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18th Week Friday - Reflections

18th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 10-08-18
Nahum 2:1, 3; 3:1-3, 6-7 / Matthew 16:24-25

For an empire to last about 1500 can be said to be quite remarkable by modern standards. But even in the ancient world, for an empire to last that long is certainly impressive.

The Assyrian empire lasted for more than 1500 years and its capital Nineveh was in modern day Iraq. The empire started to collapse in 612BC with the rise of the Babylonian empire.

The 1st reading is taken from the prophet Nahum. His name means "comforter". He prophesied about the end of the Assyrian empire and the destruction of its capital Nineveh.

He proclaimed peace to Judah and to celebrate their feast because Assyria will fall and be destroyed, as how he prophesied in the 1st reading.

But for the people of Judah, it would take a lot of faith and courage to believe that prophesy because they had seen how Assyria annihilated Samaria in 722BC and deported all its inhabitants such that the Northern Kingdom of Israel ceased to exist. And so the Southern Kingdom of Judah was waiting in fear of their turn.

So as with the rise and fall of kingdoms and empires, the Assyrian empire fell and what is left of it now are some artefacts of a bygone kingdom.

It only reiterates what Jesus said about what does a main gain by winning the whole world but losing his life and what can a man offer in exchange for his life.

All our achievements and accomplishments and awards would come to nothing and mean nothing if it is not done according to the will of God.

The will of God is for us to renounce ourselves and take up our cross and follow Jesus. In the cross is our comfort and also our glory. No material gains can be offered in exchange for that. It is in the cross that we find our peace and our salvation.

***
In the history of the world, we read about the rise and fall of empires. From the conquests of Alexander the Great to the Roman empire, the pattern has not changed.

They rose and they faded, and what is left of them are just names in the history books and remnants that are showcased in museums.

In the Middle East and during the period between 900 BC and 650 BC, Assyria was the major empire, with its capital at Nineveh.

It was also during this time that northern kingdom of Israel was annihilated and the southern kingdom of Judah was conquered.

Yet in the 1st reading, the prophet Nahum proclaimed peace for Judah and of her restoration. But the Lord God was going to put a stop to the ruthless plundering of Assyria.

Assyria in turn will be annihilated and turned into a ruin. As it was with the mighty and powerful kingdoms of the past, so its turn will come.

In the rise and fall of the mighty and powerful kingdoms, Jesus had this to say in the gospel: What then will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life? Or what has a man to offer in exchange for his life?

The answer is obvious and also a foregone conclusion. But that didn't seem so obvious to those who still want to pillage and plunder and to show their power and might.

On a lesser scale, the question for us is what are we trying to gain and what are we longing for.

If what we are looking for are not of the kingdom of above, then all will just fade and be forgotten, as it was with the kingdoms of this earth. (SY)