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Wednesday – Fifth Week – OT2
Readings: I Kgs 10:1-10; Mk 7:14-23.
1/ First Reading: RSV 1 Kings 10:1 Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to test him with hard questions. 2 She came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices, and very much gold, and precious stones; and when she came to Solomon, she told him all that was on her mind. 3 And Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing hidden from the king which he could not explain to her. 4 And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, 5 the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his cupbearers, and his burnt offerings which he offered at the house of the LORD, there was no more spirit in her. 6 And she said to the king, “The report was true which I heard in my own land of your affairs and of your wisdom, 7 but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it; and, behold, the half was not told me; your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report which I heard. 8 Happy are your wives! Happy are these your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! 9 Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the LORD loved Israel for ever, he has made you king, that you may execute justice and righteousness.” 10 Then she gave the king a hundred and twenty talents of gold, and a very great quantity of spices, and precious stones; never again came such an abundance of spices as these which the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.
2/ Gospel: RSV Mark 7:14 And he called the people to him again, and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him.” 17 And when he had entered the house, and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters, not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.”
I. THEME: The importance of wisdom
There are many who think that it is prudent to separate oneself from sinners because: “Evil communications corrupt good manner.” This result might happen, but not necessary to occur. Since there were some one who lived “near mud but didn’t smell like mud.” For example, Jesus compared himself as a doctor who is looking for patients to heal them, even though the scribes and Pharisees thought he was a sinner because he made friends with tax-collectors and prostitutes. The main thing that separates the righteous from the sinner is that the righteous has wisdom. The righteous knows how to heal sinners and not to be affected by their sins.
Today readings illustrate two exemplars of wisdom. In the first reading, queen Sheba travelled from afar to see king Solomon because she desired to listen to his wisdom. After being witnessed it, she confessed that he was wiser than the rumor about his widom. In the Gospel, Jesus denied the Jewish tradition who thinks people are defiled by not keeping the purification laws. He explained to his disciples that only the wickedness which comes from inside, defiles people.
1/ Reading I: “The Lord loved Israel for ever, he has made you king.”
1.1/ Queen Sheba desired to listen to Solomon’s wisdom: We already knew from the last Saturday’s first reading that Solomon’s wisdom came from God because he prayed for it. The reputation spread far away that queen Sheba from Africa desired to be listened to his wisdom. She came with many questions to test his wisdom. King Solomon solved all of her questions.
After listened to him and witnessed all of his structured organizations, she confessed to him: “The report was true which I heard in my own land of your affairs and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it; and, behold, the half was not told me; your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report which I heard.”
1.2/ The benefits which Solomon received from wisdom: Today passage listed two benefits which were resulting from his wisdom.
(1) For himself: His reputation was spread far away. Queen Sheba paid him a homage with “a hundred and twenty talents of gold, and a very great quantity of spices, and precious stones; never again came such an abundance of spices as these which the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.”
(2) For his nation: The queen praised him: “Happy are your wives! Happy are these, your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord loved Israel for ever, he has made you king, that you may execute justice and righteousness.”
1.3/ The characteristics of Solomon’s wisdom: Based on queen Sheba’s praise and Solomon’s reign, we could recognize these characteristics of Solomon’s wisdom.
(1) It comes from God: God is the cause of everything and the ultimate end of all. The wise man isn’t pleased with some knowledge, but desires to find out the cause and the purpose of all things. To understand these, people must come to God. To revere God is the beginning of all wisdom. The wise listens to God and acts according to God’s teaching.
(2) It lasts for ever: The wise isn’t pleased with temporal results, but desires to possess lasting results. King Solomon didn’t ask for money, power, fame or health because he knew all these shall be passing like a shadow. He looked for the lasting wisdom because it helps him to solve all things.
(3) It helps to improve relationships: The wise knows himself in relation to God, others and all creation. He knows to worship God instead of His creation. He knows how to avoid sins by foreseeing its results and causes, and by carefully practicing God’s law.
2/ Gospel: People are confused between outside cleanness and inside righteousness.
2.1/ Jewish tradition about purification: They believed purification is important, not only for an outside sanitation but also for inside purification which is necessary to offer offerings to God. For examples, if a priest touched a dead body, he is no longer clean to offer offerings. Eating unclean food defiles the whole body.
2.2/ Jesus’ teaching on holiness:
(1) Jesus differentiated between outside dirtiness and inside wickedness: Jesus explained: “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him… since it enters, not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on?”
Mark carefully used two Greek nouns: “kardia” for heart and “koilia” for stomach. The unclean food can’t defile people because it can’t enter people’s heart (mind); it can only enter their stomach and was expelled outside through people’s intestine. Unclean food can cause sickness in body, not moral sins.
(2) Inside wickedness causes more damages for people: Jesus continued: “What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.”
Jesus warned them that God, who understands all thoughts in their mind. They can’t deceive Him by their shallow observation of outside purification laws. Many times in the Old Testaments and the New Testament, God said to people that the offerings He prefers, not expensive offerings or ceremonies, but a repentant mind and a heart that wants to do God’s will.
Jesus’ explanation reversed the value which they held for a long time. They were angry because Jesus invalidated their purification laws. It is very difficult for them to accept Jesus’ explanation because many of them were ready to die for these laws. For example, the Maccabees’ seven brothers accepted death instead of eating swine’s meat, the unclean animal.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We must ask God to give us Solomon’s wisdom so that we know how to judge and to make proper decisions in our life.
– What defile us aren’t food, environment, or making friends with sinners; but our bad desires and deeds.
– We can’t deceive God, who understands everything that happened in our mind, by outside ceremonies and shallow observation of laws.