Bible Diary for December 10th – December 16th

December 10th

2nd Sunday in Advent

1st Reading: Is 40:1-5, 9-11:
Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated; indeed, she has received from the hand of the Lord double for all her sins. A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley.

Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. Go up on to a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings; cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news! Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God! Here comes with power the Lord God, who rules by his strong arm; here is his reward with him, his recompense before him. Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.

2nd Reading: 2 Pt 3:8-14:
Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.

Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved in flames and the elements melted by fire. But according to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.

Gospel: Mk 1:1-8:
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins. John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey. And this is what he proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

It’s not easy to play second fiddle especially if you too have your own set of followers and have been in the trade for some time. But that is precisely what John did. From the very beginning he knew his place and acted responsibly. No temptation for self-promotion or seeking out his own personal glory deterred him from his task. He was a man comfortable with himself. He did not need external signs of his stature. Even his lifestyle pointed to a conscious decision he made for himself.

Clothed only in camel’s hair with the barest of sustenance to support him, his greatness lay within. Playing second did not diminish who he was. He was God’s servant and would remain as one no matter what. Advent is about disposing of our extras that we might have room for the Child to be born on Christmas. Let John be our guide today for simple living. Why don’t we dispose all our accumulated things that we don’t need anyway and give it to those who might have better use for it. Maybe, it is a good idea to start with our closet.

December 11th

St. Damasus I

1st Reading: Is 35:1-10:
The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song. The glory of Lebanon will be given to them, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; They will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God. Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; With divine recompense he comes to save you.

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; Then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing. Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe. The burning sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground, springs of water; The abode where jackals lurk will be a marsh for the reed and papyrus. A highway will be there, called the holy way; No one unclean may pass over it, nor fools go astray on it. No lion will be there, nor beast of prey go up to be met upon it. It is for those with a journey to make, and on it the redeemed will walk. Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; They will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.

Gospel: Lk 5:17-26:
One day as Jesus was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there, and the power of the Lord was with him for healing. And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed; they were trying to bring him in and set him in his presence. But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles into the middle in front of Jesus.

When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “As for you, your sins are forgiven.” Then the scribes and Pharisees began to ask themselves, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who but God alone can forgive sins?” Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them in reply, “What are you thinking in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”– he said to the one who was paralyzed, “I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” He stood up immediately before them, picked up what he had been lying on, and went home, glorifying God. Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God, and, struck with awe, they said, “We have seen incredible things today.”

“Amazement seized the people and they praised God.” “What wonderful things we have seen today.” When we witness something usual, we are amazed, we praise God, we tell others of the wonderful things we have seen. Same expressions were uttered by the people, who witnessed the wonders Jesus showed when He healed the paralyzed man. What were they wondering? They were amazed and wondered at the paralyzed man‘s faith. Nothing stopped them not to bring the man to Jesus. They were so determined. Even Jesus wondered: “when Jesus saw their faith, He said to the man, “My friend your sins are forgiven.”

They wondered how the man was forgiven and how he got up, took his mat, walked and went home praising God. The wonderful event brings to recall and to learn a lesson that people can be saved through the instrumentality of others: parents, friends, officemates, classmates, etc. St. Monica converted her most sinful and immoral son through her tears and prayers, now a great pillar of the Church, St. Augustine. Many of us can recall the persons who brought us to church, to the sacraments, encouraged and advised us, saved us. Every time, I see lay people who are so committed to their ministry, couple who are so faithful to each other, I wondered. My commitment and fidelity to my priestly life and vows are strengthened. Let us pray and be grateful to people who brought us to God.

December 12th

Our Lady of Guadalupe

1st Reading: Zec 2:14-17:
Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the Lord. Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day, and they shall be his people, and he will dwell among you, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. The Lord will possess Judah as his portion in the holy land, and he will again choose Jerusalem. Silence, all mankind, in the presence of the Lord! For he stirs forth from his holy dwelling.

Gospel: Lk 1:26-38:
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”

But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Mary had a reason to rejoice on that blessed day when the angel Gabriel first brought the news to her. She was entrusted with a ministry that God had never asked before from any of the great personalities in the Old Testament. The divine confidence rests on the fragile shoulder of a girl-child of perhaps fourteen or fifteen years of age. Many speak about the obedience and docility of the Blessed Virgin. But few ever talk about her courage. To be chosen as the Mother of the Son of the Most High is a tall order. Yet, this simple maiden did not hesitate and carried the ministry with quiet courage and dignity. No wonder she was blessed among women. She was blessed with uncommon valor not found in anyone who preceded her.

December 13th

St. Lucy

1st Reading: Is 40:25-31:
To whom can you liken me as an equal? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these things: He leads out their army and numbers them, calling them all by name. By his great might and the strength of his power not one of them is missing! Why, O Jacob, do you say, and declare, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”? Do you not know or have you not heard? The Lord is the eternal God, creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint nor grow weary, and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny. He gives strength to the fainting; for the weak he makes vigor abound. Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall, They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles’ wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.

Gospel: Mt 11:28-30:
Jesus said to the crowds: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Burden is a matter of perspective. What is considered a burden by some is nothing to others. That is why Jesus’ yoke is nothing to complain about because it is borne from the perspective of love. With love, sacrifices are counted as nothing. One is not focused on the pain but on the joy that one will harvest once the difficulties have been surmounted. Thus love sees not only the now but the future that will dawn. The yoke of love may be full of sacrifices but it is never considered heavy.

December 14th

St. John of the Cross

1st Reading: Is 41:13-20:
I am the Lord, your God, who grasp your right hand; It is I who say to you, “Fear not, I will help you.” Fear not, O worm Jacob, O maggot Israel; I will help you, says the Lord; your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. I will make of you a threshing sledge, sharp, new, and double-edged, To thresh the mountains and crush them, to make the hills like chaff. When you winnow them, the wind shall carry them off and the storm shall scatter them. But you shall rejoice in the Lord, and glory in the Holy One of Israel. The afflicted and the needy seek water in vain, their tongues are parched with thirst.

I, the Lord, will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will open up rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the broad valleys; I will turn the desert into a marshland, and the dry ground into springs of water. I will plant in the desert the cedar, acacia, myrtle, and olive; I will set in the wasteland the cypress, together with the plane tree and the pine, That all may see and know, observe and understand, That the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.

Gospel: Mt 11:11-15:
Jesus said to the crowds: “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force. All the prophets and the law prophesied up to the time of John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, the one who is to come. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

Jesus Himself now proclaims directly who will be one of our guides in navigating our way towards Christmas. It is John the Baptist, greatest among the sons of women but humble enough to accept that even he is unfit to untie the sandal straps of the Chosen One of God. It is John’s humility which is his greatest virtue. Perhaps the Lord invites us to cultivate humility in this season of Advent for us to be numbered among the lowly shepherds who, on the first Christmas night, saw the baby Jesus ahead of the wise men from the east, and the rest of those who came.

December 15th

1st Reading: Is 48:17-19:
Thus says the Lord, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go. If you would hearken to my commandments, your prosperity would be like a river, and your vindication like the waves of the sea; Your descendants would be like the sand, and those born of your stock like its grains, Their name never cut off or blotted out from my presence.

Gospel: Mt 11:16-19:
Jesus said to the crowds: “To what shall I compare this generation? It is like children who sit in marketplaces and call to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance, we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by her works.”

When I was a seminarian, idealistic as I was, I had harsh comments to some priests. Now that I am a priest, I am eating my own words, and having a dose of my own medicine. It is not easy to be a priest, and more, to be a good one. I realize that experience is the best teacher. Jesus in our gospel describes the people of his time, pointing at their failure to respond accordingly to what He is offering. They did not see the message and purpose of John the Baptist, branding him as a demon possessed.

They too regarded Jesus as a glutton and a drunkard. They were always negative to Jesus. Our situation, this modern time, is not very far from the generations of John and Jesus. Today‘s generations are indifferent to what God is presenting–the fullness of life and salvation. In this season of Advent, let us pray that God may open our eyes to see beyond what meets the eye, to see the signs of times and to love every person that comes our way.

December 16th

1st Reading: Sir 48:1-4, 9-11:
In those days, like a fire there appeared the prophet Elijah whose words were as a flaming furnace. Their staff of bread he shattered, in his zeal he reduced them to straits; By the Lord’s word he shut up the heavens and three times brought down fire. How awesome are you, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds! Whose glory is equal to yours? You were taken aloft in a whirlwind of fire, in a chariot with fiery horses. You were destined, it is written, in time to come to put an end to wrath before the day of the Lord, To turn back the hearts of fathers toward their sons, and to re-establish the tribes of Jacob. Blessed is he who shall have seen you and who falls asleep in your friendship.

Gospel: Mt 17:9a, 10-13:
As they were coming down from the mountain, the disciples asked Jesus, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He said in reply, “Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased. So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.

In the Bible there were great people that the Jews cannot forget. Among them is the great prophet Elijah, mentioned in both readings today. The Jews believed that Elijah will return in the days of the Messiah. For them, he will be raised from the dead by God; as he was taken into heaven by means of a chariot of fire. He will be a sign of hope and salvation. He will come before the Messiah. Jesus in today‘s gospel exhorted the people not to wait for Elijah because He is already in their midst. But, they did not recognize Him; rejected and persecuted Him.

Jesus has the same fate with Elijah. He then is Elijah par excellence, bringing hope and salvation, sign of God‘s visitation to His people.God through Jesus continues to come and visit us. He comes to us in the word of God, in the faces of the poor, in the community gathered in his name, in his ministers, in events and most especially in the sacred species of bread and wine. Do we recognize his presence in them? Or do we reject of him like the people of Jesus‘ times?