Bible Diary for August 22nd – 28th

August 22nd

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Queenship of Mary

1st Reading: Jos 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b:
Joshua summoned all the tribes of Israel in Shechem, and assembled the elders, leaders, judges and secretaries. And together they presented themselves before God. Addressing the people, Joshua said to them: Yahweh, the God of Israel, commands me to say to you. But if you do not want to serve Yahweh, make known this very day whom you shall serve—whether they be the gods your ancestors served in Mesopotamia or the gods of the Amorites who formerly occupied the land in which you now live. As for me, I and my household will serve Yahweh.”

The people answered: “May God not permit that we ever abandon Yahweh to serve other gods! For it was he who brought us and our ancestors out of Egypt, the house of slavery. It was he who did those great wonders that we have seen; he protected us on the way and through all the land where we passed. So we shall also serve Yahweh: he is our God!

2nd Reading: Eph 5:21-32:
Let all kinds of submission to one another become obedience to Christ. So wives to their husbands: as to the Lord. The husband is the head of his wife, as Christ is the head of the Church, his body, of whom he is also the Savior. And as the Church submits to Christ, so let a wife submit in everything to her husband. As for you, husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her. He washed her and made her holy by baptism in the Word. As he wanted a radiant Church without stain or wrinkle or any blemish, but holy and blameless, he himself had to prepare and present her to himself.

In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they love their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. And no one has ever hated his body; he feeds and takes care of it. That is just what Christ does for the Church, because we are members of his body. Scripture says: Because of this a man shall leave his father and mother to be united with his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a very great mystery, and I refer to Christ and the Church.

Gospel: Jn 6:60-69:
After hearing this, many of Jesus’ followers said, “This language is very hard! Who can accept it?” Jesus was aware that his disciples were murmuring about this and so he said to them, “Does this offend you? Then how will you react when you see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; not the flesh. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. But among you there are some who do not believe.”

From the beginning, Jesus knew who would betray him. So he added, “As I have told you, no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.” After this many disciples withdrew and no longer followed him. Jesus asked the Twelve, “Will you also go away?” Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We now believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Even His disciples had a hard time accepting the words of Jesus. Jesus would not play nanny to those whose faith in Him was not strong enough to withstand the shock of knowing who Jesus really was. They would not be punished because they parted ways with their Teacher. Their ordinary lives would continue. But the path to greatness would disappear and the doorway to an opportunity of meaningful life would close. The Twelve who stuck it out with Jesus were radically changed. It would be enough for these Twelve to cast their lot to an unknown future with Jesus whom they loved and admired.

Do we really know Jesus that much, so much so that we are willing to follow Him till the end? Or perhaps we just follow by rote, or by blind obedience, or because this is what we have been doing from the time when we were born? If we check ourselves and understand who Jesus is to us then we can make an informed choice whether to follow Him or not until the end. And when trials and sorrows come because of that informed choice, then we will never waver but persevere to the finish. Lord God, introduce me again to Your beloved Son. For I cannot come to Him without You willing it. May I get to know Him better so that my following Him will have substance and weight. Amen.

August 23rd

St. Rose of Lima

1st Reading: 1 Thes 1:1-5, 8b-10:
From Paul, Sylvanus and Timothy to the church of Thessalonica which is in God the Father and in Christ Jesus, the Lord. May the peace and grace of God be with you. We give thanks to God at all times for you and remember you in our prayers. We constantly recall before God our Father the work of your faith, the labors of your love and your endurance in waiting for Christ Jesus our Lord. We remember, brothers and sisters, the circumstances of your being called. The gospel we brought you was such not only in words. Miracles, Holy Spirit and plenty of everything were given to you.

You also know how we dealt with you for your sake. Since from you the word of the Lord spread to Macedonia and Achaia, and still farther. The faith you have in God has become news in so many places that we need say no more about it. Others tell of how you welcome us and turned from idols to the Lord. For you serve the living and true God, and you wait for his Son from heaven whom he raised from the dead, Jesus, who frees us from impending trial.

Gospel: Mt 23:13-22:
Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves.

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’ Blind fools, which is greater, the gold, or the temple that made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’ You blind ones, which is greater, the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it; one who swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it; one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who is seated on it.”

For the next days, we hear the famous “Woes” that Jesus pronounced. Matthew presents eight of them, as if paralleling the eight “Beatitudes” or blessings that Jesus had proclaimed earlier (Matt 5: 3-12).  They are indeed burdensome woes, made heavier by the fact that they are pronounced by Jesus who rarely quarrels or cries out (Matt 12:19; Is 42:2) and is gentle and humble of heart (Matt 11:29). Jesus came to bless and, if he is forced to condemn, there can be no greater woe for a person.

In today’s reading, Jesus’s sadness and anger blaze against people who not only refuse to enter the Kingdom, but prevent others from entering it either. It is bad enough to reject the good news; and it cannot get any worse when one deliberately prevents others from accepting the gospel even when they want to.  Let us examine our hearts and see if our words and deeds prevent God’s people from receiving the good news and entering the Kingdom.

August 24th

St. Bartholomew

1st Reading: Rev 21:9b-14:
And he 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 crystalclear 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 that Moses wrote about in the Law, and the prophets as well: 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.”

Nathanael combines two attitudes which we rarely meet together but which actually represent the ideal for anyone in search of the truth: he is both critical and open-minded. When Nathanael reacts to Philip’s grand claims of having found the Messiah by the rejoinder, “Can anything good come from Nazareth,” he is merely being critical. He neither rejects out of hand his friend’s claim (which would be pure, unfounded skepticism, since he has not looked as yet into the matter), nor does he accept it unquestionably (which would amount to being gullible). He merely manifests a healthy doubt, which in the circumstances is the right attitude to adopt.

On the other hand, he does follow Philip’s suggestion to “come and see,” which shows that he has an open mind. Although Philip’s story is almost unbelievable, Nathanael does in fact agree to check it out. All this is confirmed by Jesus’ warm praise of Nathanael: “Here comes an Israelite, a true one; there is nothing false in him.” In other words, Jesus is saying in a Semitic turn of phrase that Nathanael is an honest man. Honesty and critical open-mindedness are still the best attitudes for anyone interested in finding the truth.

August 25th

St. Louis IX
St. Joseph Calasanz

1st Reading: 1 Thes 2:9-13:
Remember our labor and toil; when we preached the Gospel, we worked day and night so as not to be a burden to you. You are witnesses with God that we were holy, just and blameless toward all of you who now believe. We warned each of you as a father warns his children; we encouraged you and urged you to adopt a way of life worthy of God who calls you to share his own glory and kingdom. This is why we never cease giving thanks to God for, on receiving our message, you accepted it, not as human teaching, but as the word of God. That is what it really is, and as such it is at work in you who believe.

Gospel: Mt 23:27-32:
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, beautiful in appearance; but, inside, there are only dead bones and uncleanness. In the same way, you appear religious to others, but you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness within. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets, and decorate the monuments of the righteous. You say: Had we lived in the time of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the blood of the prophets. So, you, yourselves, confess to be the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. And now, finish off what your ancestors began!

In today’s gospel reading Jesus several times contrasts the inside (of people, of things) to the outside, each time blaming his opponents for neglecting the inside and cultivating only the outside. Now the interesting thing in Jesus’ image here is that they provide implicitly a method for eliminating hypocrisy from our lives. The method is foolproof. It is also very simple. Unfortunately, it is demanding. What method is that? It is simply this: to look inside! Look inside the cup and dish and tomb. You will experience a terrible disillusion about your pretty self. You will discover that you are not the nice person you always thought you were.

You will be awfully tempted to turn away from such a painful discovery and to stop your self-examination. But, if you persevere, you will gradually accept your dark side as it is. This will enable you to drop all your sham virtues and to stop pretending you are such a good person. Then you will feel an immense compassion for all sinners, whom you now understand from within and to whose company you now know you belong. This process of inner examination is the royal road to humility and the defeat of hypocrisy. It has been insisted on a thousand times by all the spiritual masters.

August 26th

1st Reading: 1 Thes 3:7-13:
What a consolation for us, brothers and sisters, in the midst of our troubles and trials, this faith of yours! It is a breath of life for us when you stand firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for all the joy that we feel before God because of you? Day and night we beg of him to let us see you again, that we may complete the instruction of the believers. May God our Father and Jesus our Lord prepare the way for us to visit you. May the Lord increase more and more your love for each other and for all people, as he increases our love for you. May he strengthen you internally to be holy and blameless before God, our Father, on the day that Jesus, our Lord, will come with all his saints.

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 with him with the hypocrites. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

How can I know that I obey Christ’s injunction “Be ready?” There exists a sign which can scarcely deceive as to one’s spiritual state in the sight of God. And that is self-denial. Not an occasional act of self-denial, caused by some passing exultation of the soul, by a habitual self-denial. For indeed the cross is so opposed to the spirit of the world that we can believe we are not under any illusion as to our relationship with Christ when we accept to bear his cross day after fay. The cross is the characteristic of the true disciples, as Jesus himself tells us several times (Mt 10:38; 16:24).

This cross, because it is carried day after day, consists in denying oneself in a lot of little things: to constantly seek to please or to serve, to perform one’s duties as best one can, to serenely endure inconveniences, to control one’s flights of temper, to be faithful to one’s word, to forgive the neighbor’s tactlessness, etc. This type of self-denial, so simple but so crucifying in the long run, is the best way of preparing oneself to the impromptu arrival of Our Judge. If he finds us bearing his cross, the Son of man will easily recognize us as his own.

August 27th

St. Monica

1st Reading: 1 Thes 4:1-8:
For the rest, brothers, we ask you in the name of Jesus, the Lord, and we urge you to live in a way that pleases God, just as you have learned from us. This you do, but try to do still more. You know the instructions we gave you on behalf of the Lord Jesus: the will of God for you is to become holy and not to have unlawful sex. Let each of you behave towards his wife as a holy and respectful husband, rather than being led by lust, as are pagans who do not know God. In this matter, let no one offend or wrong a brother. The Lord will do justice in all these things, as we have warned and shown you. God has called us to live, not in impurity but in holiness, and those who do not heed this instruction disobey, not a human, but God himself who gives you his Holy Spirit.

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 to 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.”

In today’s gospel reading the five wise girls had foreseen that the bridegroom might very well be delayed; consequently, they had taken the precaution of providing themselves with a reserve of oil. What does the oil symbolize in this story? Surely something fundamental to Christian life, since the fact of being without it entails exclusion from the wedding. Perhaps we should be thinking of everything that makes up our preparation for the great encounter with Christ, that is in short a Christian life lived fully in all its demands.

It is necessary that the lamp of everyday love, of patient hope, of the steadfast ripening of faith, burn in the depths of the heart. At the hour of our death, when we will fall asleep for the last time, the lamp of our life must be overfull with the oil of our self-sacrifice, or our services, of our welcome to others, of our love. And then, when our Beloved will come to wake us from that ultimate sleep, we will have quite enough light to follow him into the banquet hall. For the time being, the only wise thing to do is to worry about our lamp: do we pour in it enough oil every day?

August 28th

St. Augustine

1st Reading: 1 Thes 4:9–11:
Brothers and sisters: Regarding mutual love, you do not need anyone to write to you, because God himself taught you how to love one another. You already practice it with all the brothers and sisters of Macedonia, but I invite you to do more. Consider how important it is to live quietly without bothering others, to mind your own business, and work with your hands, as we have charged you.

Gospel: Mt 25:14-30:
Jesus told his disciples this parable: “A man going on a journey  called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money. After a long time  the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five.

“He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I have made two more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’ Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’

“His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then!  Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’”

In Grade 1, our class was taken on a day-long picnic to the nearby town. Before I left home for the picnic, my father gave me a currency bill, with the advice: “Keep it safe.” After the enjoyable and memorable picnic, I returned home in the evening, walked up to my dad, and returned the currency bill to him. With no little surprise, he asked: “Why did you not spend it?” I replied with the naiveté of childhood: “You asked me to keep it safe!” I had failed to read the mind of my father and missed out on much fun! 

The servant with one talent was not naïve, though. He was plain lazy and fearful. Perhaps he was jealous of those who got more. He had no love for the landlord; for, if he did, he would have worked at increasing the asset of the master. God, help me to gratefully use the talents you have given me for your glory, the sanctification of my soul, and the salvation of my sisters and brothers.