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Tuesday – Thirty-second Week – OT1
Readings: Wis 2:23-3:9; Lk 17:7-10.
Reading 1 (Wis 2:23-3:9):
God formed man to be imperishable;
the image of his own nature he made them.
But by the envy of the Devil, death entered the world,
and they who are in his possession experience it.
But the souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
and their passing away was thought an affliction
and their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But they are in peace.
For if before men, indeed, they be punished,
yet is their hope full of immortality;
Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed,
because God tried them
and found them worthy of himself.
As gold in the furnace, he proved them,
and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.
In the time of their visitation they shall shine,
and shall dart about as sparks through stubble;
They shall judge nations and rule over peoples,
and the Lord shall be their King forever.
Those who trust in him shall understand truth,
and the faithful shall abide with him in love:
Because grace and mercy are with his holy ones,
and his care is with his elect.
Gospel: (Lk 17:7-10):
Jesus said to the Apostles:
“Who among you would say to your servant
who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field,
“Come here immediately and take your place at table?”
Would he not rather say to him,
“Prepare something for me to eat.
Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink.
You may eat and drink when I am finished?”
Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?
So should it be with you.
When you have done all you have been commanded, say,
“We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.”
I. THEME: The false concepts must be avoided.
One lives according to what he believes, if he believes wrong, he will live according to it and get bad results; if he believes right, he will live according to the truth and get good results. Therefore, the most important task is to learn the truth before one can live according to the truth.
Today readings center on the correction of some false concepts of human beings, and the need to understand the truth. In the first reading, the author of the Book of Wisdom revealed God’s will for men, that is, He wants them to live with Him in the eternal life. Because of the devil’s jealousy, sins entered the world and led people to death. Even though the author had not yet a clear concept about God’s plan of salvation as Jesus will reveal to men later, he still believed the righteous will not be dead for ever, they will be shared in God’s happiness and domination. In the Gospel, Jesus corrected a false concept of people about God should reward people when they praise Him or do good works. Jesus taught them that even people did everything good, they were just fulfilled their duty as of a slave. This is an important truth for people to understand so they don’t blame on God when they have to suffer or ask Him something that He won’t give.
1/ Reading I: God desires man to enjoy eternal life.
1.1/ Two different concepts about suffering and death of human beings: Everyone needs to understand these two mysteries in life, the mystery of death and the mystery of suffering. In today passage, the author revealed God’s will and the two reactions of men.
(1) God’s intention: The author clearly revealed God’s will for human beings: “God created man for incorruption and made him in the image of His own eternity.” The reason of death is the devil’s jealousy. They tempted people to sin and the result of sins is death: “through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it.”
(2) Human understanding: Above is God’s will for human beings; some of them understood this because they spent time to learn, to reason and to pray; some of them didn’t understand because they would not spend time to learn about, instead they live according to their human understanding. The author compared the different understandings of these two kinds of people.
– The unbelievers believe death is the end of everything. Once people die, there is no resurrection nor happiness of the eternal life. Suffering to them is a punishment, they need to avoid suffering at all costs. Due to their understanding of life, they try to find all ways to enjoy their life on earth, without concerning if their ways are according to God’s way or not.
– The righteous believe death is not the end, but the beginning of a happy, peaceful and eternal life with God, as the author described: “The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them.” They think suffering is just temporal, and necessary tools which God uses to purify people. As fire is used to test a real gold, suffering is used to find out who is a true believer and lover. Once God finds out a true believer, He will welcome him as “a sacrificial burnt offering.”
1.2/ The reward for those who are faithful: People will live according to what they believed. To the righteous ones, “in the time of their visitation they will shine forth and will run like sparks through the stubble. They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them forever. Those who trust in him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his elect, and he watches over his holy ones.” Of course, the opposite is also true for those who didn’t believe in God and lived according to their understanding. They will have to receive bad results according to their works; and specially, they will miss the eternal life and be destroyed forever.
2/ Gospel: You only fulfilled your duty.
2.1/ Make a distinction between a duty and a charitable act: In order to understand this short passage, we need to make a distinction between the two following acts.
(1) A duty: is an act that one must perform; for example, the duty of a slave is to serve his master regardless of how many jobs he must do. Jesus gave a practical example: “Will any one of you, who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep, say to him when he has come in from the field, `Come at once and sit down at table’? Will he not rather say to him, `Prepare supper for me, and gird yourself and serve me, till I eat and drink; and afterward you shall eat and drink’?” Of course, the answer will be the latter. He said that without regret because that was his servant; moreover, he didn’t even think of giving thank since it was the works of his servant.
(2) A charitable act: is an act from the one who has no obligation to perform. If someone is not a servant, and he volunteers to serve others, his act is a charitable act. The one who are served must have gratitude toward him.
2.2/ Does God need to be grateful to men? Men have a duty to serve God because He created human beings. Moreover, God invests all necessary things in men, such as grace, gifts, time, health…, so that they can bear fruits for Him. When people bear good fruits, they are only fulfilled their duty and justice, because if they borrowed the capital, they must return both the capital and the interest. Since all things of this world are belonged to God, He doesn’t need to be thankful for what people did, as Jesus declared today: “So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, `We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”
However, if God favors and treats people more nicely as in Luke’s other passage: “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes; truly, I say to you, he will gird himself and have them sit at table, and he will come and serve them” (Lk 12:37); that is completely of His love for men. This is the most important truth which every Christians needs to ascertain, so that they will not expect God to do what they want, to grant favor when they ask, or they will loose their faith if they have to suffer.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We need to spend time to learn God’s way for men, so that we know how to live to reach the goal which God has set for us. If not, how can we reach the final end?
– Suffering is God’s tool to purify people. We must use sufferings to practice virtues and to show our faith, hope, and love in God.
– Even if we completed our duty and returned to God what belongs to Him, we have no right to demand God’s gratitude or favor because we only fulfill our duty which we owned Him.