Bible Diary for August 18th – 24th

August 18th

1st Reading: Jer 38:4-6, 8-10:
Then the officials told the king, “This man should be put to death, because he is weakening the will of the fighting men and the people left in the city. In fact he is not out to save the people but to do harm.” King Zedekiah said, “His life is in your hands for the king has no power against you.” So they took Jeremiah and pushed him into the cistern of Malchiah, the king’s son, in the guard’s court. They lowered him by means of ropes.

There was no water in the cistern but only mud; and Jeremiah sank into the mud. Ebedmelech went and spoke to him, “My lord king! These men have acted wickedly in all they did to Jeremiah the prophet. They threw him into the cistern where he will die.” So the king ordered Ebedmelech the Ethiopian: “Take three men with you from here, and draw Jeremiah the prophet out from the cistern before he dies.”

2nd Reading: Heb 12:1-4:
What a cloud of innumerable witnesses surround us! So, let us be rid of every encumbrance, and especially of sin, to persevere in running the race marked out before us. Let us look to Jesus, the founder of our faith, who will bring it to completion. For the sake of the joy reserved for him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and then, sat at the right of the throne of God. Think of Jesus, who suffered so many contradictions from evil people, and you will not be discouraged or grow weary. Have you already shed your blood in the struggle against sin?

Gospel: Lk 12:49-53:
I have come to bring fire upon the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what anguish I feel until it is finished! Do you think that I have come to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on, in one house five will be divided: three against two, and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father; mother against daughter and daughter against mother; mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

Human life must have been ordered to include the elements of struggle, hardship, endurance, failure, success, and the like. The same is true with the Christian life, which comprises the dynamics pain, suffering, joy, and glory. Having assumed a human form, Jesus will have to experience all these to accomplish his saving mission. He will have to put up with the disbelief and rejection of many. He will have to suffer and endure the pain of the cross before he ascends back to the Father in glory, and finally, to give the Holy Spirit.

Jesus assures us of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that is why there is no point to be weary and disheartened in doing good, in working for justice and peace, in helping the poor, and in caring for God’s creation. We may encounter resistance, and we may have to give up comfort in sharing with Christ’s mission. But, as he promised, we will also have to share with his glory. Lord, may we be steadfast in working for your kingdom, even when faced with strong and violent opposition.

August 19th

St. John Eudes

1st Reading: Jdg 2:11-19:
The children of Israel offended the Lord by serving the Baals. Abandoning the Lord, the God of their fathers, who led them out of the land of Egypt, they followed the other gods of the various nations around them, and by their worship of these gods provoked the Lord.

Because they had thus abandoned him and served Baal and the Ashtaroth, the anger of the Lord flared up against Israel, and he delivered them over to plunderers who despoiled them. He allowed them to fall into the power of their enemies round about whom they were no longer able to withstand. Whatever they undertook, the Lord turned into disaster for them, as in his warning he had sworn he would do, till they were in great distress. Even when the Lord raised up judges to deliver them from the power of their despoilers, they did not listen to their judges, but abandoned themselves to the worship of other gods. They were quick to stray from the way their fathers had taken, and did not follow their example of obedience to the commandments of the Lord.

Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, he would be with the judge and save them from the power of their enemies as long as the judge lived; it was thus the Lord took pity on their distressful cries of affliction under their oppressors. But when the judge died, they would relapse and do worse than their ancestors, following other gods in service and worship, relinquishing none of their evil practices or stubborn conduct.

Gospel: Mt 19:16-22:
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.

In the gospel episode Jesus outlined once again what it means to follow him. Furthermore, he made clear what it means, in the radical sense of the word, to be a Christian. It is straightforward that doing the commandments and loving one’s neighbor as oneself do not yet constitute genuine discipleship. The following of Jesus also entails ridding one’s self of anything that might be taken as providing false sense of security and anything we might take for ourselves to provide stability. Here, Jesus is asking that he becomes our security, the only one we depend on, and the source of stability in life.

This means Jesus takes on the first place, before anything else, or the center, around which everything else revolves. Noticeably, seemingly secure state(s) obtained from things we have/possess is shaky. These things appear dependable and, at times, present themselves as attractive and full of stability. However, the real measure of security and stability is found only in a deep sense of peace and joy that comes from a personal relationship with Jesus.

August 20th

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

1st Reading: Jdg 6:11-24a:
The angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite. While his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press to save it from the Midianites, the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “The Lord is with you, O champion!” Gideon said to him, “My Lord, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are his wondrous deeds of which our fathers told us when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ For now the Lord has abandoned us and has delivered us into the power of Midian.” The Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have and save Israel from the power of Midian. It is I who send you.”

But Gideon answered him, “Please, my lord, how can I save Israel? My family is the lowliest in Manasseh, and I am the most insignificant in my father’s house.” “I shall be with you,” the Lord said to him, “and you will cut down Midian to the last man.” Gideon answered him, “If I find favor with you, give me a sign that you are speaking with me. Do not depart from here, I pray you, until I come back to you and bring out my offering and set it before you.” He answered, “I will await your return.”

So Gideon went off and prepared a kid and a measure of flour in the form of unleavened cakes. Putting the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot, he brought them out to him under the terebinth and presented them. The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and unleavened cakes and lay them on this rock; then pour out the broth.” When he had done so, the angel of the Lord stretched out the tip of the staff he held, and touched the meat and unleavened cakes.

Thereupon a fire came up from the rock that consumed the meat and unleavened cakes, and the angel of the Lord disappeared from sight. Gideon, now aware that it had been the angel of the Lord, said, “Alas, Lord God, that I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!” The Lord answered him, “Be calm, do not fear. You shall not die.” So Gideon built there an altar to the Lord and called it Yahweh-shalom.

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.

We are afraid to lose something, or some things, that is why we cannot surrender to God’s will. Because once we give it all up, it would mean we would only have God to depend on and would also mean placing our complete trust in him alone—an absolute reliance on his unfailing love. God’s will is demanding. When we cannot let go, when we are dominated by fear, divine power cannot operate in us; God’s grace cannot flow into our life. We are simply cut off from it.

So that all things become possible, an absolute trust in God is necessary. Trust connects us to God’s overflowing love. It conquers fear that weakens and paralyzes us. By trusting God, we allow him to touch our failings, our frailties, and our imperfection, transforming them into something beyond what we can conceive of. By relying on his goodness, we set ourselves on solid ground, never to be shaken by the cares of the world, and by doubt and fear. And by trusting God, we can move mountains.

August 21st

St. Pius X

1st Reading: Jdg 9:6-15:
All the citizens of Shechem and all Beth-millo came together and proceeded to make Abimelech king by the terebinth at the memorial pillar in Shechem.

When this was reported to him, Jotham went to the top of Mount Gerizim and, standing there, cried out to them in a loud voice: “Hear me, citizens of Shechem, that God may then hear you! Once the trees went to anoint a king over themselves. So they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us.’ But the olive tree answered them, ‘Must I give up my rich oil, whereby men and gods are honored, and go to wave over the trees?’ Then the trees said to the fig tree, ‘Come; you reign over us!’ But the fig tree answered them, ‘Must I give up my sweetness and my good fruit, and go to wave over the trees?’ Then the trees said to the vine, ‘Come you, and reign over us.’

But the vine answered them, ‘Must I give up my wine that cheers gods and men, and go to wave over the trees?’ Then all the trees said to the buckthorn, ‘Come; you reign over us!’ But the buckthorn replied to the trees, ‘If you wish to anoint me king over you in good faith, come and take refuge in my shadow. Otherwise, let fire come from the buckthorn and devour the cedars of Lebanon.'”

Gospel: Mt 20:1-16:
Jesus said to his disciples, “(…) A landowner went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay the workers a salary of a silver coin for the day, and sent them to his vineyard. (…) The owner went out at midday and again at three in the afternoon, and he did the same. Finally he went out at the last working hour—it was the eleventh— and he saw others standing there. (…) 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 come to work at the eleventh hour turned up and were given a denarius each. When it was the turn of the first, they thought they would receive more. But they, too, received a denarius each. (…) “They said: ‘These last hardly worked an hour, yet you have treated them the same as us who have endured the day’s burden and heat.’ The owner said to one of them: ‘Friend, I have not been unjust to you. Did we not agree on a denarius a day? (…) Why are you envious when I am kind?’ “So will it be: the last will be first, the first will be last.”

Are we not brought into this world with a purpose? If we observe the different life-forms of the Earth human community, each performs a distinctly important function that is not only beneficial to itself but also to others. If it does not function according to its nature, it disintegrates; it atrophies. Countless of people go through their life without clear sense of purpose and direction. These are people who do things for the sake of doing them, or for the practical reason of earning a living. They do not question whether the things they do reflect their full potential and giftedness, or not.

Two aims of the task/mission God assigns to us: (1) the fulfillment of the self; and (2) the flourishing and fulfillment of the Earth’s community of life. When we do not carry out this task by utilizing the skills and giftedness bestowed on us, we fall short of what we have been created. By not working on our full potential and by denigrating ourselves, we shortchange God, our Maker. Moreover, we are meant to be faithful to this task and bring it to completion, so that in the end we become worthy of the eternal reward.

August 22nd

Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

1st Reading: Jdg 11:29-39a:
The Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah. He passed through Gilead and Manasseh, and through Mizpah-Gilead as well, and from there he went on to the Ammonites. Jephthah made a vow to the Lord. “If you deliver the Ammonites into my power,” he said, “whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites shall belong to the Lord. I shall offer him up as a burnt offering.”

Jephthah then went on to the Ammonites to fight against them, and the Lord delivered them into his power, so that he inflicted a severe defeat on them, from Aroer to the approach of Minnith (twenty cities in all) and as far as Abel-keramim. Thus were the Ammonites brought into subjection by the children of Israel. When Jephthah returned to his house in Mizpah, it was his daughter who came forth, playing the tambourines and dancing. She was an only child: he had neither son nor daughter besides her. When he saw her, he rent his garments and said, “Alas, daughter, you have struck me down and brought calamity upon me. For I have made a vow to the Lord and I cannot retract.”

She replied, “Father, you have made a vow to the Lord. Do with me as you have vowed, because the Lord has wrought vengeance for you on your enemies the Ammonites.” Then she said to her father, “Let me have this favor. Spare me for two months, that I may go off down the mountains to mourn my virginity with my companions.” “Go,” he replied, and sent her away for two months. So she departed with her companions and mourned her virginity on the mountains. At the end of the two months she returned to her father, who did to her as he had vowed.

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 heavenly banquet is open to everyone. However, this comes with a price; one needs a ticket to get in. And the ticket comes in the form of repentance and good works. Although many have heard Jesus’ message of love but only few received it well, underwent the much-needed conversion, and did good works that come with it. Conversion and a life of good works are the ticket, the two sides of a coin, so to speak, needed to be part of the reign of God.

They are the wedding garments we need to wear to qualify. The Canadian Jesuit theologian Bernard Lonergan described conversion as an “about face”, a turning away from things that are not helping, things that lead us away from the good, the real, and the genuinely valuable. To him, conversion involves: (1) actions/ decisions based on genuine values and not on mere satisfaction(s); (2) loving God in return for his pure, unconditional love that floods our heart.

August 23rd

St. Rose of Lima

1st Reading: Ru 1:1, 3-6, 14b-16, 22:
Once in the time of the judges there was a famine in the land; so a man from Bethlehem of Judah departed with his wife and two sons to reside on the plateau of Moab. Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons, who married Moabite women, one named Orpah, the other Ruth. When they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Chilion died also, and the woman was left with neither her two sons nor her husband. She then made ready to go back from the plateau of Moab because word reached her there that the Lord had visited his people and given them food.

Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye, but Ruth stayed with her. Naomi said, “See now!  Your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her god. Go back after your sister-in-law!” But Ruth said, “Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you! For wherever you go, I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” Thus it was that Naomi returned with the Moabite daughter-in-law, Ruth, who accompanied her back from the plateau of Moab. They arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.

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.”

What is remarkable about Jesus’ response is that he established the connection between the two commandments. While the love of neighbor flows (1) from the love of God flooding our heart and (2) from our response to that love, the love of God necessarily leads to a love of our neighbor. There is a cyclic dynamism between the two. They cannot be separated; one does not stand alone. By placing them alongside each other, Jesus assigned them “equal weight” (Brendan Byrne).

During an interview after the release of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’, Cardinal Peter Turkson, the prefect of the Discastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, said: “You cannot believe and love God without respecting or caring for what he has created.” In other words, the love of neighbor and the care of God’s beautiful creation are an integral part of loving God. A love of God becomes real and finds meaning only when it is directed to the care of the human person and other forms of life.

August 24th

St. Bartholomew

1st Reading: Rev 21:9b-14:
The angel spoke to me, saying, “Come here. I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” He took me in spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It gleamed with the splendor of God. Its radiance was like that of a precious stone, like jasper, clear as crystal. It had a massive, high wall, with twelve gates where twelve angels were stationed and on which names were inscribed, the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel.

There were three gates facing east, three north, three south, and three west. The wall of the city had twelve courses of stones as its foundation, on which were inscribed the twelve names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.

Gospel: Jn 1:45-51:
Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law, and the prophets: he is Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” Nathanael replied, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming, he said of him, “Here comes an Israelite, a true one; there is nothing false in him.” Nathanael asked him, “How do you know me?”

And Jesus said to him, “Before Philip called you, you were under the fig tree, and I saw you.” Nathanael answered, “Master, you are the Son of God! You are the king of Israel!” But Jesus replied, “You believe because I said, ‘I saw you under the fig tree.’ But you will see greater things than that. Truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

When called to do something, we do not know really where it will lead us. However, there is a feeling of assurance, a sense of peace, that everything will just be fine and that we are in the right direction. When God calls, he knows exactly when and how to do it; the timing is so perfect. The call will hit us right at the core in the most opportune time. Like the question of Nathaniel “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”, we can also ask: “Can anything good come out from us once we follow the call? Can anything good/great happen?”

Indeed, great things unfold in life as a result of following the call—things beyond our expectations. But they may not be according to our taste, standard, or time frame. One thing is certain these great things are for the flourishing of God’s very good creation, for the well being of the Earth’s community of life, and for the expansion of God’s reign. The call is specifically designed for all of these, that is, to contribute to the bringing in of the reign of God on Earth, a reign of love, justice, and peace. The call is intended to accomplish just this.