Bible Diary for August 21st-27th

August 21st

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

St. Pius X

1st Reading: Is 66:18-21:
Now I am going to gather the nations of every tongue, and they will witness my glory, for I will perform a wonderful thing among them. Then I will send some of their survivors to the nations—Tarshish, Put, Lud, Moscheck, Rosh, Tubal, and Javan—to the distant islands where no one has ever heard of me or seen my glory.

They will proclaim my glory among the nations. They will bring your kindred from all the nations as an offering to Yahweh on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules, on camels to my holy mountain in Jerusalem, says Yahweh, just as the Israelites bring oblations in clean vessels to the house of Yahweh. Then I will choose priests and Levites even from them, says Yahweh.

2nd Reading: Heb 12:5-7, 11-13:
Do not forget the comforting words that Wisdom addresses to you as children: My son, pay attention when the Lord corrects you and do not be discouraged when he punishes you. For the Lord corrects those he loves and chastises everyone he accepts as a son. What you endure, is in order to correct you. God treats you like sons, and what son is not corrected by his father?

All correction is painful at the moment, rather than pleasant; later, it brings the fruit of peace, that is, holiness, to those who have been trained by it. Lift up, then, your drooping hands, and strengthen your trembling knees; make level the ways for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but healed.

Gospel: Lk 13:22-30:
Jesus went through towns and villages teaching, and making his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, is it true that few people will be saved?” And Jesus answered, “Do your best to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has gone inside and locked the door, you will stand outside. Then you will knock at the door, calling, ‘Lord, open to us!’ But he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’

Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets!’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know where you come from. Away from me, all you workers of evil.’ You will weep and grind your teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves left outside. Others will sit at table in the kingdom of God, people coming from east and west, from north and south. Some who are among the last, will be first; and some who are among the first, will be last!”

One of the most common traits shared by most human beings is what could be called particularism. And that is perhaps normal and inevitable to a large extent. After all, we enter this world through a particular family belonging to a particular region belonging to a particular country speaking a particular language and professing a particular religion. In fact, it always comes as a shock to most of us when we discover that some people we meet belong to another region or country, or speak another language or profess another religion.

This discovery is often felt as bewildering and bothersome. It is painful to have to adjust and enlarge our view of things. It is a stretching experience few of us enjoy. Well, because of our spontaneous particularism, we tend to exclude a lot of people from God’s plan: the non-Christians, the atheists, the drug addicts, the wife-beaters, etc. But today’s first and third readings are far from particularism.

They remind us that God is BIG and his family, too, is BIG, much bigger than our narrow-minded views imagine. And so, let us enlarge our view and our hearts. Let us adjust them to God’s awesome plan. We will not regret it. Let us ask God to enlarge our views and our hearts. Let us adjust them to his awesome plans. Today I will smile at a perfect stranger, thinking that we will one day be together in God’s big family.

August 22nd

The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

1st Reading: 2 Thes 1:1-5, 11-12:
Brothers and sisters, we should give thanks to God, at all times, for you. It is fitting to do so, for your faith is growing, and your love for one another, increasing. We take pride in you, among the churches of God, because of your endurance, and your faith in the midst of persecution and sufferings. In this, the just judgment of God may be seen; for you must show yourselves worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are now suffering.

This is why we constantly pray for you; may our God make you worthy of his calling. May he, by his power, fulfill your good purposes, and your work, prompted by faith. In that way, the name of Jesus, our Lord, will be glorified through you, and you, through him, according to the loving plan of God and of Christ Jesus, the Lord.

Gospel: Mt 23:13-22:
But woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door to the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You, yourselves, do not enter it, nor do you allow others to do so. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You devour widows’ property; and as a show, you pray long prayers! Therefore, you shall receive greater condemnation. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel by sea and land to make a single convert; yet, once he is converted, you make him twice as fit for hell as yourselves! Woe to you, blind guides!

You say: To swear by the temple is not binding; but, to swear by the gold of the temple is binding. Foolish men! Blind men! Which is of more worth: the gold in the temple, or the temple which makes the gold a sacred treasure? You say: To swear by the altar is not binding, but to swear by the offering on the altar is binding. How blind you are! Which is of more value: the offering on the altar, or the altar which makes the offering sacred?

Whoever swears by the altar, is swearing by the altar and by everything on it. Whoever swears by the temple, is swearing by the temple, and by God, who dwells in the temple. Whoever swears by heaven, is swearing by the throne of God, and by him, who is seated on it.

Many earnest and fervent Christians do not distinguish between hurting and harming people. But, in fact, there is a world of difference between these two actions. For example, if someone punches you on the jaw and makes you lose two healthy teeth, that someone not only hurts you but also harms you. However, if your dentist extracts two sick teeth of yours, he might hurt you but he will certainly not harm you, on the contrary.

Similarly, if a knife is plunged into your abdomen: if it is handled by an assassin, it will hurt and harm you; but if it is handled by a surgeon, it might hurt you (when you wake up from the anesthesia), but it will not harm you, on the contrary. Telling someone a hard and well-deserved truth in a spirit of fraternal correction might hurt that someone while at the same time helping that someone.

In today’s gospel reading we hear Jesus calling the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites (3 times) and blind (3 times). Was he hurting them? Surely. Was he harming them? Not at all. On the contrary, he was giving them a shock treatment in the hope of waking them up from their dangerous self-complacency. That is what is called tough love. It hurts, but at times it can be extremely beneficial.

August 23rd

St. Rose of Lima

1st Reading: 2 Thes 2:1-3a, 14-17:
Brothers and sisters, let us speak about the coming of Christ Jesus, our Lord, and our gathering to meet him. Do not be easily unsettled. Do not be alarmed by what a prophet says, or by any report, or by some letter said to be ours, saying, the day of the Lord is at hand. Do not let yourselves be deceived, in any way.

To this end he called you, through the gospel we preach, for he willed you, to share the glory of Christ Jesus, our Lord. Because of that, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold to the traditions that we taught you, by word or by letter. May Christ Jesus, our Lord, who has loved us, may God our Father, who, in his mercy, gives us everlasting comfort and true hope, strengthen you. May he encourage your hearts and make you steadfast in every good work and word.

Gospel: Mt 23:23-26:
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You do not forget the mint, anise and cumin seeds when you demand the tenth of everything; but then, you forget what is most fundamental in the law: justice, mercy and faith! You should have done these things without neglecting the others. Blind guides! You strain out a mosquito, but swallow a camel. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You fill the plate and the cup, with theft and violence, and then pronounce a blessing over them. Blind Pharisee! Purify the inside first, then the outside, too, will be purified.

One of the great differences between Catholics and Protestants lies in our understanding of how God’s Revelation reaches us. The Protestants maintain that it reaches us through the intermediary of a book, the Bible, and only through the written Bible. And one of the rallying cries of the Reformers was “Sola Scriptura!” On the other hand, the Catholics have always maintained that divine Revelation comes to us through both the Bible and Tradition. In the terms of Vatican II: “It is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed.

Therefore both Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence (Const. Verbum Dei, n.9). Now this position of the Church is based on the fact that a good part of the New Testament (particularly the four gospels) was put down in writing decades after the Ascension. It was oral tradition which transmitted Christ’s teaching during that time. We find this situation reflected in today’s first reading, an excerpt from a letter of Paul written most probably in 52 A.D., much before the first gospel was written. It says: “Hold to the traditions that we taught you by word.

August 24th

St. Bartholomew

1st Reading: Rev 21:9b-14:
And he (an angel) said, “Come, I am going to show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” He took me up, in a spiritual vision, to a very high mountain, and he showed me the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven, from God. It shines with the glory of God, like a precious jewel, with the color of crystal-clear jasper.

Its wall, large and high, has twelve gates; stationed at them are twelve angels. Over the gates are written the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. Three gates face the east; three gates face the north; three gates face the south and three face the west. The city wall stands on twelve foundation stones, on which are written the 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 wellbeing 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.

August 25th

St. Louis IX and St. Joseph Calsanz

1st Reading: 1 Cor 1:1-9:
From Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God, and from Sosthenes, our brother, to God’s Church which is in Corinth; to you, whom God has sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called, to be holy, together, with those, who, everywhere, call upon the name of our Lord Christ Jesus, their Lord and ours. Receive grace, and peace from God, our Father, and Christ Jesus, our Lord.

I give thanks, constantly, to my God, for you, and for the grace of God given to you, in Christ Jesus. For you have been fully enriched, in him, with words, as well as with knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you. You do not lack any spiritual gift and only await the glorious coming of Christ Jesus, our Lord. He will keep you steadfast to the end, and you will be without reproach, on the day of the coming of our Lord Jesus. The faithful God will not fail you, after calling you to this fellowship with his Son, Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Gospel: Mt 24:42-51:
Stay awake then, for you do not know on what day your Lord will come. Obviously, if the owner of the house knew at what time the thief was coming, he would certainly stay up and not allow his house to be broken into. So be alert, for the Son of Man will come at the hour you least expect. Imagine a faithful and prudent servant, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give them food at the proper time.

Fortunate, indeed, is that servant, whom his master will find at work when he comes. Truly I say to you, his lord will entrust him with everything he has. Not so with the bad servant, who thinks, ‘My master is delayed.’ And he begins to ill-treat his fellow servants, while eating and drinking with drunkards. But his master will come on the day he does not know, and at the hour he least expects. He will punish that servant severely; and place him with the hypocrites. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

It is difficult to be a good parent. Each child is so different from the next! Each requires close observation in order to be truly understood. And that requires a lot of time and attention on the part of, say, a dutiful father. If, on top of that, a father has to hold down a job which is very demanding, and if a father is going through times of political upheaval, he will have to be a very good man to fulfill all his duties as a husband, a father, and a provider.

The saint we are remembering today fills pretty much the above description, except that his particular job was to be a king. Louis, king of France, raised eleven children. And he raised them in an exceptionally good way, making true Christians of them. As a king, he went through great pains to be absolutely fair toward everybody. Unfortunately, he felt compelled to heed the call of the Pope and to join the Crusade of 1248, only to return to France after 6 years of great hardships. In 1267 Louis participated in a second Crusade, but this time he died of disease in Tunis. Here was a truly holy layman. We need many more laymen like him.

August 26th

1st Reading: 1 Cor 1:17-25:
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to proclaim his gospel. And not with beautiful words! That would be like getting rid of the cross of Christ. The language of the cross remains nonsense for those who are lost. Yet for us who are saved, it is the power of God, as Scripture says: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and make fail the foresight of the foresighted. Masters of human wisdom, educated people, philosophers, you have no reply! And the wisdom of this world? God let it fail.

At first, God spoke the language of wisdom, and the world did not know God through wisdom. Then God thought of saving the believers, through the foolishness that we preach. The Jews ask for miracles and the Greeks for a higher knowledge, while we proclaim a crucified Messiah. For the Jews, what a great scandal! And for the Greeks, what nonsense! But he is Christ, the power of God, and the wisdom of God, for those called by God among both Jews and Greeks. In reality, the “foolishness” of God is wiser than humans, and the “weakness” of God is stronger than humans.

Gospel: Mt 25:1-13:
This story throws light on what will happen in the kingdom of heaven: Ten bridesmaids went out with their lamps to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were sensible. The careless bridesmaids took their lamps as they were, and did not take extra oil. But those who were sensible, took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom delayed, they all grew drowsy and fell asleep. But at midnight, a cry rang out, ‘The bridegroom is here, come out and meet him!’

All the maidens woke up at once, and trimmed their lamps. Then the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, ‘Give us some oil, for our lamps are going out.’ The sensible ones answered, ‘There may not be enough for us and for you. You had better go to those who sell, and buy some for yourselves.’ When the bridegroom came, the foolish maidens were out buying oil, but those who were ready went with him into the wedding feast, and the doors were shut. Later the other bridesmaids arrived and called out, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered, ‘Truly I do not know you.’ So stay awake, for you do not know the day nor the hour.

We all know the difference between theory and practice. Theory is all about pure knowledge residing in the mind only. It is about explaining phenomena, making hypotheses, formulating principles, and so on. Practice is all about doing, bringing about concrete results, influencing the world outside the mind. These two things do not necessarily go together. We all know, for example, people who have a Ph.D. in education and do not know how to raise their own children. We know medical doctors who are obese, smoke a lot and never exercise. We know make-up artists who look like un-made beds.

Paul tells us in today’s first reading that God, by saving the world through Christ crucified, simply overlooked the so-called wisdom of the world and instead provided us with the only practical means of salvation that could rescue us from our state of lostness. God did not give us a treatise on how to govern our lives. He sent a man of flesh and blood, a carpenter who died a bloody death on the cross. Yet, this “folly” of his was wiser than all our libraries…

August 27th

St. Monica

1st Reading: 1 Cor 1:26-31:
Brothers and sisters, look and see whom God has called. Few among you can be said to be cultured or wealthy, and few belong to noble families. Yet God has chosen what the world considers foolish, to shame the wise; he has chosen what the world considers weak, to shame the strong. God has chosen common and unimportant people, making use of what is nothing, to nullify the things that are, so, that, no mortal may boast before God. But, by God’s grace, you are in Christ Jesus, who has become our wisdom from God, and who makes us just and holy and free. Scripture says: Let the one who boasts boast of the Lord.

Gospel: Mt 25:14-30:
Imagine someone who, before going abroad, summoned his servants to entrust his property to them. He gave five talents of silver to one servant, two talents to another servant, and one talent to a third, to each, according to his ability; and he went away. … After a long time, the master of those servants returned and asked for a reckoning. The one who had received five talents came with another five talents … The master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, since you have been faithful in a few things, I will entrust you in charge of many things. Come and share the joy of your master.’

Then the one who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you entrusted me with two talents; with them I have gained two more.’ The master said, ‘Well done … Finally, the one who had received one talent came and said … I was afraid, so I hid your money in the ground. Here, take what is yours!’ But his master replied, ‘Wicked and worthless servant, you know that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered.

You should have deposited my money in the bank, and given it back to me with interest on my return. Therefore, take the talent from him, and give it to the one who has ten. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who are unproductive, even what they have will be taken from them. As for that useless servant, throw him out into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

The parable of the talents is many times wrongly interpreted in the gospel. The parable does not justify a gospel of economic prosperity and accumulation of wealth and properties. Instead, it challenges believers not to emulate the Master. He is a man who reaps where he does not sow and gathers where he has not scattered seed. He aggressively seeks to increase his profit and wealth by all means. He reprimands the servant for failing to invest the money with the bankers so that he might have gained interest — a practice forbidden in scripture (Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:35-38).

The parable is located in Jesus‘ eschatological discourse (24:1-25:46) where he instructs his disciples to endure through difficult times and to live in anticipation of the Lord‘s return. Like all the parables in this section, it exemplifies the certainty of the Lord‘s coming and how the disciples are to live in the meantime. The parable is a critique to a way of life centered on profit and accumulation of wealth. This is not the way of the disciples since Jesus, the real Master, is centered on the coming of the Reign of God. All who would follow Jesus are called to share one‘s life and service to others. Those who are found faithful may hear their Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”