Bible Diary for August 11th – 17th

August 11th

1st Reading: Wis 18:6-9:
The night of the Passover was known beforehand to our fathers, that, with sure knowledge of the oaths in which they put their faith, they might have courage. Your people awaited the salvation of the just and the destruction of their foes. For when you punished our adversaries, in this you glorified us whom you had summoned. For in secret the holy children of the good were offering sacrifice and putting into effect with one accord the divine institution.

2nd Reading: Heb 11:1-2, 8-19:
Faith is the assurance of what we hope for, being certain of what we cannot see. Because of their faith, our ancestors were approved. It was by faith, that Abraham, called by God, set out for a country that would be given to him as an inheritance; for he parted without knowing where he was going. By faith, he lived as a stranger in that promised land. There, he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, beneficiaries of the same promise. Indeed, he looked forward to that city of solid foundation, of which God is the architect and builder.

By faith, Sarah, herself, received power to become a mother, in spite of her advanced age; since she believed that, he, who had made the promise, would be faithful. Therefore, from an almost impotent man, were born descendants, as numerous as the stars of heaven, as many as the grains of sand on the seashore. Death found all these people strong in their faith. They had not received what was promised, but they had looked ahead, and had rejoiced in it, from afar, saying that they were foreigners and travelers on earth. Those who speak in this way prove, that they are looking for their own country. For, if they had longed for the land they had left, it would have been easy for them to return, but no, they aspired to a better city, that is, a supernatural one; so God, who prepared the city for them, is not ashamed of being called their God.

By faith, Abraham went to offer Isaac, when God tested him. And so, he, who had received the promise of God, offered his only son, although God had told him: Isaac’s descendants will bear your name. Abraham reasoned, that God is capable even of raising the dead, and he received back his son, which has a figurative meaning.

Gospel: Lk 12:32-48:
Do not be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom. Sell what you have and give alms. Get yourselves purses that do not wear out, and an inexhaustible treasure in the heavens, where no thief comes and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Be ready, dressed for service, and keep your lamps lit, like people waiting for their master to return from the wedding. As soon as he comes and knocks, they will open the door to him. Happy are those servants whom the master finds wide awake when he comes.

Truly, I tell you, he will put on an apron, and have them sit at table, and he will wait on them. Happy are those servants, if he finds them awake when he comes at midnight or daybreak! Pay attention to this: If the master of the house had known at what time the thief would come, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man will come at an hour you do not expect.” Peter said, “Lord, did you tell this parable only for us, or for everyone?” And the Lord replied, “Imagine, then, the wise and faithful steward, whom the master sets over his other servants, to give them wheat at the proper time. Fortunate is this servant if his master, on coming home, finds him doing his work.

Truly, I say to you, the master will put him in charge of all his property. But it may be that the steward thinks, ‘My Lord delays in coming,’ and he begins to abuse the male servants and the servant girls, eating and drinking and getting drunk. Then the master will come on a day he does not expect, and at an hour he doesn’t know. He will cut him off, and send him to the same fate as the unfaithful. The servant who knew his master’s will, but did not prepare and do what his master wanted, will be soundly beaten; but the one who does unconsciously what deserves punishment, shall receive fewer blows. Much will be required of the one who has been given much, and more will be asked of the one who has been entrusted with more.

What we have in the readings today are the core elements in the success of any worthwhile undertaking, namely: faith and action. In the Christian context, when combined, they form the synergy that effects the salvation of all creation. Having believed in Jesus and followed him, Jesus instructed them of the necessity to be always ready while they await his return. Being ready means, in our day, that our faith in God needs to be accompanied by good deeds that advance His reign of justice, love and mercy.

Our faith in a loving and merciful God is made concrete in our works for the needy and the marginalized. It is also made visible in our defense of the rights and dignity of our fellow humans, and in our protection of other forms of life on Earth. Possessing a steadfast faith will move us to become “keepers” and carers of all that God has created, humans and other than human beings alike. Lord, grant us the grace to translate our love and faith in you into concrete actions for others.

August 12th

St. Jane Frances de Chantal

1st Reading: Dt 10:12-22:
Moses said to the people:
“And now, Israel, what does the Lord, your God, ask of you but to fear the Lord, your God, and follow his ways exactly, to love and serve the Lord, your God, with all your heart and all your soul, to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord which I enjoin on you today for your own good? Think! The heavens, even the highest heavens, belong to the Lord, your God, as well as the earth and everything on it. Yet in his love for your fathers the Lord was so attached to them as to choose you, their descendants, in preference to all other peoples, as indeed he has now done. Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and be no longer stiff-necked.

For the Lord, your God, is the God of gods, the Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who has no favorites, accepts no bribes; who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and befriends the alien, feeding and clothing him. So you too must befriend the alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. The Lord, your God, shall you fear, and him shall you serve; hold fast to him and swear by his name. He is your glory, he, your God, who has done for you those great and terrible things which your own eyes have seen. Your ancestors went down to Egypt seventy strong, and now the Lord, your God, has made you as numerous as the stars of the sky.”

Gospel: Mt 17:22-27:
While Jesus was in Galilee with the Twelve, he said to them, “The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. But he will rise on the third day.” The Twelve were deeply grieved. When they returned to Capernaum, the temple tax collectors came to Peter and asked him, “Does your master pay the temple tax?” He answered, “Yes.”

Peter then entered the house; and immediately, Jesus asked him, “What do you think, Simon? Who pay taxes or tribute to the kings of the earth: their sons or strangers and aliens?” Peter replied, “Strangers and aliens.” And Jesus told him, “The sons, then, are tax free. But, so as not to offend these people, go to the sea, throw in a hook, and open the mouth of the first fish you catch. You will find a coin in it. Take the coin and give it to them for you and for me.”

Here, the gospel writer once again highlights Peter’s special position, but this is not to say it is the focus of the passage. The writer locates the “center of gravity” of the episode in the “teaching on freedom balanced by concern to avoid unnecessary scandal” (Brendan Byrne). To Jesus, he is not obligated to pay the temple tax, but still freely chose to do so out of consideration of the Jewish community, particularly the tax collectors. A seminarian narrated an incident during an apostolate work at Villa Maria, an indigenous people’s community in a mountainous area in our archdiocese.

While walking back to the village, together with a man from the community, he saw ripe bananas still hanging on the plant and asked the man to get the bananas for them to eat and bring to the village. The man climbed up and got only a few bananas. Wondering why he did not get them all, he asked him. In reply the man said: “We only get what is enough and leave the rest for others who might come this way and might be hungry.

August 13th

St. Pontian
St. Hippolytus

1st Reading: Dt 31:1-8:
When Moses had finished speaking to all Israel, he said to them, “I am now one hundred and twenty years old and am no longer able to move about freely; besides, the Lord has told me that I shall not cross this Jordan. It is the Lord, your God, who will cross before you; he will destroy these nations before you, that you may supplant them. It is Joshua who will cross before you, as the Lord promised. The Lord will deal with them just as he dealt with Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites whom he destroyed, and with their country. When, therefore, the Lord delivers them up to you, you must deal with them exactly as I have ordered you. Be brave and steadfast; have no fear or dread of them, for it is the Lord, your God, who marches with you; he will never fail you or forsake you.”

Then Moses summoned Joshua and in the presence of all Israel said to him, “Be brave and steadfast, for you must bring this people into the land which the Lord swore to their fathers he would give them; you must put them in possession of their heritage. It is the Lord who marches before you; he will be with you and will never fail you or forsake you. So do not fear or be dismayed.”

Gospel: Mt 18:1-5, 10, 12-14:
At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child, set the child in the midst of the disciples, and said, “I assure you, that, unless you change, and become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble, like this child, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and whoever receives such a child, in my name, receives me. See that you do not despise any of these little ones; for I tell you, their angels in heaven continually see the face of my heavenly Father.

What do you think of this? If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them strays, won’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hillside, and go to look for the stray one? And I tell you, when he finally finds it, he is more pleased about it, than about the ninety-nine that did not go astray. It is the same with your Father in heaven. Your Father in heaven doesn’t want even one of these little ones to perish.

Why did Jesus set the childlike humility as the measure of greatness and the requisite to be able to enter of heaven? It is because childlike humility does not have any pretensions. It fully recognizes the self as being inadequate to do simple and great things. It sees beyond itself a power behind all achievements and all undertakings. It does not see itself as the originator; it points to something else that is greater. And so, it does not usurp the credit. Childlike humility does not seek recognition for accomplishments.

It does not need social status and power; it is at peace with being what it is. It strips one’s self of those things that make one arrogant and conceited. Without this childlike humility we will look down on others and God is situated at the periphery of life and human affairs, to the point of not being there at all. Jesus is out of the picture. Childlike humility brings Jesus back into the picture. It locates Jesus at the center, the source, and the goal of all actions. This is precisely why it is the ticket to enter God’s reign of love.

August 14th

St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe

1st Reading: Dt 34:1-12:
Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, the headland of Pisgah which faces Jericho, and the Lord showed him all the land—Gilead, and as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, the circuit of the Jordan with the lowlands at Jericho, city of palms, and as far as Zoar. The Lord then said to him, “This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that I would give to their descendants. I have let you feast your eyes upon it, but you shall not cross over.”

So there, in the land of Moab, Moses, the servant of the Lord, died as the Lord had said; and he was buried in the ravine opposite Beth-peor in the land of Moab, but to this day no one knows the place of his burial. Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were undimmed and his vigor unabated. For thirty days the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab, till they had completed the period of grief and mourning for Moses.

Now Joshua, son of Nun, was filled with the spirit of wisdom, since Moses had laid his hands upon him; and so the children of Israel gave him their obedience, thus carrying out the Lord’s command to Moses. Since then no prophet has arisen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. He had no equal in all the signs and wonders the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh and all his servants and against all his land, and for the might and the terrifying power that Moses exhibited in the sight of all Israel.

Gospel: Mt 18:15-20:
If your brother has sinned against you, go and point out the fault to him, when the two of you are alone; and if he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he doesn’t listen to you, take with you one or two others, so that the case may be decided by the evidence of two or three witnesses. And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembled Church. But if he does not listen to the Church, then regard him as a pagan, or a tax collector.

I say to you: whatever you bind on earth, heaven will keep bound; and whatever you unbind on earth, heaven will keep unbound. In like manner, I say to you, if, on earth, two of you agree in asking for anything, it will be granted to you by my heavenly Father; for where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there, among them.”

The early Christian Church/communities was not free from discord, misunderstanding, hostility, etc., in spite of the presence of the Jesus’ immediate disciples. Striking within the Christian communities is the recognition of the presence of their risen Lord. They truly believe that the risen Jesus is with them. To say that Jesus is in our midst, with us, means regarding our fellow humans with dignity; and treating them with love and understanding, even when they commit a mistake, when they misbehave, always allowing room for forgiveness and rectification.

It means respecting, caring for others as a sister and as a brother, praying only the good for them and not harm, and wishing them blessings of every kind, not misfortune. In our ecological age, it would also mean that Jesus is present in the natural world, in every “good” creature of God. That’s why our respect for human life needs to be extended in all forms of life on Earth, which bear and manifest the love of God. It means recognizing the rights of other creatures for existence and their intrinsic value. This time, the pronoun “our” in the phrase “Jesus in our midst” includes both human and nonhuman creatures.

August 15th

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

1st Reading: Rev 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab:
God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple. 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. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. 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.

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. 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. The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God. 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 One.”

2nd Reading: 1 Cor 15:20-27:
Brothers and sisters:
Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through man, the resurrection of the dead came also through man. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the first fruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ; 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. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death, for “he subjected everything under his feet.”

Gospel: Lk 1:39-56:
Mary then set out for a town in the Hills of Judah. She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb. Elizabeth was filled with Holy Spirit, and giving a loud cry, said, “You are most blessed among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb! How is it that the mother of my Lord comes to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby within me suddenly leapt for joy. Blessed are you who believed that the Lord’s word would come true! And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God my savior! He has looked upon his servant in her lowliness, and people forever will call me blessed.

“The Mighty One has done great things for me, Holy is his Name! From age to age his mercy extends to those who live in his presence. “He has acted with power and done wonders, and scattered the proud with their plans. He has put down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up those who are downtrodden. “He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He held out his hand to Israel, his servant, for he remembered his mercy, even as he promised our fathers, Abraham and his descendants forever.” Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months, and then returned home.

In most of my adult life, I have not paid much attention to Mary and her important role in the history of salvation. However, it dawned on me that without her “yes” to the announcement of the angel Gabriel, God’s saving plan would have been frustrated. What made her “most blessed among women”? What is truly special about her? Three reasons come to mind why Elizabeth rightly declared her as the most blessed among women and why people of every generation would call her blessed: first, God himself chose her; second, she said “yes” to the announcement of the angel Gabriel.

The third, I want to give emphasis: she carried the Son of God in her womb for nine months; she brought Jesus to human life; she nursed him in infancy; she played with him when he was a boy; she cared for him as he grows; she was a witness as to how he conducted his ministry; and, she was there when he suffered and died on the cross. Imagine the interaction between the mother and the Son of God! Imagine also the intimacy between them! This is why I believe that the risen Christ appeared to Mary before he ascended back to the Father.

August 16th

Stephen of Hungary

1st Reading: Jos 24:1-13:
Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem, summoning their elders, their leaders, their judges and their officers. When they stood in ranks before God, Joshua addressed all the people: “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: In times past your fathers, down to Terah, father of Abraham and Nahor, dwelt beyond the River and served other gods. But I brought your father Abraham from the region beyond the River and led him through the entire land of Canaan. I made his descendants numerous, and gave him Isaac. To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. To Esau I assigned the mountain region of Seir in which to settle, while Jacob and his children went down to Egypt.

“Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and smote Egypt with the prodigies which I wrought in her midst. Afterward I led you out of Egypt, and when you reached the sea, the Egyptians pursued your fathers to the Red Sea with chariots and horsemen. Because they cried out to the Lord, he put darkness between your people and the Egyptians, upon whom he brought the sea so that it engulfed them. After you witnessed what I did to Egypt, and dwelt a long time in the desert, I brought you into the land of the Amorites who lived east of the Jordan. They fought against you, but I delivered them into your power.

You took possession of their land, and I destroyed them, the two kings of the Amorites, before you. Then Balak, son of Zippor, king of Moab, prepared to war against Israel. He summoned Balaam, son of Beor, to curse you; but I would not listen to Balaam. On the contrary, he had to bless you, and I saved you from him. Once you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho, the men of Jericho fought against you, but I delivered them also into your power. And I sent the hornets ahead of you that drove them (the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites) out of your way; it was not your sword or your bow.

“I gave you a land that you had not tilled and cities that you had not built, to dwell in; you have eaten of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.”

Gospel: Mt 19:3-12:
Some Pharisees approached him. They wanted to test him and asked, “Is a man allowed to divorce his wife for any reason he wants?” Jesus replied, “Have you not read, that, in the beginning, the Creator made them male and female? And the Creator said: Therefore, a man shall leave father and mother, and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one body. So, they are no longer two, but one body. Let no one separate what God has joined.” They asked him, “Then why did Moses command us to write a bill of dismissal in order to divorce?”

Jesus replied, “Moses knew the hardness of your hearts, so he allowed you to divorce your wives; but it was not so in the beginning. Therefore, I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, unless it be for immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” The disciples said, “If that is the condition of a married man, it is better not to marry.” Jesus said to them, “Not everybody can accept what you have just said, but only those who have received this gift. There are eunuchs born so, from their mother’s womb. Some have been made that way by others. But there are some who have given up the possibility of marriage, for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who can accept it, accept it.”

There are two essential elements of life-long faithfulness in marriage, without which marriage is an impossibility, without which marriage cannot endure, namely: the offering of one’s self and sacrifice. They are both an expression and assurance of the love of a woman and a man for each other. The love that reigns in their marital relationship is always ready to give and to sacrifice. Minus this self-giving and sacrificial love, marriage collapses. Was it not through offering/giving and sacrifice that God’s saving plan in Jesus proceeded?

Jesus, as an embodiment of the love of God, taught and showed us how this giving and sacrifice, in concrete form, might be imitated. From his ministry of giving and sacrifice, we know how he impacted the lives of people he had come across with, and what he won for us. That is why in married life we have an idea how giving and sacrifice might affect the relationship of a couple. It is said: “Life-long faithfulness in marriage is a sign and manifestation of the kingdom” (Brendan Byrne). That is only so when marriage is marked, among other things, by self-offering and self-sacrifice.

August 17th

1st Reading: Jos 24:14-29:
Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem, and addressed them, saying: “Fear the Lord and serve him completely and sincerely. Cast out the gods your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

But the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord for the service of other gods. For it was the Lord, our God, who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, out of a state of slavery. He performed those great miracles before our very eyes and protected us along our entire journey and among all the peoples through whom we passed. At our approach the Lord drove out all the peoples, including the Amorites who dwelt in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.” Joshua in turn said to the people, “You may not be able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy God; he is a jealous God who will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If, after the good he has done for you, you forsake the Lord and serve strange gods, he will do evil to you and destroy you.”

But the people answered Joshua, “We will still serve the Lord.” Joshua therefore said to the people, “You are your own witnesses that you have chosen to serve the Lord.” They replied, “We are, indeed!” Joshua continued: “Now, therefore, put away the strange gods that are among you and turn your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” Then the people promised Joshua, “We will serve the Lord, our God, and obey his voice.”

So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem, which he recorded in the book of the law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak that was in the sanctuary of the Lord. And Joshua said to all the people, “This stone shall be our witness, for it has heard all the words which the Lord spoke to us. It shall be a witness against you, should you wish to deny your God.” Then Joshua dismissed the people, each to his own heritage. After these events, Joshua, son of Nun, servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten.

Gospel: Mt 19:13-15:
Then little children were brought to Jesus, that he might lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded those who brought them. Jesus then said, “Let the children be! Don’t hinder them from coming to me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are humble, like these children.” Jesus laid his hands on them and went away.

A number of things might be learned from children: (1) Children are experts in living in the present moment, in the “now”. The cares of the world do not distract them; they are not caught up in them; they are able to capture and enjoy, without difficulty, the beauty and goodness a moment brings before them. They are simply there. In contrast, we adults have the tendency to be overwhelmed by the daily conduct of human affairs. We are held back in/by worries, disappointments, frustrations, and fear. As a result we miss out the joy and “life” that each day carries.

We forget that the “now”, the present, is a gift; and, it offers us a world of many (sometimes endless) possibilities. (2) In children, humility is always at work. They are humble in the sense that they do not have to arm themselves with pretensions. “I am/have more . . .”, “I am greater . . .”, and “You are less . . .”, are not in their consciousness. He is simply her/he to herself/himself, and you are simply you to her/him. It does not worry them about our impression of them. (3) It is easy for children to let go. To us adults, worries, disappointments, frustrations and fear are strongest.