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Thursday – Second Week – Advent
Readings: Isa 41:13-20; Mt 11:11-15.
Reading 1 (Isa 41:13-20):
I am the LORD, your God,
who grasp your right hand;
It is I who say to you, “Fear not,
I will help you.”
Fear not, O worm Jacob,
O maggot Israel;
I will help you, says the LORD;
your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
I will make of you a threshing sledge,
sharp, new, and double-edged,
To thresh the mountains and crush them,
to make the hills like chaff.
When you winnow them, the wind shall carry them off
and the storm shall scatter them.
But you shall rejoice in the LORD,
and glory in the Holy One of Israel.
The afflicted and the needy seek water in vain,
their tongues are parched with thirst.
I, the LORD, will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
I will open up rivers on the bare heights,
and fountains in the broad valleys;
I will turn the desert into a marshland,
and the dry ground into springs of water.
I will plant in the desert the cedar,
acacia, myrtle, and olive;
I will set in the wasteland the cypress,
together with the plane tree and the pine,
That all may see and know,
observe and understand,
That the hand of the LORD has done this,
the Holy One of Israel has created it.
Gospel (Mt 11:11-15):
Jesus said to the crowds:
“Amen, I say to you,
among those born of women
there has been none greater than John the Baptist;
yet the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
From the days of John the Baptist until now,
the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence,
and the violent are taking it by force.
All the prophets and the law prophesied up to the time of John.
And if you are willing to accept it,
he is Elijah, the one who is to come.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh M. Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: God’s way and standard
God’s way and standard often oppose with worldly way and standard; for examples: to be great by being humble; to be important by serving others; to be strong by believing and to be loved by being punished. They are contradictory because worldly people rely on themselves while the believers rely on God’s help.
Today readings center around these contradictions. In the first reading, God punished the Israelites because they didn’t listen to him; and then He had mercy on them when they repented. He let them greatly suffer and then gave them immense strength. In doing these, God wants to teach people an important lesson: They can’t live without Him. In every situation, they must completely put their faith in God. In the Gospel, Jesus praised John Baptist as the most important person born by a human being; but he added, the least of the heavenly kingdom is more important than him.
1/ Reading I: God punished the Israelites and then had compassion on them.
1.1/ God had mercy on the Israelites: In this passage, the prophet Isaiah wanted to emphasize on two points: First, God is powerful and holy while the Israelites are lowly and sinful. Secondly, God is merciful while the Israelites are betrayals.
Isaiah called the Israel the worm; the Hebrew word is used here “tôlaat,” meaning the worm in wine or fruits. The prophet wanted to emphasize Israel’s littleness and sinfulness. God loves them out of His mercy, but they themselves have nothing to be loved: “For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I will help you. Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I will help you, says the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.”
1.2/ God increased strength for Israel: Though Israel is weak and useless as the worm, God made them strong and powerful to destroy their enemies, as the prophet wrote, “Behold, I will make of you a threshing sledge, new, sharp, and having teeth; you shall thresh the mountains and crush them, and you shall make the hills like chaff;you shall winnow them and the wind shall carry them away, and the tempest shall scatter them.”
1.3/ God made Israel to be happy: The prophet continued, “And you shall rejoice in the Lord; in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.” The prophet emphasized another important point: happiness depends on people’s possession of God, not on any creature. When people center their life around God, they shall be glorified.
(1) God has mercy on the poor and those in need: “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.”
(2) God can do all things: Nothing is impossible for God; He can converse desserts into fertile land as the prophet described, “I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive; I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together.”
(3) People must recognize and believe in God’s power: So that “men may see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.” God has done so many wonderful things for people and the world; but if people don’t recognize or attribute them to other power or accidents, they shall never be happy.
2/ Gospel: He who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John Baptist.
2.1/ John Baptist’s nobleness: Jesus praised him, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist.” Why is John Baptist so noble? There are some reasons which were reported in the gospels:
(1) He is consecrated from his mother’s womb: This was revealed by an angel for Zechariah, his father, “For he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb” (Lk 1:15).
(2) God chose him to prepare the way for the Messiah: The angel continued to reveal about John Baptist, “He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord” (Lk 1:16-17).
(3) He is the first to see Jesus and to introduce his important mission for people: “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me’” (Jn 1:29-30).
2.2/ He who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
(1) One must be strong to enter the kingdom of heaven: Jesus said, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force.” When we review the John Baptist’s life, we see that he faced worldly power: King Herod imprisoned and beheaded him. Jesus faced powers of the Sanhedrin and Pilate: they seized and nailed him to the cross. Twenty centuries have passed, many martyrs faced the worldly power and be killed by them. Therefore, whoever isn’t stronger than worldly power, that person can’t enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever entered the heavenly kingdom, he showed that he is stronger and noble than those are outside, including worldly kings. Of course, John Baptist also belongs to the kingdom of heaven because he conquered the worldly power.
(2) John Baptist is the prophet Elijah: The Jewish tradition believes Elijah isn’t dead and he shall return before the Messiah’s time to prepare the way for him. In today passage, Jesus declared: “And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.” Jesus implied that John Baptist is the prophet, Elijah.
There is a proverb which said: “People can bring horses to a spring to drink, but they can’t make them to drink.” Jesus sent John Baptist to witness for Jesus and Jesus himself certified his witness. If some people, after they heard both John Baptist and Jesus and still don’t believe in them, God can’t do anything more to save them!
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– As God’s children, we must learn and follow God’s way and standard.
– We must completely believe in God, forfeit our own will and do His will.
– We must have the attitude that it is better to be the citizen of the kingdom of heaven than to enjoy all worldly glory and prosperity.