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Thursday – Seventh Week – OT2
Readings: Jam 5:1-6; Mk 9:41-50.
1/ Reading I: RSV James 5:1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. 4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned, you have killed the righteous man; he does not resist you.
2/ Gospel: RSV Mark 9:41 “For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ, will by no means lose his reward. 42 Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 44 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 46 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown 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 has lost its saltiness, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
I. THEME: The lifestyle of Jesus’ disciples
When one wants to become a disciple of someone, he wishes to be like his master, not only because his master has wise and efficient teaching for life, but also because the master’s life reflects his doctrine. Similarly for Christ’s disciples, we follow Christ because he revealed to us God’s excellent teachings. We want to practice these doctrines to bring out good results for our life. It is useless if we follow Christ and don’t practice what he teaches us.
Today readings want us to examine two lifestyles according to Christ’s and the worldly standard. In the first reading, St. James warned the faithful to stay away from the greedy lifestyle which plunder others’ goods because it shall accuse them in the Last Judgment Day and leave them out of God’s kingdom. In the Gospel, Christ teaches his disciples to have charity for all, to set good examples and to terminate sins at all costs.
1/ Reading I: The worldly lifestyle
2.1/ The greedy shall be punished: A very bad tendency of human beings is the endless greed. The greedy want to store up richness for them by all means, regardless of how much they cause damages and sufferings for others. St. James certainly witnessed how the rich exploited the poor in his community, so he forewarned them, “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days.” While the poor have nothing to eat, the rich store up gold and silver and enjoy a luxurious lifestyle.
Those who store up good things for them also commit the sin of disbelieving in God’s providence. They doubt that God has power to provide good things for their future, so they use their human wisdom to store up for their own ages or to provide against emergencies. When praying the Our Father prayer, their mouths ask for the daily food while their hearts calculate how to have food and be safe forever. What they store up shall be a proof to accuse the greedy; they can’t deny before God that they didn’t violate it.
2.2/ Other sins are caused by the human greed: The greedy not only violate the seventh and the ten commandments, they might also violate other sins, such as:
(1) Injustice: St. James accused them, “Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.” The sin of injustice in today society is under many forms, such as: invading taxes, underpaying their employees, charging higher than what they actually serve, stealing from the government, bribing officers, selling human beings and prohibited things.
(2) Splendidly spending: While the poor struggle for their daily food, the rich wastefully spend their money in casinos or night clubs; they don’t value money because they don’t work hard for it. St. James accused their injustice, ”You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.”
(3) Murder: To satisfy their greed, they want to eliminate all those who prevent, criticize, accuse or fight against their lifestyle, as James wrote, ”You have condemned, you have killed the righteous man; he does not resist you.”
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: St. Mark continues, “”For everyone will be salted with fire.” Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalted, 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:
– Material things in the universe are God’s gifts for everyone who live in the world. We should not greedily store up for ourselves while many of our brothers and sisters are hungry and thirsty.
– We have the duty to set up good examples for people by our virtuous life. We must also avoid all sins and not set bad examples which cause others to lose their faith.