toothache.”
– Catherine de Sienna in her book, The Dialogue, confirmed this thorn is Paul’s body according to a revelation from the Father to her. Once a person saw God’s glory or kingdom, he no longer wants to live in his human body, but to die so that he can see God’s face to face.
I can’t certify the meaning of the thorn which Paul wanted to imply because he could use either physical or symbolic meaning; but one thing I can be certain it is a result of human body as Catherine said, and Paul wanted God to take it away from him.
(2) God’s grace and strength are enough for Paul to overcome all obstacles: Paul told us about his experience, ”Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me;but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” This must be a lesson for us. Sometimes we feel discourage when our pain or sickness prevented us from preaching the Gospels. In such time, we used to ask God to take them away so that we are healthy to do His work. But God has His own plan and our duty is to do His will, not our will. The proper way we should act is to imitate St. Paul, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2/ Gospel: “You cannot serve God and mammon.”
2.1/ It is impossible to serve two masters: Jesus said to his disciples, “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
The noun “mamonas” comes from the Aramaic verb which means “to rely on.” The noun “mamon” is the property which one put in a safe box or entrusted other to keep it for him. After a period of time, “mamon” lost its original meaning and had a new meaning which is: “thing which people rely or put their trust on.” When “Mamon” is capitalized, it means a god. We can see the changing of the word from the property which people need to have as a mean for their life, to the belief of people in that property and consider it as a god.
Indeed, all properties in this world belong to God. He gives them for people to use. Human beings aren’t the owners, but only stewards. They must answer to God these two important questions:
(1) The way to earn money: There are many different ways to earn money, but we can simply classify them into two main ways: legal and illegal. The legal way is when we earn money with our labor and effort. The illegal way is when we earn money by lying, usurping or cheating.
(2) The way to spend money: As said above, we are only stewards of God’s properties and the stewards’ duty is to spend or to distribute. There are many ways of spending money:
– Some don’t use it at all, they only keep money for security reason. They want to count them to have a feeling that they are rich.
– Some squander it in gambling, drinking and fleshy enjoying.
– Some use it to benefit others, such as: to raise and to educate themselves and their children, make a contribution in projects which improve human life, etc.
In short, human beings are God’s property. They have a duty to worship God alone, and must use God’s given properties only as a mean for their life.
2.2/ Don’t worry! People need to put their complete trust in God’s providence. Jesus gave us seven reasons for not to worry:
(1) The One who gives life, also gives necessary things to protect life: “Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”
(2) Our worries insult God: “Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?”
(3) Our worries add nothing to our life: “Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?”
(4) Our worries threaten our faith: “Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin.But I tell you that not even Solomon in his entire splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith.”
(5) There are more important things to do in our life: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.”
(6) The worries about material things belong to the Gentiles: “All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”
(7) People can know only the present, not the future: “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
Our strength is from God, not from richness, fame, power or our human weaknesses. If He wants us to suffer, we should obey His will and find out the way He wants us to go. Material things are only the mean for us to live in this life; once we were dead they become meaningless and benefit nothing for us before God.