Bible Diary for August 25th – 31st

August 25th

St. Louis IX
St. Joseph Calasanz

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!”

There are fundamentally two things needed to be saved, namely: faith in Jesus and conversion to new life. They are the keys to enter the narrow door. They are the requisites to have a personal relationship with Jesus. Faith and conversion enable one to build a relationship with Jesus. Faith and conversion pose some difficulties to those who wish to follow Christ because they involve radical shift/change in one’s thinking and doing. They touch the core of our being so that we become open to the transforming action of the Spirit.

Faith in Jesus would mean an absolute dependence in his love, compassion and mercy. Conversion to new life means redirecting our lives to a new way of living. It means discarding, or transforming our old ways, and incorporating beneficial and creative ways of thinking and acting. To many, the narrow door of Christ is a big challenge. But to those who have faith and have been converted to the love of God, the narrow door “widens”. Lord Jesus, may we grow in faith and love of you.

August 26th

1st Reading: 1 Thes 1:1-5, 8b-10:
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy to the Church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: grace to you and peace. We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father, knowing, brothers and sisters loved by God, how you were chosen. For our Gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.

You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake.  In every place your faith in God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves openly declare about us what sort of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to await his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus, who delivers us from the coming wrath.

Gospel: Mt 23:13-22:
Jesus said, “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, nor do you allow others to do so. Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel by sea and land to win a single convert, yet once he is converted, you turn 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 treasure of the Temple is. Blind fools! 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 it 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.

We learn of some people who give gifts so that they can exercise certain degree of subtle control or manipulation over others. We learn of people who employ the services of professional “image”-builders to transform themselves attractively before the eyes of the public. We also learn of people, groups, organizations who create situations to deflect attention from real issues; to cover up their agenda and wrong-doings; and even to justify atrocity, killings and war. Many people think they can get away with it unnoticed. They think people around them do not know their hypocrisy or insincerity.

We have experiences of this kind of people who project a pleasing external image far different from what is inside. All the above are tactics intended to deceive others for personal and selfish gain; and, they show up as expressions of hypocrisy. Sometimes we are able to recognize them, but in some cases they are not easy to detect. That is why, more than ever, to develop a critical thinking is wise. It is wise to subject things to question(s): Is it true? Is it really the case? Why is it so? Is it really of genuine value?

August 27th

St. Monica

1st Reading: 1 Thes 2:1-8:
You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our reception among you was not without effect. Rather, after we had suffered and been insolently treated, as you know, in Philippi, we drew courage through our God to speak to you the Gospel of God with much struggle. Our exhortation was not from delusion or impure motives, nor did it work through deception. But as we were judged worthy by God to be entrusted with the Gospel, that is how we speak, not as trying to please men, but rather God, who judges our hearts.

Nor, indeed, did we ever appear with flattering speech, as you know, or with a pretext for greed–God is witness–nor did we seek praise from men, either from you or from others, although we were able to impose our weight as Apostles of Christ. Rather, we were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children. With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the Gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us.

Gospel: Mt 23:23-26:
Jesus said, “Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You do not forget the mint, anise and cumin seeds when you pay the tenth of everything, but then you forget what is most fundamental in the Law: justice, mercy and faith. These you must practice, 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.”

Our modern consumerist world brags about the economic growth, continuous progress and development, and breakthroughs in medicine, science and technology, that provide a better quality of life. But is it really a better quality of life, is it real progress that we have before us? We now live in a period in which the gap between the rich and the poor has become tremendously wide, almost impossible to bridge; in a period in which poverty and homelessness is in every corner of the world. Are we not deceived when war and killings are justified? Are we not deceived when unfair labor practices are put into law?

Are not the poor being robbed of their livelihood and food on their table when natural resources are plundered and destroyed? Our modern economic system has successfully developed and marketed a consumerist lifestyle that exploits our fellow humans, a kind of lifestyle that exhausts and destroys the limited resources of the Earth, a lifestyle that is not sustainable, and a lifestyle that is extremely difficult for majority of the peoples of the world to attain. The poor sector of the world and the various life-forms on Earth are being used and abused. They cry out for justice and mercy.

August 28th

St. Augustine

1st Reading: 1 Thes 2:9-13:
You recall, brothers and sisters, our toil and drudgery. Working night and day in order not to burden any of you, we proclaimed to you the Gospel of God. You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers. As you know, we treated each one of you as a father treats his children, exhorting and encouraging you and insisting that you walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into his Kingdom and glory.

And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received it not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the word of God, which is now 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!

We are witness to the deplorable and sometimes appalling effects of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is a result of a fragmented, corrupt and vicious character. The hypocrite is full of pretension and deceit; she/he is not genuinely concern of others. The hypocrite seeks self-glorification and self-benefit, always ready to step on others’ toes. She/he is unrepentant over the harm inflicted to others, and does not even budge at the hurt or suffering of others. The inside of the hypocrite rots and stinks, but the outside is well “covered” so that it looks spotless and attractive. Quite contrary, sincerity stands at the opposite pole of hypocrisy.

Sincerity springs forth from an integral and peaceful character, one that is touched by the love of God, one that has been converted to the love of God and neighbor. The sincere person is mindful of her/his personal well-being; she/he is equally mindful of the well-being of others. The heart of the sincere person is ruled by love, compassion and mercy. She/ he has the heart of Christ. The sincere person does not wish misfortune or harm to others. She/he glories in the triumphs and success of others; she/ he is not envious. The sincere person is an agent of peace and care; she/he is kindhearted and gentle.

August 29th

Beheading of St. John the Baptist

1st Reading: Jer 1:17-19:
The word of the Lord came to me thus: Gird your loins; stand up and tell them all that I command you. Be not crushed on their account, as though I would leave you crushed before them; for it is I this day who have made you a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass, against the whole land: Against Judah’s kings and princes, against its priests and people. They will fight against you, but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.

Gospel: Mk 6:17-29:
For this is what had happened Herod had ordered John the Baptist to be arrested and had him bound and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herod had married her and John had told him, “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.” So Herodias held a grudge against John and wanted to kill him, but she could not because Herod respected John. (…) Herodias had her chance on Herod’s birthday, (…) On that occasion the daughter of Herodias came in and danced; and she delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want and I will give it to you.”

And he went so far as to say with many oaths, “I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.” She went out to consult her mother, “What shall I ask for?” The mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” (…) The king was very displeased, but he would not refuse in front of his guests because of his oaths. So he sent one of the bodyguards with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded John in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl. And the girl gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard of this, they came and took his body and buried it.

For some truth is disturbing. They dread it because it confronts them head-on. Truth reveals their true color and motive. While for others, truth is a friend, guiding and giving them direction. When one aligns herself/himself to the truth, it brings peace of mind; it calms the spirit. When Pontius Pilate asked Jesus “What is truth?”, Jesus did not reply because the truth is already before him in his person.

Before Pilate already stands the truth, and it confronts him. As a result, Pilate felt uneasy; he was disturbed. When truth presents itself before us, there are only two natural response, namely: (1) we welcome it; or (2) we reject it. If we welcome it, we are led to the good and genuinely valuable; but, if we reject it, we lead ourselves (and others) to corruption and harm.

August 30th

1st Reading: 1 Thes 4:1-8:
Brothers and sisters, we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that, as you received from us how you should conduct yourselves to please God–and as you are conducting yourselves–you do so even more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

This is the will of God, your holiness: that you refrain from immorality, that each of you know how to acquire a wife for himself in holiness and honor, not in lustful passion as do the Gentiles who do not know God; not to take advantage of or exploit a brother or sister in this matter, for the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you before and solemnly affirmed. For God did not call us to impurity but to holiness. Therefore, whoever disregards this, disregards not a human being but God, who also gives his Holy Spirit to you.

Gospel: Mt 25:1-13:
Jesus told his disciples this parable: “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 careless while the others were sensible. “The careless bridesmaids took their lamps as they were and did not bring extra oil. But those who were sensible, brought with their lamps flasks of oil. 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 careless 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 both you and us. You had better go to those who sell and buy for yourselves.’ “They were out buying oil when the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him to the wedding feast, and the doors were shut. “Later the rest of the 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 between Jesus’ inauguration of the reign of God and his next coming to finally renew all creation, we stay awake, always ready and prepared. The fact that we do this means we believe in Christ’s promise of a new heaven and a new Earth. While we await this glorious event, we accompany our faith with works of justice and mercy. All the works of justice, mercy and love of people who have gone before us, and the people who will come after us, count; and they all matter as contributions in the saving mission of Jesus. Being awake, or being prepared, means we bring in our share of good works in this mission of Jesus, in his mission of saving humanity and all of God’s beautiful creation.

August 31st

1st Reading: 1 Thes 4:9-11:
Brothers and sisters:
On the subject of fraternal charity you have no need for anyone to write you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another. Indeed, you do this for all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Nevertheless we urge you, brothers and sisters, to progress even more, and to aspire to live a tranquil life, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your own hands, as we instructed you.

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, then two to another, and one to a third, (…) After a long time, the master of those servants returned and asked for a reckoning. The one who received five talents came with another five talents, saying: ‘Lord, you entrusted me with five talents, but see I have gained five more with them.’ The master answered: ‘Very well, good and faithful servant, since you have been faithful in a few things, I will entrust you with much more. (…) ’ Then the one who had two talents came and said: ‘Lord, you entrusted me with two talents; I have two more which I gained with them.’ (…)

“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: ‘(…) Then you should have deposited my money in the bank, and you would have 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. (…)

Jesus’ ministry of healing, teaching, and reconciling has ushered the reign of God on Earth, and it continues until the end of time. As the living “body” of Christ, we share in his saving mission; we make use of our time and giftedness, living creatively and responsibly, to help build God’s kingdom of love. Acknowledging that we make up the visible “body” of Christ, what is our role/task in the kingdom that he enacted? What contribution(s) can we make to the continuing mission of Jesus? Once we are able to identify our role/task, we will discover that there are corresponding gifts given to us so that we may be able to accomplish it.

We need to keep ourselves busy utilizing these gifts for others, for the community, for the Church, and for the reign of God as a whole. We keep working for social justice, and for the protection and care of God’s creation. There is no room for laziness or idleness as we live out our call. Our task is meant to accomplish something for the well-being of every living creatures and for the flourishing of life on Earth.