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Tuesday – Fifth Week – OT2
Readings: I Kgs 8:22-23, 27-30; Mk 7:1-13.
1/ First Reading: RSV 1 Kings 8:22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven; 23 and said, “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like thee, in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to thy servants who walk before thee with all their heart; 27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built! 28 Yet have regard to the prayer of thy servant and to his supplication, O LORD my God, hearkening to the cry and to the prayer which thy servant prays before thee this day; 29 that thy eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which thou hast said, `My name shall be there,’ that thou mayest hearken to the prayer which thy servant offers toward this place. 30 And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant and of thy people Israel, when they pray toward this place; yea, hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place; and when thou hearest, forgive.
2/ Gospel: RSV Mark 7:1 Now when the Pharisees gathered together to him, with some of the scribes, who had come from Jerusalem, 2 they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they wash their hands, observing the tradition of the elders; 4 and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they purify themselves; and there are many other traditions which they observe, the washing of cups and pots and vessels of bronze.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with hands defiled?” 6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, `This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ 8 You leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men.” 9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God, in order to keep your tradition! 10 For Moses said, `Honor your father and your mother’; and, `He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die’; 11 but you say, `If a man tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is Corban’ (that is, given to God) — 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God through your tradition which you hand on. And many such things you do.”
I. THEME: God creates everything good.
God Himself is the Perfect Good. He creates everything good, and nothing of His creation is bad. Why then does evil exist in the world? One of the main reason of the existence of evil is the bad use of freedom which God bestows on angels and human beings.
Today readings want to show God’s good creation and human bad use of freedom. In the first reading, king Solomon built up the Temple and dedicated it, not to limit God in a physical place, but to let people feel His presence in their life. This purpose is very importance for people to understand because God wants them to have a relationship with Him, not their empty worship nor meaningless offerings. He can move out of the Temple anytime if people don’t have their relationship with Him, as He shall show them later by letting their enemies to destroy the Temple. In the Gospel, some Pharisees and scribes accused Jesus’ disciples of violating the laws of their forefathers because they didn’t wash their hands before eating. Jesus revealed of their sins by saying, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God, in order to keep your tradition!”
1/ Reading I: “Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built!”
1.1/ Why do people need a worthy place to worship? Many people has put a question: If God presents everywhere, why do we need to come to a church to meet Him? They can use Solomon’s words in today passage to defend their point: “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built!” We can answer this question as follow:
First, according to the historical evidence, it is God’s will. In the forty years journey of the Israelites in the desert, Moses asked God to be with people to lead them because he couldn’t lead the Israelites. God commanded Moses to build the Tabernacle, the Ark, the altar, the priesthood, the vestments and all the necessary thing for the holy liturgy. God promised to be with them all the days of their life. Everytime they saw the columns of cloud, they knew God’s presence in the Tabernacle. When the Israelites has settled in the Promise Land, king Solomon was permitted by God to establish a fixed temple in Jerusalem, in place of a movable Tabernacle. Though they are different in material, they served the same purpose: it is the place of God’s presence among His people. In the New Testament, Jesus continued this tradition by establishing the sacrament of the Eucharist and the priesthood to fulfill his promise: “I shall be with you until the end of the world.” Therefore, wherever the church is, Jesus presents there with his faithful in the tabernacle.
Secondly, the temple is built completely for human beings, not for God; because all the universe can’t contain Him. As corporeal creature, people need a physical place so they can ascertain God’s presence before praying to Him. Like the Israelites, when they saw the columns of cloud, they knew God’s presence in the Tabernacle. Moreover, the place of God’s presence must be kept holy so the people know how to properly behave; it is not the place where people can do anything they want to.
1.2/ The uses of the Temple: The holy liturgy has a closed connection with the temple’s presence. In the Old Testament, the temple is the place for people to pray, individually and communally. Secondly, the temple is the place for people to learn God’s Law and to act according what God wants. Lastly, the temple is also the place for people to offer their sacrifices to compensate for their sins. The same can be said in the New Testament. The church is the place for the faithful to worship, individually and communally. Two important uses are to listen to God’s words and to celebrate sacraments. The offering of animals is replaced by Christ’s sacrifice in the Eucharist and the sacrament of Reconciliation.
2/ Gospel: “You leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men.”
2.1/ The Kosher law of the Jews: Anytime when someone mentioned the Law, the Jews thought of the Ten Commandments which God gave to them through Moses. Besides this Law, they also had other laws and the oral tradition. The oral tradition, after a period was kept by their forefathers, became laws and was written down some centuries before Christ’s appearance.
(1) What are considered impure by the Jews: There are many things which are regarded as impure by the Jews, such as: the mother who had just given birth to her child, lepers, dead bodies, Gentiles, and many impure vegetables and animals which are prohibited to eat. All the utensils that kept these vegetables and animals are also considered as unclean. When one touches these people or utensils, they also become unclean. Therefore, they had many laws that describe what are clean and unclean, and the laws to solve what are unclean.
(2) Unclean and sinful: To the Jews, impurity isn’t just as matter of sanitation, but of sin and law. Whoever violates the Law, he can be persecuted by the Law and sometimes by death.
2.2/ Jesus’ reactions: Jesus didn’t support people who ate food with unclean hands; but he wanted to show them of their excessive observation of impurity.
(1) To have a relationship with God or to observe outside laws? Religion essentially helps people to live their relationship with God, not to observe some ceremonies or outside laws. Jesus used Isaiah’s prophecy to accuse them: “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, `This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.'”
(2) God’s law must be regarded as more important than human law: Jesus gave them an example to show that they forfeited God’s law to keep their human law: “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God, in order to keep your tradition! For Moses said, `Honor your father and your mother’; and, `He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die’; but you say, `If a man tells his father or his mother, what you would have gained from me is Corban’ (that is, given to God) — then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition which you hand on.”
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– God creates everything good and gives to people for using and governing them. We have a duty to protect them as God’s will. He didn’t create bad things; these bad things happened due to the misuse of freedom by human beings and devils.
– God wants to present with people in a way that they can see or feel as in the Tabernacle, Temple or churches. We can pray to Him anywhere but must enter a church to celebrate the sacraments.
– The church is only the place for worship. It is not useful for us to build a magnificent and expensive church when the faithful are living far away from Him. God is pleasing to dwell in a tent if we have an intimate relationship with Him.