Bible Diary for August 8th – 14th

August 8th

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. Dominic

1st Reading: 1 Kgs 19:4-8:
He himself disappeared into the desert going on a day’s journey. Then he sat down under a broom tree and prayed to die, “That is enough, Yahweh, take away my life for I am dying.” He lay down and went to sleep under the broom tree. Then an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” Elijah looked and saw, at his head, a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. He ate and drank and went back to sleep. The angel of Yahweh came a second time to him, saying, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too long for you.” He got up, ate and drank, and on the strength of that food, he traveled for forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.

2nd Reading: Eph 4:30—5:2:
Do not sadden the Holy Spirit of God which you were marked with. It will be your distinctive mark on the day of salvation. Do away with all quarreling, rage, anger, insults and every kind of malice: be good and understanding, mutually forgiving one another as God forgave you in Christ. As most beloved children of God, strive to imitate him. Follow the way of love, the example of Christ who loved you. He gave himself up for us and became the offering and sacrificial victim whose fragrance rises to God.

Gospel: Jn 6:41-51:
The Jews murmured becauseJesus had said, “I am the bread whichcomes from heaven.” And they said, “Thisman is the son of Joseph, isn’t he? Weknow his father and mother. How canhe say that he has come from heaven?”Jesus answered them, “Do notmurmur among yourselves. No one cancome to me unless he is drawn by theFather who sent me; and I will raise himup on the last day. It has been written inthe Prophets: They shall all be taught byGod. So whoever listens and learns fromthe Father comes to me.

For no one has seen the Father exceptthe One who comes from God; he hasseen the Father. Truly, I say to you,whoever believes has eternal life.I am the bread of life. Though yourancestors ate the manna in the desert,they died. But here you have the breadwhich comes from heaven so that youmay eat of it and not die.I am the living bread which has comefrom heaven; whoever eats of this breadwill live forever. The bread I shall give is my flesh and I will give it for the life ofthe world.”

People have a hard time understanding the teachings of Jesus. They begin to investigate His credentials and pay strict attention to the particulars of Jesus’ life. It is the price famous people pay. The public scrutinizes every inch of their lives. This did not make Jesus back down. His authority rested on solid ground. Instead, He pressed on with the affirmations that made His listeners squirm with discomfort. His truth was too hard to bear at that moment.

But this is part of the trade that Jesus accepted. He would not always be understood. What is important is to proclaim His Good News in good times and bad times. This in itself attests that He believed first in what He preached. Others might take a long time, or they might never believe at all. But it is worth the effort to try. We sometimes shy away from explaining to others the hard tenets of our faith. We feel uncomfortable explaining it to others. This attitude misses the point of proclamation and witness. We do not proclaim ideas but a person.

The person of Jesus Christ and His Good News! Perhaps it is difficult for us to discuss our faith with others because in the first place, we never really know who Jesus is. Today is a good day to start knowing He Who is behind the Book. God our Father, help me connect in a deeper way with your Son. I have been neglectful these past days and tend to substitute Him with other things that are unimportant and mundane. May my heart find its way back to Him, so that I may know Him enough to proclaim Him confidently to others. I ask this in His name, Amen.

August 9th

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

1st Reading: Dt 10:12-22:
So now, Israel, what is it that Yahweh, your God, asks of you but to fear him and follow all his ways? Love him and serve him with all your heart and with all your soul. Observe the commandments of Yahweh and his laws which I command you today, for your good. See: the heavens, those that are seen and those that are unseen, the earth and all that is in it, everything belongs to Yahweh, your God. Nevertheless, it was on your fathers that Yahweh set his heart. He loved them, and after them, he chose their descendants—you—preferring you to all the peoples, as you can see this day. Purify your hearts, then, and do not be defiant towards Yahweh because Yahweh is the God of gods and the Lord of lords.

He is the great God, the strong and terrible God. When he judges, he treats everyone equally; he does not let himself be bought by gifts. He renders justice to the orphan and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him bread and clothing. Love the stranger then, because you yourselves were strangers in the land of Egypt. Fear Yahweh, your God, serve him, follow him and call on his name when you have to make an oath. He is your pride and he is your God, who has done those amazing things for you. When you went down to Egypt, your ancestors were no more than seventy persons, but now, Yahweh, your God, has made you as many as the stars of heaven.

Gospel: Mt 17:22-27:
While Jesus was in Galilee with the Twelve, he said to them, “The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. But he will rise on the third day.” The Twelve were deeply grieved. When they returned to Capernaum, the temple tax collectors came to Peter and asked him, “Does your master pay the temple tax?” He answered, “Yes.”

Peter then entered the house; and immediately, Jesus asked him, “What do you think, Simon? Who pay taxes or tribute to the kings of the earth: their sons or strangers and aliens?” Peter replied, “Strangers and aliens.” And Jesus told him, “The sons, then, are tax-free. But, so as not to offend these people, go to the sea, throw in a hook, and open the mouth of the first fish you catch. You will find a coin in it. Take the coin and give it to them for you and for me.”

It might help to recall that neither the king’s family nor Roman citizens pay Roman taxes. But citizens of nations subject to Rome had to pay Roman taxes. Jewish converts to Christianity were faced with a dilemma – were they obliged to pay the Temple tax? They have joined a new faith community although they still continued to meet and pray in the Temple. This Gospel story provides some answer or clarification to the dilemma. Jesus himself paid the Temple tax, although he was the Son of God and was exempt. Christians are encouraged to pay as Jesus did so as not to cause scandal. By doing so they would be giving a good example for other people to follow.

Although they no longer have a moral obligation to pay Christians should be aware of the sensitivities of others. Paying the temple tax would likewise manifest respect for their ancestral heritage. This serves to remind us that our criteria for doing something good should not be whether we have a moral obligation or not. It should be what love or charity asks of us. In making a decision a good Christian does not ask, what is the most practical or most convenient thing to do? Rather he/she asks, what is the most loving thing to do in this situation?

August 10th

St. Lawrence

1st Reading: 2 Cor 9:6-10:
Remember: the one who sows meagerly will reap meagerly, and there shall be generous harvests for the one who sows generously. Each of you should give as you decided personally, and not reluctantly as if obliged. God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to fill you with every good thing, so that you have enough of everything at all times, and may give abundantly for any good work. Scripture says: He distributed, he gave to the poor, his good works last forever. God who provides the sower with seed will also provide him with the bread he eats. He will multiply the seed for you and also increase the interests of your good works.

Gospel: Jn 12:24-26:
Truly, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Those who love their life destroy it, and those who despise their life in this world save it even to everlasting life. Whoever wants to serve me, let him follow me and wherever I am, there shall my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

We know very little about St. Lawrence that can be said to be historically certain. We know that he was one of the seven deacons of the church of Rome around the year 250. This means that he had some role in the temporal administration of that church as some kind of finance officer. We also know that he died a martyr’s death in the year 257 during the persecution of Emperor Valerian. On this feast of St. Lawrence, let us have a thought of appreciation and gratitude for all the many people around us whose often inglorious and unpublicized dedication make our lives orderly, comfortable, harmonious, productive.

True, an accountant’s work rarely provides the stuff for great romance and drama, and we seldom imagine them as “riding away into the sunset” yet, somebody has to pay the bills… And that somebody is often, in his or her quiet manner, as true a martyr of the daily task as any Lawrence of Rome ever was. Let us appreciate our temporal administrators for their invaluable contribution to the cause of Christ. They might be unsung heroes, but heroes they are just the same.

August 11th

St. Clare

1st Reading: Dt 34:1-12:
From the barren plain of Moab, Moses went up to Mount Nebo, to the summit of Pisgah, opposite Jericho. And Yahweh showed him all the Land: from Gilead to Dan, the whole of Naphtali, the land of Ephraim, and of Manasseh, the whole land of Judah, as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, the Plains, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. And Yahweh said to him: “This is the land about which I swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, promising it to their descendants. I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you shall not enter it.” Moses, the servant of God, died there in the land of Moab, according to the will of Yahweh.

They buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth peor; but to this very day, no one knows where his tomb is. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died. He did not lose his vigor and his eyes still saw clearly. The children of Israel mourned for him in the plains of Moab for thirty days. But Joshua, son of Nun, was full of the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands upon him. The children of Israel obeyed him and did as Yahweh had commanded Moses. No prophet like Moses has appeared again. Yahweh conversed with him face to face. What signs and wonders he worked in Egypt against Pharaoh, against his people and all his land! He displayed great power and awesome might in view of all Israel!

Gospel: Mt 18:15-20:
If your brother has sinned against you, go and point out the fault to him, when the two of you are alone; and if he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he doesn’t listen to you, take with you one or two others, so that the case may be decided by the evidence of two or three witnesses. And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembled Church. But if he does not listen to the Church, then regard him as a pagan, or a tax collector. I say to you: whatever you bind on earth, heaven will keep bound; and whatever you unbind on earth, heaven will keep unbound. In like manner, I say to you, if, on earth, two of you agree in asking for anything, it will be granted to you by my heavenly Father; for where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there, among them.

The text of today’s gospel reading presents an important difficulty in terms of the actual words used by Jesus. The present liturgical version reads: “If your brother (or sister) should commit some wrong against you…” These last two words are missing from the best and oldest manuscripts and have probably been added here by mistake because they appear in the following paragraph, only six verses later. Copyists tend to harmonize passages close to each other (close either by proximity or by similarity of content.) So our text should read simply: “If your brother (or sister) should commit some wrong…” The fault in question need not have been committed against me.

It has also to be a serious matter and something which is not yet of public knowledge. Naturally, before attempting to correct others of their faults, we must be sure that some minimal conditions are fulfilled. First, we must be sure of the facts. Second, there must be serious hope that the admonition will have a good effect. Lastly, the circumstances of time, place, mood, etc., must be favorable for the admonition to succeed. Correcting others is an art; indeed, it is a great act of love when it is done with a pure motive.

August 12th

St. Jane Frances de Chantal

1st Reading: Jos 3:7-10a, 11, 13-17:
The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know I am with you, as I was with Moses. Now command the priests carrying the ark of the covenant to come to a halt in the Jordan when you reach the edge of the waters.” So Joshua said to the children of Israel, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord, your God. This is how you will know that there is a living God in your midst, who at your approach will dispossess the Canaanites. The ark of the covenant of the Lord of the whole earth will precede you into the Jordan. When the soles of the feet of the priests carrying the ark of the Lord, the Lord of the whole earth, touch the water of the Jordan, it will cease to flow; for the water flowing down from upstream will halt in a solid bank.”

The people struck their tents to cross the Jordan, with the priests carrying the ark of the covenant ahead of them. No sooner had these priestly bearers of the ark waded into the waters at the edge of the Jordan, which overflows all its banks during the entire season of the harvest, than the waters flowing from upstream halted, backing up in a solid mass for a very great distance indeed, from Adam, a city in the direction of Zarethan; while those flowing downstream toward the Salt Sea of the Arabah  disappeared entirely. Thus the people crossed over opposite Jericho. While all Israel crossed over on dry ground, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord remained motionless on dry ground in the bed of the Jordan until the whole nation had completed the passage.

Gospel: Mt 18:21—19: 1:
Then Peter asked him, “Lord, how many times must I forgive the offenses of my brother or sister? Seven times?” Jesus answered, “No, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. This story throws light on the kingdom of heaven. A king decided to settle accounts with his servants. Among the first of them was one who owed him ten thousand pieces of gold. As the man could not repay the debt, the king commanded that he be sold as a slave with his wife, his children and all his goods, as repayment. The servant threw himself at the feet of the king and said, ‘Give me time, and I will pay you back everything.‘

“The king took pity on him and not only set him free but even cancelled his debt. When this servant left the king’s presence, he met one of his fellow servants, who owed him a hundred pieces of silver. He grabbed him by the throat and almost choked him, shouting, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ His fellow servant threw himself at his feet and begged him, ‘Give me time, and I will pay everything.’ But the other did not agree, and sent him to prison until he had paid all his debt.

“Now the servants of the king saw what had happened. They were extremely upset, and so they went and reported everything to their lord. Then the lord summoned his servant and said, ‘Wicked servant, I forgave you all that you owed me when you begged me to do so. Weren’t you bound to have pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ The lord was now angry. He handed the wicked servant over to be punished, until he had paid the whole debt.” Jesus added, “So will my heavenly Father do with you, unless you sincerely forgive your brothers and sisters.” When Jesus had finished this teaching, he left Galilee and arrived at the border of Judea, on the other side of the Jordan River.

When we come to think of it, it is not surprising that Heaven is inaccessible to those who refuse to forgive. This follows from the nature of things. For indeed, what is Heaven if not being with God in total bliss? Now, the ones who refuse to forgive, if they found themselves in Heaven, would be neither happy nor of one heart with God. They would not be happy because they would eternally have to bear the company of those against whom they hold a grudge. Moreover, they would not be of one heart with God for God is, in his whole being, forgiveness and mercy.

And in this respect the grudgebearers would find themselves in sharp disharmony with the only possible source of true happiness. For them Heaven would be an eternal source of frustration. Why? Because fundamentally Heaven is less a place than a state of the soul, a mode of being. In order to taste God and experience the blissful ecstasy of his presence, one needs to be transformed into him, become like him glowing with love and kindness. When it is a matter of tasting God, only one method will succeed: to become like him.

August 13th

Claretian Martyrs of Barbastro
Sts. Pontian and Hippolytus

1st Reading: Jos 24:1-13:
Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem, summoning their elders, their leaderstheir judges and their officers. When they stood in ranks before God, Joshua addressed all the people: “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: In times past your fathers, down to Terah, father of Abraham and Nahor, dwelt beyond the River and served other gods. But I brought your father Abraham from the region beyond the River and led him through the entire land of Canaan. I made his descendants numerous, and gave him Isaac. To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. To Esau I assigned the mountain region of Seir in which to settle, while Jacob and his children went down to Egypt.

“Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and smote Egypt with the prodigies which I wrought in her midst. Afterward I led you out of Egypt, and when you reached the sea, the Egyptians pursued your fathers to the Red Sea with chariots and horsemen. Because they cried out to the Lord, he put darkness between your people and the Egyptians, upon whom he brought the sea so that it engulfed them. After you witnessed what I did to Egypt, and dwelt a long time in the desert, I brought you into the land of the Amorites who lived east of the Jordan. They fought against you, but I delivered them into your power. You took possession of their land, and I destroyed them,  the two kings of the Amorites, before you.

“Then Balak, son of Zippor, king of Moab, prepared to war against Israel. He summoned Balaam, son of Beor, to curse you; but I would not listen to Balaam. On the contrary, he had to bless you, and I saved you from him. Once you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho, the men of Jericho fought against you, but I delivered them also into your power. And I sent the hornets ahead of you that drove them (the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites,  Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites) out of your way; it was not your sword or your bow. I gave you a land that you had not tilled and cities that you had not built, to dwell in; you have eaten of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.”

Gospel: Mt 19:3-12:
Some Pharisees approached him. They wanted to test him and asked, “Is a man allowed to divorce his wife for any reason he wants?“ Jesus replied, “Have you not read that in the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and the Creator said: Therefore a man shall leave father and mother, and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one body? So they are no longer two but one body; let no one separate what God has joined.“ They asked him, “Then, why did Moses command us to write a bill of dismissal in order to divorce?“

Jesus replied, “Moses knew the hardness of your hearts, so he allowed you to divorce your wives, but it was not so in the beginning. Therefore I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, unless it be for immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.“ The disciples said, “If that is the condition of a married man, it is better not to marry.“ Jesus said to them, “Not everybody can accept what you have just said, but only those who have received this gift. There are eunuchs born so from their mother‘s womb. Some have been made that way by others. But there are some who have given up the possibility of marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who can accept it, accept it.“

Some ignorant Catholics naively believe that, one of these days, the Church will “modernize” herself, adapt herself to the times and allow divorce—as do our Protestant brethren. Well, this will never happen because, as we can see from today’s gospel reading, the prohibition of divorce comes from Christ himself. Why is Christ so adamantly against divorce? For many reasons. One of these, perhaps the most fundamental, is that couples are made one by God (“let no one separate what God has joined”).

Another reason is that divorce deprives children of their much needed support system and destroys their emotional world at the time of their greatest fragility. Furthermore, divorce is a too easy way out of a difficult situation: it dispenses people from facing their mutual failings and thus from growing up. Most divorces could be prevented if both spouses learned to daily use three simple words: “I am sorry.” A marriage is like a house: it needs regular maintenance. That requires a lot of work, but it is well worth it. A good marriage is more beautiful than any royal palace.

August 14th

St. Maximilian Kolbe

1st Reading: Jos 24:14-29:
So fear Yahweh, and be sincere and faithful in serving him. Set aside those gods your ancestors worshiped in Mesopotamia and Egypt. Serve only Yahweh. 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, driving away before us all the nations especially the Amorites who lived in this land. So we shall also serve Yahweh: he is our God!” Joshua asked the people: “Will you be able to serve Yahweh? He is a holy God, a jealous God who does not tolerate wickedness or faults.

Gospel: Mt 19:13-15:
Then little children were brought to Jesus, that he might lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded those who brought them. Jesus then said, “Let the children be! Don’t hinder them from coming to me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are humble, like these children.” Jesus laid his hands on them and went away.

There is something unusual here in Jesus’ teaching and action. He invites to himself the little children who were of least consequence and with no powerful standing in society, proposes them as models for human behavior especially in receiving the Kingdom of God. We are aware that in the Jewish culture during the time of Jesus, children were not taken seriously. They were not given the respect and esteem that they deserved. By presenting them as exemplars for how to receive the kingdom, Jesus was in effect recognizing the positive qualities or virtues exhibited by young children such as humility, docility, transparency/honesty and obedience – among others.

Jesus’ teaching and action favoring innocent children serves as an encouragement for most of us. Even though we might feel inferior to everyone else, Jesus tells us we are worth a billion in God’s sight. That should give enough self-esteem and self-confidence. We are loved and “small people” like us have a place in the kingdom of heaven. At the same time, the respect for children and their ability to symbolize the proper approach to the kingdom of God seems particularly important in view of recent revelations about child abuse. Abuse of children is rooted in a lack of respect and appreciation of their worth. It might help to keep in mind always that there is so much that innocent little children can teach us.