Bible Diary for August 16th – 22nd

August 16th

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. Stephen of Hungary

1st Reading: Is 56:1, 6–7:
This is what Yahweh says: Maintain what is and do what is just, for my salvation is close at hand, my justice is soon to come. Yahweh says to the foreigners who join him, serving him and loving his name, keeping his Sabbath unprofaned and remaining faithful to his Covenant: I will bring them to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. I will accept on my altar their burnt offerings and sacrifices, for my house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations.

2nd Reading: Rom 11:13–15, 29–32:
Listen to me, you who are not Jews: I am spending myself, as an apostle to the pagan nations, but I hope my ministry will be successful enough to awaken the jealousy of those of my race, and, finally, to save some of them. If the world made peace with God, when they remained apart, what will it be, when they are welcomed? Nothing less than, a passing from death to life. Because the call of God, and his gifts, cannot be nullified. Through the disobedience of the Jews, the mercy of God came to you who did not obey God. They, in turn, will receive mercy, in due time, after this disobedience, that brought God’s mercy to you. So, God has submitted all to disobedience, in order to show his mercy to all.

Gospel: Mt 15:21–28:
Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from the area, came and cried out, “Lord, Son of David, have pity on me! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But Jesus did not answer her, not even a word. So his disciples approached him and said, “Send her away! See how she is shouting after us.” Then Jesus said to her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the nation of Israel.”

But the woman was already kneeling before Jesus, and said, “Sir, help me!” Jesus answered, “It is not right to take the bread from the children and throw it to puppies.” The woman replied, “That is true, sir, but even puppies eat the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said, “Woman, how great is your faith! Let it be as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

A person of lesser stuff would have just walked away when Jesus began to speak of His exclusive ministry for the lost sheep of Israel. The Canaanite woman and her daughter did not belong to the race of Abraham. She neither had the right to ask nor impose healing for her daughter on Him. But she had something that made her hold her ground. It was desperation over a loved one’s hopeless condition. This enabled her to forget about herself and allowed all her strength to work for the cure of her beloved daughter.

Her selflessness made her a strong woman. She was able to do what she did because she loved her daughter that much. And so Jesus was won over. He granted the request of the mother who had suffered for love. The Canaanite woman facilitated the healing of her daughter by her persistence. Have I helped others towards the point of persistence? Or do I help only at my own convenience? Today I will try to identify those whom I would like to help even at the expense of my own comfort and pride.

August 17th

1st Reading: Ezk 24:15–23:
The word of Yahweh came to me in these terms, “Son of man, I am about to suddenly take from you the delight of your eyes, but you are not to lament or weep or let your tears flow. Groan in silence and do not mourn for the dead; wear your turban, put on your sandals, do not cover your beard or eat the customary food of mourners.” I spoke to the people in the morning and my wife died that evening. The next morning I did as I had been commanded. Then the people said to me: “Explain to us the meaning of your actions.”

I said to them, “The word of Yahweh came to me in these terms: ‘Say to Israel: I am about to profane my Sanctuary, your pride, the delight of your eyes for which you long. The sons and daughters you left behind will also fall by the sword, but you will do as I have done: you will not cover your beard or eat the customary food of mourners; you will keep your turbans on your heads and sandals on your feet. You will not lament or weep. Instead, because of your sin, you will waste away and groan among yourselves.

Gospel: Mt 19:16–22:
It was then, that a young man approached him and asked, “Master, what good work must I do to receive eternal life?” Jesus answered, “Why do you ask me about what is good? One, only, is good. If you want to enter eternal life, keep the commandments.” The young man said, “Which commandments?” Jesus replied, “Do not kill; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; honor your father and mother. And love your neighbor as yourself.”

The young man said to him, “I have kept all these commandments. What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell all that you possess, and give the money to the poor; and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come back and follow me.” On hearing this, the young man went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

Keeping the commandments is easy for some. They go through life, conscious of the dos and don’ts of their faith, and follow it conscientiously. With this they will be okay. It is only when they ask what more they can do to demonstrate their faith that problems may arise. For the bar of holiness is set high. Jesus, who left everything behind in obedience to God’s will, is the standard. We are therefore forewarned never to ask God a question if we are not yet ready for the possible answer. Discipleship grows in strength in time. We must not force it to blossom prematurely.

August 18th

1st Reading: Ezk 28:1–10:
The word of Yahweh came to me in these terms, “Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre: You are very proud and self-satisfied: ‘I am a god, I sit like a god in the heart of the sea.’ Yet you are man and not a god; would you hold yourself as wise as God? You consider yourself wiser than Daniel; no secret is hidden from you. Your wisdom and know-how have earned you a fortune, gold and silver flowed to your treasury. Clever in trade, you became wealthy and, as your fortune increased, your heart became  prouder. But now, Yahweh has spoken to you, to the one who is like God: I am bringing foreigners against you, the most feared of all the nations. Their sword will challenge your wisdom and debase your refined culture. They will bring you down to the pit and you will die in the depths of the sea. Will you be able to say ‘I am a god’ when your murderers are killing you? You are a man and not a god. You will die the death of the uncircumcised and perish at the hands of aliens, for I have spoken—word of Yahweh.”

Gospel: Mt 19:23–30:
Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I say to you: it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Yes, believe me: it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for the one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.” On hearing this, the disciples were astonished and said, “Who, then, can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and answered, “For human beings it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”

Then Peter spoke up and said, “You see, we have given up everything to follow you. What, then, will there be for us?” Jesus answered, “You, who have followed me, listen to my words: on the Day of Renewal, when the Son of Man sits on his throne in glory, you, also, will sit, on twelve thrones, to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. As for those who have left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or property for my Name’s sake, they will receive a hundredfold, and be given eternal life. Many who are now first, will be last, and many who are now last, will be first.

Why is it so dangerous to be rich? Because you are against spiritual wisdom that says it is difficult for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God. The Gospel today tells as much. The consolation is that it does not express out rightly that the rich are excluded de facto from God’s kingdom. It only talks about the hardship riches entail in entering God’s kingdom.

It is because of this that the rich of this world have to work overtime to be assured of salvation. And for those who feel exempted because of the lack of material wealth, they have to seriously see whether they have other forms of “riches” that might be a hindrance to the kingdom. In the end, it calls all of us to make a serious inventory of the “riches” we hold dear that might seal our fate in the final days to come.

August 19th

St. John Eudes

1st Reading: Ezk 34:1–11:
The word of Yahweh came to me in these terms, Son of man, speak on my behalf against the shepherds of Israel! Say to the shepherds on my behalf: Woe to the shepherds of Israel, who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock? But you feed on milk and are clothed in wool, and you slaughter the fattest sheep. You have not taken care of the flock; you have not strengthened the weak, cared for the sick or bandaged the injured. You have not gone after the sheep that strayed or searched for the one that was lost. Instead, you ruled them harshly and were their oppressors. They have scattered, for want of a shepherd, and became prey of wild animals. My sheep wander over the mountains and high hills; and when they are scattered throughout the land, no one bothers about them or looks for them.

Hear, then, shepherds, what Yahweh says: As I live—word of Yahweh,—because my sheep have been the prey of wild animals and become their food for want of shepherds, because the shepherds have not cared for my sheep, because, you, shepherds have not bothered about them, but fed yourselves, and not the flocks, because of that, hear the word of Yahweh. This is what Yahweh says: I will ask an account of the shepherds and reclaim my sheep from them. No longer shall they tend my flock; nor shall there be shepherds who feed themselves. I shall save the flock from their mouths; and no longer shall it be food for them. Indeed Yahweh says this: I, myself, will care for my sheep and watch over them.

Gospel: Mt 20:1–16:
This story throws light on the kingdom of heaven: A land¬ owner went out early in the morning, to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay each worker the usual daily wage, and sent them to his vineyard. He went out again, at about nine in the morning, and, seeing others idle in the town square, he said to them, ‘You also, go to my vineyard, and I will pay you what is just.’ So they went. The owner went out at midday, and, again, at three in the afternoon, and he made the same offer. Again he went out, at the last working hour—the eleventh—and he saw others standing around. So he said to them, ‘Why do you stand idle the whole day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ The master said, ‘Go, and work in my vineyard.’

When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wage, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ Those who had gone to work at the eleventh hour came up, and were each given a silver coin. When it was the turn of the first, they thought they would receive more. But they, too, received one silver coin. On receiving it, they began to grumble against the landowner. They said, ‘These last, hardly worked an hour; yet, you have treated them the same as us, who have endured the heavy work of the day and the heat.’ The owner said to one of them, ‘Friend, I have not been unjust to you. Did we not agree on one silver coin per day? So, take what is yours and go. I want to give to the last the same as I give to you. Don’t I have the right to do as I please with what is mine? Why are you envious when I am kind?’ So will it be: the last will be first, the first will be last.”

The parable seems to tell us that it is not our effort that will bring us to heaven but the generosity of Him who dwells in the heavenly kingdom. For no matter how much we try, we will only be worth “a day’s wage.” But even though we try later like the workers who were hired late, still we will get a day’s worth wage if the owner wills it. And no one can question His action. He is the manager of His possessions and He will dispose of them according to His will. And so rather than fret whether we have received more than those who were late, let us just do what we can do for God. Let us rejoice that He is generous because all of us in the end do not deserve what we will receive.

August 20th

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

1st Reading: Ezk 36:23–28:
I will make known the holiness of my great name, profaned among the nations because of you; and they will know that I am Yahweh, when I show them my holiness among you. For I will gather you from all the nations and bring you back to your own land. Then I shall pour pure water over you and you shall be made clean—cleansed from the defilement of all your idols. I shall give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I shall remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I shall put my spirit within you and move you to follow my decrees and keep my laws. You will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you shall be my people and I will be your God.

Gospel: Mt 22:1–14:
Jesus continued speaking to them in parables: “This story throws light on the kingdom of heaven: A king gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to call the invited guests to the banquet, but the guests refused to come. Again, he sent other servants, instructing them to say to the invited guests, ‘I have prepared a banquet, slaughtered my fattened calves and other animals, and now, everything is ready. Come to the wedding!’ But they paid no attention and went away, some to their farms, and some to their work. Others seized the servants of the king, insulted them and killed them. The king was furious. He sent his troops to destroy those murderers and burn their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is prepared, but the invited guests were not worthy. Go instead to the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding feast.’ The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, good and bad alike, so that the hall was filled with guests. The king came in to see the wedding guests, and he noticed a man not wearing a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in without the wedding clothes?’ But the man remained silent. So the king said to his servants, ‘Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

The love of God is freely given but one should have the proper disposition to receive and enjoy it. This is where our efforts enter. To be partners with God we have to dispose ourselves to receive and nurture His gifts. These are the stuff from which we build our future with Him. Hence, we have to prepare ourselves to benefit most from the free gratuitous love of God or we will spend eternity gnashing our teeth at the opportunity that passed us by simply because we were not ready when it knocked.

August 21st

St. Pius X

1st Reading: Ez 37:1-14:
The hand of Yahweh was upon me. … Yahweh said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live again?” I said, “Lord Yahweh, only you know that.” He then said, “Speak on my behalf concerning these bones; say to them: Dry bones, hear the word of Yahweh! Yahweh says: I am going to put spirit in you and make you live. I shall put sinews on you and make flesh grow on you; I shall cover you with skin and give you my spirit, that you may live. And you will know that I am Yahweh.” I prophesied as I had been commanded; … the bones joined together. I looked and saw that they had sinews, that flesh was growing on them; and that he was covering them with skin. But there was no spirit in them. So Yahweh said to me, “Speak on my behalf and call on the spirit, son of man! Say to the spirit: This is the word of Yahweh: spirit, come from the four winds. Breathe into these dead bones and let them live!”

I prophesied as he had commanded me and breath entered them; they came alive, standing on their feet—a great, immense army! He then said to me, “Son of man, these bones are all Israel. They keep saying: ‘Our bones are dry, hope has gone, it is the end of us.’ So prophesy! Say to them: This is what Yahweh says: I am going to open your tombs; I shall bring you out of your tombs, my people; and lead you back to the land of Israel. You will know that I am Yahweh, O my people! when I open your graves and bring you out of your graves; when I put my spirit in you, and you live. I shall settle you in your land; and you will know that I, Yahweh, have done what I said I would do.”

Gospel: Mt 22:34-40:
When the Pharisees heard how Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they assembled together. One of them, a lawyer, questioned him to test him, “Teacher, which commandment of the law is the greatest?” Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and the most important of the commandments. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets are founded on these two commandments.”

The prophet Ezekiel was one of the Jews deported to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar in 597 B.C. He had warned his nation about this possible disaster before the fall of Jerusalem (Ez 1—24), but to no avail. He lived the rest of his life in exile. However, a good part of his book (chs. 33 to 39) describes the return of the people to Palestine and the restoration of the temple of Jerusalem, and of the nation Israel. Today’s first reading is taken from this section of his book. In the previous chapter of the book, God has announced through Ezekiel the gift of the Spirit to enable individual Israelites henceforth to obey the law faithfully.

In today’s reading it is announced that the Spirit will also be given collectively to the people and will thus restore and renew the nation, following its exile to the graveyard of Babylon. This national resurrection is predicted here symbolically in a vision of dry bones coming back to life under the action of the Holy Spirit (mentioned 7 times here). The Holy Spirit is our life-giving energy, enabling us to serve God freely and joyfully.

August 22nd

Queenship of Mary

1st Reading: Is 9:1–6:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. A light has dawned on those who live in the land of the shadow of death. You have enlarged the nation; you have increased their joy. They rejoice before you, as people rejoice at harvest time as they rejoice in dividing the spoil. For the yoke of their burden, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressors, you have broken it as on the day of Midian.

Every warrior’s boot that tramped in war, every cloak rolled in blood, will be thrown out for burning, will serve as fuel for the fire. For a child is born to us, a son is given us; the royal ornament is laid upon his shoulder, and his name is proclaimed: “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” To the increase of his powerful rule in peace, there will be no end. Vast will be his dominion, he will reign on David’s throne and over all his kingdom, to establish and uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time onward and forever. The zealous love of Yahweh Sabaoth will do this.

Gospel: Lk 1:26–38:
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God, to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent to a virgin, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. The angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But the angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a son; and you shall call him Jesus. He will be great, and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the kingdom of David, his ancestor; he will rule over the people of Jacob forever; and his reign shall have no end.”

Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the holy child to be born of you shall be called Son of God. Even your relative, Elizabeth, is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child; and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible.” Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the angel left her.

We despair to think that we have to perform many things to qualify being good when all we have to do is one thing, that is, to love. But upon knowing this, we are again confronted with another difficulty, how to love? For the word love had been used and misused for a long time already. The word itself is sometimes suspect especially in this complicated world. So the challenge for us is to go back to the pristine meaning of love, that is, to go back again to the very Being of love, God. St. John in his gospel defines God as Love. And so God is the reference on how to love. And the more we contemplate God, the more we will know how to love.