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Thursday – Fifth Week – OT2
Readings: I Kgs 11:4-13; Mk 7:24-30.
1/ First Reading: RSV 1 Kings 11:4 For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. 5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 6 So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done. 7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. 8 And so he did for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods. 9 And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, 10 and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the LORD commanded. 11 Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, “Since this has been your mind and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. 12 Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 However I will not tear away all the kingdom; but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.”
2/ Gospel: RSV Mark 7:24 And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house, and would not have any one know it; yet he could not be hid. 25 But immediately a woman, whose little daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 And he said to her, “Let the children first be fed, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 And he said to her, “For this saying you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And she went home, and found the child lying in bed, and the demon gone.
I. THEME: The dignity of women
The Vietnamese immigrants are torn between two lifestyles: either the American way inwhich the man’s role is listed after “women, children, dogs and grass;” or the Vietnamese way which states “husband is the master and wife is his slave.” Both these lifestyles are imperfect because they caused confusion in the family and didn’t lead to a happy family. According to the American way, the man is listed even after children, dogs and grass; how can he lead his family and educate his children? This is opposed with God’s plan from the beginning. According to the Vietnamese way, the wife is only her husband’s maidservant; many wives were maltreated by their husbands. This is also opposed with God’s plan from the beginning. In Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, he suggested a Scripture way: “As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:24-25).
Today readings want to emphasize the proper role of a woman. In the first reading, king Solomon was confused by his wives in his own age. He betrayed God even though God twice appeared and warned him. At last, God must punish him by dividing his nation and giving only a portion to his descendant. In the Gospel, a Phoenician woman patiently overcame all obstacles to secure Jesus’ healing for her daughter.
1/ Reading I: “I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant.”
1.1/ King Solomon betrayed God: In the history of the world, many heroes were completely destroyed by beautiful women. The Jewish history was also full of similar stories. Last week, we witnessed David’s case. God let many terrible things happen to David, his family and nation, after he committed adultery with Bathsheba and killed Uriah, her husband. However, because of David’s intense repentance, God had compassion on David and blessed Solomon, David’s son and successor.
The last few days we have heard about Solomon’s supreme wisdom and glory; but history is repeated in Solomon’s case, the hero was completely destroyed by his wives’ illegal desires. Solomon betrayed God by building temples for all gods of his wives. According to the tradition, king Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. In today passage, the author reported the king built four main altars: for the Ashtoreth goddess of the Sidonians, for the Milcom god of the Ammonites, for the Chemosh god of the Moabites, and for the Molech god of the Ammonites. One can pose a question: why could a wise man like Solomon who knew the origin and the cause of all thing betray God? The passage gave us two reasons.
(1) The confusion of old age: Human mind and body gradually decrease with time. At old age, Solomon was no longer wise to judge as in his young age. This must be an important lesson for us so that we shouldn’t be so proud of our wisdom; but must rely on God’s grace through a life of prayer and an intimate relationship with God.
(2) The pressure from beautiful women: The old men are easily controlled by their young and beautiful women, especially those who know how to use their tears, their most dangerous weapon. We can learn an important lesson from Solomon’s case so that we should never have more than one. The husband, who has two wives, knew how difficult it is to please both; how could Solomon please all of his wives and concubines?
1.2/ The results which Solomon must endure because of doing his wives’ wills: God was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from Him. Twice God appeared and warned him not to follow and to worship foreign gods; but he didn’t listen and do God’s will. So, the third time, God appeared to Solomon and said to him: “Since this has been your mind and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant.”
However, God continued, “for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However I will not tear away all the kingdom; but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.” Solomon’s descendants could keep only Judah’ tribe, later became the kingdom of Judah, with its capital in Jerusalem.
2/ Gospel: The Phoenecian woman overcame all obstacles to secure her daughter’s healing.
During three years of Jesus’ public mission, he rarely went out of the Israel’s territory. The reason isn’t because he didn’t want the Gentiles to hear the Good News; but because he already had a clear plan. His duty is to preach the Gospel to the lost sheep of the Israel. His disciples, especially Paul and Barnabas, shall preach the Gospel to the Gentiles.
Mark briefly reported the case: “And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house, and would not have any one know it; yet he could not be hid. But immediately a woman, whose little daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter.”
Though Jesus had no intention to preach or to heal the Gentiles, but after witnessing her patience and her way of expressing faith, Jesus healed her daughter. She must overcame at least two main obstacles.
2.1/ She overcame the wall of discrimination: Mark clearly reported her origin, “the woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth.” She knew Jesus is a Jew, and according to tradition, she had no reason to come to a Jew and to ask for a favor, because the Jews don’t want to have anything with the Gentiles. The love for her daughter helped her to overcome the wall of discrimination. She humbly came to Jesus and asked him to heal her daughter.
2.2/ She overcame the wall of pride: Overcame the wall of discrimination, she was challenging by a more difficult obstacle, the wall of her pride. Jesus said to her, “Let the children first be fed, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”
Jesus compared her daughter with a dog, and as such, she was also being compared as a dog. How many people could remain and continue to ask for a favor? But this woman wasn’t deterred, she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Recognizing her strong faith, Jesus said to her, “For this saying you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” And she went home, and found the child lying in bed, and the demon gone.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We shouldn’t follow modern lifestyles to maltreat our spouses in the family because they didn’t help us to build up a happy family. We should follow St. Paul’s perfect model.
– We should treat women with dignity because they have their equal right before God.