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Thursday – Fifth Week – OT2
Readings: 1 Kgs 11:4-13; Mk 7:24-30.
1/ First Reading (1 Kgs 11:4-13): 4 When Solomon was old his wives had turned his heart to follow other gods, and his heart was not entirely with the Lord, his God, as the heart of David his father had been. 5 Solomon followed Astarte, the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom, the abomination of the Ammonites. 6 Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and he did not follow the Lord unreservedly as David his father had done. 7 Solomon then built a high place to Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, and to Molech, the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain opposite Jerusalem. 8 He did the same for all his foreign wives who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.
9 The Lord became angry with Solomon, because his heart turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice 10 and commanded him not to do this very thing, not to follow other gods. But he did not observe what the Lord commanded. 11 So the Lord said to Solomon: Since this is what you want, and you have not kept my covenant and the statutes which I enjoined on you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. 12 But I will not do this during your lifetime, for the sake of David your father; I will tear it away from your son’s hand. 13 Nor will I tear away the whole kingdom. I will give your son one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.
2/ Gospel (Mk 7:24-30): Jesus went to the district of Tyre. He entered a house and wanted no one to know about it, but he could not escape notice. Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him. She came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth,
and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter.
He said to her, “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.”
She replied and said to him, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.”
Then he said to her, “For saying this, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.”
When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.
I. THEME: The dignity of women
Vietnamese women who are living in western countries are tousled between the two ways: Should they follow the western way which one jokingly arranged as follow: “lady first, children, dog, grass, and men” or should they follow the oriental way, “husband is the Lord, wife is the servant”? The important point is not about equality; but about how to help both of them and their family be happy. Both these two ways cause confusion and disorder in the familial life. According to the western way, a man is listed even after children, how can he have power to lead his family? This is completely opposed with God’s first intention. According to the oriental way, the wife is only considered as the husband’s servant, and the result is that his wife often is forgotten and maltreated! This is also opposed with God’s first intention. God gives people a model which is reported in the Letter to the Ephesians: “21 Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, He himself the savior of the body. 24 As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed Himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, 27 that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.” (Eph. 5:21-30).
Today readings concentrate on the women’s role. In the first reading, king Solomon was enthralled by his wives to betrayed God when he is old, although God appeared and warned him twice. He didn’t listen so God must punish him by diving his kingdom to two, He only let one tribe to the king and his descendant. In the Gospel, a Phoenician woman who was severely tested by Jesus; but she patiently overcome two obstacles: race and pride, to receive healing for her daughter.
1/ First Reading: “I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant.”
1.1/ King Solomon betrayed God: In the world history, ancient and modern, countless heroes’ career were destroyed by beautiful women. The Jewish history is also full of similar stories. For examples: King David who is always faithful to God; but one afternoon when the king saw a beautiful woman, Bathseba, Uriah’s wife, taking a shower. He lost his sense and command her to come and slept with her. The result for that is she was pregnant. When David knew that her husband is Uriah, he gave an order for Uriah to come home from battlefield, so he could sleep with his wife and David will not be responsible for Bathseba’ pregnant. Uriah seemed to know David’s intention, he refused to go home. David gave another order to send Uriah to the hottest place of the battlefield so he shall be killed, and David will take his wife. What David did, couldn’t escape God’s eyes. God sent Nathan, His prophet, to accuse David of two sins: adultery and murder. Both sins deserved death penalty. However, because David heartily repented, God has mercy on him and saved him from death; however, David and his family must endure many murders and adultery in his family.
Another story is about Solomon, David’s son. He is the one who built the first Jerusalem Temple for God. When was asked by God that what does he want to ask for? He was not hesitant and asked for wisdom. His petition pleased God and He gave him what he asked for. Solomon had the wisdom which no one, before and after him, has wisdom like him. But one more time, the hero’s career was destroyed by his beautiful wives! The king betrayed God and built many temples for his wives’ god. According to one tradition, Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. It is not sure if he built one thousand sanctuaries, the passage only listed out the four sanctuaries: Astarte, the goddess of the Sidonians; Milcom, the abomination of the Ammonites; Chemosh, the abomination of Moab; and to Molech, the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain opposite Jerusalem.
One can wonder that why could a person who is wise as Solomon, knowing the origin of all things, betray God? The passage gives us two reasons:
(1) Confusion of the old age: Human body and mind are surely weakened with time. When Solomon grew old, he did not have wisdom to judge as when he is young. This must be the useful lesson for us that we should not be so confident only on our wisdom; but we must rely on God’s grace through a life of prayers and of a close union with God.
(2) Pressures from beautiful women: The old men are easily attracted by young and beautiful women, especially when they know how to use their tears to increase pressure. Men can learn from king Solomon’s experience not to have many wives or concubines. The one who has two wives is divided by two, how suffering is king Solomon when he was cut into thousand pieces!
1.2/ The result of listening to his wives and betraying God: God was angry with Solomon because he betrayed Him, the Israel’s God. God appeared twice and commanded him not to follow foreign gods; but he did not do what God commanded. God said to king Solomon: “Since this is what you want, and you have not kept my covenant and the statutes which I enjoined on you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant.”
However, because of the love relationship with David, Solomon’s father, God will not do it in Solomon’s life; but in his son’s time as He said: “12 But I will not do this during your lifetime, for the sake of David your father; I will tear it away from your son’s hand. 13 Nor will I tear away the whole kingdom. I will give your son one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”
Solomon’s descendants have only one tribe left which is Judah, with the capital is Jerusalem. The rest belongs to northern kingdom with the capital is Samaria. Looking back at the first three kings’ life, we can learn a dear lesson: we must put our relationship with God above all other relationships. When they are loyal to God, He blesses them with all kinds of favors and protects them from their enemies; but when they disobey and betray Him, they must receive many sufferings, not only on themselves but also on their family and nation. The betrayal only happens on human side; on God’s side, He fulfills all what He promises.
2/ Gospel: The Phoenician woman overcome Jesus’ test to get the healing for her daughter.
During Jesus’ three years of preaching, he seldom went beyond Israel’s territory. The reason is not that He does not want His Gospel to extend to the Gentiles; but because He has a clear plan: His duty is to announce the Good News to the Israelites’ lost sheep. His disciples, especially Paul and Barnabas, shall preach the Good News to the Gentiles. This is the reason why did Mark report in today passage: “Jesus went to the district of Tyre. He entered a house and wanted no one to know about it, but he could not escape notice. Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him. She came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter.” Though Jesus had no intention to announce the Good News and to heal Gentiles; but when He saw the Gentile woman’s way of expressing faith and her perseverance, Jesus healed her daughter. There are two tests which she must overcome:
2.1/ The test of separation between the Jews and the Gentiles: St. Mark clearly describes the woman’s origin: “The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter.” She knew Jesus is a Jew, and according to tradition, she has no reason to beg Jesus because the Jews have no business with the Gentiles. But due to her love for her daughter, she overcome the wall of race to come and to beg Jesus.
2.2/ The test of pride: Overcame the test of race, she must face another test, more difficult than the first which is her pride. Jesus said to her: “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Jesus compared her daughter with a dog, and therefore she also is like as a dog. When a person is test like that, how many people have courage to continue to beg as she said to Jesus, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.”
Facing a Gentile woman and seeing her strong expression of faith and love for her child, Jesus
said to her, “For saying this, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.” When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We should not easily follow the modern ways of life such as: “respect women and despise men” of Westerners nor “Husband is the Lord and wife is the servant” of Oriental people; because both are equal before God. Both ways of life cause crises in our familial and social life.
– Both husband and wife have responsibilities to build up and to keep their family happy.
– Only God knows what is good for us and for our family. There exists a reason why He command people to have no more than one husband and one wife.