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Saturday – Twenty-second week – OT1
Readings: Col 1:21-23; Lc 6:1-5.
1/ First Reading: RSV Colossians 1:21 And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him, 23 provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
2/ Gospel: RSV Luke 6:1 On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grain fields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. 2 But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” 3 And Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God, and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?” 5 And he said to them, “The Son of man is lord of the Sabbath.”
I. THEME: The need to pay attention to the essentials instead of the supplemental.
Many people aim only at the present goods and forget about many future dangers; for example, some young people aim only at satisfying their passion and forget about many future diseases. Many people also take a law to nitpick or to criticize others and to forget about the principle and the foundation which that law is based on. Because of that they must endure many future dangers. To make a wise decision, people need to spend time to learn, to think and to discuss before coming to a conclusion. This procedure shall help people to avoid near-sighted, one-way and arbitrary conclusions.
Today readings pay attention to finding out what are basic and important things in living one’s religion. In the first reading, the author of the Letter to the Colossians wanted the faithful to concentrate on Christ, what he teaches and does for human beings. His purposes are to help them to practice virtues so they might live their life holier, their faith stronger, and they shall never lose their hope in the Gospel. In the Gospel, Jesus defends his disciples when they are accused of violating the Sabbath by the scribes and the Pharisees. He reminds them the principle of the Sabbath is to serve people and this law isn’t applied to God.
1/ Reading I: What is meant to follow Christ.
1.1/ Christ must be the center of the Christian’s life: To understand Christ’s importance, the author compared the believer’s fate before and after they believe in Christ:
(1) In the past: “And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds.”
(2) At presence: “He has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him.”
The majority of the Colossians is Greeks and Gentiles because they didn’t know God and His teaching. The result of this lifestyle is sinful because they act only according to what they think. By Paul’s preaching of the Gospel, they know God and believe in Christ; they are purified from sins by Christ’s blood and reconciled with God.
1.2/ The faithful must hold firm to their faith and hope: Though they were purified by Christ and reconciled with God, the faithful are still facing daily temptations from the devil, the world and their own flesh. In order to be faithful to God until the end of their life, the faithful need to do two main things:
(1) To practice their faith: Though faith is God’s gift for human beings, but people have a duty to make their faith increasing and firm. Jesus likens faith as a seed, it needs to be cared for in order to grow to a tree and to bear fruits; if it isn’t cared for, the seed of faith can be taken away by the devil at any time. To practice their faith, people need to learn from Christ and put his teaching into practice.
(2) To hold firm their hope: According to Christ’s revelation, the people’s most important hope is to live eternally and happily with God after a temporal life in this world. Like faith, the devil can take away this hope by replacing it with worldly and temporal glory. To hold firm to the hope for the eternal life, the faithful need to practice to live according to the standards and values of the heavenly kingdom, to Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, and to all what he teaches in the Gospel. In brief, the most necessary things in our life are to understand, to live, to preach and to witness for the Gospel.
2/ Gospel: The law of the Sabbath is to serve people.
2.1/ Jesus’ disciples were accused of violating the Sabbath: The Gospel reports, “On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grain fields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands.But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?””
According to the Jewish tradition, the Sabbath has its origin on the Book of Genesis. After God finished His creation in six days, He rests on the Sabbath and commands people to also rest on that day. Why did God command people to rest on the Sabbath? There are two main reasons:
(1) For people to rest after six days of hard working: God is the One Who created people; He knows people’s limit and wants them to have time to rest. Resting is needed not only for people, but also for animal, trees and land, so all can effectively work and bear fruits. If people don’t rest, they shall be very tired, get sick and not have good results by constant working.
(2) For people to develop their spiritual life: People are the combination of soul and body. On the Sabbath, when the body is rested, the soul needs to be nourished by the spiritual food, such as: hearing God’s word and receiving Christ’s body, to increase the soul’s strength. If people don’t know how to use the Sabbath properly, they shall overwork or waste their time on useless recreations, so not only their body is dead tired but their soul is also hungry of the spiritual food. The Jewish tradition uses the Sabbath to learn Scripture and to pray in the synagogues.
The Sabbath laws are made for these two purposes, not aiming at the tedious questions such as: what can or can’t be done on this day. All the tedious laws were added later by human beings.
2.2/ Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees: The Sabbath’s law isn’t absolute; there are some exceptional cases which can be dispensed:
(1) For people who are so poor: The Church permits those who are so poor and need to work on Sunday to earn their food. Jesus also mentioned a case when people must eat even the forbidden food to protect their life, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him:how he entered the house of God, and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?” What Jesus’ disciples must do on the Sabbath to protect their life is legal on the Sabbath while the Pharisees accused them of working because they “plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands.”
(2) The Sabbath’s law isn’t applied for God: Jesus declared to them, “The Son of man is lord of the Sabbath.” Though God rests from creation, but He still controls all things in the universe. He controls it by His wise providence, and His wisdom is Christ, the Word. Jesus has a reason to declare, “The Son of man is lord of the Sabbath.”
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We need to learn to recognize what are essentials in our religion. If we are pleased only with citing prayers and paying attention to outside ceremonies; it is very hard for us to develop a deep relation with God and a harmonized life with others.
– Knowing the essentials also help us to make important decisions in our life and to guide others in our preaching of the Gospel.