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Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Reading 1: (Isa 58:9b-14)

 

Thus says the LORD:
If you remove from your midst oppression,
false accusation and malicious speech;
If you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
Then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday;
Then the LORD will guide you always
and give you plenty even on the parched land.
He will renew your strength,
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring whose water never fails.
The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake,
and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up;
"Repairer of the breach," they shall call you,
"Restorer of ruined homesteads."

If you hold back your foot on the sabbath
from following your own pursuits on my holy day;
If you call the sabbath a delight,
and the LORD's holy day honorable;
If you honor it by not following your ways,
seeking your own interests, or speaking with maliceB
Then you shall delight in the LORD,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will nourish you with the heritage of Jacob, your father,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Gospel: (Lk 5:27-32)

 

Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, "Follow me."
And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him.
Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house,
and a large crowd of tax collectors
and others were at table with them.
The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying,
"Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?"
Jesus said to them in reply,
"Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do.
I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners."


Written by Fr. Anthony Dinh M. Tien, O.P.

I. THEME: Compassion is more important than the observation of the law.

             

            Law exists for human benefit. In other word, due to people’s good, law is made to protect their benefit. Therefore, living according to the spirit of the law is more useful than living just according to the law. If one must violate the law to save someone, one has a duty to do so. In three years of Jesus’ public preaching, most of his conflicts between him and the scribes and the Pharisees were based on this principle.

            Today readings centered on this principle. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah emphasized on the compassion, expressed through helping the less fortunate, not on observing of the law. In the Gospel, the Pharisees and the scribes accused Jesus and his disciples of impurity because they made friends and had dinner with sinful tax-collectors. Jesus corrected and reminded them that: "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick;I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

II. ANALYSIS:

1/ Reading I: People need to correctly live their relationships with God and others.

1.1/ The proper fasting: The main reasons why the Israelites lost their nation and were on exile were they didn’t correctly live their relationships with God and others. To correctly live one’s relationship with God isn’t based on the offerings, the keeping of the law, or the superficial fasting; but to live according to God’s will, to justly treat others and to help the less fortunate.

            (1) To live according to God’s will: Before, during and after the exile, God unceasingly sent His prophets to reveal to people His wills. People have a duty to listen and to do what the prophets revealed. In the past, many times people seized, threatened, and even killed the prophets. In the passage today, the prophet Isaiah warned them: “You take away from the midst of you the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness.”

            (2) To treat others justly: The main reason of poverty is social injustice. The rich use their shrewdness and power to exploit the poor. Therefore, the distance between the two classes is gradually widened, the rich becomes richer and the poor become poorer. The time of fasting isn’t only for the rich to share their weath with the poor but also to recognize their injustice.

            (3) To help the less fortunate: In God’s providence, those who are given by Him talents and weath have a duty to help those who are less fortunate; not to be prideful and to exploit the poor.

            To build up a strong nation and a healthy society, a leader must have these three qualifications before he can lead people in his country.

1.2/ The Sabbath’s purposes: are for people to rest their body after hard-working days and also for them to develop their spiritual relation with God. The prophet Isaiah listed out somethings people should and should not do on this holy day: "If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken."

            If on the Sabbath, people don’t think about God, but talk behind others’ back or devise of plans to exploit others, can they say that they keep holy the Sabbath?

2/ Gospel: Jesus comes to invite all people to repent.

2.1/ Jesus called Matthew, a tax-collector: Under Roman umpire, tax-collectors are considered as betrayers by the Jews because they worked for the empire to exploit people. They maltreated people by collecting taxes over the limitation which people had to pay. Therefore, tax-collectors were classified as robbers and prostitutes; they can’t enter the temple to offer their sacrifices.

            When Jesus called Matthew, he clearly knew Matthew’s identity and career; but he had another plan for him: to converse him to be a preacher and an evangelist. When Jesus agreed to have dinner at Matthew’s house, he knew he will be surrounded by Matthew’s companions, the tax-collectors; but he wanted to give them an opportunity to witness Matthew’s repentance so that they might do the same.

            Matthew’s attitude was brave and quick, he let all things behind, stood up and followed Jesus. He was courage because he forfeited a “good making money” career and didn’t question what he shall do for a living. He determined to end his sinful past to head to a better future, though poor but clean, and no one can despise him or prevent him to come to God. Jesus really liberated Matthew from slavery of sins and gave him an opportunity to restart his life.

2.2/ Jesus came to call all sinners to repent: The brief conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees and the scribes showed us a contrast between God and human beings.

            The Pharisees and their scribes murmured against his disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" Their reactions are like the reaction of a majority of people who think “play with ink shall be dark, live in light shall shine.” To them, once people had fallen into their dark past, they can’t get out. Human prejudice is as a fence which confines a sinner’s life.

            But Jesus answered them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Jesus’ action can be compared with a wise man’ reaction who thinks he can live near mud but shall not let himself to smell like mud. Not only that, but Jesus also compared him like a responsible doctor who helps to heal and to recover his patient’s health. If the Pharisees and the scribes carefully examined their conscience, they shall recognize that they are also patients who are needing to be healed by Jesus from their pride, insult, and criticism. The most dangerous sin of them is their self-righteousness attitude, because it prevents them to ask for Jesus’ healing.

           

III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:                     

            - All of us are sinners; none can say he is righteous before God. We need God to heal our sins.

            - If God gave us opportunities to restart our life, we must also give our brothers and sisters chances and help them to reconcile with God.

            - The law is promulgated for human good. People can violate the law it it is necessary to save human life. 

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