Saturday – Twenty-ninth Week – OT1 (2)
Brothers and sisters:
Now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus
has freed you from the law of sin and death.
For what the law, weakened by the flesh, was powerless to do,
this God has done:
by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh
and for the sake of sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,
so that the righteous decree of the law might be fulfilled in us,
who live not according to the flesh but according to the spirit.
For those who live according to the flesh
are concerned with the things of the flesh,
but those who live according to the spirit
with the things of the spirit.
The concern of the flesh is death,
but the concern of the spirit is life and peace.
For the concern of the flesh is hostility toward God;
it does not submit to the law of God, nor can it;
and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh;
on the contrary, you are in the spirit,
if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.
Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
But if Christ is in you,
although the body is dead because of sin,
the spirit is alive because of righteousness.
If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,
the one who raised Christ from the dead
will give life to your mortal bodies also,
through his Spirit that dwells in you.
Some people told Jesus about the Galileans
whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices.
He said to them in reply,
“Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way
they were greater sinners than all other Galileans?
By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!
Or those eighteen people who were killed
when the tower at Siloam fell on them?
do you think they were more guilty
than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem?
By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!”
And he told them this parable:
“There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard,
and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none,
he said to the gardener,
“For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree
but have found none.
So cut it down.
Why should it exhaust the soil?”
He said to him in reply,
“Sir, leave it for this year also,
and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it;
it may bear fruit in the future.
If not you can cut it down.'”
I. THEME: Live in a way that benefits ourselves and others.
When people would like to do something, they want good results; if not, they will not continue to do it. For example, a gardener will not plant seed or keep a tree which did not yield good fruits; a business man will not stock up items which moved slowly or no one wanted to buy; an owner will not keep workers whom brought no profit for his company. Same thing happens in the spiritual area, God demands people to bear fruits for Him, others, and themselves. He will give them many opportunities to bear fruits, and will stop to give opportunities if they did not yield any profit.
Today readings center around the theme what people must do to bear fruits for themselves and God’s kingdom. In the first reading, St. Paul mentioned two lifestyles which are totally contrasted with each other, namely, one lifestyle according to the flesh will gradually lead people to dead, and one lifestyle according to the Holy Spirit will help people to bear good fruits and lead them to eternal life. In the Gospel, Jesus advised his audience not to judge people to find out the reason of their suffering; but to often examine their conscience, in order to repent and to yield good results.
1/ Reading I: The two ways of life: according to the spirit and to the flesh
According to St. Paul’s understanding of Christ’s mystical body, no one can stand alone, but he has a relation to God and to others. As people have a relationship with Adam in the original sin and death, they also have a relationship with Christ in grace and the eternal life. The result of Adam’s sin is death; the result of Christ’s grace is the resurrection and the eternal life.
1.1/ The way of the flesh:
(1) The meaning of “flesh”: Paul used “sark” to indicate the literal meaning which is human flesh, such as the circumcision (Rom 2:28). He also used this word for the symbolic meaning, which is, to live according to human standards (Rom 7:5). The way of the flesh is not only included sins of fleshy desire, but also extended to other sins, such as: idolatry, jealousy, envy… (cf. Gal 5:19-21).
(2) The result of the life according to the flesh: As Paul discussed in chapter 7, human has no power to overcome temptation of sin, and the result human must get is death. St. Paul repeated this in today passage: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
1.2/ The way of the Spirit:
(1) The meaning of “spirit”: Hebrew and Greek have only one word to indicate spirit, breath, or human power: “ruah” in Hebrew and “pneuma.” According to Paul, this word indicates human power, the divine life, or the Holy Spirit. When people live according to the Holy Spirit, they follow the instruction of the Holy Trinity.
(2) The result of the life according to the spirit: It will lead people to peace and life because it has power to help them to become righteous. St. Paul believed: “if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness.
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you.”
2/ Gospel: Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.
2.1/ People must frequently examine their conscience in order to repent: What is the relationship between suffering and sin? There are two positions: The position of God and the world. According to the latter, suffering is the result of sin “whoever did evil will be punished by God, the more heavy of the sin the more severe of the punishment.” According to the former, suffering might not be a result of sin. For example, there are some who would like to suffer to give life to others as in the case of Jesus, or to give glory to God as in the case of Job or the man born blind in John 9. Jesus illustrated by two examples:
(1) The Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. Jesus asked his audience: “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus. I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” The Jewish tradition believed those were killed because they opposed Pilate when he collected the Temple tax to build the water system for people who live at Jerusalem.
(2) Those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: Jesus also asked them: “Do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem?
I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
The important thing Jesus wanted to point out is that instead of arguing to find out a relationship between suffering and sin, they should look deep into themselves to recognize their sins and to repent.
2.2/ People must bear fruit for God: Jesus gave them a parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, `Lo, these three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down; why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, `Let it alone, sir, this year also, till I dig about it and put on manure. And if it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
(1) If the fig tree continues to bear no fruit, it will be cut off to plant another tree to bear fruits for people. Same thing will happen to people, if they don’t bear fruits as God wants, He will take them away and give their places to others so that they will bear fruits for Him.
(2) God gives all people many opportunities to bear fruits; but if they don’t take advantage of opportunities, He will give them no more opportunities. Of course, God will be patient to wait for people to yield profit; but He cannot wait forever. He will give those opportunities to those who will bear good fruits.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We need to understand clearly God’s plan of salvation and our role in this plan. We should fulfill the role He would like us to play.
– We should not envy of others’ positions, but to fulfill our vocation; so that together with everyone, we bring God’s plan of salvation to its fulfillment.
– Don’t look around to inspect or to condemn others; but look into ourselves to see if we are bearing fruits according to God’s grace and gifts.