Bible Diary for August 1st – 7th
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. Alphonsus Liguori
1st Reading: Ex 16:2-4, 12-15:
In the desert the whole community of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron and said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of Yahweh in Egypt when we sat down to caldrons of meat and ate all the bread we wanted, whereas you have brought us to this desert to let the whole assembly die of starvation!” Yahweh then said to Moses, “Now I am going to rain down bread from heaven for you. Each day the people are to gather what is needed for that day. In this way I will test them to see if they will follow my Teaching or not.
“I have heard the complaints of Israel. Speak to them and say: Between the two evenings you will eat meat, and in the morning you will have bread to your heart’s content; then you shall know that I am Yahweh, your God!” In the evening quails came up and covered the camp. And in the morning, dew had fallen around the camp. When the dew lifted, there was on the surface of the desert a thin crust like hoarfrost. The people of Israel upon seeing it said to one another, “What is it?” for they didn’t know what it was. Moses told them, “It is the bread that Yahweh has given you to eat.“
2nd Reading: Eph 4:17, 20-24:
I say to you, then, and with insistence I advise you in the Lord: do not imitate the pagans who live an aimless kind of life. But it is not for this that you have followed Christ. For I suppose that you heard of him and received his teaching which is seen in Jesus himself. You must give up your former way of living, the old self, whose deceitful desires bring self-destruction. Renew yourselves spiritually, from inside, and put on the new self, or self according to God, that is created in true righteousness and holiness.
Gospel: Jn 6:24-35:
When they saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Master, when did you come here?” Jesus answered, “Truly, I say to you, you look for me, not because of the signs which you have seen, but because you ate bread and were satisfied. Work then, not for perishable food, but for the lasting food which gives eternal life. The Son of Man will give it to you, for he is the one on whom the Father has put his mark.” Then the Jews asked him, “What shall we do? What are the works that God wants us to do?”
And Jesus answered them, “The work God wants is this: that you believe in the One whom God has sent.” They then said, “Show us miraculous signs, that we may see and believe you. What sign do you perform? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert; as Scripture says: They were given bread from heaven to eat.” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven. My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. The bread God gives is the One who comes from heaven and gives life to the world.” And they said to him, “Give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall never be hungry, and whoever believes in me shall never be thirsty.”
Sometimes, people do not really know what they need. True need is that which gives depth and quality to life when addressed. The people need to eat to attend to their physical well-being. But they need not bring this to God’s concern. By their own strengths and capacities they can provide food for their daily needs. There is no point for God to intervene especially in normal circumstances. Thus they can aspire to a higher need: the need to nourish their spirit. This is what Jesus meant to address. But the people misunderstood. The dialogue between them and Jesus would continue for a long time. The task ahead would be a difficult one for Jesus.
There are many people who are lost and sometimes in need of guides to bring them back to the proper path. Today would be a good day to listen to their life story, help them sort out their confusion and bring them into the light of understanding. Lord and God, I pray for all the people important to me. I pray that their questions find answers, their confusion encounter clarity and their doubts the certainty that leads to peace. May I be an instrument to some of them of Your wonderful guidance so that they may emerge into the marvelous light of Your love, through Christ our Light. Amen.
St. Eusebius of Vercelli
St. Peter Julian Eymard
1st Reading: Num 11:4b-15:
The Israelites wept and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish we ate without cost in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and garlic. Now our appetite is gone; there’s nothing to look at, nothing but manna.” Now the manna was like coriander seed and had the appearance of bedellium. The people went about gathering it up and then ground it between millstones or pounded it in a mortar. They boiled it in a pot and made cakes with it which tasted like cakes made with oil. As soon as dew fell at night in the camp, the manna came with it. Moses heard the people crying, family by family at the entrance to their tent and Yahweh became very angry.
This displeased Moses. Then Moses said to Yahweh, “Why have you treated your servant so badly? Is it because you do not love me that you burdened me with this people? Did I conceive all these people and did I give them birth? And now you want me to carry them in my bosom as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their fathers? Where would I get meat for all these people, when they cry to me saying: ‘Give us meat that we may eat?’ I cannot, myself alone, carry all these people; the burden is too heavy for me. Kill me rather than treat me like this, I beg of you, if you look kindly on me, and let me not see your anger.
Gospel: Mt 14:13-21:
On hearing this, Jesus set out secretly by boat for a secluded place to be alone. But the people heard of it, and they followed him on foot from their towns. When Jesus went ashore, he saw the crowd gathered there and he had compassion on them. And he healed their sick. Late in the afternoon, his disciples came to him and said, “We are in a lonely place and it is now late. You should send these people away, so they can go to the villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” But Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat.”
They answered, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fishes.” Jesus said to them, “Bring them here to me.” Then he made everyone sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves and the two fishes, raised his eyes to heaven, pronounced the blessing, broke the loaves and handed them to the disciples to distribute to the people. And they all ate, and everyone had enough; then the disciples gathered up the leftovers, filling twelve baskets. About five thousand men had eaten there besides women and children.
“You give them something to eat.” From the context of these words in today’s gospel reading, it is clear that Jesus is here emphasizing the you. In other words, Jesus is telling his disciples not to send away the crowds for them to buy food in the near villages but instead to feed the crowds themselves. And that mandate continues to be valid throughout the ages. Perhaps the greatest scandal of our times is the fact that, according to the latest reports of the United Nations’ experts, we produce enough food to feed every human being on the planet—and yet, always according to reliable statistics of the same world organization, every day some 100,000 people die of malnutrition.
Doubtless some of these deaths can be attributed to atmospheric or geographical circumstances. But most impartial observers of the human scene agree that famine most often results from human selfishness and the profit motive. The developed countries just lack the political will to end world hunger. As Christians we must pressure our politicians to make decisions based on the social harmony of a world built on solidarity and peace, not on short-term national interests that can lead to injustice and social unrest. “You can give them something to eat.”
1st Reading: Num 12:1-13:
Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses on the pretext of the marriage he had contracted with a Cushite woman. They complained, “Is it through Moses alone that the Lord speaks? Does he not speak through us also?” And the Lord heard this. Now, Moses himself was by far the meekest man on the face of the earth. So at once the Lord said to Moses and Aaron and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the meeting tent.” And the three of them went. Then the Lord came down in the column of cloud, and standing at the entrance of the tent, called Aaron and Miriam.
When both came forward, he said, “Now listen to the words of the Lord: Should there be a prophet among you, in visions will I reveal myself to him, in dreams will I speak to him; not so with my servant Moses! Throughout my house he bears my trust: face to face I speak to him; plainly and not in riddles. The presence of the Lord he beholds. Why, then, did you not fear to speak against my servant Moses?”
So angry was the Lord against them that when he departed, and the cloud withdrew from the tent, there was Miriam, a snow-white leper! When Aaron turned and saw her a leper, he said to Moses, “Ah, my lord! Please do not charge us with the sin that we have foolishly committed! Let her not thus be like the stillborn babe that comes forth from its mother’s womb with its flesh half consumed.” Then Moses cried to the Lord, “Please, not this! Pray, heal her!”
Gospel: Mt 14:22-36:
Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side of the sea, 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 him, 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.” After making the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret. When the men of that place recognized him, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought to him all those who were sick and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak, and as many as touched it were healed.
It would be interesting to survey the dozens of commentaries on today’s gospel episode and to tabulate what percentage of the commentators underscore Peter’s little faith (as noted by Jesus himself) and, on the other hand, the percentage of commentators who give Peter credit for having some faith (again implied by Jesus himself). How easy it is to criticize instead of praising…Yet, when we think about it, Peter needed a good amount of faith (even if not enough to see him through this crisis) for him to leave the security of his boat (his comfort zone!) and to venture on the raging waters of the lake.
As a professional fisherman, he knew perfectly well how the lake’s sudden squalls (produced by the cold winds blowing down from the high Syrian desert) could create mayhem and endanger lives all around. Yet, he did dare to step out of his boat and he did risk to walk on the terrifying waves assailing him. Maybe we should be less hasty in criticizing his subsequent reaction of panic. At one point or other in our lives, we are all called to leave our security zones and to attempt what seems to be the impossible—to walk on water.
St. John Vianney
1st Reading: Num 13:1-2, 25 – 14: 1, 26a-29a, 34-35:
Yahweh then spoke to Moses, saying, “Send men to explore the land of Canaan that I am giving to the Israelites; send one man from each of the ancestral tribes, all of them leaders.” After forty days of exploration, they returned. Then all the community broke out in loud cries and wept during the night. Then Yahweh spoke to Moses and Aaron saying, “How long will this wicked community grumble against me?” I have heard the grumblings of the people of Israel against me.
Say to them: As truly as I live, it is Yahweh who speaks, I will do to you what you have said in my hearing. All of you of twenty years or more, numbered in the census, who grumbled against me, your corpses will fall in the desert. According to the number of days spent in exploring the land—forty days, for every day a year—for forty years you shall bear the guilt of your sins and you shall know what it is to oppose me. I, Yahweh, have spoken. Surely this is what I will do to this wicked community that has conspired against me. In this wilderness they shall be destroyed and this is where they shall die.
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.
In the academic world, exams, quizzes and tests create healthy challenges. They force the students to study more intensely, to exert more effort, to try harder. Thus they make the students progress, advance, excel. Jesus was often called “rabbi,” that is, teacher because he really was a teacher and occasionally gave tests to his students in order to have them progress in their faith. Thus on the occasion of the feeding of the 5, 000 (Jn 6), he asked the apostle Philip where they could buy enough food to feed the crowd. And John here comments: “He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do.”
Unfortunately for Philip, he flunked that test…. In today’s gospel reading Jesus again tests someone’s faith, that of the Canaanite woman. And in this case the woman rises to the occasion and passes the test with flying colors! The difficulties and trials of life are all tests which we can use for our benefit if we want to, by rising to the occasion and meeting their challenge. Each test we thus rise to increases our faith, makes us grow, brings us closer to God.
Dedication of St. Mary Major Basilica
1st Reading: Nm 20:1-13:
The whole congregation of the children of Israel arrived in the desert of Zin in the first month, and the people settled at Kadesh. It was here that Miriam died, and here that she was buried. As the community had no water, they held a council against Moses and Aaron. The people contended with Moses, exclaiming, “Would that we too had perished with our kinsmen in the Lord’s presence! Why have you brought the Lord’s assembly into this desert where we and our livestock are dying? Why did you lead us out of Egypt, only to bring us to this wretched place which has neither grain nor figs nor vines nor pomegranates? Here there is not even water to drink!”
But Moses and Aaron went away from the assembly to the entrance of the meeting tent, where they fell prostrate. Then the glory of the Lord appeared to them, and the Lord said to Moses, “Take your staff and assemble the community, you and your brother Aaron, and in their presence order the rock to yield its waters. From the rock you shall bring forth water for the congregation and their livestock to drink.” So Moses took his staff from its place before the Lord, as he was ordered. He and Aaron assembled the community in front of the rock, where he said to them, “Listen to me, you rebels! Are we to bring water for you out of this rock?”
Then, raising his hand, Moses struck the rock twice with his staff, and water gushed out in abundance for the people and their livestock to drink. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you were not faithful to me in showing forth my sanctity before the children of Israel, you shall not lead this community into the land I will give them.” These are the waters of Meribah, where the children of Israel contended against the Lord, and where the Lord revealed his sanctity among them.
Gospel: Mt 16:13-23:
After that, Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They said, “For some of them, you are John the Baptist; for others Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “It is well for you, Simon Barjona, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And now I say to you: You are Peter; and on this Rock I will build my Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.”
Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ. From that day, Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem; that he would suffer many things from the Jewish authorities, the chief priests and the teachers of the law; and that he would be killed and be raised on the third day. Then Peter took him aside and began to reproach him, “Never, Lord! No, this must never happen to you!” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path. You are thinking not as God does, but as people do.”
We know that foundations are what make something stand firm. Strong foundation, solid ground makes for stable structure. In Jesus, the Church, the Body of Christ, stands on solid ground. He is the life, the truth, and the guide of the People of God. In him we find fulfillment, meaning, and direction. Our faith has its basis on the resurrection of Jesus. Our hope is well founded on the words and promise of Jesus. And our love is grounded on the love of God for all his “very good” creation. We have a choice where to ground our actions: we can ground them with the truth, the good, and genuine values; or we can base them from mere satisfactions.
Those that are genuinely valuable are connected and oriented to the truth and the good. Genuine values promote well-being and flourishing of the whole creation, humans and nonhumans alike. On the other hand, mere satisfactions, if they were to guide our actions, are unstable and cannot be relied on. They tend to corrupt, and will destroy both human lives and the natural world. When actions are led by mere satisfactions, life in the end becomes disorderly and miserable.
Transfiguration of the Lord
1st Reading: Dn 7:9-10, 13-14:
I looked and saw the following: Some thrones were set in place and One of Great Age took his seat. His robe was white as snow, his hair white as washed wool. His throne was flames of fire with wheels of blazing fire. A river of fire sprang forth and flowed before him. Thousands upon thousands served him and a countless multitude stood before him. Those in the tribunal took their seats and opened the book.
I continued watching the nocturnal vision: One like a son of man came on the clouds of heaven. He faced the One of Great Age and was brought into his presence. Dominion, honor and kingship were given him, and all the peoples and nations of every language served him. His dominion is eternal and shall never pass away; his kingdom will never be destroyed.
2nd Reading: 2 Pt 1:16-19:
Indeed, what we taught you about the power and the return of Christ Jesus our Lord was not drawn from myths or formulated theories. We ourselves were eyewitnesses of his majesty, when he received glory and honor from God the Father, when from the magnificent glory this most extraordinary word came upon him: “This is my beloved Son, this is my Chosen One.” We ourselves heard this voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain. Therefore, we believe most firmly in the message of the prophets which you should consider rightly as a lamp shining in a dark place, until the break of day, when the Morning Star shines in your hearts.
Gospel: Mk 9:2-10:
Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain. There his appearance was changed before their eyes. Even his clothes shone, becoming as white as no bleach of this world could make them. Elijah and Moses appeared to them; the two were talking with Jesus. Then Peter spoke and said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.“ For he did not know what to say; they were overcome with awe.
But a cloud formed, covering them in a shadow, and from the cloud came this word, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him.“ And suddenly, as they looked around, they no longer saw anyone except Jesus with them. As they came down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man be risen from the dead. So they kept this to themselves, although they discussed with one another what ‘to rise from the dead‘ could mean.
“This is my Son, the beloved.” That voice of God speaks also to each one of us since we are the Body of Christ, his brothers and sisters. And so, that voice whispers softly in our hearts: “You are my beloved.” But the world around us, especially the mass media, are always telling us that we are worthless and unlovable—unless we drive a Mercedes, use this deodorant, wear that brand of jeans, eat that sort of food, and so on. Those voices coming from the world around us are directly contradicting God’s voice telling us “You are my beloved,” because God’s love for us is unconditional. It is freely given. Why? Because it is God’s nature to love (1 Jn 4:8,16), and so he loves even the demons in Hell.
In conclusion, each one of us is faced with a crucial choice: shall we trust God’s gentle voice or the world’s lying voice shouting the opposite? Let us ignore our perpetual feeling of inadequacy. Let us make the leap of faith and believe with all our hearts the gentle voice of God in the depth of our hearts. “You are my son, my beloved. You are my daughter, my beloved.”
St. Sixtus II and Companions
1st Reading: Dt 6:4-13:
Listen, Israel: Yahweh, our God, is One Yahweh. And you shall love Yahweh, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength. Engrave on your heart the commandments that I pass on to you today. Repeat them over and over to your children, speak of them when you are at home and when you travel, when you lie down and when you rise. Brand them on your hand as a sign, and keep them always before your eyes. Engrave them on your doorposts and on your city gates.
Do not forget Yahweh when he has led you into the land which he promised to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; for he will give you great and prosperous cities which you did not build, houses filled with everything good which you did not provide, wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant. So when you have eaten and have been satisfied, do not forget Yahweh who brought you out from Egypt where you were enslaved. Fear Yahweh, your God, serve him and call on his Name when you have to swear an oath.
Gospel: Mt 17:14-20:
When they met the people, a man approached Jesus, knelt before him and said, “Sir, have pity on my son who is an epileptic and is in a wretched state. He has often fallen into the fire and at other times into the water. I brought him to your disciples but they could not heal him.” Jesus replied, “O you people, faithless and misled! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.”
And Jesus commanded the evil spirit to leave the boy, and the boy was immediately healed. Later, the disciples approached Jesus and asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive out the spirit?” Jesus said to them, “Because you have little faith. I say to you: if only you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could tell that mountain to move from here to there, and the mountain would obey. Nothing would be impossible for you.”
There is something baffling about today’s gospel reading. It presents the disciples as unable to perform an exorcism. Now this is really odd because earlier in Matthew’s gospel we are told that the disciples were sent on a mission with the power, among other things, to “drive out demons” (Mt 10:8). And we may safely presume that they were able to do this because Luke, in his gospel, reports the reaction of another group of disciples (the seventy-two, cf. Lk 10:1-12, 17-20) who, upon their return from a similar mission, report with a touch of awe: “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name” (Lk 10:17).
And yet, now the disciples are powerless to exorcise the epileptic boy. Why? No one can tell for sure. But a safe guess would be that the disciples eventually came to forget what was the source of their exorcising power—God, not themselves. Their trust had shifted from God to themselves. A quite common occupational hazard for enterprising Christians of all times… And Jesus very aptly sets the record straight: an ounce of real trust in God is infinitely more powerful than mere self-confidence.