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Tuesday – Nineteenth week – OT1
Readings: Deut 31:1-8; Mt 18:1-5, 10, 12-14.
1/ First Reading: RSV Deuteronomy 31:1 So Moses continued to speak these words to all Israel. 2 And he said to them, “I am a hundred and twenty years old this day; I am no longer able to go out and come in. The Lord has said to me, `You shall not go over this Jordan.’ 3 The Lord your God himself will go over before you; he will destroy these nations before you, so that you shall dispossess them; and Joshua will go over at your head, as the Lord has spoken. 4 And the Lord will do to them as he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and to their land, when he destroyed them. 5 And the Lord will give them over to you, and you shall do to them according to all the commandment which I have commanded you. 6 Be strong and of good courage, do not fear or be in dread of them: for it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.” 7 Then Moses summoned Joshua, and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and of good courage; for you shall go with this people into the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them; and you shall put them in possession of it. 8 It is the Lord who goes before you; he will be with you, he will not fail you or forsake you; do not fear or be dismayed.”
2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; 10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven. 11 12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
I. THEME: Christ’s disciples must be humble and protect the weak.
Worldly people like to have position and authority to be known and served; Jesus required those who follow him must be humble and served in order to enter the heavenly kingdom.
Today readings show God loves and protects the weak and the ones who put their trust in Him. In the first reading, Moses advised the Israelites to completely believe in God and Joshua, the one whom God chose to replace Moses; he shall lead and guide them to the Promise Land which God promises to their forefathers. In the Gospel, Jesus teaches his disciples to live opposite with the worldly standards in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.
1/ Reading I: Moses prepared for the Israelites to enter the Promise Land.
1.1/ Moses said good bye to the Israelites: Moses gathered all the Israelites and said to them, “I am a hundred and twenty years old this day; I am no longer able to go out and come in. The Lord has said to me, `You shall not go over this Jordan.’”
Moses was 80 years old when he led the Israelites out of Egypt; after forty years was purified with them in the desserts, he is one hundred and twenty years old now. Old age and weak health prevent him to be the leader for the Israelites. To enter the Promise Land, the Israelites need a young and strong man. God and Moses have groomed for them this leader. Moses declared to the Israelites that they shall have two leaders.
(1) God shall be the principal leader: Moses and the Israelites knew very well that their power aren’t enough to oppose the power of the nations who are living in the Promise Land; therefore, Moses guaranteed for them this important leader, “The Lord your God himself will go over before you; He will destroy these nations before you, so that you shall dispossess them.”
(2) Joshua shall also be the leader to replace Moses: God acts according to human way. As He acted through Moses, He shall also act through Joshua, the new leader. Moses officially declared before the Israelites, “Joshua will go over at your head, as the Lord has spoken.”
1.2/ Moses advised the Israelites: In order to cross the Jordan River to enter the Promise Land, the Israelites must pass through the territories of two Amorites kings, Sihon and Og. Moses would like to use this victory to encourage the Israelites to put their complete trust in God. So, Moses said to them, “The Lord will do to them as he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and to their land, when he destroyed them. And the Lord will give them over to you, and you shall do to them according to all the commandments which I have commanded you.”
(1) Moses’ advices for the Israelites: Moses knew the Israelites very well because he and they struggled together during their forty years in the desserts; he knew they are very weak when confronting dangers, so he said to them, “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear or be in dread of them: for it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.”
(2) Moses’ advises for Joshua, his replacement: A wise and compassionate leader is the one who knows how to find his replacement and to prepare people’s hearts to accept him, not to hang on to his power nor to leave it to people to choose an irresponsible leader. Moses groomed Joshua to replace him, and today he wants the whole congregation of Israel to put their trust in Joshua, so he called him and told these words to him before all of them, “Be strong and of good courage; for you shall go with this people into the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them; and you shall put them in possession of it.It is the Lord who goes before you; he will be with you, he will not fail you or forsake you; do not fear or be dismayed.”
2/ Gospel: “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
2.1/ Humility is one of conditions to enter the kingdom of heaven.
(1) Human ambition: The disciples approached Jesus and asked him, “Master! Who is the greatest in heaven?” They asked Jesus this question because they were so used to worldly values and standards, such as: high position, fame and power. The greatest one is the person who has a highest position and a greatest power; for examples, the king or the leader of a nation. We can see that the disciples’ purpose when they followed Jesus is to govern with him when Jesus recovers the Israel kingdom. This ambition was shown when the mother and her two sons, James and John, made a request to Jesus so that they can sit one at the right and the other at the left when Jesus reigns. The other apostles were indignant with the two brothers about this request.
(2) The condition to enter the kingdom of heaven: Jesus called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.” Two main ideas which Jesus wanted his disciples to understand here: First, the standards and values of the kingdom of heaven are different with what of the world. Secondly, to enter the kingdom of heaven, they must humble themselves and become like children.
2.2/ The good shepherd: To help his disciples to be familiar with the kingdom of heaven’s values and standards, Jesus continued to teach them two lessons:
(1) Don’t despise the lowly: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”
The world pays attention to the high position, the power and the rich; Jesus taught his disciples to love and to care for the small (mikros). This Greek adjective used as a noun here is different with the noun used for a child above (paidíon). This adjective has two meanings:
– those have a small figure such as a child or a dwarf;
– those aren’t important, have no position in society, the poor, the illiterate.
The second meaning is proper for this sentence. Jesus’ disciples must be on the side of these people to protect and to care for them as God’s children. Each of them have a guardian angel to protect for them before God. Whoever insults or causes damage to them, the guardian angel shall report to God (cf. Tob 3:8-9, 12:12-14).
(2) Must search for the lost sheep: Jesus taught his disciples, “What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray. In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.”
The worldly people pay attention to the crowd to be popular and well-known; they can’t understand why one leaves ninety-nine sheep on the mountain to look for the lost sheep. God, as the Father, loves and cares for each individual, especially to the one who gets lost. He knew each one, loves and cares for each one, and shall not be satisfied until He finds the lost one. He is only completely happy when He sees all sheep are gathered into one flock and under a good shepherd.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We must be humble to recognize our limitation so that we always rely on God’s love and power, not on our strength.
– We must stand with the weak, the poor, the widows and orphans to help and to protect them.