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Monday – Twenty-second week – OT1
Readings: I Thes 4:13-18; Lk 4:16-30.
1/ First Reading: RSV 1 Thessalonians 4:13 But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; 17 then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
2/ Gospel: RSV Luke 4:16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the Sabbath day. And he stood up to read; 17 and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written, 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” 20 And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; and they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, `Physician, heal yourself; what we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here also in your own country.'” 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. 30 But passing through the midst of them he went away.
I. THEME: Hoping in the eternal life shall help people to eradicate their egotism.
One of main reasons prevents people to advance on the way of perfection is the egotism, an exaggerated sense of self-importance. Most of people’s sins come from this egotism. While Jesus tries to teach his disciples to overcome this habit, the majority of today people honor it under many different forms; for examples, the individualism only aims at what is good for the individual; the materialism only aims at acquiring material things and ignoring spiritual and moral values. How can people eradicate this egotism?
Today readings help us to understand the dangers of the egotism and the way to destroy it. In the first reading, St. Paul encouraged the Thessalonian to orient their heart to the ultimate goal of their life which is the hope to live with God forever. In the Gospel, Jesus points out the dangers of those who live according to their egotism: they denied and wanted to destroy even the one who brings the eternal life for them.
1/ Reading I: Our hope is to be resurrected with Christ.
1.1/ The necessary of hope: Whatever people hope for, they shall live according to it. If people don’t hope in the eternal life, they shall hang on to values of this temporal world. St. Paul reminded the Thessalonians about two main things of their life:
(1) Death isn’t the end, but the beginning of one’s eternal life with God: He said to them, “We would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.”
(2) Christ is the hope for the faithful: “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”
1.2/ Christ second coming: The Jewish tradition before Christ has a vague understanding about the Last Day and the eternal life. A majority of them believes the rewards for those who live according to God’s law are limited only in this world, such as: a healthy body, a long life, having many descendants and a peaceful life; but death is the end. Once people die, nothing is remained. The First Letter of Paul to the Thessalonians, written about 50-60 AD, is the first document which contains God’s revelation about life after death.
St. Paul mentioned what shall happen on the Last Day as follows, “This we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep.For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first;then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord.Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
2/ Gospel: The attitude of suffocating the truth of Jesus’ fellow countrymen
To return to the village when one was born and raised up should be a happy and memorial event; but in today passage, it was an opportunity for the Jesus’ fellow countrymen to destroy the most important figure of their village. Beginning with the event in which Jesus entered a synagogue at Nazareth on the Sabbath, and he read the Scripture passage of the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” Jesus rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
2.1/ The ingratitude reaction:
According to St. Luke’s report, “All spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.” Two other Synoptists, Matthew and Mark, gave the reason for their unbelief which is they knew his parents and brothers and sisters while Luke said that the reason of their unbelief is because he didn’t perform signs for them to see.
A sad fact which Jesus mentioned in today passage, “No prophet is accepted in his own native place.” A Vietnamese proverb says, “When one person becomes a royal officer, his whole kin shall be helped.” Jesus and his fellow countrymen might think the same, but the two sides had different viewpoints, while they want him to do wonderful signs to satisfy their material needs, Jesus wanted them to understand the important truths: He is the Son of God; they must believe in him and in his teaching to have the eternal life.
The truth hurts, because those outside of the family and the Church have a stronger faith in God than those in the family and the Church. Jesus reminded people this sad fact many times in the Gospel; for example, the officer of the synagogue, the Canaan mother, the good Samaritan. Why does this sad fact happen? There are due to many reasons: First, some may think that they are wise and already know all the truth. Secondly, they are so used to a preacher so that his preaching is no longer important to them. Thirdly, they are so used with favors from their benefactor so that they lost the sense of gratitude. Lastly, they lost their sense to the truth: having eyes but can’t see; having ears but can’t hear; having mind but can’t think, and their heart is dull and becomes stony.
This attitude of turning their back to the truth discouraged many prophets because they worked hard without having a result. It is better to give to those who welcome them; those whom their mind are still sensitive to the truth, their heart is gratitude to favors and their mouth know how to say thank you. How painful for us because these people, most of the time, are those outside of our family and community. Jesus listed out two cases in which these people were the Gentiles: “Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
2.2/ The blind’s reaction: Not only refusing the truth, but they also let their anger control them and they want to kill Jesus who spoke the truth. The passage reported their reaction as follows, “When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away.”
If those people who lost their conscience, is there any hope to converse them? They are fragile as the cover of an egg but wanted to put their head to a mountain; they must get the result of hurling themselves to a deep valley. No matter how much Jesus is merciful, he can’t save these blind and prideful persons because they chose to be lost. Jesus left them in their mess and went away.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Hoping in the eternal life must be a factor helping us to overcome our egotism in order to do what Christ teaches us.
– When we eradicate our egotism, God shall fill us with His love and blessings so we shall become more like Him every day. In opposition, if we let our egotism dominate, we shall gradually go the point that we shall deny even our ultimate goal of life.