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Thursday – First Week – Advent
Readings: Isa 26:1-6; Mt 7:21, 24-27.
Reading 1 (Isa 26:1-6):
In that day they will sing this song in the land of Judah:
“A strong city have we;
he sets up walls and ramparts to protect us.
Open up the gates
to let in a nation that is just,
one that keeps faith.
A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace;
in peace, for its trust in you.”
Trust in the LORD forever!
For the LORD is an eternal Rock.
He humbles those in high places,
and the lofty city he brings down;
He tumbles it to the ground,
levels it with the dust.
It is trampled underfoot by the needy,
by the footsteps of the poor.
Gospel (Mt 7:21, 24-27):
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”
Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh M. Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: Our life must be built on the rock which is God Himself.
All human relationships require to have both directions: the giving out and the receiving back; for example, in the husband-and-wife relationship, St. Paul in the Letter to the Ephesians taught that the wife must obey her husband and the husband must love his wife as his own body (Eph 5:24-25). The more is true in the relationship between human beings and God. If God has loved, cared, and done everything for human beings so that they could live a peaceful and happy life; people must respond by their faith, hope, and doing what He taught them. If people refuse to do so, how can they live a peaceful and happy life?
Today readings emphasize the relationship between human beings and God. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah reported all necessary things God has prepared for men so that they could have a happy life. In the Gospel, Jesus emphasized human duty to respond to God’s love; they need to put God’s words into practice in order to make their life to stand firm, and nothing can shake it.
1/ Reading I: God loves and protects His people.
1.1/ God is the strong city: Jerusalem is the symbol of this city. Though God let the Babylonian forces to invade and to destroy the Temple and the city because the Israelites had refused to obey His warning through prophets; but He would give them the opportunity to rebuild the Temple and Jerusalem city after the exile. The prophet Isaiah predicted this restored opportunity in these words: “In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: ‘We have a strong city; he sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks.’” The Temple and the city wall were completely rebuilt about 20 years after the Israelites had come back from the exile.
God has prepared for His people a strong city, but the Israelites must believe in Him and do what He commanded them. They must have courage to come back and perseverance to rebuild everything from dust, in order to have a new city for their life. The prophet encouraged them to firmly to believe in God: “Open the gates, that the righteous nation which keeps faith may enter in. Thou dost keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusts in thee.”
1.2/ God is the rocky mountain that will last forever: The image of a rocky mountain is used for Mt. Zion, where the Temple and Jerusalem city were built upon it. It is the symbol which was often used in the Old Testament to indicate God’s strong and lasting foundation; for example, in Psalm 18:2-3 the author praised God with these words: “The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.”
God is not only the strong city for His people to dwell, but He also destroys their enemies and those who maltreated them. The enemies were also included the Jewish kings and officers, those who used their authority to maltreat the poor. The next few verses were probably used by the prophet to describe the political event happened in the year of 587 B.C., when Nebuchadnezzar’s armies completely destroyed Jerusalem and forced the king, his officers and most people on exile. Isaiah wrote: “For he has brought low the inhabitants of the height, the lofty city. He lays it low, lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust. The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.”
2/ Gospel: Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock.
2.1/ The relationship between God and human beings can’t be based on only words: Many people have a habit of saying lovely words though they didn’t mean them; many people also like to listen to sweetly words even they know these words aren’t true, as these words of the romantic song: “I ask you to keep lying so that I have a feeling that you still love me… I beg you to keep on lying, but don’t leave me!” These lying words can’t happen to God, because He loves truth and can see through human mind and heart. Jesus already warned people about lying lips: “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.”
2.2/ The relationship between God and human beings must be expressed through listening and practicing God’s words: Out of love, God has concerned and cared for human beings; He would like people to be happy and not to suffer. Since He created people and govern all things in the world, God clearly knows what will bring happiness and what will cause suffering for human beings. That is the reason He gave people the Ten Commandments as the safety wall so that people would not cross over it and suffer. But if people misuse their freedom to disobey God’s commandments, they must endure corresponding pain and suffering.
Beside the Ten Commandments, God also revealed to people all of His wisdom and plans through the whole Scripture. People need to learn to know all these wise words and put them into practice so that they can avoid all dangers in life and to live safely and happily.
In today Gospel, Jesus used two opposite images of the building a house on rock and on sand in order to show his audience who is wise and who is stupid.
(1) The wise man: ” Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; 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.”
(2) The foolish man: “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; 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.”
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Advent is the time for us to examine our relationship with God, to see if this relationship is developing nicely, and how to improve it to be better every day.
– A better way to review is examine our life according to Jesus’ teaching. Do we practice what he taught us: to love God above all things and to help people in need? Do we witness for God by proclaiming the Good News and live a good life?
– If we don’t live our relationship with God, how can we live peacefully and happy? It should be no surprise at all if our life is full of sadness, brokenness, tiredness and hopeless.