Bible Diary for August 9th – 15th

August 9th

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

1st Reading: 1 K 19:9a, 11–13a:
On reaching the place, he came to the cave and stayed in it. Then the word of Yahweh came to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Then Yahweh said, “Go up and stand on the mount, waiting for Yahweh.” And Yahweh passed by. There was first a windstorm, wild wind which rent the mountains and broke the rocks into pieces before Yahweh, but Yahweh was not in the wind. After the storm, an earthquake, but Yahweh was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, a fire, but Yahweh was not in the fire; after the fire, the murmur of a gentle breeze. When Elijah perceived it, he covered his face with his cloak, went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

2nd Reading: Rom 9:1–5:
I tell you, sincerely, in Christ, and my conscience assures me in the Holy Spirit, that I am not lying: I have great sadness and constant anguish for the Jews. I would even desire, that, I myself, suffer the curse of being cut off from Christ, instead of my brethren: I mean, my own people, my kin. They are Israelites, whom God adopted, and on them, rests his glory. Theirs, are the Covenants, the law, the worship and the promises of God. They are descendants of the patriarchs, and from their race, Christ was born, he, who, as God, is above all distinctions. Blessed be He forever and ever: Amen!

Gospel: Mt 14:22–33:
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!”

In the Jewish tradition, darkness combined with strong wind and water signify chaos. It points to the early times before creation came to be. This reading presents to us a re-creation scene with Jesus as the main protagonist and the disciples being the re-created persons of the new dispensation in Christ. In this Gospel, the lordship of Jesus over chaos is solid and firm. There is no doubt that He is more than just human for being able to do this. Peter sank when he walked amidst the turbulence and was saved by the Lord who stretched His hands to take him out of the water.

From incredulity and doubt, Peter was renewed into a firm believer of the Lord. This re-creative powers of the Lord on Peter spilled over to the other disciples who acknowledged Him as the true Son of God. There have been countless moments when I doubted. How many times must have I sunk in the waters of despair brought about by my unbelief? Today is a good day to make a confession of faith regarding who Jesus is for me. I will take some time and proclaim with my whole being that Jesus is my Lord and Savior.

August 10th

St. Lawrence

Reading 1 2 Cor 9:6-10:
Brothers and sisters: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work. As it is written: He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever. The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

Gospel Jn 12:24-26:
Jesus said to his disciples: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.”

St. Lawrence was martyred in Rome in 258 during the persecution under the Roman emperor Valerian.  He was among the seven deacons serving Pope St. Sixtus II, who was martyred three days before Lawrence. When he was challenged to hand over the Church’s treasure to the authorities, he asked for a few days’ grace; then “he went all over the city, seeking out in every street the poor who were supported by the Church, and with whom no other was so well acquainted.

On the third day, he gathered together a great number of them before the church and placed them in rows: the decrepit, the blind, the lame, the maimed, the lepers, orphans and widows; then he went to the prefect, invited him to come and see the treasure of the Church.” Many conversions to Christianity throughout Rome reportedly followed after Lawrence’s death, including those of several senators witnessing his execution on a gridiron.

August 11th

St. Clare

1st Reading: Ezk 2:8 – 3:4:
Listen then, son of man, to what I say, and don’t be a rebel among rebels. Open your mouth and take in what I’m about to say.” I looked and saw a hand stretched out in front of me holding a scroll. He unrolled it before me; on both sides were written lamentations, groaning and woes. He said to me, “Son of man, eat what is given to you. Eat this scroll and then go; speak to the people of Israel.” I opened my mouth and he made me eat the scroll; and then he said to me, “Eat and fill yourself with this scroll that I’m giving you.” I ate it; and it tasted as sweet as honey. He said, “Son of man, go to the Israelites; speak to them with my words.

Gospel: Mt 18:1–5, 10, 12–14:
At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked him “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child, set the child in the midst of the disciples, and said, “I assure you, that, unless you change, and become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble, like this child, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and whoever receives such a child, in my name, receives me.

See that you do not despise any of these little ones; for I tell you, their angels in heaven continually see the face of my heavenly Father. What do you think of this? If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them strays, won’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hillside, and go to look for the stray one? And I tell you, when he finally finds it, he is more pleased about it, than about the ninety-nine that did not go astray. It is the same with your Father in heaven. Your Father in heaven doesn’t want even one of these little ones to perish.

Being conscious of one’s greatness signifies an insecure hold onto imagined greatness. If one has to defend it to each and everyone constantly, then one’s hold over it is tenuous and weak. There will be always someone much stronger who will come along and claim the title. That is why Jesus points out to the child as an exemplar of what greatness means. This is especially true in the case of the kingdom of heaven. The child accepts without counting what is given him or her. In heaven one does not contrast one’s gifts with others to find out who has more and who has less. Each will have the friendship of God in equal measure.

August 12th

St. Jane Frances de Chantal

1st Reading: Ezk 9:1–7; 10:18–22:
Then he shouted loudly in my ears saying, “The punishment of the city is near; see, each one of these has in his hand his instrument of destruction.” And six men came from the direction of the upper gate, which faces north, each one with his instrument of destruction. With them was a man clothed in linen, with writing material at his side. They came; and stopped near the altar of bronze. Then the glory of the God of Israel rose from the cherubim, where it rested; and went to the threshold of the house.

Yahweh called to the man clothed in linen; who had the material for writing at his side; and he said to him, “Pass through the center of the city, through Jerusalem, and trace a cross on the forehead of the men who sigh and groan, because of all the abominations committed in it.” I heard him say to the others, “Now you may pass through the city, after him, and strike. Your eyes shall not look with pity; show no mercy! Do away with them all—old men, young men, virgins, children and women— but do not touch anyone marked with a cross.”

And, as they were told to begin with the Sanctuary, they struck the elders who were in front of the temple. Yahweh said to them, “Let the courts be filled with the slain and the temple be defiled with their blood: Go out!” They went and slew the people in the city. The glory of Yahweh went from above the threshold of the house and went, to rest on the cherubim. Then the cherubim left, opening their wings and rising above the earth in my sight; and the wheels went with them.

They halted at the east gate of the house of Yahweh; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them. These were the living creatures I had seen under the God of Israel on the banks of the river Chebar. I recognized them as cherubim. Each had four faces, each had four wings; and they had what seemed like human hands under their wings. As for the appearance of their faces, they were the faces I had seen by the river Chebar, the same likeness. Each one went straight ahead.

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.”

Breaking bonds is such a serious affair that Jesus made it deliberately difficult to do so. One has to undergo all the processes enumerated before one can legitimately break one’s relationship with those one may have once called brothers or sisters. These show that Jesus puts premium on the preservation of the bond, of reconciliation and forgiveness. Only those who are deliberately set to break the relationship would have the stamina and the will to do so.

August 13th

Claretian Martyrs of Barbastro
Sts. Pontian and Hippolytus

1st Reading: Ezk 12:1–12:
This word of Yahweh came to me, “Son of man, you live in the midst of a house of rebels: they have eyes for seeing but do not see; they have ears for hearing but do not hear; for they are a house of rebels. Because of this, son of man, prepare for yourself an exile’s baggage in their sight, as an exile does; and go as an exile, to another place, in their sight. Would that they might understand, because they are a house of rebels. You will gather your things, an exile’s baggage, by day, to be seen by them; and you will leave in the evening, as for a departure of deportees. While they look on, dig a hole in the wall and leave from there. As they look on, shoulder your baggage and leave in the dark. Veil your face and do not look at the land, for I have made you a sign for Israel.”

I did as I was ordered, gathering my things by day, an exile’s baggage, and, in the evening, I made a hole in the wall with my hand. I left in the dark, in their presence, shouldering my baggage. In the morning, the word of Yahweh came to me: “Son of man, did not the Israelites, these rebels, ask you, ‘What are you doing there?’ Answer them on behalf of Yahweh: This oracle concerns the prince in Jerusalem and all the Israelites remaining in the city. Say, ‘I am a sign for you,’ for what I have done will happen to them: They will be deported, exiled. The prince among them shall shoulder his baggage in the dark and depart. They will dig a hole in the wall to let him leave by it. He will cover his face because he must not see the land with his eyes.

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 every-thing.’ The king took pity on him, and not only set him free, but even canceled 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 these sayings, he left Galilee and arrived at the border of Judea, on the other side of the Jordan River. 

One of the most difficult things to do is to forgive. If the hurt is too deep, it takes a herculean effort before one can truly forgive and forget. And only a few are capable of this. The vast majority of us need time before we could truly heal into wholeness and move on without rancour and ill will to those who have offended us. That is why it is not easy to be the Lord’s disciple.

The demand is such that we have to truly believe in order to overcome. We have to acknowledge first our own sinfulness and believe that we have been forgiven of our entire debts. That’s the only time we can forgive wholeheartedly. For what we don’t have, we cannot give. To claim that we have been forgiven gives us the power to forgive others as well.

August 14th

St. Maximilian Kolbe

1st Reading: Ez 16:1-15, 60, 63:
The word of Yahweh came to me in these terms, “Son of man, make known to Jerusalem its sins. You say on my behalf: Your beginning was in Canaan; there, you were born. Your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. On the day you were born, your cord was not cut; you were not bathed in water to make you clean; you were not rubbed with salt, nor were you wrapped in cloth. There was no one to look with pity on you… But I passed by; and saw you, immersed in your blood. I said to you, in the midst of your blood, ‘Live!’ I made you grow, like a plant of the field. …But you relied on your beauty; you trusted in your fame; and you began to give yourself to every passerby, like a prostitute. But I will remember my Covenant with you in the days of your youth, and, make in your favor, an eternal Covenant. So that you may remember, be ashamed, and never open your mouth again, because of your humiliation, when I have pardoned you for all you have done,” word of Yahweh.

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.”

In today’s gospel reading, which presents Jesus’ absolute prohibition of divorce, there seems to be an exception to this prohibition, since Jesus specifies that divorce is not possible “unless it be for immorality” (porneia in the Greek text)! Some explanatory remarks might be useful here. First, Matthew is the only gospel containing this so-called “exceptive clause.” All other parallel texts have no such clause (Mk 10:11-12; Lk 16:18; 1 Cor 7:10-11). Second, in Matthew’s community, the rabbis had allowed pagan converts who were married to close relatives (marriages prohibited by the Mosaic law—cf. Lev 18: 6-18) to remain in such marriages, considered incestuous in Jewish law.

Here Matthew applies the law of Jesus by saying: divorce is prohibited, except in the case of incestuous marriages, which should be dissolved. In other words, the “exceptive clause” constitutes no real exception to the absolute prohibition of divorce when the marriage is lawful. This absolute stance of Jesus might appear hard to some Christians. But it is the only stance which can save us from social chaos. A look at our divorce-prone society should convince us of that. How many millions of children are deprived of at least one parent because of divorce and grow up in an abnormal setting?

August 15th

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

1st Reading: Rev 11:19; 12:1–6, 10ab:
Then, the Sanctuary of God, in the heavens, was opened, and the Ark of the Covenant of God could be seen inside the Sanctuary. There were flashes of lightning, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a violent hailstorm. A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant, and cried out in pain, looking to her time of delivery. Then, another sign appeared: a huge, red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and wearing seven crowns on its heads. It had just swept along a third of the stars of heaven with its tail, throwing them down to the earth.

The dragon stood in front of the woman, who was about to give birth, so that, it might devour the child as soon as it was born. She gave birth to a male child, the one who is to rule all the nations with an iron scepter; then, her child was seized, and taken up to God, and to his throne, while the woman fled to the desert, where God had prepared a place for her; there, she would be looked after, for one thousand two hundred and sixty days. Then, I heard a loud voice from heaven: Now has salvation come, with the power and the kingdom of our God, and the rule of his anointed. For our brothers’ accuser has been cast out, who accused them night and day, before God.

2nd Reading: 1 Cor 15:20–27:
But no, Christ has been raised from the dead, and he comes before all those who have fallen asleep. A human being brought death; a human being also brings resurrection of the dead. For, as in Adam all die, so, in Christ, all will be made alive. However, each one in his own time: first Christ, then Christ’s people, when he comes.

Then, the end will come, when Christ delivers the kingdom to God the Father, after having destroyed every rule, authority and power. For he must reign and put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed will be death. As Scripture says: God has subjected everything under his feet. When we say that everything is put under his feet, we exclude, of course, the Father, who subjects everything to him.

Gospel: Lk 1:39–56:
Mary then set out for a town in the hill country of Judah. She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and, giving a loud cry, said, “You are most blessed among women; and blessed is the fruit of your womb! How is it, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby within me suddenly leapt for joy. Blessed are you, who believed that the Lord’s word would come true!”

And Mary said, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God, my savior! He has looked upon his servant, in her lowliness, and people, forever, will call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, Holy is his Name! From age to age, his mercy extends to those who live in his presence. He has acted with power and done wonders, and scattered the proud with their plans. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up those who are downtrodden. He has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty. He held out his hand to Israel, his servant, for he remembered his mercy, even as he promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.” Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months, and then returned home.

Today we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary with both body and soul into heaven. It is not only her feast but the feast of the whole humanity as well for whom the best representative is she. Her fate reveals that which await each and every one of us who are Christ’s followers in the last days. She enjoyed it ahead of us being the most blessed among women who accepted the ministry of being the human mother of the Son of God. Today we join our voices with hers in a hymn of praise to God who made all these things possible because of His abiding love for humanity.