Bible Diary for August 27th – September 2nd
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
1st Reading: Is 22:19-23:
Thus says the Lord to Shebna, master of the palace: “I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station. On that day I will summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah; I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your sash, and give over to him your authority. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim’s shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open. I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot, to be a place of honor for his family.”
2nd Reading: Rom 11:33-36:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor? Or who has given the Lord anything that he may be repaid? For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Gospel: Mt 16:13-20:
Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
There is a time in our life when we have to lay down our all, when we have to risk everything because we are truly convinced and we do believe. This is what had happened to Peter when he was finally asked by Jesus who he thought Jesus was. Peter had been a follower for some time. He had been part of the most beautiful memories of Jesus. And now he had to give account of his own impression of his Teacher. Peter never hesitated. He proclaimed the faith that would be taken over by the church literally founded over his place of burial.
Peter risked his all. He gained big time for that risk by being the rock on which the church of Jesus would be built. Am I proud of my faith or do I take it casually to the point that I don’t make a stand when my faith is attacked. Today I will proudly wear my being a Christian and will help promote a better understanding of what I believe in my social network, in my workplace, in my community and in any place I can advance a correct appreciation of my belief.
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 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.”
In this Gospel text we read Jesus’ full-scale public denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees. His fundamental indictment against them is hypocrisy – a gap between appearance and reality, between what they say and what they do, due to a misplaced hierarchy of values and excessive emphasis on external matters to the neglect of the interior. According to D. Harrington, in the Prophetic tradition the goal of denunciations is to highlight evil actions or patterns, and to warn people not to follow those who do them, as well as to bring back those who err to the way of righteousness.
In these condemnations Jesus accused the scribes and Pharisees of hindering the spread of the gospel (23:13), and raising up enemies against it (v. 15) and of engaging in foolish casuistry regarding oaths (v. 16-22). Their leadership had become a stumbling block to people’s growth in holiness. The prophetic warnings can serve as a checklist for all who exercise leadership in church. It can serve as a summons to an examination of conscience of the way leaders play their roles and accomplish their functions. It is not an exaggeration to say that excessive casuistry, misplaced priorities, overemphasis on externals, etc. are found in every religion.
Beheading of St. John the Baptist
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: Mk 6:17-29:
Herod was the one who had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so. Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. She had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee. Herodias’ own daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests.
The king said to the girl, “Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.” He even swore many things to her, “I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request, “I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison. He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl. The girl in turn gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
John got into trouble when he pointed out the obvious that nobody wants to talk about. Herod’s union with Herodias, his brother’s wife, is unlawful. But it is not Herod that he has to worry about the most. Herod still has respect for his person who has no qualms confronting the former of his transgression. It is Herodias who is implacable and unforgiving. And so a chance was grabbed without second thoughts and that is how the life of John, whom no man born of a woman could ever surpass, ended. He offered his life in service of the truth.
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:
Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’ Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets; now fill up what your ancestors measured out!”
Time will later show that the institutions that Jesus hoped to reform to bring back righteousness to God’s people would fight back and engineer His demise. They had enough of this upstart who dared try to criticize an institution that had been Israel’s conscience and guide for a long time. Their pride had been wounded. The wall of hate was constructed. No amount of Jesus’ admonition and appeal would ever move their hearts and minds to change. They would finish off as Jesus dared them to do, what their ancestors had began. They would silence this voice that had caused them inconvenience and harm.
1st Reading: 1 Thes 3:7-13:
We have been reassured about you, brothers and sisters, in our every distress and affliction, through your faith. For we now live, if you stand firm in the Lord. What thanksgiving, then, can we render to God for you, for all the joy we feel on your account before our God? Night and day we pray beyond measure to see you in person and to remedy the deficiencies of your faith. Now may God himself, our Father, and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen.
Gospel: Mt 24:42-51:
Jesus said to his disciples: “Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come. “Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant, whom the master has put in charge of his household to distribute to them their food at the proper time?
“Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so. Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is long delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eat and drink with drunkards, the servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”
Being watchful and being awake: these are beautiful imagery of what a disciple must be. It is not easy to be so. These demand preparation and a will to do so. There is always a tendency to relax and let go of the discipline when the Master is not around. Space and distance tend to bring out what has been buried in the hearts of all. Blessed then are those who remain constantly alert and on the watch. Their reliability amidst the Master’s absence will earn them a place in His house.
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: “The Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
“Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you. Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked. Afterwards the other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
In many ways, the ten virgins awaiting the bridegroom are symbolic of our role in the world, as witnesses to God’s love for us all. Our world has an urgent need for witnesses. We must witness that our identity is centered on true spirituality, and that our morality derives from that spirituality. We must witness that our faith challenges many of the values of the dominant secular culture. We must witness that our traditions have great meaning for us. We must witness that challenging commitments offer firm principles by which we may live our lives.
We must witness that adherence to traditional morality often comes at a considerable personal cost: perhaps of losing family, friends, even jobs. We must witness that what we have found in Christ is true and real. We must witness by seeking our lasting happiness. We must witness by striving for personal holiness and authenticity. Witness has no room for complacency, hypocrisy, or self-indulgence. For all those who wish to be authentic witnesses, a life of prayer and reflection is crucial. As effective witnesses, we must have an unambiguous mind, a well-formed conscience and a passion for the way of life that leads us to eternity.
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:
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.'”
Fear is the number one enemy of fruitfulness. This is shown in the parable of the gospel today. The one who received one talent from the Master focused so much on his fear that he overlooked the fact that the Master trusted him with just the right amount fitted for his talents and capacities. He was not able to gain momentum from this implied trust. He was blinded by his fear. Because of this, he condemned himself forever to an ordinary and uneventful life. He wanted to play safe. Nobody who doesn’t risk will ever amount to something in this lifetime. What talents do I possess that still stand idle? Today is a good day to make an inventory of my strengths and make a plan how to harness and develop them effectively for the benefit of the greater community.