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Saturday – Twenty-third Week – OT1
Readings: I Tim 1:15-17; Lk 6:43-49.
1/ First Reading: RSV 1 Timothy 1:15 The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners; 16 but I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience for an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 17 To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
2/ Gospel: RSV Luke 6:43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. 46 Why do you call me `Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? 47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep, and laid the foundation upon rock; and when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house, and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But he who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation; against which the stream broke, and immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”
I. THEME: We must practice what God teaches us.
The Vietnamese language is concise when saying “hoc-hanh.” One must both “learn” and “practice” in order to bear fruits for him and for others. If one only learns and doesn’t practice, his knowledge shall be useless because it doesn’t bear any fruit.
Today readings are written to advise the faithful to practice what God teaches them. In the first reading, St. Paul used his personal experience and taught Timothy, “God has mercy for people when they are still sinners.” Therefore, no matter how big and how many sins people committed, they should courageously come to God to confess their sins and to inherit the eternal life. If they know God is merciful and they are afraid to come to Him, they achieve nothing for them. In the Gospel, Jesus taught his audience that people need not only to hear but also to practice his teaching in order to bear good fruits and to stand firm amidst all vicissitudes of their life.
1/ Reading I: God has compassion for people when they are still sinners.
1.1/ People must recognize the truth: The event that happened on the way to Damascus helped Paul to recognize the important truth: God has compassion for him when he is still deeply in sins. Paul confessed his sins and declared God’s mercy, “The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners.” There are two truths which people must recognize.
(1) Everyone is a sinner: All people, from the first couple Adam and Eve, committed sins. St. John clearly states this fact, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 Jn 1:9-10). Many people declare they commit no sin! These people make Christ a liar because he said he comes to redeem their sins. This also implies that these people shall not be saved because they don’t confess their sins.
(2) People can’t save themselves: When people sin, they can’t liberate themselves from sin. How a sinner can declare that he is no longer in sin? This is the reason why Christ came to redeem people’s sins and to reconcile people to God. Therefore, people must need Christ to save them from sins.
1.2/ People must come to God to receive His compassion: Paul wrote in verse 16, “but I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience for an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.”
(1) God has compassion for a person, not because of his goodness, or good works or virtues which he had; but simply because of His love for him. Paul’s case is a typical example. God had mercy for Paul when he was still a sinner, eagerly persecuting Christians. According to human standard, Paul is deserved the death sentence. According to God’s standard, God shows His perfect patience. He gives Paul a chance to be saved.
(2) All sinners can be saved if they trust God’s mercy; no matter how big or how many sins they committed. Paul would like to say that if God could forgive him, an eager persecutor of the Christians; He shall give eternal life for those who come to Him.
2/ Gospel: The faithful must both hear and practice God’s words.
2.1/ Practice God’s words shall increase one’s virtues:
(1) When people look at the fruits they know the tree: Jesus states the fact, “A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not pick figs from thorn bushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles.” Similarly in the human life, if people want to have good results, they must spend times to acquire knowledge and virtues. A student who already has knowledge, he shall be successful in examination and job searching. A virtuous person has little difficulty in dealing with obstacles.
(2) When it is full inside, it shall be overflowed outside: Those who practice God’s words shall increasetheir virtues and do many good works. In opposition, those who don’t practice God’s words shall not have virtues or any good work,as Jesus said, “A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” People can hear a person’s word and look at his deed, they know how God’s words has an effect on that person.
2.2/ Practice God’s word shall protect a person from all dangers: In Palestines, though the rain season lasts only few month but each rain is big. After the rain season, the ground becomes dried and smooth, suitable for building houses. The unexperienced shall build their house at these places because it is easy to do and they don’t have to dug deeply into rocks. Since they aren’t foresighted, when the next rain season comes, they discover that their houses were built right on the strong currents and be swept away. In opposition, the experienced know how to find harden grounds to build their house and nothing is harden than rocks. Though it takes time to dug but once a strong foundation is built, there is no strength can shake it and their house shall last for a long time.
In the spiritual life, the Israelites preserved the Rock for God (Ps 95:1), the Jerusalem temple (Isa 28:16) and Peter (Mt 16:19). If people want to be safe before all trials and obstacles of life, they must find their cover in God, the Temple or His Church.
Jesus likened those who heard God’s words without practicing them as those who built their house on sand. Since they aren’t practice them so that their faith can be stronger, when trials and sufferings come, their faith aren’t strong enough to overcome them. He also likened those who heard God’s words and practiced them as those who built their house on the rock. They know how to use time to meditate God’s words and to apply them in life so that their faith become stronger everyday. When trials and sufferings come, they already had a strong faith to overcome all obstacles, even death can’t overcome them.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We must confess that we are sinners, and can’t be saved by ourselves. We need God’s mercy through the sending of His Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem our sins.
– To bear good fruits for our life, we need to learn and to practice God’s words. A habit of practicing God’s word shall help us to acquire many necessary virtues for our life.
– Our actions are the results of what we stored up inside. If we store up virtues, our actions shall be good and useful for others; if we store up bad habits, our actions shall be bad and cause lots of damages for ourselves and others.