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Saturday – Fifteenth week – OT1
Readings: Ex 12:37-42; Mt 12:14-21.
1/ First Reading: RSV Exodus 12:37 And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. 38 A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very many cattle, both flocks and herds. 39 And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they had brought out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any provisions. 40 The time that the people of Israel dwelt in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. 41 And at the end of four hundred and thirty years, on that very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt. 42 It was a night of watching by the LORD, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to the LORD by all the people of Israel throughout their generations.
2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 12:14 But the Pharisees went out and took counsel against him, how to destroy him. 15 Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all, 16 and ordered them not to make him known. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: 18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles. 19 He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will any one hear his voice in the streets; 20 he will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick, till he brings justice to victory; 21 and in his name will the Gentiles hope.”
I. THEME: God always protects life.
There exists an opposition between God and human beings: While God always finds all possible ways to protect life and to heal it through creation, providence, teaching and redemption; people disregard life and find all possible ways to destroy it through war, birth controls, abortion, euthanasia, death penalty, etc.
Today readings illustrate the truth that God always protect life. In the first reading, the author of the Book of Exodus reported the Israelites’ great exodus from the Egyptian land under God’s protecting hand. Because God doesn’t want the Israelites to live a slavish life and to be destroyed by the Egyptian’s bloody hands, so He has a plan to move them out of there to enter into the Promise Land, full of milk and honey. In the Gospel, St. Matthew emphasized the two opposite attitudes: While the scribes find a way to destroy the Creator of life, Jesus, the Suffering Servant of God, travels everywhere to heal and to protect life, as the prophet Isaiah said this about him, “He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick, till he brings justice to victory.”
1/ Reading I: It was a night of watching by the Lord, to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
1.1/ The Israelites’ great exodus out of Egypt: The author reported, “The people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children.A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very many cattle, both flocks and herds.”
This is a great and mixed crowd. If we include women and children, the crowd can be estimated about two millions; not counting their stocks and belongings. To bring such a great and mixed crowd to cross the Red Sea by foot from Rameses to Succoth is impossible to human beings; but is possible to God.
1.2/ That night belongs to the Lord: The author continued, “The time that the people of Israel dwelt in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.And at the end of four hundred and thirty years, on that very day, all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.It was a night of watching by the Lord, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to the Lord by all the people of Israel throughout their generations.”
From that time on until now, the Israelites loyally celebrate the Passover every year with a purpose to memorize and to perpetuate this event. They memorize God’s immense love for them and remind their descendants to always walk in the Lord’s way. This event also reminds them of God’s unsurpassable power so they don’t have to worry about any worldly power and put their absolute trust in Him. If God is with them, no one can harm them.
Jesus made the Jewish Passover as his own Passover when he went through his Passion, Death and Resurrection. The Christians also celebrate Jesus’ Passover every year to memorize Jesus’ immense love for them so that they know how to respond to this love by living a worthy life.
2/ Gospel: Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom I delight.
2.1/ Two opposite attitudes: Today passage of Matthew continues the two events which the Pharisees argued with Jesus about keeping the Sabbath, Jesus healed the one with withered hand in the synagogue and the disciples picked the heads of grain and ate them. Matthew recorded two attitudes:
(1) The Pharisees’ attitude to destroy life: “But the Pharisees went out and took counsel against him to put him to death.” There are many reasons for the Pharisees to kill Jesus. First, they lost their face with people. Before these events, there weren’t many people who dare to oppose the Pharisees, but Jesus, an unknown figure, had the audacity to oppose them right in the synagogue. Secondly, they wanted to protect their power. When they saw people coming to Jesus to listen to his teaching and to be healed, they felt that they were going to lose their power. In the Fourth Gospel, they talked to each other, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the whole world has gone after him” (Jn 12:19). Lastly, they thought that they can abuse power to acquire material gains and to destroy people. Being people who know the law and having high positions in the society, they can find a loophole in the law and interpret the law according to their way; but Jesus pointed out their evil intentions and people were no longer to believe in them.
(2) Jesus’ attitude to protect life: “When Jesus realized this, he withdrew from that place. Many people followed him, and he cured them all,but he warned them not to make him known.” We can recognize an extremely irrational act here, while the Creator of life wandered around to heal and to protect life for all, the selfish group of Pharisees gathered together to plot a plan to destroy the Giver of life and the Healer! Material gains have power to blind people so that they no longer see the sacredness of life.
Because life is so sacred, so there is time that a person must hide away from those who want to destroy his life, not to oppose to them all the time to get kill. Jesus hid from them, not because he feared them, but he is having so many things to be accomplished before he leaves this world to return to the Father. When time comes, Jesus shall be courage to pour out his blood for the truth. Jesus prohibited people to reveal his origin so that he could easily come and go to carry out his mission. Advertising his presence and power only benefit those who want to destroy him.
2.2/ The Lord’s Suffering Servant: Matthew looked at Jesus’ mission as the fulfillment of the Suffering Servant’s mission which Isaiah mentioned in the first song (Isa 42:1-4). Many important descriptions of the Suffering Servant were fulfilled by Christ.
First, Jesus was chosen, beloved and delight by God. In Jesus’ baptism at the Jordan river, there is the Father’s voice from heaven which witnessed for Jesus, “Here is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17). Secondly, Jesus’ mission is to announce justice before all humandkind. People are justified by their faith in Christ. Jesus shall bring justice to victory because all people shall put their hope in his name. Lastly is the way which Jesus carried out his mission. It is different with the Pharisees who always concerned with fame, power, position and material gains, Jesus didn’t fight, shout or scream in the city. The Jews expect a powerful Messiah who shall liberate them by power; Jesus used the suffering way to set people free from sins and death.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– God is the Creator and the Protector of life. He gives life to us so we might protect it, not to destroy life.
– We must value, nourish and protect our life and the life of all creatures. We have no right to destroy human life under any forms.