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Thursday – Thirty-first Week – OT1
Readings: Phi 3:3-8a; Lk 15:1-10.
Reading 1 (Phil 3:3-8a):
Brothers and sisters:
We are the circumcision,
we who worship through the Spirit of God,
who boast in Christ Jesus and do not put our confidence in flesh,
although I myself have grounds for confidence even in the flesh.
If anyone else thinks he can be confident in flesh, all the more can I.
Circumcised on the eighth day,
of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin,
a Hebrew of Hebrew parentage,
in observance of the law a Pharisee,
in zeal I persecuted the Church,
in righteousness based on the law I was blameless.
But whatever gains I had,
these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ.
More than that, I even consider everything as a loss
because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
Gospel (Lk 15:1-10):
The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus,
but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying,
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So Jesus addressed this parable to them.
“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them
would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert
and go after the lost one until he finds it?
And when he does find it,
he sets it on his shoulders with great joy
and, upon his arrival home,
he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them,
‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’
I tell you, in just the same way
there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents
than over ninety-nine righteous people
who have no need of repentance.
“Or what woman having ten coins and losing one
would not light a lamp and sweep the house,
searching carefully until she finds it?
And when she does find it,
she calls together her friends and neighbors
and says to them,
‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’
In just the same way, I tell you,
there will be rejoicing among the angels of God
over one sinner who repents.”
Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh M. Tien, OP.
I. THEME: God’s mercy
Many people have a tendency to be proud of their glorious history such as: riches, certificates, position and power; but many times, this boasting doesn’t benefit their life, but also brings more damages to them. Therefore, they need to be carefully think to find out what actually benefit their life.
Today readings help people to see what truly help or destroy them in their life. In the first reading, St. Paul recognized the glorious history which he boasted about caused him almost to the point of death on the way to Damascus; but because of Christ’s mercy, he was saved from blindness and recognized what truly brings benefits for his life. In the Gospel, Jesus opened the eyes of the Pharisees and the scribes to see that God’s mercy is the main reason why people are saved, not their self-righteous attitude.
1/ Reading I: Should people rely on their own effort or God’s mercy?
1.1/ Paul examined of his conscience: Paul examined of “the glorious history” which he was proud of it, “Although I myself have grounds for confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he can be confident in flesh, all the more can I. Circumcised on the eighth day, of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrew parentage, in observance of the law a Pharisee, in zeal I persecuted the church, in righteousness based on the law I was blameless.”
But what happened on the way to Damascus helped him to re-examine of this glorious history. If the persecution of Christians pleases God, he wouldn’t fall from his horse and be blinded. God could kill him but He let him be alive. He could let him in darkness for ever but he let him have the light back. God could let him be falsified in his glorious history but He revealed to him the truth. God could let him live a normal life as many people but He gave him the mission of preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles.
1.2/ Paul was enlightened to recognize God’s mercy for him: After St. Paul compared his “glorious history” with all the graces he received from the Damascus event, he humbly confessed, “Whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ.”
(1) The first and important gain is to know the truth, and the truth over all truth is Jesus Christ himself. St. Paul confessed, “the supreme good (is) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” The past experience opened his eyes to see the damage of not knowing the truth.
(2) The second gain is his correct understanding of how people are saved: St. Paul recognized that people can’t be saved by themselves through the careful keeping of the law; only by their faith in Christ. Because of God’s mercy, He gave His Own Son to redeem people’s sins. People are justified by Christ’s death and resurrection.
1.3/ Paul drew out two concrete conclusions:
(1) Fleshy circumcision which his opponents demanded the Gentiles to do has no value; “Rather, one is a Jew inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart, in the spirit, not the letter; his praise is not from human beings but from God” (Rom 2:29). He confirmed these words to the Philippians, “For we are the circumcision, we who worship through the Spirit of God, who boast in Christ Jesus and do not put our confidence in flesh.”
(2) Giving up everything to possess Christ: “For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”
2/ Gospel: “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
2.1/ The scribes and the Pharisees judged others instead of themselves: One of the main conflicts between Jesus and some of the scribes and the Pharisees is their hypocricy. They always looked for opportunities to put down Jesus, either of not washing hands before meals, or healing in the Sabbath, or in today’s passage, eating and drinking with sinners. The scribes and the Pharisees judged:
(1) Others: They believed tax collectors and prostitutes are public sinners who will never be allowed to mix with the righteous and to be in God’s kingdom.
(2) Jesus: They murmured: “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” To them, when Jesus had contacted these people, he made himself unclean. They had a reason to think as such because there is a Vietnamese proverb for teaching children: “near ink will be dark near light will be enlighten.” This concept, however, is true only for children or weak people; it is not true for Jesus and those who have a duty to educate others. Their mission is to change sinners and to strengthen the weak.
In other passages, Jesus blamed them for their hypocrisy: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Mt 23:27). They should clean themselves before they can judge others. In today report, Jesus would like to orient them to God’s mercy and compassion for sinners.
2.2/ Jesus gave his audience three parables about God’s mercy, two are reported today.
(1) One lost sheep: The sheep which was lost is its fault because it did not follow the shepherd. The owner did not pay attention to its fault, but to search for it. He searched because it belonged to him, even he still had 99 other sheep. When he found it, he did not condemned nor scourged, but joyfully embraced it on his shoulder and organized a banquet. Same thing happened to Jesus, he came to look for lost sheep and to bring them into one herd, so that there would be one herd and one shepherd. Sinners are also God’s children, their souls are valuable to Him because He created them, and His Son’s blood has been poured out to redeem them.
(2) One lost coin: The coin was lost due to the woman’s mishap. Many people felt to sins because of unlucky situations in life or of their weakness. The woman lighted up a lamb to search for it because it belonged to her, even she still had other nine coins. When she found it, she also celebrated with a banquet! Some people said: “She probably spent all nine coins to prepare for a banquet!” A parable paid attention only to one main point, other possible points might occur but it is not the author’s attention. Both parables were ended up with Jesus’ conclusion: “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– All of us are sinners before God. Because of God’s mercy, He looks for sinners as Christ looked for Paul, the pastor looked for his lost sheep and the woman for her lost coin.
– Since God forgives our sins out of His mercy, we have no right to condemn others as Pharisees and scribes; but to always forgive them.