Bible Diary for August 2nd – 8th
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. Eusebius of Vercelli
St. Peter Julian Eymard
1st Reading: Is 55:1–3:
Come here, all you who are thirsty, come to the water! All who have no money, come! Yes, without money and at no cost, buy and drink wine and milk. Why spend money on what is not food and labor for what does not satisfy? Listen to me, and you will eat well; you will enjoy the richest of fare. Incline your ear and come to me; listen, that your soul may live. I will make with you an everlasting Covenant, I will fulfill in you my promises to David.
2nd Reading: Rom 8:35, 37–39:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Will it be trials, or anguish, persecution or hunger, lack of clothing, or dangers or sword? No, in all of this, we are more than conquerors, thanks to him, who has loved us. I am certain, that neither death nor life, neither angels nor spiritual powers, neither the present nor the future, nor cosmic powers, were they from heaven, or from the deep world below, nor any creature whatsoever, will separate us from the love of God, which we have, in Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Gospel: Mt 14:13–21:
When Jesus hear of it, he set out 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 that 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.
Setbacks early in His ministry could have deterred men and women of lesser stature. John had been beheaded. Jesus was served a warning not to collide head on with the powers that be. But Jesus knew His mission and goal. Problems and obstacles are part and parcel of the task ahead. He would not retreat. He would only regroup His resources by withdrawing for a while since His time had not yet come. Yet even in His strategic retreat, logistical nightmare followed Him. The people who came on foot seeking Him had nothing to eat. Even His disciples were at a loss how to remedy the situation. It is in this difficult situation that great leaders show why they are leaders.
They turn problems into opportunities. They make something big out of the little resources that they have. In the hands of Jesus the two fish and five loaves fed a multitude. It is a prelude for the things to come. This man has what it takes to confront the mighty and the powerful of the land. Feeding others with physical food can be a satisfying experience. It gives us a chance to do something that addresses one of the basic needs of a person. When was the last time I whipped up a meal for others? Today I might bring some snacks or viands that I could share with others.
1st Reading: Jer 28:1–17:
Early in the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, in the fifth month of the fourth year, the prophet Hananiah spoke to me. Hananiah son of Azzur from Gibeon proclaimed in Yahweh’s house in the presence of the priests and the people, “This is what Yahweh the God of Hosts and the God of Israel says: I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two years I will bring back to this place all the objects that king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took away from Yahweh’s house and carried to Babylon. I will likewise bring back Jekoniah son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all who were taken from Judah and deported to Babylon. For I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon—word of Yahweh.”
Then Jeremiah replied to Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people, “So be it! May Yahweh fulfill the words you have spoken and bring back from Babylon to this place the objects taken from the house of Yahweh and all the exiles. 7 Yet hear now what I say in your hearing and the hearing of all the people. The prophets who came before you and me continually prophesied war, disaster and plague to many nations and great kingdoms. So the prophet who prophesies peace will not be recognized as truly sent by Yahweh, until his predictions are fulfilled.”
Then Hananiah took the yoke from the neck of Jeremiah and broke it. Hananiah proclaimed in the presence of all the people, “Yahweh says this: In the same manner, within two years, will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar from the neck of all the nations.” Then Jeremiah the prophet went on his way. Sometime later, a word of Yahweh came to Jeremiah, “Go and tell this to Hananiah: This is what Yahweh says: You have broken a wooden yoke but in its place you will get a yoke of iron. For this is what Yahweh the God of Hosts and the God of Israel says: I am placing a yoke of iron on the neck of all the nations to make them serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and they will serve him. I will even give him control over the wild animals.”
Then Jeremiah said to Hananiah, “Listen! Hananiah, you have not been sent by Yahweh and yet you have deceived these people, giving them false hope with your lies. That is why Yahweh says with regard to you: I am removing you from the face of the earth. You will die this very year because you have counseled rebellion against Yahweh.” And in the seventh month of that year Hananiah died.
Gospel: Mt 14:22–36:
Immediately, Jesus obliged his disciples to get into the boat and go ahead of him to the other side, while he sent the crowd away. And having sent the people away, he went up the mountain by himself, to pray. At nightfall, he was there alone. Meanwhile, the boat was very far from land, dangerously rocked by the waves, for the wind was against it. At daybreak, Jesus came to them, walking on the sea. When they saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, thinking that it was a ghost. And they cried out in fear. But at once, Jesus said to them, “Courage! Don’t be afraid. It’s me!” Peter answered, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
Jesus said to him, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water to go to Jesus. But seeing the strong wind, he was afraid, and began to sink; and he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately stretched out his hand and took hold of him, saying, “Man of little faith, why did you doubt?” As they got into the boat, the wind dropped. Then those in the boat bowed down before Jesus, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God!” They came ashore at Gennesaret. The local people recognized Jesus and spread the news throughout the region. So they brought to him all the sick people, begging him to let them touch just the hem of his cloak. All who touched it became perfectly well.
Jesus prayed and calmly walked above the turbulent lake, whereas His disciples who went ahead had to contend with the furious winds and waves that were set against them. Perhaps prayer has the capacity to still our inner world so much so that the chaos of the world outside does not unsettle us. This sets us apart from those who are easily affected and become fearful when the going gets tough.
When we take time to pray before facing the world, its challenges and obstacles cannot daunt us. Peter learned the hard way when he requested to meet the Lord halfway and his courage faltered. The waves would have swallowed him up had Jesus not extended his hands. He was not prayerful enough to navigate the turbulent waters of life on his own. He would have to pray as Jesus prayed to overcome.
St. John Vianney
Reading 1 Jer 30:1-2, 12-15, 18-22:
The following message came to Jeremiah from the Lord: For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Write all the words I have spoken to you in a book. For thus says the Lord: Incurable is your wound, grievous your bruise; There is none to plead your cause, no remedy for your running sore, no healing for you. All your lovers have forgotten you, they do not seek you. I struck you as an enemy would strike, punished you cruelly; why cry out over your wound? Your pain is without relief. Because of your great guilt, your numerous sins, I have done this to you.
Gospel: Mt 15:1–2, 10–14:
Then, some Pharisees, and teachers of the law, who had come from Jerusalem, gathered around Jesus. And they said to him, “Why don’t your disciples follow the tradition of the elders? For they, they don’t wash their hands before eating.” Jesus then called the people to him, and said to them, “Listen and understand: What enters into the mouth does not make a person unclean. What defiles a person is what comes out of his mouth.”
After a while the disciples gathered around Jesus and said, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended by what you said?” Jesus answered, “Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted shall be uprooted. Pay no attention to them! They are blind, leading the blind. When a blind person leads another, the two will fall into a pit.”
How many times has Yahweh scolded Israel for her stubbornness? How many times has Jesus reprimanded the Pharisees and even his apostles for their hard-headedness? Oftentimes, like these people we don’t get what God and Jesus are trying to teach us. And we are often bothered when God seems to be angry or our Lord is impatient with his followers.
Ask any parent what they feel in raising their children. I am sure they can relate with what Yahweh must have felt with His beloved children after repeated reminders, nor with Jesus when He pointed out what is more essential over the least inconsequential things that the Pharisees were preoccupied with. “Hear and understand.” This is what Yahweh and Jesus keep telling us. Let us be open to the Spirit who speaks and teaches us the way of the Lord.
Dedication of St. Mary Major Basilica
Reading 1 Jer 31:1-7:
At that time, says the Lord, I will be the God of all the tribes of Israel, and they shall be my people. Thus says the Lord: The people that escaped the sword have found favor in the desert. As Israel comes forward to be given his rest, the Lord appears to him from afar: With age-old love I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you. Again I will restore you, and you shall be rebuilt, O virgin Israel; Carrying your festive tambourines, you shall go forth dancing with the merrymakers.
Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; those who plant them shall enjoy the fruits. Yes, a day will come when the watchmen will call out on Mount Ephraim: “Rise up, let us go to Zion, to the Lord, our God.” For thus says the Lord: Shout with joy for Jacob, exult at the head of the nations; proclaim your praise and say: The Lord has delivered his people, the remnant of Israel.
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.
The Canaanite woman can teach us a lot about how we are to pray especially when we want to ask a special favor from the Lord. The woman had great faith that even impressed Jesus. She was convinced that Jesus could do it and he would not refuse her wish. She was persevering in prayer that she would not take no for an answer, never gave in to discouragement in spite of the seemingly upsetting remarks of Jesus. One can readily see her genuine love for her daughter that she did not mind approaching Jesus although she knew she did not have the right to do so because she was non-Jewish. She did not mind what seem to be discriminatory remarks – “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the nation of Israel…” “…it is not right to take the bread from the children and throw it to puppies.”
She loved her daughter so much that she was ready to do anything just to have her get well. The story also reminds us how, like Jesus, we must be ecumenical and mission-oriented. By acceding to the request of the Canaanite Jesus somehow gave the signal that the blessings of the Kingdom are not solely for the “children of Israel” but meant for all the children of God. Recipients of our charity and works of mercy are not to be limited to members of our Christian communities but for anyone who is in need, regardless of color, creed or affiliation.
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: Mt 17:1-9:
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James, and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain, where they were alone. Jesus’ appearance was changed before them: his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as snow. Then suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Jesus. Peter spoke up and said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
Peter was still speaking, when a bright cloud covered them with its shadow; and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, my Chosen One. Listen to him.“ On hearing the voice, the disciples fell to the ground, full of fear. But Jesus came, touched them, and said, “Stand up, do not be afraid!” When they raised their eyes, they no longer saw anyone except Jesus. And as they came down the mountain, Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man be raised from the dead.
God is mysterium tremendum, a tremendous mystery that evokes holy fear in those who glimpse it. Isaiah (6:1-5) experienced this and was stunned. But Peter and his friends experienced tremendous joy and love at the sight of transfigured Christ. In the incarnate Christ, the fear-evoking tremendous mystery becomes deeply lovable and approachable. Let us hold both dimensions of God’s mystery and not lose either of them–the mystery that evokes holy fear and holy love. Pray for a share in Christ’s transfiguration. Transfigure a human life today by feeding a hungry child or forgiving an enemy.
St. Sixtus II and Companions
1st Reading: Na 2:1, 3; 3:1–3, 6–7:
See, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings good news, one who proclaims peace. Judah, celebrate your feasts and carry out your vows. For the wicked have been destroyed, they will not attack you anymore. Yahweh will now restore Jacob’s magnificence, like Israel’ splendor. For they had been plundered, laid waste as a ravaged vineyard. Woe to the bloody city, city of lies and booty, O city of unending plunder! But what! Crack of whips, rumble of wheels and clatter of hoofs!
See the frenzied chargers, the flashing swords and glittering spears, the heaps of the wounded, the dead and dying -we trip over corpses! I will pelt you with filth, I will treat you with contempt and make of you a shameful show, so that all who look on you will turn their backs in disgust and say: Nineveh—a city of lust—is in ruins. Who will mourn for her? Where can we find one to comfort her?
Gospel: Mt 16:24–28:
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If you want to follow me, deny yourself. Take up your cross and follow me. For whoever chooses to save his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life, for my sake, will find it. What will one gain by winning the whole world, if he destroys his soul? Or what can a person give, in exchange for his life? Know, that the Son of Man will come, in the glory of his Father with the holy angels, and he will reward each one according to his deeds. Truly, I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death, before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Following is synonymous to risking. We give our all for a chance to follow someone faithfully and to the finish. That is why it is good business to know and be sure of who we follow. Our investment is such that giving up halfway because of disillusionment and falling out of faith would spell costly consequences. Jesus is making a pitch to us today to follow Him. He is candid about the fate of His disciples and does not water down what will happen as a consequence of such following. It is up to us whether we will cast our lot with Him or find others to follow. May we choose well and stand by our decision till the end.
1st Reading: Hab 1:12 – 2:4:
But you, are you not Yahweh from past ages? You, my holy God, you cannot die. You have set these people to serve your justice and you have made them firm as a rock, to fulfill your punishment. Yahweh, your eyes are too pure to tolerate wickedness and you cannot look on oppression. Why, then, do you look on treacherous people and watch in silence while the evildoer swallows up one better than himself? You treat human beings like the fish in the sea, like reptiles who are nobody’s concern. This nation catches all on its hook, pulls them out with its net and piles them up in its dragnet. Pleased and delighted at their catch, they offer sacrifices to their net and burn incense to their dragnets, since these supplied them with fish in plenty and provided them with food in abundance.
Will they continue, then, to constantly empty their nets, slaughtering nations without mercy? I will stand in my watchtower and take up position on my battlements; I will see what he replies, if there is an answer to my question. Then Yahweh answered me and said, “Write down the vision, inscribe it on tablets so it can be easily read, since this is a vision for an appointed time; it will not fail but will be fulfilled in due time. If it delays, wait for it, for it will come, and will not be deferred. Look: I don’t look with favor on the one who gives way; the upright, on the other hand, will live by his faithfulness.”
Gospel: Mt 17:14–20:
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, “You, faithless and evil people! 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.
The disciples then gathered around 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 to you.”
The size of our faith dictates the size of things we can do. Big faith means big enterprise, little faith means little results. The case of the epileptic child demonstrates the feeble faith the disciples still had. Their insecurities and doubts still get in the way. It is good though that they start with whatever little that they have and come out with the faith that could move mountains later on. And the Lord is there patiently guiding and mentoring them exercising patience and understanding. This tells us not to be afraid when we start with something small on our journey of faith. This is enough to start us towards a faith like that of the apostles.