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Thursday – Twelfth Week – OT1
Readings: Gen 16:1-12, 15-16; Mt 7:21-29.
1/ First Reading: RSV Genesis 16:1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, bore him no children. She had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar; 2 and Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my maid; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. 3 So, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. 4 And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. 5 And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my maid to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!” 6 But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her. 7 The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, maid of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” 9 The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her.” 10 The angel of the Lord also said to her, “I will so greatly multiply your descendants that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” 11 And the angel of the Lord said to her, “Behold, you are with child, and shall bear a son; you shall call his name Ishmael; because the Lord has given heed to your affliction. 12 He shall be a wild ass of a man, his hand against every man and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.” 15 And Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.
2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’ 24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; 25 and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; 27 and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it.” 28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.
I. THEME: Practice God’s words.
People often break their promise and breach their trust; God is always faithful. People are easily changed; God never changes. People think in order to survive, they must destroy others; God shows He has power to make all to exist together. Judaism, Christianity and Islamism are blessed by God and can be existed together. In order for God’s words to benefit, people need not only to listen, but also to practice what God’s teaches. If people only know God’s words and don’t practice them, how can God’s words benefit them?
Today readings point out the differences between God and men, between God’s and human manners. In the first reading, when Sarai sees that God doesn’t give her a child, she offered her maidservant, Hagar, for Abram so he might have an heir. But when Hagar had a child with Abram, she looked with contempt on her mistress. Sarai got angry and maltreated Hagar to the point she must run away with her child; but God sends an angel to announce to her that God shall also bless the descendants of Ismael, her son. In the Gospel, Jesus declared that the kingdom of God is only for those who hear and keep God’s words.
1/ Reading I: “I will so greatly multiply your descendants that they cannot be numbered for multitude.”
1.1/ People easily change: Jewish and most of Asian traditions disparage the wife who can’t have a son for her husband to continue his descendants (1 Sam 1:5-6). In such case, the wife shall sacrifice by letting her husband to live with her maidservant or other woman in order for him to have a son.
(1) Sarai’s reactions: Today passage is an example. The author reported, “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, bore him no children. She had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar;and Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my maid; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.He went in to Hagar and she conceived. When Hagar saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress.”
Sarai was angry with her maidservant due to the following two reasons: First, when Abram showed his love for Hagar. This can be understood because Sarai didn’t wants to share her husband’s love with other. Secondly, Hagar looked down on her. Whatever happened, Sarai was wrong because she should know these things could happen.
(2) Hagar’s reactions: Her action can be understood because it is the reaction of the majority of people — disparaging a wife who has no child. Moreover, she, as a maidservant, now becomes Abram’s concubine and is loved by him because she gave him a son. This is the main reason why Hagar looked down on her mistress. Hagar was shrewd but not good. If she recognized the love which both Sarai and Abram had for her and humbly responded to them, she might not be chased out of their house.
(3) Abram’s reactions: He recognized his wife’s concern and Hagar’s insulted attitude on her, but got stuck in the middle; he can’t stand on either side. When he heard Sarai’s complaint, he said to her, “Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her.
1.2/ God’s promise for Ismael’s descendants: God’s manner is completely different with human manner. He could bless both Sarai and Hagar and their descendants. God sends His angel to Hagar and advises her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her.” About her descendants, God promises to her, “I will so greatly multiply your descendants that they cannot be numbered for multitude.”And the angel of the Lord said to her, “Behold, you are with child, and shall bear a son; you shall call his name Ishmael; because the Lord has given heed to your affliction.He shall be a wild ass of a man, his hand against every man and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.”
This promise shows both Judaism and Islamism are in God’s plan of salvation. Ismael is the forefather of the Muslims and also blessed by God. Isaac, the son whom God shall give to Abram later, is the forefather of the Israelites and blessed by God through Abram. God’s promises are fulfilling because Abram’s descendants which include Judaism, Islamism and Christianity are now more than half of the world’s population; and the enmity between Judaism and Islamism continues to happen.
2/ Gospel: The kingdom of God is only for the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
2.1/ The kingdom of God isn’t for the one who says he loves God:
(1) Jesus clearly differentiated between two things: words and deeds; and the kingdom of God is only for those who do God’s will. An innocent people can believe in sweet talking, but none can deceive God by his praises in words because God fathoms all his intentions.
(2) False prophets or priests can use the name of God to preach, to expel demons or to heal. Their works have some success, not because of their efforts, but because of God’s power. But if they don’t keep God’s commandments and cause damages to others, they shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.
(3) Chapter 25 of the Gospel according to Matthews clearly declared that God’s standard to judge is whatever we do to the least is we do to Him; and only people who practice charity shall enter the kingdom of God.
(4) Therefore, true love must be expressed in words and deeds. The true lover is the one who is ready to sacrifice for his loved one, not only loves in words. A true lover of God is the one who tries to find out His will and do it. A concrete way is to help all people both spiritually and materially.
2.2/ We must build our life on the foundation of Christ’s teaching: To illustrate the importance of God’s words, Jesus used a concrete example which all can understand is to build a house. There are two ways to build a house:
(1) Building the house on the rock: Though it is difficult in the beginning, but shall endure all the changes of weather, such as: heavy rain, torrent of water or thunderstorm. Similarly for those who built their life on a firm foundation which is God’s words. First, they must spend time to learn God’s words. Secondly, they must use all opportunities to apply them in their life.
(2) Building the house on sand: Though it is easy in the beginning, but can’t endure all threats of weather. Only a small storm is enough to wipe out that house. Many people built their house on a foundation which is not God’s words, such as: gold or silver, fame, power, beauty, etc. When they have to face sufferings or catastrophes, they can’t withstand them. Many people destroyed their life because they can’t overcome the worldly temptations and the devil’s traps.
Those who built their house on sand can be compared to crusts (little crabs) which try to build their caves on sand when the tide is low; but when the tide is high or the sea is disturbed, water shall wipe out all their caves. They continue to build their caves and keep being to wipe out. If people aren’t wiser than these crusts, they shall have no opportunity to live a safe life in their present house, not to mention a happy life with God in the next life.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE
– We should use God’s love to treat others in all circumstances: in richness and in poverty; in healthy and in sickness; in glory and in suffering. This is God’s commandment.
– Our words must be accompanied by our deeds. If we don’t practice what God teaches, His words shall not benefit us no matter how wise are they. But if we patiently put God’s words in practice, they shall greatly benefit us.