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Wednesday – Nineteenth week – OT1
Readings: Deut 34:1-12; Mt 18:15-20.
1/ First Reading: RSV Deuteronomy 34:1 And Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan, 2 all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, 3 the Negeb, and the Plain, that is, the valley of Jericho the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. 4 And the Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, `I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” 5 So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord, 6 and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Bethpeor; but no man knows the place of his burial to this day. 7 Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died; his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. 8 And the people of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended. 9 And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands upon him; so the people of Israel obeyed him, and did as the Lord had commanded Moses. 10 And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11 none like him for all the signs and the wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, 12 and for all the mighty power and all the great and terrible deeds which Moses wrought in the sight of all Israel.
2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
I. THEME: The communal must be put above individual dimension.
God doesn’t live alone; He communicates with other two persons of the Holy Trinity, the angels and the human beings. God has power to do all things; but He chooses others to co-operate with Him in His plan of salvation. If God pays attention more to the communal than to the individual dimension, human beings must also do the same.
Today readings want to emphasize the communal dimension in God’s plan of salvation. In the first reading, the author of the Book of Deuteronomy emphasized Moses’ sacrifice and guidance in leading God’s people from the Egyptians’ slavery land to the Promise Land. Moses fulfilled God’s given mission; and before passing away, he hands his leading mission to Joshua as God’s will so he could lead the Israelites to the Promise Land. In the Gospel, Jesus gives some important things which people need to do to protect and to guide the community such as: fraternal correction, holding and forgiving of one’s sin and communal prayers.
1/ Reading I: “God sends each leader to fulfill a part of His plan of salvation.”
1.1/ Moses fulfilled God’s given duty: According to God’s providence, whatever God promises He shall achieve; when He achieves, no one knows the time. The history of salvation is a proof of this. Abraham didn’t live in this world to see his descendants to be “as many as stars in heaven or sand at the seashore” as they are today. Jesus didn’t live in this world to see his Gospel to extend to the end of the earth. And in today passage, Moses shall not live to guide the Israelites into the Promise Land which God promises to their patriarchs, though God leads him on Mount Nebo of Moab so he could see this Promise Land. God uses each leader in a certain time to do a part of His plan of salvation for humankind.
1.2/ The Israelites looked back at Moses’ life: In order to complete God’s given mission, Moses sacrificed all of his life for the Israelites until the last moment of his life. The Israelites wept and lamented Moses’ death partly because they are regretted of their maltreatment to him when he accompanied them during their forty years in the desserts, partly because they are sorry for him of not living long enough to see the result which he sacrificed his whole life to achieve.
Moses must be the exemplar for all spiritual leaders. The purpose of leadership is to fulfill God’s will, not to accumulate benefits for the leaders. What they did for people aren’t always be recognized, appreciated or had result instantly; sometimes they must wait until they have to leave them or to pass away, people shall look back to recognize and to appreciate what they have done for them. The Israelites finally recognized and appreciated all things which Moses has done for them when he passed away.
(1) Moses prepared for the Israelites a new leader: A responsible leader is the one who cares for people not only in the presence but also for their future by grooming a good leader to replace him. Moses prepared for the Israelites a good leader according to what is written in today passage, “And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands upon him; so the people of Israel obeyed him, and did as the Lord had commanded Moses.” The transition between Moses and Joshua can be compared with the transition between two prophets Elijah and Elisha. The laying of hands wants to emphasize that the communication of spirit is happened the same time with the handing of the mission.
(2) Moses is the most important prophet: The author of the Book of Deuteronomy has a high regard for Moses when he said, “There has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face,none like him for all the signs and the wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land,and for all the mighty power and all the great and terrible deeds which Moses wrought in the sight of all Israel.”
There were many prophets in the Old Testament, but they could only hear God’s word in their dreams or visions; only Moses could converse with God face-to-face without dying. The prophet Elijah could do many wonderful signs, but can’t be compared with Moses, both the amount of signs and the mighty power.
2/ Gospel: The unity in a community
2.1/ Fraternal correction: Correcting others is a very delicate issue and must be done due to the benefits of the community and the individual violator. In order for the correction to bear fruits, Jesus teaches us to carefully follow this process:
(1) First, between only the two related persons: Jesus said, “If your brother sins against you; go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” Two things Jesus wants us to pay attention in this sentence. First, correction must be done between the two related persons, the violator and the violated. Most of the time, we corrected the violator through or under the presence of others. Doing at such shall have no result or the unwanted result, because no one wants to be corrected before others, especially before their intimate or relatives. Secondly, the purpose of correction isn’t about to satisfy our anger, but to gain a brother or a sister.
(2) Next, bringing two or three witnesses: Jesus continues, “But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.” This is a wise thing to do because it helps both members to avoid their subjective views. Two or three witnesses are enough to conclude something is true. Most of the worldly courts use two or three witnesses to judge their people.
(3) Lastly, before the whole community: Jesus continues, “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” The “ekklesia” in Greek can be any gathering of people, so it can be a family, a community or the Church. This is the last step to solve a problem to safeguard the common good and to avoid setting a “bad example” for a community. A Gentile and a tax collector are those who don’t know or disregard God’s law. However, we must be ready to forgive them when they repent.
2.2/ God presents in the midst of a community: We don’t deny God’s presence in an individual but His presence in a community must take precedence and have the priority. Jesus gives two examples to illustrate God is always presence in a community.
(1) The right to bind and to loose one’s sin: Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” First of all, this right is used for the truth, not for the falsity because God is the truth. Secondly, Jesus wants to remind sinners that though they don’t see yet the result in this world, it isn’t meant that they can avoid it in the next life. Lastly, the Church uses this right for the sacrament of Reconciliation to forgive sins so sinners could begin a new life.
(2) Unity in prayers: Jesus said, “Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” This promise doesn’t mean all things which people ask shall be guaranteed by God. In order to be heard, people must avoid selfish requests or those which cause damages for others; but those please God and bring benefits for others. Next, when God hears their prayer, it isn’t meant the petitioners shall receive exactly what they desire. Only God knows what is good and He shall give what is good for their future. Lastly, Jesus wants to emphasize God’s presence even in a group of two or three people, not only in a big gathering.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– God never wants people to live by themselves; He wants people to live in community and blesses all things which they do together.
– When there is a conflict of right, we must always put the common good over our individual good, whether in leading, correcting or praying.