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Wednesday – Twenty-fourth week – OT2
Readings: 1 Cor 12:31-13:13; Lk 7:31-35.
Reading 1 (1 Cor 12:31-13:13):
Brothers and sisters:
Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.
But I shall show you a still more excellent way.
If I speak in human and angelic tongues
but do not have love,
I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy
and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;
if I have all faith so as to move mountains,
but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own,
and if I hand my body over so that I may boast
but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, love is not pompous,
it is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing
but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing;
if tongues, they will cease;
if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.
For we know partially and we prophesy partially,
but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I used to talk as a child,
think as a child, reason as a child;
when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror,
but then face to face.
At present I know partially;
then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three;
but the greatest of these is love.
Gospel (Lk 7:31-35):
Jesus said to the crowds:
“To what shall I compare the people of this generation?
What are they like?
They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another,
‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance.
We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.’
For John the Baptist came neither eating food nor drinking wine,
and you said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’
The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said,
‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard,
a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’
But wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”
Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: The importance of charity
Love is the endless source of writers and poets. There are many marvelous works which resulted from the inspiration about love of God, nation, parents, spouses and others. Chapter 13 of St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians is the wonderful analysis about love. In opposition, when people have no love, all things shall become senseless, and even hellish as J.P. Sartre, an existentialist philosopher said, “Hell is other people.”
An analysis of today readings shall help us to recognize the importance of love and to strive for it by practicing. Once we have that kind of love, we shall easily avoid many bad habits of scribes and Pharisees as Jesus rebuked them in today Gospel.
1/ Reading I: Charity is above all.
1.1/ The importance of charity: Knowing people have tendency to find for themselves the best thing, St. Paul advised the Corinthians: “Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. But I shall show you a still more excellent way.” This excellent way is the way of love which St. Therese of Jesus also ascertained: “My vocation is to love.” There are many words used for love, but St. Paul used the word “charity” to talk about love only in a Christian framework. He compared the importance of charity with some other important gifts:
(1) With the gift of speaking in tongues: “If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.” Knowing tongues is one thing, but using that gift to benefit others is another thing. If one doesn’t know how to use the gift of tongues to help others, he isn’t different than an empty can that makes senseless sound.
(2) With the gifts of prophecy, understanding and faith: “And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.” A prophet is the one who speaks in God’s place to guide and to bring people back to God. There are some prophets who hated people to the point that they don’t want their enemy to repent and to be saved; for example, the prophet Jonas’ case. A danger which we often see in the learned is pride; they think they are better and insult all other people. Many of the learned refuse to believe in God! Some people who have a strong faith think that everybody should have a strong faith like them and do all works that they do; but they forgot that in order to have such faith, they must have time and effort to overcome many of their shortcomings.
(3) With charitable and heroic deeds: “If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.” Doing good deeds isn’t enough, but one must also have a good intention. There are some people who give all what they have to buy fame and honor, not because of loving others. There are some people who look for martyrdom to end their miserable life, not to be a witness for God.
1.2/ The definition of charity: St. Paul defined charity as follows:
(1) Charity is patience and kind: The Greeks have two participles for patience: first, to be patient is to wait for an opportunity; secondly, to be patient with others. The participle “makrothumein,” used by the New Testament authors, always implied the patience with people. St. John Chrysostom explained: This participle is used for the one who was wrongly treated, though he has power and chance to revenge; but didn’t do that. Instead, he wants his oppressor to recognize his wrong doing by the good works he has done for him.
Jesus also taught his disciples to have this patience through their love, doing good works for their enemy and praying for the persecuted, so that they can be perfect as their heavenly Father is perfect. Such patience isn’t weak, but powerful; nor failure but the best way to conquer enemy. Many people used this way to conquer their enemies, and none used it more effectively than Jesus on the cross. Many Catholics who have strong faith and righteous life, but not enough to conquer others for God because of their lacking of love. They shall be easily taking side with the strong to surpress the weak.
(2) Charity isn’t jealousy, pompous and prideful: People used to say, “There are only two kinds of people in the world: millionaire and want to be millionaire.” There are two corresponding kinds of jealousy: because of desiring other’s property and because of desiring them to loose what they are having. The first jealousy can be understood because of human nature. The second one is due to the devil’s temptation: wanting others to suffer for one’s own satisfaction. For example, a student wants to get an A as a good student is normal; but if he also wants others not to have an A as himself is abnormal. There are some people when they have something which others don’t have, they are so prideful, considered themselves as the center of the universe. They boast about it so all people might know, make others to depend on them and despise of others. Scribes and Pharisees in the Gospel are examples of this kind.
(3) Charity is not rude, it does not seek its own interests: In Greek, the word “aschemonéo” has two meanings: (1) an action opposes to moral standard as an immoral life (1 Cor 7:36); (2) an action opposes to social manner, such as improper manner, impolite or not according to social etiquette (1 Cor 13:5). St. Paul might want to use the second meaning. Some people say that there are two kinds of people in the world: one kind who only looks for individual gain and always requires to have their right; another kind who only pays attention to their duty to contribute to develop. To build up society and nation, one suggested: Don’t demand your nation to do something for you; but should ask yourself what you can do to build up your nation. Similarly, to build up Christ’s mystical body, the faithful shouldn’t ask what the Church must do for them, but should ask themselves what they can do to build up the Church.
(4) Charity is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury: One is angry because he can’t control his temper or lacks of patience. Angry can seriously violate charity in words or in deeds. Charity is building up while angry can destroy all what one and others built up for a long time. The verb “to brood over” in Greek is the verb used in accounting “logizeshthai,” one must enter all information so that he won’t forget. One of the arts of living is learning to forget; but there are some who clearly remember all bad things which others did to them. There are some parents when they corrected their children, they recount all of their children’ sins from the past. To remember all of other’s sin is the most effective way to kill oneself and the other.
(5) Charity does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth: Many have an opposite tendency: they are happy when they hear bad things happened for those they don’t like and not happy when they see them to be prosperous and peace. When they read, hear or see the news in mass media; if they don’t see bad things happen, they conclude that the news have nothing special. The merchants want the hurricane 2 to be the hurricane 5 so that they can make a profit by increasing the price on things which people need because they know hurricane has no effect on them.
(6) Charity bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things: The verb “to bear” is translated from the Greek’s verb “stégo,” which comes from the noun “stége,” means the roof. The verb is used for making a roof to protect people in the house from sun and rain. St. Paul might want to use this verb here to say that once people have charity, they can find all possible ways to protect others’ shortcomings, not to let them be displayed for others to see.
“Believes all things” has two dimensions: First, one believes in God who can do everything. Then, one believes in others who have a tendency to respect the truth, love the good and protect the beautiful things. With such faith, one has a right to hope what he expects shall come, and shall not be hesitant to sacrifice for others to live. As a farmer, the one who possesses charity shall do all what he can do, working tiredlessly under the sun and rain; then, he puts all his trust in God who shall give him a bountiful harvest.
1.3/ Why is charity important? St. Paul answered by comparing charity with other virtues about the lasting time, the perfection and the absolute value. Then he concluded: “Love never fails.”
(1) About the lasting time: The gift of prophecy is temporal. When God needs to correct people, He shall use prophets; but when what He wants, is achieved, He no longer needs them. The gift of tongues is also ended as the prophecy. When people come to heaven, either all use one language or all shall be given grace to understand all languages.
(2) About the understanding: “if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.” St. Paul used two images to illustrate the imperfection of the gift of understanding:
– Comparison between children’s and adult’s understanding: “When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.” Understanding in this world is imperfect as children’s understanding; once people come to live with God, their understanding shall be perfect as the adult’s understanding.
– Comparison the understanding through mirror and the truth: “At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.”
(3) About the perfection: “So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Faith is needed when one doesn’t see God yet, once he saw God, faith is no longer needed. Hope is to expect what one doesn’t have yet; once he attained heaven, hope is no longer needed. Only charity shall remain forever. Once he loved, he continue to love, the intensity of love will be stronger, deeper and more perfect.
2/ Gospel: Jesus rebuked the habit of criticism.
One of children’s traits is they live according to their immediate passion: When they want to eat, they eat; when they want to play, they play. They don’t analyze to see if their desire is reasonable or not until their parents prohibit them and teach them to live according to a schedule. If they aren’t disciplined by their parents, they shall continue with those habits even when they are adults. Jesus likened scribes and Pharisees as these children because they refused to live according to God’s way, but stubbornly in their way: “They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.’”
Since scribes and Pharisees took themselves as the standard to criticize others, they weren’t satisfied with anyone who lived different way with them. They criticized John the Baptist as “possessed by a demon” because he didn’t eating food nor drinking wine like them. When Jesus comes, he is also eating and drinking and they said, “Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.”
However, God’s plan doesn’t depend on them because there are still people who live according to God’s wisdom; there are still people who heard John’s preaching, they forfeit their sinful way and return to God. These people shall be forceful witnesses for God’s wisdom and plan. Scribes and Pharisees can cause obstacles but can’t overcome God’s wisdom.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Charity can be likened as blood in a body. Blood is needed for life, not only for a body but all parts of a body. The part which blood can’t reach shall be painful, and if it isn’t healed on time, it shall be dead. Similarly, charity is the cause for all human acts; due to one’s love for God and others, he is ready to sacrifice and to suffer so that Christ’s whole body might be healthy. Without love, all works shall be delayed and gradually stopped and life shall make no sense. St. Therese of the Infant Jesus observed and said: “Without love, the Church shall no longer exist and the martyrs’ blood shall run out.”
– When lacking of love, people becomes sullen, annoyed and moody. They shall not be content with anything that happen and always find a reason from others to criticize them. In opposition, when people are in love, they are easy to have compassion and to forgive all others’ shortcomings.