Bible Diary for August 13th – August 19th
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Claretian Martyrs of Barbastro
Sts. Pontian and Hippolytus
1st Reading: 1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a:
At the mountain of God, Horeb, Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter. Then the Lord said to him, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord — but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake— but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire— but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.
2nd Reading: Rom 9:1-5:
Brothers and sisters: I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing me witness that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites; theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.
Gospel: Mt 14:22-33:
After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.
“It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”
In the Jewish tradition, darkness combined with strong wind and water signify chaos. It points to the early times before creation came to be. This reading presents to us a re-creation scene with Jesus as the main protagonist and the disciples being the re-created persons of the new dispensation in Christ. In this Gospel, the lordship of Jesus over chaos is solid and firm. There is no doubt that He is more than just human for being able to do this. Peter sank when he walked amidst the turbulence and was saved by the Lord who stretched His hands to take him out of the water.
From incredulity and doubt, Peter was renewed into a firm believer of the Lord. This re-creative powers of the Lord on Peter spilled over to the other disciples who acknowledged Him as the true Son of God. There have been countless moments when I doubted. How many times must have I sunk in the waters of despair brought about by my unbelief? Today is a good day to make a confession of faith regarding who Jesus is for me. I will take some time and proclaim with my whole being that Jesus is my Lord and Savior.
St. Maximilian Kolbe
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:
As Jesus and his disciples were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were overwhelmed with grief. When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax approached Peter and said, “Does not your teacher pay the temple tax?” “Yes,” he said. When he came into the house, before he had time to speak, Jesus asked him, “What is your opinion, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take tolls or census tax? From their subjects or from foreigners?” When he said, “From foreigners,” Jesus said to him, “Then the subjects are exempt. But that we may not offend them, go to the sea, drop in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up. Open its mouth and you will find a coin worth twice the temple tax. Give that to them for me and for you.”
It might help to recall that neither the king’s family nor Roman citizens pay Roman taxes. But citizens of nations subject to Rome had to pay Roman taxes. Jewish converts to Christianity were faced with a dilemma – were they obliged to pay the Temple tax? They have joined a new faith community although they still continued to meet and pray in the Temple. This Gospel story provides some answer or clarification to the dilemma. Jesus himself paid the Temple tax, although he was the Son of God and was exempt. Christians are encouraged to pay as Jesus did so as not to cause scandal.
By doing so they would be giving a good example for other people to follow. Although they no longer have a moral obligation to pay Christians should be aware of the sensitivities of others. Paying the temple tax would likewise manifest respect for their ancestral heritage. This serves to remind us that our criteria for doing something good should not be whether we have a moral obligation or not. It should be what love or charity asks of us. In making a decision a good Christian does not ask, what is the most practical or most convenient thing to do? Rather he/she asks, what is the most loving thing to do in this situation?
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
1st Reading: 1 Chr 15:3-4, 15-16; 16:1-2:
David assembled all Israel in Jerusalem to bring the ark of the Lord to the place which he had prepared for it. David also called together the sons of Aaron and the Levites. The Levites bore the ark of God on their shoulders with poles, as Moses had ordained according to the word of the Lord. David commanded the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their kinsmen as chanters, to play on musical instruments, harps, lyres, and cymbals, to make a loud sound of rejoicing. They brought in the ark of God and set it within the tent which David had pitched for it. Then they offered up burnt offerings and peace offerings to God. When David had finished offering up the burnt offerings and peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord.
2nd Reading: 1 Cor 15:54b-57:
Brothers and sisters: When that which is mortal clothes itself with immortality, then the word that is written shall come about: Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Gospel: Lk 11:27-28:
While Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”
At first glance, Jesus seemed to deflect the praise given to His mother and re-channel it instead to those who hear God’s word and keep it. But a deeper reading of His words will tell us that He is elevating the virtues of Mary, not because she was His biological mother but because she accepted the Word of God without hesitation and allowed herself to be God’s vessel in the incarnation of His Son. It is true that Mary’s blessedness will always be connected to Jesus. That is why the woman in the crowd praised her because she had an extraordinary Son. But the Son would not have been Man if not for Mary’s docility to God’s word. That is why the Son praised his mother because of her extraordinary reception of, and obedience to, the word of God.
St. Stephen of Hungary
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:
Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell the Church. If he refuses to listen even to the Church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, 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. Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
Breaking bonds is such a serious affair that Jesus made it deliberately difficult to do so. One has to undergo all the processes enumerated before one can legitimately break one’s relationship with those one may have once called brothers or sisters. These show that Jesus puts premium on the preservation of the bond, of reconciliation and forgiveness. Only those who are deliberately set to break the relationship would have the stamina and the will to do so.
1st Reading: Jos 3:7-10a, 11, 13-17:
The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know I am with you, as I was with Moses. Now command the priests carrying the ark of the covenant to come to a halt in the Jordan when you reach the edge of the waters.” So Joshua said to the children of Israel, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord, your God. This is how you will know that there is a living God in your midst, who at your approach will dispossess the Canaanites. The ark of the covenant of the Lord of the whole earth will precede you into the Jordan. When the soles of the feet of the priests carrying the ark of the Lord, the Lord of the whole earth, touch the water of the Jordan, it will cease to flow; for the water flowing down from upstream will halt in a solid bank.”
The people struck their tents to cross the Jordan, with the priests carrying the ark of the covenant ahead of them. No sooner had these priestly bearers of the ark waded into the waters at the edge of the Jordan, which overflows all its banks during the entire season of the harvest, than the waters flowing from upstream halted, backing up in a solid mass for a very great distance indeed, from Adam, a city in the direction of Zarethan; while those flowing downstream toward the Salt Sea of the Arabah disappeared entirely. Thus the people crossed over opposite Jericho. While all Israel crossed over on dry ground, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord remained motionless on dry ground in the bed of the Jordan until the whole nation had completed the passage.
Gospel: Mt 18:21–19:1:
Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. 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. When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. 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 the fellow servant put in prison until he paid back the debt. Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, 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. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.” When Jesus finished these words, he left Galilee and went to the district of Judea across the Jordan.
One of the most difficult things to do is to forgive. If the hurt is too deep, it takes a herculean effort before one can truly forgive and forget. And only a few are capable of this. The vast majority of us need time before we could truly heal into wholeness and move on without rancour and ill will to those who have offended us. That is why it is not easy to be the Lord’s disciple. The demand is such that we have to truly believe in order to overcome. We have to acknowledge first our own sinfulness and believe that we have been forgiven of our entire debts. That’s the only time we can forgive wholeheartedly. For what we don’t have, we cannot give. To claim that we have been forgiven gives us the power to forgive others as well.
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 Jesus, and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” He said in reply, “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, man must not separate.” 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 of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery.” His disciples said to him, “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” He answered, “Not all can accept this word, but only those to whom that is granted. Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”
In today’s gospel reading, which presents Jesus’ absolute prohibition of divorce, there seems to be an exception to this prohibition, since Jesus specifies that divorce is not possible “unless it be for immorality” (porneia in the Greek text)! Some explanatory remarks might be useful here. First, Matthew is the only gospel containing this so-called “exceptive clause.” All other parallel texts have no such clause (Mk 10:11-12; Lk 16:18; 1 Cor 7:10-11). Second, in Matthew’s community, the rabbis had allowed pagan converts who were married to close relatives (marriages prohibited by the Mosaic law—cf. Lev 18: 6-18) to remain in such marriages, considered incestuous in Jewish law.
Here Matthew applies the law of Jesus by saying: divorce is prohibited, except in the case of incestuous marriages, which should be dissolved. In other words, the “exceptive clause” constitutes no real exception to the absolute prohibition of divorce when the marriage is lawful. This absolute stance of Jesus might appear hard to some Christians. But it is the only stance which can save us from social chaos. A look at our divorce-prone society should convince us of that. How many millions of children are deprived of at least one parent because of divorce and grow up in an abnormal setting?
St. John Eudes
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:
Children were brought to Jesus that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said, “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.
There is something unusual here in Jesus’ teaching and action. He invites to himself the little children who were of least consequence and with no powerful standing in society, proposes them as models for human behavior especially in receiving the Kingdom of God. We are aware that in the Jewish culture during the time of Jesus, children were not taken seriously. They were not given the respect and esteem that they deserved. By presenting them as exemplars for how to receive the kingdom, Jesus was in effect recognizing the positive qualities or virtues exhibited by young children such as humility, docility, transparency/honesty and obedience – among others.
Jesus’ teaching and action favoring innocent children serves as an encouragement for most of us. Even though we might feel inferior to everyone else, Jesus tells us we are worth a billion in God’s sight. That should give enough self-esteem and self-confidence. We are loved and “small people” like us have a place in the kingdom of heaven. At the same time, the respect for children and their ability to symbolize the proper approach to the kingdom of God seems particularly important in view of recent revelations about child abuse. Abuse of children is rooted in a lack of respect and appreciation of their worth. It might help to keep in mind always that there is so much that innocent little children can teach us.