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Wednesday – Twelfth Week – OT1
Readings: Gen 15:1-12, 17-18; Mt 7:15-20.
1/ First Reading: RSV Genesis 15:1 After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, thou hast given me no offspring; and a slave born in my house will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; your own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6 And he believed the LORD; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness. 7 And he said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.” 8 But he said, “O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” 9 He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a she-goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 And he brought him all these, cut them in two, and laid each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. 11 And when birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, Abram drove them away. 12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram; and lo, a dread and great darkness fell upon him. 17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates,
2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. 18 A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will know them by their fruits.”
I. THEME: Live according to your name.
According to Confucius’ principle of living according to right name: If you’re a king, you must reign in a way to bring food, peace and happiness for your people; if you’re a citizen, you must keep the king’s orders and fulfill your duties; if you’re parents, you must love, educate and help your children to be good persons; If you are children, you must obey, honor and help your parents when they’re old. If everyone in a family and a country live according to their name, people shall live and work in peace, families shall live in joy and happiness.
Today readings give some examples to help us to examine our conscience in order to see if we are living according to our name. In the first reading, the Lord God promises to give to Abram two things: descendants as many as stars in heaven and a large and fertile region that begins from Egypt to Euphrates River. God fulfilled His promise. On Abram’s part, he believed God’s promise though he didn’t see even a sign of His promise. In the Gospel, Jesus warned people not to believe in false prophets. They are wolves under shepherds’ appearances, waiting to kill or to plunder sheep. To help people to recognize them, Jesus advised people not to evaluate people by their clothing; but to look deep in their life because a good tree can’t bear bad fruits.
1/ Reading I: “Abram believed the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.”
1.1/ The Lord promises descendants to Abraham.
Jewish tradition believes having many descendants is one of the rewards God gives to those who revere Him. Abram advanced in ages but he still had no child; but in one vision, God promises “your reward shall be great.” Abram responded to God, “O Lord God, what wilt thou give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus? Behold, thou hast given me no offspring; and a slave born in my house will be my heir.” But the Lord said to him, “This man shall not be your heir; your own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”
Though he had no child in his old ages, Abram believed in the Lord; and God reckoned it to him as righteousness. We knew now that God gave Abram a son, Isaac, who had two sons, Esau and Jacob. Both of them have numerous descendants. Jacob had twelve sons and the Israel was formed from his children. When God promises, He doesn’t say when it shall be achieved. Abram’s obligation is to believe God’s promise though he doesn’t see it yet.
1.2/ The Lord promises to give the Promise Land to Abram’s descendants.
God said to Abram again, “I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” God said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a she-goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” And Abram brought him all these, cut them in two, and laid each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two.”
According to Jewish tradition, when people cut a covenant they used to have offering to guarantee their promises. The meaning of animals were cut in two is to say that if one party violates the covenant, he shall also be cut in two as such.
God lets Abram know in advance that his descendants must live a slavery life under the Egyptians for four hundred years: “Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age” (Gen 15:13-15).
The fact that Abram saw “a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces” shows God’s ratifying of the covenant and He shall do what He promises. This also happened when Moses and Aaron obeyed God and led the Israelites out of Egypt. They wandered in the deserts for forty years before settled in the Promise Land which God promises.
2/ Gospel: Be careful of false prophets!
2.1/ True and false prophets: The Jewish history is full of these people as recorded many times in the Book of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. St. Paul also cautioned Timothy about these people, and called them “wolves” as Jesus called them in today passage, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.” Today, the Church also has false priests who used their clothing to sow false doctrines and to find material gains. How can the faithful recognize false prophets? First, they must know what is a true prophet?
(1) True prophets: According to the right definition, a prophet is the one who speaks what God wants to say, whether an oracle or a message, not the one who speaks what is going to happen in the future, though he can sometimes says so. A prophet is God’s mouthpiece, he must say what God wants to say to people. Today, a prophet must know God’s words and preach Scripture, not to preach literature or talk about politics. He must teach people of God’s law and courageously correct them when it is necessary.
(2) False prophets: are those who don’t preach God’s words; instead, they say what they want or others’ words, and then say “these are God’s words.” They don’t teach people God’s words and law, because they themselves are lazy to learn them. They don’t dare to correct people because they are afraid of their displeasure and hatred. They like to say what people want to hear, such as: praising people, not telling them what to do, especially not to display people’s sins so that their conscience are disturbed.
2.2/ The ways to recognize false prophets: To help people to identify false prophets, Jesus taught them, “to see fruits is to recognize the tree; seeing their deeds is knowing who are they.” The faithful can observe their life to know whether they are true or false prophets. Two things we could learn from Jesus’ teaching:
(1) Don’t evaluate them according to outside appearances: because the dress doesn’t make one a priest. Jesus described a hypocrite person as follows: “Be on guard against the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and love greetings in marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation” (Lk 20:46-47).
(2) Evaluate them according to their deeds: because we can’t see their intentions. They aren’t worry about the faithful’s soul, only what the faithful can benefit them. A fews of characteristics of false prophets are:
– They like material gains: They like money and gifts from the faithful.
– They like to be famous: They use their title to build up their reputation. They only do works that build up their fame and reject unknown and lowly works.
– They like power: They desire higher rank in the Church so that they shall have more power and fame, and are discouraged when the superiors don’t recognize their talent or importance.
– They like to satisfy their flesh: They used the faith of women and children to satisfy their fleshy desire. This is the sin which Jesus hatred and condemned, “It would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea” (Mk 9:42).
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We should live according to our name. If we are prophets, teach people to know God’s words and show them the way to God. If we are Christians, obey and do what God teaches.
– We shouldn’t evaluate others according to their outside appearance, but look deep in their works.