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Wednesday – Thirteenth week – OT1
Readings: Gen 21:5, 8-20; Mt 8:28-34.
1/ First Reading: RSV Genesis 21:5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 8 And the child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. 9 But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. 10 So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.” 11 And the thing was very displeasing to Abraham on account of his son. 12 But God said to Abraham, “Be not displeased because of the lad and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your descendants be named. 13 And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring.” 14 So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba. 15 When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went, and sat down over against him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Let me not look upon the death of the child.” And as she sat over against him, the child lifted up his voice and wept. 17 And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not; for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. 18 Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him fast with your hand; for I will make him a great nation.” 19 Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the lad a drink. 20 And God was with the lad, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow.
2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 8:28 And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. 29 And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” 30 Now a herd of many swine was feeding at some distance from them. 31 And the demons begged him, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of swine.” 32 And he said to them, “Go.” So they came out and went into the swine; and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and perished in the waters. 33 The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, and what had happened to the demoniacs. 34 And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighborhood.
I. THEME: Concerning about the present profit and forgetting about the future damages
God is wise and lovable; He knows what is good and bad for human beings so He gave the Ten Commandments for people. If people live according to that, they shall be happy both in this life and the life to come. The devil is shrewd and jealousy, he doesn’t want people to be loved and happy. He continually tempts people to violate the Ten Commandments so that they shall be suffered both in this life and the life to come. According to the Ten Commandments’ foundation, people must love God above all things and others like themselves. The devil, knowing people’s narrow-mindedness—only seeing the present profit—continually displays material attractions to urge people to choose them over the love for God and others.
Today readings illustrate some practical lessons for us to meditate and to learn. In the first reading, the author of the Book of Genesis reported the reason why Sarah wanted Abraham to expel Hagar and her son from her house; she didn’t want Ismael, Hagar’s son, to share the inheritance with Isaac, her son. In the Gospel, the people of Gadarenes, out of their concern for a herd of swine and not for the spiritual health of two persons, frigidly invited Jesus out of their village so they can continually live a slavish life for the devil.
1/ Reading I: God overcomes people’s selfishness and pettiness.
1.1/ Sarah’s selfishness and injustice: When reading the Book of Genesis, we knew the reason why Hagar had a son with Abraham. It is Sarah’s plan because she couldn’t give him a son to bear his name. When Sarah was blessed by God to give birth to a son, Isaac, at her old age, she changed and maltreated Hagar and her son.
When Sarah saw Ismael, Hagar’s son, playing with Isaac, her son, she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.” Sarah’s main concern is Ismael shall be a co-heir with her son.
The existence of Ismael is completely Sarah’s intention; she should bear her responsibility instead of being angry with Abraham, Hagar and her son. Abraham was angry at Sarah’s words because Ismael is also his son; but God said to Abraham, “Be not displeased because of the lad and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your descendants be named.And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring.”
1.2/ God’s plan for Hagar and her son: Listening to God’s words, Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. She departed and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.
(1) Hagar’s reaction: No one understands the situation of a widow and an orphan; her belongings are only some bread and water. She travelled with no destination. Discouraged, tired and hopeless… “When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes.Then she went, and sat down over against him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Let me not look upon the death of the child.” And as she sat over against him, the child lifted up his voice and wept.”
(2) God’s generosity: “When God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not; for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is.Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him fast with your hand; for I will make him a great nation.”Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the lad a drink. And God was with the lad, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow.”
(3) The results of Sarah’s reaction: We don’t deny God’s love and providence; but the perpetual enmity between the Jews and the Muslims might be the result of Sarah’s unwise reaction. Abraham is the patriarch of both the Israelites and the Islamists. If she humbly arranged so that both she and Hagar could live in one house, and both Isaac and Ismael could play together as brothers, the perpetual enmity might not be happened.
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: St. Matthew 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 swine and why they threw themselves into the sea. We know that the devil are very shrewd, they already prepared 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: Matthew’ report didn’t specify how many swine rushed themselves into the sea; Mark gave us the amount of two thousands swine. Many authors questioned why Jesus permitted the devil to enter the swine to cause a heavy damage for the people. We need to be fair in our judgment. Jesus wasn’t the main reason for the swine to rush into the sea, the devil was the main reason and he has power to cause damage for the swine. Moreover, his purpose is for the people to invite Jesus to be out of their district so he has 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 knows that people like material gains and are easy to fall into their trap. Once he pushes God out of human life, people shall belong to him and do whatever he wants.
(2) The people considered their souls and safety less than a herd of swine: The relationship between a man to a man must be set over material gains; but the people of the district weren’t happy because the two were liberated from devil and they shall not cause damage for them any more. They were angry because they lost a herd of swine!
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 gain through Jesus’ expulsion of the demons.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– People can only see temporal and present gains, God can see their future. We need to learn God’s just act to avoid damages for our future.
– People only concern material gains while God concerns the health of our souls. We need to learn about God’s reason and action.