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Thursday – Thirty-first Week – OT2
Readings: Phi 3:3-8; Lk 15:1-10.
1/ First Reading (Phi 3:3-8): 3 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, 4 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. 5 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, 6 in zeal I persecuted the church, in righteousness based on the law I was blameless.
7 [But] whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. 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 (Lk 15:1-10): 1 The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him, 2 but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 So to them he addressed this parable. 4 “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? 5 And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy 6 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.’ 7 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.
8 “Or what woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it? 9 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.’ 10 In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
I. THEME: God’s mercy
Many of us are proud about our glorious history: descendants of a rich, famous, powerful ancestors; citizens of powerful nation…; but many times, this prideful feeling doesn’t help, but causes trouble for us. Therefore, we need to careful examine ourselves to see what really helps us in our life.
Today readings emphasize God’s mercy. All things we have are from God; without Him we can achieve nothing. We can’t become righteous by our own effort as Paul repeated over and over this point, but only because of God’s mercy. In today first reading, St. Paul recalled his past life to prove this point. He recalled that his glorious pride caused him to be blind and almost died on the way to Damascus if God had no mercy for him. This experience was the major event in Paul’s life and shaped up his theology, expressed in his Letters. In the Gospel, Jesus opened the scribes and the Pharisees’ eyes so that they can see the reason why people are saved. It is God’s mercy, not their attitude in which they believe that they can reach salvation by their own works.
1/ First Reading: Should one hope on his flesh or on God?
1.1/ Paul examined his life: When Paul looked back at the glorious history which he was very proud, he wrote these words: “If anyone else thinks he can be confident in flesh, all the more can I. 5 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, 6 in zeal I persecuted the church, in righteousness based on the law I was blameless.”
But because of the event that happened on the way to Damascus, he re-examined his belief. If his maltreatment of the Christians pleased God and bring out his own salvation, the event wasn’t happened. God can put him to death because as Christ said to him that he was persecuting Him. God can let him be blind the rest of his life; but He healed him through the priest, Hananiah’s hands. God can let him to stay in his perverse pride about his glorious history; but He chose to reveal to him His truths. God can let him to live a normal life as many faithful; but He gives him the mission to preach the Good News to the Gentiles.
1.2/ Paul was enlightened to recognize God’s mercy for him: After Paul compared his glorious history with God’s graces from the Damascus event till now, he humbly confessed the truth: “Whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ.”
(1) The first and most important profit is to know the truth; and the Truth above all truths is Christ Himself. Paul affirmed this, “the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” His past experience opened his eyes to know the great loss of not knowing the truth.
(2) The second profit as expressed in his theology: People can’t become righteous by careful keeping of the laws; but by their faith in Christ. Since God has mercy on people, He gives Christ, His own Son, to die in place of people. It is because of Christ that people can be righteous before God. If God doesn’t reveal this truth to Paul, he might lose his salvation.
1.3/ Paul draws out two conclusions for his future: He gives two practical conclusions.
(1) Circumcision which Paul’s opponents require Christian faithful to do has no effect because “True circumcision is not outward, in the flesh. 29 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). And he confirms the faithful: “We are truly the circumcised, those who worship God through His Spirit, those who are proud because of Christ Jesus, not by the flesh.”
(2) Give up everything to possess Christ: Paul makes a final conclusion: “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: God has mercy for all people.
2.1/ Judging others instead of judging oneself: One of conflictions between Jesus and the scribes and the Pharisees is the hypocrisy. They always questioned Jesus violating the laws such as: not washing hands before eating, healing in the Sabbath, and eating with sinners as in today passage. Luke listed out two judgments which the scribes and the Pharisees did:
– Judging the sinners: They considered tax-collectors and prostitutes are sinners and believe these people shall not inherit God’s glory in His kingdom.
– Judging Jesus: They complained Jesus: “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” For them, to contact with these people makes one unclean.
In other places, Jesus compares them with painted tombs: they look nice from the outside; but there are full of wombs inside. Jesus advised them to examine and to cleanse themselves first; then their conscience shall be clear to judge others. In today passage, Jesus orients their hearts to God’s mercy for sinners.
2.2/ Jesus gives them two examples about God’s mercy:
(1) The lost sheep: The sheep gets lost because of its fault, because it did not follow his owner; but the shepherd doesn’t pay attention to its disobedience, he goes out to look for it. The reason why he is looking for because the sheep belongs to him though he still has 99 other sheep. When he finds the sheep, he does not condemn, beats up; but joyfully carries the sheep on his shoulder and opens a banquet to celebrate!
(2) The lost coin: The coin is lost unfortunately. The same can happen to many sinners due to unfortunate occasions. The woman lights up the lamb, sweeps the house, looks up every corner to find it though she still has other nine coins. When she finds it, she opens a party to celebrate. Some jokingly say that she might have to spend all other nine coins for the party!
In both these examples, they are ended up with Jesus’ conclusion: “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.”
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We must frequently examine of our conscience to recognize that we are sinners before God so that we should not judge others.
– God loves sinners and is ready to find them as Christ was looking for Paul on his way to Damascus, as the shepherd is looking for the lost sheep and as the woman for her lost coin.
– Since God loves and forgives us, we must love and forgives sinners; we have no right to condemn them.