Wednesday – Thirteenth Week – OT2 (2)
Seek good and not evil,
that you may live;
Then truly will the LORD, the God of hosts,
be with you as you claim!
Hate evil and love good,
and let justice prevail at the gate;
Then it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts,
will have pity on the remnant of Joseph.
I hate, I spurn your feasts, says the LORD,
I take no pleasure in your solemnities;
Your cereal offerings I will not accept,
nor consider your stall-fed peace offerings.
Away with your noisy songs!
I will not listen to the melodies of your harps.
But if you would offer me burnt offerings,
then let justice surge like water,
and goodness like an unfailing stream.
When Jesus came to the territory of the Gadarenes,
two demoniacs who were coming from the tombs met him.
They were so savage that no one could travel by that road.
They cried out, “What have you to do with us, Son of God?
Have you come here to torment us before the appointed time?”
Some distance away a herd of many swine was feeding.
The demons pleaded with him,
“If you drive us out, send us into the herd of swine.”
And he said to them, “Go then!”
They came out and entered the swine,
and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea
where they drowned.
The swineherds ran away,
and when they came to the town they reported everything,
including what had happened to the demoniacs.
Thereupon the whole town came out to meet Jesus,
and when they saw him they begged him to leave their district.
Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: Look for the good, not the evil.
To do good and to avoid evil require people to clearly know what is good and what is evil; if not, some are doing evil but think that they are doing good. Next, to have a will to do good, people need to know the benefits they shall harvest in doing good and the damages they must endure in doing evil. To know these things require people to study; but many say that they are so busy, have no time for study. So, they must endure countless damages because they didn’t have the necessary knowledge.
Today readings gave us some examples to recognize what is good and what is evil. In the first reading, the prophet Amos declared to the Israelites that if they want God to have mercy and protection, they must treat others with justice and mercy; if not, many offerings they offer and all worship they celebrate in the temple aren’t pleased by God. In the Gospel, many people in the region of Gadarenes, though recognizing Jesus’ power to expel demons, didn’t want Jesus to stay with them because they didn’t want to suffer financial lost. They didn’t recognize the benefits when Jesus stays with them. They valued the herd of swines more than the wellness of the two souls, and didn’t understand damages for their souls when they live under the devil’s influence.
1/ Reading I: Hate the evil and love the good!
1.1/ To live righteously and to do good are two conditions for God’s protection: Many people think that if they are faithful, God shall bless and protect them without the need of keeping His commandments. The Israelites also thought that God should bless and protect them because they are Joseph’s descendants who was blessed and protected by God. They forgot that they must live a good life as their ancestors before God shall have mercy on them.
Joseph was the father of both Ephraim and Manasseh. These two tribes possessed a major land and a large citizens of the Israel kingdom; therefore, not only people of these two tribes called themselves “Joseph’s descendants” or “belonging to Joseph’s household,” but also people of other tribes also called themselves as such.
“Hate evil and love good, and let justice prevail at the gate” implied many injustice happened in the Jewish lawsuits at this time. The Israel king and judges were bought by the rich to unjustly judge the poor. An example can be illustrated is the Naboth’s case in which the queen Jezebel plotted a wicked plan to accuse Naboth of the sin of blasphemy to stone him to death and the king can seize his vineyard.
1.2/ Religion isn’t purely outside ceremonies and sacrifices: Many faithful and the Israelites thought they can please God by going to Mass or offer their sacrifice without repenting of their sins. They think that when God witnesses their participation in Mass and their giving some alms to the poor, He will overlook their sins. This is a terrible confusion which God pointed out through Amos’ words, “I hate, I spurn your feasts, I take no pleasure in your solemnities; your cereal offerings I will not accept, nor consider your stall-fed peace offerings. Away with your noisy songs! I will not listen to the melodies of your harps. But if you would offer me holocausts, then let justice surge like water, and goodness like an unfailing stream.”
In order to do good people must first study the truth which is revealed by God in Scripture, not the modern ideas or its way of living. Next, God demands people not only to know the truth but also practice the truth, that is, to put into practice all of His teaching.
2/ Gospel: “The whole town came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him they begged him to leave their district.”
2.1/ Jesus faced the devil’s power: Matthews reported: “When Jesus came to the other side, to the territory of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs who were coming from the tombs met him. They were so savage that no one could travel by that road. They cried out, “What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the appointed time?”” We need to pay attention to two important things:
(1) God and the devil can’t stay together: Wherever there is God’s presence, there shall not have the devil’s presence and the reverse is also true. The devil knows that God shall destroy them for ever in the Last Day. Before that day, they have a right to tempt human beings. This is the reason why they remind Jesus that he can’t destroy them “before the appointed time.”
(2) The devil’s plan: Many people questioned that why two demoniacs asked Jesus to let them to enter a herd of swines and why they threw themselves into the sea. We know that the devil are very shrewd, they prepared already a plan for the people of the district to invite Jesus out of their territory.
2.2/ The fear of financial suffering led people to unwisely decision: Matthews’ report didn’t specify how many swines which rushed themselves into the sea; Mark gave us the amount of two thousands swines. Many authors questioned why Jesus permitted the devil to enter the swines to cause a heavy damage for the people. We need to be fair in our judgment. Jesus wasn’t the main reason for the swines to rush into the sea, the devil was the main reason and they have power to cause damage for the swines. Moreover, their purpose is for the people to invite Jesus to be out of their district so they have an opportunity to control people. This is just an example in many examples to illustrate that people act wrong because they don’t follow the proper order of choosing between God, human beings and material things.
(1) They invited Jesus out of their city: The relationship between God and human beings must have the first priority; but for the fear of financial suffering, people invited Jesus to be out of their district so that they continue to live under the devil’s influence. The devil know that people like material gains and are easy to fall into their trap. Once they push God out of human life, people shall belong to them and do what they want.
(2) The people considered their souls and safety less than a herd of swines: The relationship between a man to a man must be put over material gains; but the people of the district weren’t happy because two of them were liberated from devil and they shall not cause damage for them any more. They were angry because they lost a herd of swines!
These two things showed people of the district didn’t act wisely because they feared of financial suffering if Jesus presents among them. They didn’t recognize benefits they shall have through Jesus’ expulsion of the demons.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Love God and love people requires us to express in our life, not simply express in outside ceremonies.
– We must value others’ soul more than financial gain because all material gains shall pass away while human souls shall last for ever.