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Thursday – Seventh week – OT1
Readings: Sir 5:1-8; Mk 9:41-50.
1/ First Reading: RSV Sirach 5:1 Do not set your heart on your wealth, nor say, “I have enough.” 2 Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart. 3 Do not say, “Who will have power over me?” for the Lord will surely punish you. 4 Do not say, “I sinned, and what happened to me?” for the Lord is slow to anger. 5 Do not be so confident of atonement that you add sin to sin. 6 Do not say, “His mercy is great, he will forgive the multitude of my sins,” for both mercy and wrath are with him, and his anger rests on sinners. 7 Do not delay to turn to the Lord, nor postpone it from day to day; for suddenly the wrath of the Lord will go forth, and at the time of punishment you will perish. 8 Do not depend on dishonest wealth, for it will not benefit you in the day of calamity.
2/ Gospel: NAU Mark 9:41 “For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward. 42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble; it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea. 43 “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, 44 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. 45 “If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, 46 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. 47 “If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, 48 where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. 49 “For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 “Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsavory, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
I. THEME: What we need to do and to avoid in life.
The world we are living is only temporal, not an everlasting place. God’s purpose for people to live in this world in a period of time is for them to practice their faith and love for Him before He welcomes them to live a happy life with Him forever. Many people don’t understand this purpose so they consider this world as their only home; they live as though they have no origin and purpose. Many faithful though they know their purpose, but don’t know how to live to attain that purpose.
Today readings remind everyone the ultimate destination of their life and give them concrete lessons to attain that end. In the first reading, the author of the Book of Sirach reminds people to know the One who holds all people’s destiny. He gives everyone many opportunities to recognize the goal of their life, and wants them to take advantage of these opportunities to do good and to avoid evil before He takes them out of this world. In the Gospel, Jesus teaches his audience what they need to do and to avoid in their life.
1/ Reading I: Don’t despise God’s mercy and His given opportunities.
1.1/ Don’t rely on material things or human power: The author of Sirach advises people three things to avoid.
(1) Don’t rely on material belonging: He said, “Do not set your heart on your wealth, nor say, “I have enough”… Do not depend on dishonest wealth, for it will not benefit you in the day of calamity.” Everyone knows the power of money, it has the ability to blacken people’s mind so that they forget the ultimate goal of their life. The faithful need to remind themselves that money belongs to the world, when they die, they must leave behind for people to use them. Why do they waste their time to accumulate things that they can’t bring with them? Why don’t they use time to learn and to accumulate things that they can bring with them to the next world?
(2) Don’t live according to their own desire and passion: The author continues, “Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart.” This sentence is meant that people must control their desire and passion; they must regulate them according to their intellect and will. God gives people the desires to do things according to His providence; they can’t use them for illegal purposes or their own pleasures so that they no longer desire lofty goals which God destines for them.
(3) Don’t trust on their own power: The author advises, “Do not say, “Who will have power over me?” for the Lord will surely punish you. Do not say, “I sinned, and what happened to me?” for the Lord is slow to anger. Do not be so confident of atonement that you add sin to sin.” People don’t create and control this world, these things belong to God. People need to be humble to recognize God’s power. He shall lead all things to the purpose according to His will.
1.2/ Don’t despise God’s wrath: There are the two extremes which people need to avoid: Firstly, God is merciful, He shall wipe out all of one’s sins without repentance. Secondly, God is just, He shall not forgive one’s serious sins because they are so heavy. What we can confirm is that God is both very merciful and just, He shall return to everyone as their deeds are deserved.
Therefore, all need to return to God as soon as possible; do not gamble one’s life so that he can lose all things. Moreover, the sooner one returns to God the better he could find the meaning of his life. The author gives people a serious advise: “Do not delay to turn to the Lord, nor postpone it from day to day; for suddenly the wrath of the Lord will go forth, and at the time of punishment you will perish.”
2/ Gospel: Let do good and avoid evil.
2.1/ God counts what we do for others as we do for Him: We can’t really add nothing to God; but He considers what we do for others as for Him and He shall accordingly reward us. Why do we need merits? Because of punishment caused by our sins. When we confess, God forgives our sins; but we must endure punishments. We must make an effort to help others to compensate our punishments. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this process as followings: “Absolution takes away sin, but it does not remedy all the disorders sin has caused. Raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin: he must “make satisfaction for” or “expiate” his sins. This satisfaction is also called “penance”” (CCC #1459b). The compensation gives by a priest is only a nominal one because no one knows how heavy is one’s sins. It is better to do more penance than to do less than that.
2.2/ The corresponding punishments: There are two things which Jesus wants to mention in this passage:
1) Causing scandal for the small: Jesus said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.” The Greek’s noun used here is “mikros;” it can be understood both in body as children and in spirit as those who don’t have enough knowledge. Jesus wants to say that the results caused by sins on these people are heavy because their mind and their faith aren’t firm enough to overcome. They can lose their faith due to others’ sin.
2) The results of sins: We can’t understand these five sentences according to the literal sense because: Firstly, if people must cut the part that caused them to sin, they shall not have any part to cut! Secondly, the hell is a place for the unrepented souls. The most heavy punishment for them is that they can’t see God. Since human bodies aren’t resurrected yet, their souls have no body to feel heat from fire. These sentences are described by Jesus to emphasize the heavy punishment of sins if people don’t control their senses. God gives people a body to profit themselves and others, not to use it to sin.
2.3/ People need to practice their virtues: Mark continues, “”For everyone will be salted with fire.” Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again?” Matthew’s passage (Mt 5:13-15) is more clear but longer because he explains the two symbols of salt and light. Jesus uses these two symbols to indicate two important virtues of a Christian. They were prepared with these two virtues. They must train and practice them so that the unbelievers might recognize them and believe in God. In Mark’s passage, salt is liken to the virtue of meekness, “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Our life has an ultimate goal whether we know it or not. Why don’t we spend some time to learn about this very important goal?
– To know about this goal isn’t enough, we need to learn what we must do and avoid to attain this goal. Learning the Scripture and practice what God teaches us are two important tasks to do in preparing for the day we come back to God.