Daily Scripture Analysis

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Twentieth Sunday - Year B - Ordinary Time

Readings: Prv 9:1-6; Eph 5:15-20; Jn 6:51-58.

Reading 1 (Prv 9:1-6):

Wisdom has built her house,
she has set up her seven columns;
she has dressed her meat, mixed her wine,
yes, she has spread her table.
She has sent out her maidens; she calls
from the heights out over the city:
"Let whoever is simple turn in here;
To the one who lacks understanding, she says,
Come, eat of my food,
and drink of the wine I have mixed!
Forsake foolishness that you may live;
advance in the way of understanding."

Reading 2 (Eph 5:15-20):

Brothers and sisters:
Watch carefully how you live,
not as foolish persons but as wise,
making the most of the opportunity,
because the days are evil.
Therefore, do not continue in ignorance,
but try to understand what is the will of the Lord.
And do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery,
but be filled with the Spirit,
addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts,
giving thanks always and for everything
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.

Gospel (Jn 6:51-58):

Jesus said to the crowds:
"I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world."

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
"How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
Jesus said to them,
"Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me
will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever."


Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P. 

I. THEME: The desire to live forever

            A wise people never wants to die, but to live forever; but death is a reality and it always threatens human life. Why is the desire for life, considered as a human nature, taken away by death? Do people have any hope to achieve the desire for eternal life?

            There is a great hope for human beings because both our faith and the Church’s doctrine confirm: First, the desire for eternal life is the true desire because God who creates human beings, wants them to live forever. Secondly, people must die because of their sins; but God prepares a plan of salvation to liberate people from sins and death.

            Today readings center on the human desire to live forever. In the first reading, the author of the Book of Proverbs personified wisdom as a woman who prepared a banquet, and emphasized the condition for people to live is to eat bread and to drink wine from her preparation. In the second reading, St. Paul advised the Ephesian faithful that they must learn how to live as wise people by following the Holy Spirit’s guidance to find out and to do God’s will. In the Gospel, Jesus revealed for people the secret way to live forever: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”

II. ANALYSIS:

1/ Reading I: “Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed!”

1.1/ The wisdom has prepared everything: The author personified wisdom as the woman to describe the qualities of the wisdom as follows:

            - Wisdom is firm and long lasting: “Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven columns.” Seven is a perfect number according to Jewish tradition; a house is built on seven columns means a firm house, nothing can shake it.

            - Wisdom prepared a banquet by “dressed her meat, mixed her wine, yes, she has spread her table.” The guest shall not lack of anything and is free of charge.

            - Wisdom invited all, not a single prople is missed: She sent her maidens out to invite people and she herself calls them from the heights out over the city.

1.2/ Wisdom went out and looked for people.

            (1) She looked for two kinds of people:

            - The innocent (áphrôn): are those who lack of wisdom and are easy to be led astray by others.

            - The fool (phrenôn): are those who lack of understanding and are easy to act without thinking.

            (2) Her purpose: "Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding." She shall teach people to understand God’s will so people may live.

            (3) The condition: "Come! Eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed!" If people want to live, they must eat food and drink wine from her home-making.

            St. John identified the Word (o lógos) with Christ, he is God’s wisdom, and everything is created through him.

2/ Reading II: The differences between the wise and the fool

            St. Paul gave his advises to the Ephesian faithful: "Watch carefully then how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise." He helped them to recognize the differences between the wise and the fool.

2.1/ The wise are those who:

            - Live according to the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

            - Know how to efficiently use the present because we are living in the days which are evil. The Jewish tradition think that the present is evil and the future is very good; the period of transition is the crisis. St. Paul might think the faithful were living in the transitory time.

            - Know how to find out God’s will: "Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord."

            - Understand wisdom shall lead to wise action: “Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts,giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.”

2.2/ The fool are those who:

            - Live according to their flesh: they get drunk and their inebriation shall lead to debauchery.

            - Don’t know how to use time given by God: They waste their time in useless things which don’t benefit anything for them, but also damage their life.

            - Only do their will: Since they don’t search God’s will, they only do their will. Those who act only according to their will, never reach the goal which God desires for their life.

3/ Gospel: “Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

3.1/ Literal analysis of Greek’s words: The following sentence of Jesus’ declaration needs to be analyzed by words and formations, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

            - The expression "egô eimi" followed by a phrase happened seven times in the Fourth Gospel and were used to express a special mission of Christ such as: The Bread of Life; the Good Shepherd; the Sheep’s Gate; the Vine; the Resurrection and the Life; the Light of the World; the Way, the Truth and the Life.

            - The expression "o ártos o zôn" may have different meanings depending on the interpretations:

                        (1) Can be translated as “the bread of eternal life,” means the bread that never be destroyed. When applying to Jesus, it means Christ is the Bread of eternal life.

                        (2) Can be translated as “the bread that gives divine life.” When applying to Jesus, it means he is the bread that brings divine life for human beings, as in John 6:33.

                        (3) Can be translated as “the living bread.” When applying to Jesus, it means he is the living bread.

            According to the context and the content, the second meaning is better than other two meanings even though they are also true to Christ.

            - The expression “came down from heaven” reminded people of the event which God rained down manna from heaven to be the food for the Israelites during their forty years in desert. Manna is the figure of the sacrament of the Eucharist. The bread that brings eternal life is true and has its origin from heaven.

            - "The bread that I will give:" This expression emphasizes on free-of-charge or in gratis as in the first reading, eating and drinking without paying.

            - “My flesh:” The bread that gives divine life is Jesus flesh (sárk). From the beginning of the Fourth Gospel, the author used this noun to talk about the Incarnation, “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1:14).

            - The reaction of the Jews: What they argued about isn’t about Jesus’ origin, but his flesh. How can a person who is living feed others with his flesh? Unless that person must die first! The more difficulty is that the Jews don’t eat human flesh.

3.2/ The necessary of the sacrament of the Eucharist: Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”

            - The formula "Amèn amèn" forewarns a truth which shall be revealed in the Fourth Gospel. The truth which Jesus wanted to reveal in this sentence is that “if you don’t eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” If Jesus didn’t reveal this truth, nobody knows it.

            - The two verbs: to eat (esthío) and to drink (píno) which John used here are the two basic verbs used in the human eating and drinking, such as to eat bread and to drink water.

            - Jesus differentiated between the two lives: physical (psyché) and divine (zôé). If one doesn’t eat Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood, one still has the physical life, but not the divine life.

            - The eternal life (zôé aiốnion): The divine life shall lead one to eternal life: "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day." As Jesus, when he is in a human body; though he must still die physically, but once he gloriously resurrected, he shall no longer die. Similarly, it shall happen to a man.

            - Jesus’ flesh and blood are food to nourish human being: "For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink." The two nouns which the author used to express, food (brôsis) and drink (pósis), are the two human basic food and drink.

            - The divine life is God’s life: "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him." Jesus and the one who consumed him become one, as St. Paul cried out, “Yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).

            - The divine life helps people to understand God’s wisdom and mysteries which human wisdom can’t fathom them. People have God’s widom by Christ’s Spirit who guides people. The divine life also helps people to have strength to meet Christ’s invitation to be perfect; without this strength, people can’t do it. For example, people have the divine life to love their enemies, to do good and to pray for them.

3.3/ The results of the sacrament of the Eucharist: Jesus lives by his Father’s life: "Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me." In the mystery of the Incarnation, we proclaim that Jesus has two natures: God and human. His divine nature is never died, his human nature is died when he exhaled his last breath on the cross; but he is immediatedly resurrected because of his divine nature. The one who receives Christ’s flesh and blood also has the two lives, physical and divine. These two lives don’t destroy, but enhance each other.

           

III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:                     

            - To live forever, we must wisely find out God’s will, and do what He teaches us.

            - We should believe what Jesus has revealed about the sacrament of the Eucharist and frequently receive this sacrament. 

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The Assumption of Virgin Mary into heaven - August 15th

 

Readings: Rev 11:19a,12:1-6a, 10ab; I Cor 15:20-27; Lk 1:39-56.

1/ First Reading: NAB Revelation 11:19 Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple. 12:1 A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2 She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. 3 Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems. 4 Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky and hurled them down to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and his throne. 6 The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God, that there she might be taken care of for twelve hundred and sixty days. 10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed. For the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who accuses them before our God day and night.

2/ Second Reading: NAB 1 Corinthians 15:20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came also through a human being. 22 For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, 23 but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ; 24 then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death, 27 for "he subjected everything under his feet." But when it says that everything has been subjected, it is clear that it excludes the one who subjected everything to him.

3/ Gospel: NAB Luke 1:39 During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, 42 cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled." 46 And Mary said: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; 47 my spirit rejoices in God my savior. 48 For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. 49 The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. 51 He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. 52 He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. 53 The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. 54 He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, 55 according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever." 56 Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.



I. THEME: Humbly doing God’s will and serving others.

            God always loves, blesses and desires all good things for people; in opposition, the devil is always jealous, destroys and desires people to be their slaves. In order to achieve this, the devil tries to find all possible ways to extol the freedom and the pride from human beings. In the Eve garden, he tempted the first couple, Adam and Eve, to use their freedom to disobey God’s command. The results of their disobedience are: they must be far away from God and die. To redeem their sins, Christ and the Blessed Mary as new Adam and Eve chose the opposite way which is complete humility and obedience to God’s will.

            Today readings concentrate on what Christ and the Blessed Mary obeyed and did God’s will to bring back the eternal life which Adam and Eve lost. In the first reading, the Book of Revelation reported the fighting between the woman and the red dragon. This dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth. In the second reading, St. Paul compared and revealed God’s plan of salvation as follows: “For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came also through a human being.For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life.” In the Gospel, when Mary was praised as the most blessed woman by Elisabeth, her cousin, Mary humbly professed that all what she have, are from God. She is only God’s lowly maidservant whom the Most High permitted her to cooperate in His plan of salvation.

II. ANALYSIS:

1/ Reading I: “The accuser of our brothers is cast out, who accuses them before our God day and night.”

1.1/ The fight between God and the devil: The author of the Book of Revelation reported the vision which he saw in the sky. Two main characters whom he saw are the pregnant woman and the red dragon which stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth.

            Most of commentators think the red dragon is Satan because of the author’s description, “It has seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems.Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky and hurled them down to the earth.” But who is the woman whom the author described here? There are two different opinions:

            (1) The woman is Mary and the son is Christ: This was very popular in the Middle Age which is based on the following facts: First, the author mentioned about God’s presence in the Ark of the Old Testament and compared it with the new ark which is Mary’s womb when she conceived Christ, the Son of God. Secondly, he described Mary’s marvelous glory as follows: “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” Besides Mary, there is no other woman who has such kind of glory. Lastly, the author also mentioned the son’s mission and power, he is “destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod.”

            (2) The woman is the Church and the son is each faithful: This opinion was from the early Church which believed that the woman is the Church and the son is each faithful. The red dragon represented the Roman emperor who always found opportunities to persecute the faithful. Those who followed this opinion presented the theological reasons as follows: The Blessed Mary can’t be “wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth” (12:2). Secondly, the Blessed Mary didn’t hide in the desert 1,260 days as verse 12:6 described. Lastly, how can one explain verse 12:17 when the dragon “was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus”? Moreover, the image of the woman was very popular in ancient literature of the Oriental and the Scripture (Isa 50:1, Jer 50:12), and used to indicate a people, a nation or a city.

            The first opinion is agreed by more people; however, this opinion doesn’t completely oppose to the second one, but includes it because Mary is the figure of the Church, the faithful are Jesus’ disciples and also Mary’s children. The dragon not only wants to swallow Christ but also all those who believe in him. The author might have two images when he described the vision: individually as Mary and Christ, communally as the Church and the faithful.

1.2/ God’s power overcomes the devil’s power: The author described the first stage, “The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God, that there she might be taken care of for twelve hundred and sixty days.” The deserts were the popular hidden places for the faithful during persecution. The image of the Israelites in the desert seems to be emphasized here. A number is frequently used in Scripture - 1,260 days or 42 months or three years and a half – to indicate a long time, but not for ever.

            Then, the author heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed. For the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who accuses them before our God day and night.” These are the words which foretell the result of the fighting, God and Christ shall triumph over the devil’s power. Satan and his companions shall be punished and destroyed.

2/ Reading II: “Just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life.”

2.1/ Christ saved humankind from the sting of death: St. Paul compared two important and historical facts, Adam’s fall in the Eve garden and Christ’s glorious resurrection from the tomb, to emphasize the results for people. Since Adam disobeyed God and committed a sin, the sting of sin spread to all, and the result of sin is death. This result was reversed by Christ because he obeyed God to redeem human sins and resurrected from death, human beings are no longer to be died for ever.

2.2/ Christ shall hand over his kingdom to the Father: St. Paul said, “Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power.” When one reads this sentence, he might think that Christ isn’t equal to God; but that is not true.

            We can use an image to meditate the point which St. Paul wanted to express here. As a leader-in-chief receives a mission from his king to conquer the enemy, Christ also received his mission from the Father to fulfill. When he completed his last mission which is to destroy death, he hands over people who are saved to God as the leader-in-chief hands over the lost territories for his king.

 

3/ Gospel: “For He has looked upon His handmaid's lowliness.”

3.1/ Doing God’s will is the reason for God’s blessing.

            (1) Elisabeth recognized Mary’s blessings: When Mary entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” The child in Elisabeth’s womb is John Baptist. The two children recognized each other by the Holy Spirit’s power; and Elisabeth also recognized Mary, her cousin, as the Mother of God.

            (2) The reason for Mary’ title and God’s blessing: Elisabeth recognized the reason Mary was blessed when she said, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” People are blessed because of their strong faith in God, not by any work that they did. Mary completely believed in God’s plan of salvation when she said “Yes” to the archangel Gabriel.

3.2/ Mary humbly served God and others: According to God’s providence, the greatest one is the one who humbly served others.

            (1) Mary humbly served God: Mary knew that the origin of her greatness is from God; she is only His lowly maidservant. Therefore, she responded to Elisabeth’s praise as follows: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;my spirit rejoices in God my savior.For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

            In opposition to Mary’s response is the prideful response of those who take what God and others did to them as their own. They think that they have talents and virtues, or luck, or by their own effort that they become what they are. The song Magnificat must be a remind to this kind of people. They should be awaken, recognize and properly behave before it is too late. The author continued: “His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy,according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

            (2) Mary humbly served others: The love for God must be expressed by doing good deeds for others. Mary chose to visit her cousin Elisabeth and to stay to serve her for three months because she knew that her cousin was advanced in age and needed someone to help her, though Mary could choose to stay home because she was pregnant too. The prideful can think that her cousin must visit and serve Mary, because Mary is the Mother of God.

           

III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:                    

            - God is wise and powerful. He plans and controls the whole plan of salvation through Christ’s humble obedience to do His will.

            - Mary was wise to recognize God’s plan of salvation, and humbly co-operate to provide for Christ a body which is necessary for human salvation.

            - Imitating Christ and Mary, we pray that we can also recognize God’s will and humbly co-operate with God for our salvation and the salvation of others. We shouldn’t fall into the devil’s prideful temptation to steal God’s blessing and to get lost on the way to salvation.

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Saturday - Nineteenth week - OT1

 

Readings: Jos 24:14-29; Mt 19:13-15.

1/ First Reading: RSV Joshua 24:14 "Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River, and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if you be unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." 16 Then the people answered, "Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord, to serve other gods; 17 for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, and who did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; 18 and the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land; therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God." 19 But Joshua said to the people, "You cannot serve the Lord; for he is a holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. 20 If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good." 21 And the people said to Joshua, "Nay; but we will serve the Lord." 22 Then Joshua said to the people, "You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him." And they said, "We are witnesses." 23 He said, "Then put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord, the God of Israel." 24 And the people said to Joshua, "The Lord our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey." 25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem. 26 And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a great stone, and set it up there under the oak in the sanctuary of the Lord. 27 And Joshua said to all the people, "Behold, this stone shall be a witness against us; for it has heard all the words of the Lord which he spoke to us; therefore it shall be a witness against you, lest you deal falsely with your God." 28 So Joshua sent the people away, every man to his inheritance. 29 After these things Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being a hundred and ten years old.

2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 19:13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people; 14 but Jesus said, "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven." 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.


 

I. THEME: People need to put their complete trust in God.

            The first commandment of the Ten Commandment is the basic and most important commandment. It is basic because all other commandments are built on it; if a person doesn’t revere and love God, he shall not keep His other commandments. It is the most important because it determines people’s future; whether or not they shall enjoy a happy life with God in heaven.

            Today readings want to highlight the importance for people to put their complete trust in God. In the first reading, the leader Joshua, like Moses before passing away, gathered all the Israelites to explain for them the importance of believing and loving God; then he commanded them to make a covenant and to swear that they shall sincerely walk in His way. In the Gospel, Jesus wasn’t pleased with his disciples because they prevented the children to come to him. Jesus declared to his disciples that the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who live like children.

II. ANALYSIS:

1/ Reading I: Everyone must be responsible for what they do.

1.1/ The dialogue between Joshua and the Israelites: A wise leader is the one who knows what is the core and the importance of people’s life. Like Moses on last Monday reading, the leader Joshua knew that believing in God and faithfully keeping His commandments are the foundation for the surviving of the Israelites. So, before his death, he gathered all the Israelites before God’s presence to repeat their oath. Joshua said to them, “Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River, and in Egypt, and serve the Lord… but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

            People have freedom to make their decision as Joshua said to them, “And if you be unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.”

            The Israelites responded: "Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord, to serve other gods!” They wisely pointed out three reasons behind their decisions: First, what God did for them in Egypt, “For it is the Lord our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, and who did those great signs in our sight.” Secondly, what He did for them during their forty years in the desserts, “And (He) preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed.” Lastly, what God did for them in the Promise Land, “And the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land.” They stated their decision to Joshua, “Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for He is our God."

1.2/ The punishments for betraying God: It is easy for people to say; but it is difficult for them to keep. In order to help the Israelites to keep their word, Joshua told them of punishments if they don’t keep their word; and made them solemnly swearing to remember it.

            (1) Listing out the punishments: Joshua said, “You cannot serve the Lord; for he is a holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good." But the people said to Joshua, "Nay; but we will serve the Lord.”

            (2) Swearing before God: Joshua said to the Israelites, "You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him." And they said, "We are witnesses." He said, "Then put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord, the God of Israel." And the people said to Joshua, "The Lord our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey." Two things people swore to do are to serve God and to obey Him.

            (3) Signing their covenant: On that day, Joshua made a covenant with the people, and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem. And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a great stone, and set it up there under the oak in the sanctuary of the Lord. Then, Joshua said to all the people, "Behold, this stone shall be a witness against us; for it has heard all the words of the Lord which he spoke to us; therefore it shall be a witness against you, lest you deal falsely with your God."

2/ Gospel: “For the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these children.”

  

2.1/ Why did the disciples rebuke them? Children are often noisy and running around; their acts affect adult’s conversation and prevent them to sleep or to rest. The disciples noticed Jesus are so busy with his mission all day to teach and to heal people; wherever he went, a big crowd follows him, children are running around and causing all kinds of problem; so they prevented them to come to Jesus. Understanding the disciples’ good intention, Jesus didn’t rebuke them, only said to them, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." After he placed his hands on them, he went away.

            Through this act, Jesus wanted to teach leaders an important lesson when facing of the crowd’s needs. When they choose to appear in public place, they choose to be with people. Don’t insult and avoid them because their mission and success largely depend on them. There are many leaders, after became well-known, protect themselves by avoiding people; so they gradually fade and not many people shall remember them.

            However, Jesus didn’t spend all of his time with the crowd and forget about praying and resting. He reminded his disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while." People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat” (Mk 6:31). On another incident, Jesus “made the disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds” (Mt 14:22). And many times, he left the crowd and the disciples to come to mountain to pray alone (Mt 14:23, Lk 9:18, Jn 6:15). Jesus knew how to control his time and to behave in all situations.

  

2.2/ What do the adult need to learn from the children? Jesus certainly didn’t require us to be like children in all aspects because the children also need to learn from the adult to become more matured. Some of the children’s characters are needed for the adults’ relationship with God, such as:

            (1) Children completely believe in their parents, not in themselves or others. We also need to completely believe in God, not in any worldly power nor ourselves.

            (2) Whatever their parents teach, they obey; they don’t rebel against their parents. We also need to have that kind of attitude when we listen to God’s teaching. Don’t argue or find a reason to protect our sinful act.

            (3) Whatever children need, they ask, whenever they run out, they ask for more; they don’t know how to store up. God asks us to do the same. We ask Him for our daily food, not for our lifetime. Don’t store up when many don’t have enough to eat.

III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:                    

            - Everyone must be responsible for their deeds and life. We shouldn’t blame on the previous generation nor depend on the good deeds of the next generation.

            - We need to have a firm faith in God as the children believe in their parents. Do not let the business of life make us to lose this faith.

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Friday - Nineteenth week - OT1

 

Readings: Jos 24:1-13; Mt 19:3-12.

1/ First Reading: RSV Joshua 24:1 Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. 2 And Joshua said to all the people, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, `Your fathers lived of old beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods. 3 Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan, and made his offspring many. I gave him Isaac; 4 and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. And I gave Esau the hill country of Seir to possess, but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. 5 And I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt with what I did in the midst of it; and afterwards I brought you out. 6 Then I brought your fathers out of Egypt, and you came to the sea; and the Egyptians pursued your fathers with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. 7 And when they cried to the LORD, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and made the sea come upon them and cover them; and your eyes saw what I did to Egypt; and you lived in the wilderness a long time. 8 Then I brought you to the land of the Amorites, who lived on the other side of the Jordan; they fought with you, and I gave them into your hand, and you took possession of their land, and I destroyed them before you. 9 Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and fought against Israel; and he sent and invited Balaam the son of Beor to curse you, 10 but I would not listen to Balaam; therefore he blessed you; so I delivered you out of his hand. 11 And you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho, and the men of Jericho fought against you, and also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I gave them into your hand. 12 And I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out before you, the two kings of the Amorites; it was not by your sword or by your bow. 13 I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and cities which you had not built, and you dwell therein; you eat the fruit of vineyards and olive yards which you did not plant.'

2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 19:3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?" 4 He answered, "Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, `For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder." 7 They said to him, "Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?" 8 He said to them, "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery." 10 The disciples said to him, "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry." 11 But he said to them, "Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. 12 For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it."


I. THEME: Be loyal with our vocations.

            There are many reasons which people can lean on for not being loyal, such as: not knowing, environment, weakness, others; but God teaches that people must be loyal to Him and others in all situations of life. People are easily loyal to God and others when they are joyful, happy or at peace; but people can only prove their loyalty in difficult and suffering situations. For examples, St. Maximilian Kolbe proved his loyalty to God and other by volunteering being death for a young man so he could come back and take care of his family; many couples sacrificed their life to be loyal to their spouses and for their children to have both father and mother.

            Today readings give some reasons why people must be loyal to God and others. In the first readings, Joshua gathered all the Israelites to remind them of God’s loyalty through all what He has done for their forefathers and them. The reason of this reminding is for them to recognize God love and to be faithful with Him forever. In the Gospel, some Pharisees came to ask Jesus whether it is possible for them to divorce because of any reason. Jesus plainly answered them “No!” because that is God’s will from the beginning. In addition, Jesus also talked about being loyal in the single life because of the heavenly kingdom: Due to the love for God and others, many volunteered to sacrifice their life for the salvation of others.

  

II. ANALYSIS:

1/ Reading I: Since God is always loyal to you, you must also be loyal to Him.

            Because of his love for God and people, Joshua gathered all the Israelites at Shechem to remind them of what God has done for them and the previous generations.

            (1) What God did for their patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: They are three first forefathers of the Israelites. Beginning with Abraham, God chose him when Abraham didn’t know God and worshiped other gods. He chose and promised him two things. First, He promised to give him descendants as numerous as stars in the heaven and sand on the seashore even he had no child in his old ages. Secondly, he let him see the Promise Land where his descendants shall possess and live in it later. The first promise was fulfilled when God gave him Isaac in his old ages. From there, God let Isaac have two big descents which are Jacob and Esau. He let Esau possess the hill country of Seir while Jacob, together with his family, came down to Egypt.

            (2) What God did for Moses and the Israelites: In God’s providence, when Joseph, Jacob’s son, was sold by his brothers to the Egyptian merchants, God arranged so that Joseph could be the second man after Pharaoh, the Egyptian king, to bring Jacob and all members of his family to come down to Egypt and to settle there. When the Israelites were maltreated by the Egyptians and cried out to God, He commanded Moses, who survived the Pharaoh’s ordeal, to lead the Israelites out of Egypt after God poured down many terrible plagues on the Egyptian lands, especially at the crossing of the Red Sea.

            (3) What God prepared for the Israelites before He led them to the Promise Land: In order to enter and to settle in the Promise Land, the Israelites must fight again many nations who were living in those lands. In today passage, Joshua reminded them what God had just done for them, “Then I brought you to the land of the Amorites, who lived on the other side of the Jordan; they fought with you, and I gave them into your hand, and you took possession of their land, and I destroyed them before you.”

            (4) What God had done for the Israelites in the Promise Land, beginning with Jericho: Joshua continued, "And you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho, and the men of Jericho fought against you, and also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I gave them into your hand. And I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out before you, the two kings of the Amorites; it was not by your sword or by your bow.”

            Conclusion: With the victory at Jericho and many more later, God fulfilled His second promise which He promised with Abraham: “I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and cities which you had not built, and you dwell therein; you eat the fruit of vineyards and olive yards which you did not plant." When reminding these things for the Israelites, Joshua wanted them to see God’s love and loyalty for the Israelites. God always achieves what He promises though the Israelites’ hearts were hardened and they betrayed Him many times. Joshua hoped that when the Israelites recognized God’s love and loyalty, they shall return with their love and keep God’s law as we shall hear tomorrow.

2/ Gospel: The problem of divorce

2.1/ Why is divorce prohibited? When some Pharisees and scribes came to ask Jesus, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” Instead of answering “yes” or “no,” Jesus gave them the principle which exists from the beginning when God creates human beings: “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate” (cf. Gen 2:23-24). God establishes the principle, not the law; and based on this principle, marriage is undivided.

2.2/ Why did Moses permit divorce? When they said to him, "Then why did Moses command that the man give the woman a bill of divorce and dismiss her?"He said to them, "Because of the hardness (schlerokardía = hard to teach) of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” This is the second time in the passage, Jesus called them to return to the beginning when God creates everything good; divorce only happens when people fall to temptation and Moses permitted them to divorce. However, what Jesus wanted to emphasize here is that the law was made by Moses because of people’s hardness of heart, not by God. If people want to return to the perfect beginning, they must not divorce.

            There are differences between the Synoptists in the next verse: Mark and Luke didn’t list a single case which people are permitted to divorce; Matthew listed a case which people can divorce by saying, “whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.” The Greek noun in this case is “pornéia”which the NAB translated as “unlawful.” The commentators argued about this word because it has many meanings. According to Friberg lexicon, “pornéia” means fornication, is in wider sense than adultery which is “moikéia.” Pornéia can include any intercourse, such as: between two unmarried, prostitute or abnormal intercourse.

  

2.3/ Why are there unmarried people? When his disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry;”Jesus answered, "Not all can accept this word, but only those to whom that is granted.” Then He listed out three cases of those who don’t marry. First, some people are incapable of marriage because they were born so. This is the case of those who lack necessary physical or psychological elements to intercourse. Secondly, because they were made so by others. This is the case of eunuchs who work in the royal palaces; they were castrated so that they can’t intercourse with king’s wives and concubines. Lastly, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. This is the case of priests, religious brothers and sisters, and lay people who want to dedicate their whole life for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.

III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:                    

            - To show our love for God and others, we must be loyal with our vocation, especially during the times we confront with trials and sufferings in our life.

            - When God calls us to be perfect, He also gives enough grace so that we can fulfill that call. We fail to be loyal because we don’t fight with God’s grace, or we are indifferent with God and the sacraments which Christ established. 

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Thursday - Nineteenth week - OT1

Readings: Jos 3:7-10a, 11, 13-17; Mt 18:21-19:1.

 

1/ First Reading: RSV Joshua 3:7 And the LORD said to Joshua, "This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. 8 And you shall command the priests who bear the Ark of the Covenant, `When you come to the brink of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.'" 9 And Joshua said to the people of Israel, "Come hither, and hear the words of the LORD your God." 10 And Joshua said, "Hereby you shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites. 11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is to pass over before you into the Jordan. 13 And when the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be stopped from flowing, and the waters coming down from above shall stand in one heap." 14 So, when the people set out from their tents, to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, 15 and when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), 16 the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap far off, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were wholly cut off; and the people passed over opposite Jericho. 17 And while all Israel were passing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan.

 

2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" 22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. 23 "Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents; 25 and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, `Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' 27 And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat he said, `Pay what you owe.' 29 So his fellow servant fell down and besought him, `Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' 30 He refused and went and put him in prison till he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, `You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; 33 and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?' 34 And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart." 19:1 Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan.



I. THEME: God gives people enough grace so they could fulfill their given mission.

            Some people want to protect their sins by saying God commands them to do impossible things, such as: to become perfect, to forgive their enemy or to keep the commandments. They forget that God creates people; He knows well how human beings act and what they need. If God commands people to do impossible things, He no longer is the wise and powerful God.

            Today readings want to illustrate that God gives people enough grace so that they could fulfill His given missions. In the first reading, after Moses’ death, God gives Joshua the mission of leading the Israelites into the Promise Land. This is a very difficult mission for him and the Israelites. How could the Israelites fight against the native people to possess their lands? But God shows the Israelites His power and His choosing of Joshua by letting them to cross the Jordan River by feet. This event also reminds the Israelites the Exodus, the crossing of the Red River, so they should believe in God and Joshua. In the Gospel, when Peter asked Jesus how many times he ought to forgive his brothers and sisters; Jesus answered him that he must always forgive. Jesus also says a parable to illustrate the need of always forgiving. People not only have the capacity to do that; but they must also do that in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.

             

II. ANALYSIS:

 

1/ Reading I: God let the Israelites cross the Jordan River by feet.

 

1.1/ God gives the leader enough grace so he could fulfill his mission: The Lord said to Joshua, “This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.And you shall command the priests who bear the Ark of the Covenant, `When you come to the brink of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.'”

            God knows how to lead people, especially in difficult situations, isn’t easy; therefore, God prepares the Israelites’ mind and heart so they could believe in Joshua and obey him. He must also show His powerful arm which is also with people so they might have courage to enter the Promise Land. 

 

1.2/ The crossing of Jordan River reminds the Israelites of the crossing of the Red Sea: After receiving God’s revelation, Joshua gathered the Israelites and told them the thing which God is going to do for them. He said, “Hereby you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites. Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is to pass over before you into the Jordan. And when the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be stopped from flowing, and the waters coming down from above shall stand in one heap.”

            Like when Moses led the Israelites cross the Red Sea, they also have no ships or any other instruments to cross the Jordan River except to completely believe in God’s powerful arm. He wants to let them know that He is always with and protect them through the presence of the Ark of the Covenant.

            Joshua ordered the priests to carry the Ark of the Covenant ahead of the people. When the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the Ark of the Lord, “were dipped in the brink of the water (the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap far off, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were wholly cut off; and the people passed over opposite Jericho.”

 

2/ Gospel: The difficulty of forgiveness

 

2.1/ How many times one must forgive his opponent? We must be grateful for Peter’s fast reaction and his sincerity; because of him, we had Jesus’ clear explanation about the touchy and very difficult problem to handle.

            How many times must we forgive others? A Vietnamese adage said, “The maximum is three times.” The Jewish custom said, “The maximum is seven times.” St. Peter based on the tradition when he asked Jesus, “As many as seven times?" Jesus’ answer are startled us, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”

            The commentators used to argue with each other, what is Jesus meant of “seventy-seven times?” Some said it is 70 times 7, which equal to 490 times. Others said it is 707 or 777, a huge number. The important point which Jesus wanted to emphasize is that whenever our opponent said that he is sorry, we must forgive him. Many people shook their head and joked: Even the saints in the altar must come down to solve the problem, how can we forgive to those who keep sinning against us? But if we know that to become good is a progress which needs to be practiced many times, we must patiently forgive others.

 

2.2/ Why must we forgive? Instead of giving the answer, Jesus gave a clear example which can solve many other problems related to forgiveness. He said, “That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.' Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.”

            The contrast between the two debts and the manner of solving showed the wickedness of the one who was forgiven. The amount he was forgiven is ten thousand talents (tálanton) which is corresponding to 4.8 million dollars (one talent is about 5000-6000 denarii); while the amount his friend owed him was only 100 denarii (about 10 dollars). If we compare the two debts, this amout is so small. We were told of his action toward his friend, “He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, 'Pay back what you owe.' Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt.”

            Why did he act as such? Because he thought that no one shall know his action, especially the one who forgave him. But all the things he did couldn’t be hidden from his friends since these people could also be his debtor’s friends. “They were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?' Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.”

            Similarly in our relationship with God, if we refuse to forgive the small sins of our brothers and sisters as the wicked in today passage, how can we expect God to forgive the serious sin which we committed against Him? Therefore, forgiveness isn’t an option, but a duty and the punishment if we don’t, as Jesus warned us: “So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”

 

III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:                     

             - We must believe in God’s wisdom and power. When God demands us to do something or to give us a mission, He always gives us enough grace to do the thing He commands or to fulfill the mission He hands on to us.

            - God knows of our weakness and limitation; but our strength comes from God, not from us. God’s grace is always acted in human weakness, as St. Paul said, “When I am weak is the time I feel strong.”

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Wednesday - Nineteenth week - OT1

 

Readings: Deut 34:1-12; Mt 18:15-20.

1/ First Reading: RSV Deuteronomy 34:1 And Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan, 2 all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, 3 the Negeb, and the Plain, that is, the valley of Jericho the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. 4 And the Lord said to him, "This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, `I will give it to your descendants.' I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there." 5 So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord, 6 and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Bethpeor; but no man knows the place of his burial to this day. 7 Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died; his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. 8 And the people of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended. 9 And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands upon him; so the people of Israel obeyed him, and did as the Lord had commanded Moses. 10 And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11 none like him for all the signs and the wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, 12 and for all the mighty power and all the great and terrible deeds which Moses wrought in the sight of all Israel.

2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 18:15 "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them."


I. THEME: The communal must be put above individual dimension.

            God doesn’t live alone; He communicates with other two persons of the Holy Trinity, the angels and the human beings. God has power to do all things; but He chooses others to co-operate with Him in His plan of salvation. If God pays attention more to the communal than to the individual dimension, human beings must also do the same.

            Today readings want to emphasize the communal dimension in God’s plan of salvation. In the first reading, the author of the Book of Deuteronomy emphasized Moses’ sacrifice and guidance in leading God’s people from the Egyptians’ slavery land to the Promise Land. Moses fulfilled God’s given mission; and before passing away, he hands his leading mission to Joshua as God’s will so he could lead the Israelites to the Promise Land. In the Gospel, Jesus gives some important things which people need to do to protect and to guide the community such as: fraternal correction, holding and forgiving of one’s sin and communal prayers.

           

II. ANALYSIS:

1/ Reading I: “God sends each leader to fulfill a part of His plan of salvation.”

  

1.1/ Moses fulfilled God’s given duty: According to God’s providence, whatever God promises He shall achieve; when He achieves, no one knows the time. The history of salvation is a proof of this. Abraham didn’t live in this world to see his descendants to be “as many as stars in heaven or sand at the seashore” as they are today. Jesus didn’t live in this world to see his Gospel to extend to the end of the earth. And in today passage, Moses shall not live to guide the Israelites into the Promise Land which God promises to their patriarchs, though God leads him on Mount Nebo of Moab so he could see this Promise Land. God uses each leader in a certain time to do a part of His plan of salvation for humankind.

  

1.2/ The Israelites looked back at Moses’ life: In order to complete God’s given mission, Moses sacrificed all of his life for the Israelites until the last moment of his life. The Israelites wept and lamented Moses’ death partly because they are regretted of their maltreatment to him when he accompanied them during their forty years in the desserts, partly because they are sorry for him of not living long enough to see the result which he sacrificed his whole life to achieve.

            Moses must be the exemplar for all spiritual leaders. The purpose of leadership is to fulfill God’s will, not to accumulate benefits for the leaders. What they did for people aren’t always be recognized, appreciated or had result instantly; sometimes they must wait until they have to leave them or to pass away, people shall look back to recognize and to appreciate what they have done for them. The Israelites finally recognized and appreciated all things which Moses has done for them when he passed away.

            (1) Moses prepared for the Israelites a new leader: A responsible leader is the one who cares for people not only in the presence but also for their future by grooming a good leader to replace him. Moses prepared for the Israelites a good leader according to what is written in today passage, “And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands upon him; so the people of Israel obeyed him, and did as the Lord had commanded Moses.” The transition between Moses and Joshua can be compared with the transition between two prophets Elijah and Elisha. The laying of hands wants to emphasize that the communication of spirit is happened the same time with the handing of the mission.

            (2) Moses is the most important prophet: The author of the Book of Deuteronomy has a high regard for Moses when he said, “There has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face,none like him for all the signs and the wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land,and for all the mighty power and all the great and terrible deeds which Moses wrought in the sight of all Israel.”

            There were many prophets in the Old Testament, but they could only hear God’s word in their dreams or visions; only Moses could converse with God face-to-face without dying. The prophet Elijah could do many wonderful signs, but can’t be compared with Moses, both the amount of signs and the mighty power.

 

2/ Gospel: The unity in a community

  

2.1/ Fraternal correction: Correcting others is a very delicate issue and must be done due to the benefits of the community and the individual violator. In order for the correction to bear fruits, Jesus teaches us to carefully follow this process:

            (1) First, between only the two related persons: Jesus said, “If your brother sins against you; go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” Two things Jesus wants us to pay attention in this sentence. First, correction must be done between the two related persons, the violator and the violated. Most of the time, we corrected the violator through or under the presence of others. Doing at such shall have no result or the unwanted result, because no one wants to be corrected before others, especially before their intimate or relatives. Secondly, the purpose of correction isn’t about to satisfy our anger, but to gain a brother or a sister.

            (2) Next, bringing two or three witnesses: Jesus continues, “But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.” This is a wise thing to do because it helps both members to avoid their subjective views. Two or three witnesses are enough to conclude something is true. Most of the worldly courts use two or three witnesses to judge their people.

            (3) Lastly, before the whole community: Jesus continues, “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” The “ekklesia” in Greek can be any gathering of people, so it can be a family, a community or the Church. This is the last step to solve a problem to safeguard the common good and to avoid setting a “bad example” for a community. A Gentile and a tax collector are those who don’t know or disregard God’s law. However, we must be ready to forgive them when they repent.

  

2.2/ God presents in the midst of a community: We don’t deny God’s presence in an individual but His presence in a community must take precedence and have the priority. Jesus gives two examples to illustrate God is always presence in a community.

            (1) The right to bind and to loose one’s sin: Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” First of all, this right is used for the truth, not for the falsity because God is the truth. Secondly, Jesus wants to remind sinners that though they don’t see yet the result in this world, it isn’t meant that they can avoid it in the next life. Lastly, the Church uses this right for the sacrament of Reconciliation to forgive sins so sinners could begin a new life.

            (2) Unity in prayers: Jesus said, “Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” This promise doesn’t mean all things which people ask shall be guaranteed by God. In order to be heard, people must avoid selfish requests or those which cause damages for others; but those please God and bring benefits for others. Next, when God hears their prayer, it isn’t meant the petitioners shall receive exactly what they desire. Only God knows what is good and He shall give what is good for their future. Lastly, Jesus wants to emphasize God’s presence even in a group of two or three people, not only in a big gathering.

           

III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:                  

            - God never wants people to live by themselves; He wants people to live in community and blesses all things which they do together.

            - When there is a conflict of right, we must always put the common good over our individual good, whether in leading, correcting or praying.