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Tuesday – Second Week – Lent
Readings: Isa 1:10, 16-20; Mt 23:1-12.
1/ First Reading: NAB Isaiah 1:10 Hear the word of the LORD, princes of Sodom! Listen to the instruction of our God, people of Gomorrah! 16 Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; 17 learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow. 18 Come now, let us set things right, says the LORD: Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; Though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool. 19 If you are willing, and obey, you shall eat the good things of the land; 20 But if you refuse and resist, the sword shall consume you: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken!
2/ Gospel: NAB Matthew 23:1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. 3 Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens (hard to carry) and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. 5 All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. 6 They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, 7 greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’ 8 As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. 10 Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you must be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
I. THEME: Practice what we believe.
We used to judge people according to what we can see from their outside, because we can’t see what are happening from people’s mind; therefore, we are easily wrong in our judgment and our decision. When we find out the true identity of people, many times in our life we have to cry out: “I can’t believe why I trust this person!” Or as a Vietnamese idiom, “Outside is all sweet talking; but inside is full of pointed knives.”
God judges according to a different way with us because He understands what are happening in people’s mind. The dangerous thing for people is that when they are so used with judgments based on the surface, they behave like that when they come to God; and as a result, shall be heavily condemned.
Today readings help the faithful to avoid this bad habit. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah warned the leaders of Israel to cast out their sins when they pray to God. If they truly wanted God answers to their prayer, they must repent from their sins and do justice for people. In the Gospel, Jesus condemned the hypocrisy and pride of the scribes and the Pharisees. He warned his disciples not to imitate their hypocrisy; but to pay attention to humility and service.
1/ Reading I: Cease doing evil and learn to do good.
1.1/ The Israelites must change their life: The covenant between God and people is the conditional covenant: God will protect and bless His people if they carefully obey His law and decrees; if they don’t, He won’t protect them from their enemies. Many times God’s prophets were sent to remind people of their duty and to call them to repent. In today passage, the prophet Isaiah reminded people of three main things:
(1) Cease doing evil: “Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil.” Two main sins which were repeated many times by prophets are the hypocrisy when they offered sacrifices and the sin of injustice.
(2) Confess their sins: The Lord God declared: “Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord: though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool.” God doesn’t hold on to people’s sins; He is always ready to forgive when they recognized their sins and repented; there is no sin that can’t be forgiven by God.
(3) Learn to do good: “Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, and defend the widow.” God protects these people because they are the least protected by the society. The powerful people are easily bribed by the rich and maltreat these people.
1.2/ People must receive corresponding results: The prophet Isaiah reminded people to remember what God promised with Moses by different words: “If you are willing, and obey, you shall eat the good things of the land; but if you refuse and resist, the sword shall consume you: for the mouth of the Lord has spoken!”
These words meant if the Israelites obey God’s commandments, they shall have peace and their land shall yield fruits for them to eat; but if they disobey God, war shall happen: foreign or civil; then they shall die by the swords or be on exile.
2/ Gospel: Our faith must be expressed in action.
2.1/ The actors or actresses: The best of them are those who can talk smoothly and act like real; they must behave just as persons in the show even though they aren’t such kinds of people. For examples, the actor who married must act the role of a priest. The actor or actress must perform the following:
(1) They must fake: They can’t say what they want to say; but must say what their director wants them to say. Sometimes they want to say ‘yes’ but they have to say ‘no’ or reverse. Besides, they must act correspondingly with the role they are playing. They are sad, but must pretend as happy; or they are happy, must pretend to cry. They can only live as their true identities when the curtain is closed.
Jesus recognized the acting of the scribes and the Pharisees when they fasted, prayed or gave alms. He taught his disciples must be avoided these acts as we heard on Ash Wednesday. In today passage, Jesus warned his disciples about their preaching: “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example; for they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens (hard to carry) and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.”
(2) They must make up or disguise themselves: The actors or actresses are afraid of people knowing their true identity, so they have to wear masks or to make up. A danger can happen to them is to be disguised by their roles: they wear masks but think they are their true face, their actings become habits. When these people return to their real life, they also act as they are on stage. For example, we can see in actors and actresses the habit of changing their spouses.
The scribes and the Pharisees also acted as actors. The law described that they must wear costumes corresponding with their role when they came to the temple to pray. This became a habit; they thought they must wear big phylacteries on their heads and long tassels on their robes so they could effectively pray or be holy men. They forgot that “costumes didn’t make them monks,” and God wants them to have a clean conscience when they pray.
2.2/ We must live with our true identity:
(1) Humility: Many people like power, fame and be served as the scribes and the Pharisees, as Jesus said: “They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’” Jesus’ disciples are called to do the opposite: “As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers… The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
(2) To know God, ourselves and others: Absolutely speaking, there is only God who is deservedly called by people as the Master, Father or the Leader. All of us are brothers and sisters. However, God also selected proper people and gave them duties as parents, teachers, leaders, prophets and priests as we saw in the Scripture. Jesus, though he himself is God, also chose Joseph and Mary as his adopted father and mother. What Jesus wanted to point out for his disciples to see are they need to have humility and spirit of serving when they carry out their duty, not to pay attention to pride, titles or abusing of their power.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We must sincerely live our relationship with God because we can’t hide anything from Him. We must also treat others in truth and in justice. None wants to be deceived by others, and to live truthfully is the standard for God’s blessing and protection.
– Education is necessary for children to live by the truth. Parents should never teach their children how to act or to deceive others because they are easily become their bad habits.