Bible Diary for December 11th – December 17th
2nd Sunday of Advent
St. Damasus I
1st Reading: Is 35:1-6a, 10:
Let the wilderness and the arid land rejoice, the desert be glad and blossom. Covered with flowers, it sings and shouts with joy, adorned with the splendor of Lebanon, the magnificence of Carmel and Sharon. They, my people, see the glory of Yahweh, the majesty of our God. Give vigor to weary hands and strength to enfeebled knees. Say to those who are afraid: “Have courage, do not fear.
See, your God comes, demanding justice. He is the God who rewards, the God who comes to save you.” Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unsealed. Then will the lame leap as a hart and the tongue of the dumb sing and shout. For the ransomed of Yahweh will return: with everlasting joy upon their heads, they will come to Zion singing, gladness and joy marching with them, while sorrow and sighing flee away.
2nd Reading: Jas 5:7-10:
Be patient then, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. See how the sower waits for the precious fruits of the earth, looking forward, patiently, to the autumn and spring rains. You, also, be patient, and do not lose heart, because the Lord’s coming is near. Beloved, do not fight among yourselves and you will not be judged. See, the judge is already at the door. Take for yourselves, as an example of patience, the suffering of the prophets, who spoke in the Lord’s name.
Gospel: Mt 11:2-11:
When John the Baptist heard in prison about the deeds of Christ, he sent a message by his disciples, asking him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus answered them, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are made clean, the deaf hear, the dead are brought back to life, and the poor hear the good news; and how fortunate is the one who does not take offense at me!”
As the messengers left, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “When you went out to the desert, what did you expect to see? A reed swept by the wind? What did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? People who wear fine clothes live in palaces. What did you really go out to see? A prophet? Yes, indeed, and even more than a prophet. He is the man of whom Scripture says: I send my messenger ahead of you, to prepare the way before you. I tell you this: no one greater than John the Baptist has arisen from among the sons of women; and yet, the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Last Sunday during the reading of the gospel, we heard John the Baptist predict that the coming Messiah would be a violent man who would “baptize… in fire” and burn the human chaff “in unquenchable fire” (Mt 3:11-12). These descriptions of a violent Messiah were inspired by a host of Old Testament texts, the last of which (in the prophet Malachi) reads: “Who will endure the day of his coming?” (Mal 3:2)… “the great and terrible day” (Mal 3:24)–these words being the last words of the Old Testament! But when Jesus came, he was quite the opposite of a violent Messiah. He freely mixed with sinners, healed all illnesses, preached the love of enemies, etc.–not at all the thundering figure announced by John.
Hence John’s perplexity: had he been wrong? Was Jesus the true Messiah? And, quite logically, John sends some disciples of his to ask Jesus himself about it, as we see in today’s gospel reading. And thus he resolved his doubt. We all have doubts about our faith every now and then. That is normal. We must face these doubts as honestly as we can and take the necessary steps to resolve them. Thus we do grow stronger in our faith. Let us admire the compassion and gentleness of Jesus and let us ask him for a share in his kindness. Take the necessary steps to resolve your religious doubts, as John the Baptist did.
Our Lady of Guadalupe
1st Reading: Zec 2:14-17
“Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for I am about to come, I shall dwell among you,” says Yahweh. “On that day, many nations will join Yahweh and be my people, but my dwelling is among you.” The people of Judah will be for Yahweh as his portion in his holy land. He will choose Jerusalem again. Keep still in Yahweh’s presence, for he comes, having risen from his holy dwelling.”
Gospel: Lk 1:39-47:
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!”
Each time I celebrate a wedding Mass, I find joy in the eyes of the groom and the bride, their parents and their guests. Some grooms even cry – tears of joy especially when the bride processes from the entrance of the church. The couples whisper sweet nothings and look at each other in a language only known to them. Weddings are mostly, if not all, joyful moments. Joy is evident in the first reading from the book of the Song of Songs.
It is joyful because the lover visits his loved one in spring time. It is also joy which envelopes the gospel reading. When Mary visited Elizabeth, the infant in her womb leapt for joy. Pope Francis reminds us that it is irreconcilable for a follower of Jesus to look like coming from the funeral. He admonishes us that to be true evangelizers, we must be filled with joy. In our celebration of advent, may we find the joy of meeting Jesus, our true love.
1st Reading: Zep 3:1-2, 9-13:
Woe to the rebellious, the defiled, the city that oppresses! She did not pay attention to the call nor accept the correction; she did not trust Yahweh; nor did she approach her God. At that time, I will give truthful lips to the pagan nations, that all of them may call on the name of Yahweh, and serve him with the same zeal. From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia they will bring offerings to me.
On that day, you will no longer be ashamed of all your deeds, when you were unfaithful to me; I will have removed from your midst the conceited and arrogant; and my holy mountain will no longer be for you, a pretext for boasting. I will leave within you a poor and meek people who seek refuge in God. The remnant of Israel will not act unjustly nor will they speak falsely, nor will deceitful words be found in their mouths. They will eat and rest, with none to threaten them.
Gospel: Mt 21:28-32:
Jesus went on say, “What do you think of this? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said to him, ‘Son, go and work today in my vineyard.’ And the son answered, ‘I don’t want to.’ But later he thought better of it and went. Then the father went to his other son and said the same thing to him. This son replied, ‘I will go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did what the father wanted?” They answered, “The first.” And Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you: the publicans and the prostitutes are ahead of you on the way to the kingdom of heaven. For John came, to show you the way of goodness, and you did not believe him; but the publicans and the prostitutes did. You were witnesses of this, but you neither repented nor believed him.
We all know people whose manners are brusque, whose speech is blunt and curt. When we first meet them, we have the impression of meeting ogres. But, if we get to know them better, we discover that their rough exterior hides a heart of gold. At any time we can ask them a favor, even a big favor, and these toughies will first rant and rave—then grant you your favor with royal prodigality. Other people are the very opposite. They are all smiles and oily protests of friendship. But when you need them, they disappear in thin air.
Which, of these two kinds of people, do we appreciate more? In today’s gospel reading Jesus makes a similar comparison between, on the one hand, a grumbling son who first balks and shows bad manners but obeys his father and, on the other hand, a polite and well-mannered son who mouths his compliance but does not obey his father. This second son represents the scribes and the Pharisees who seem pious but reject John the Baptist, God’s prophet, whereas the first son represents the sinners who converted at John’s preaching. What kind of son, what kind of daughter am I?
St. John of the Cross
1st Reading: Is 45:6c-8, 18, 21c-25:
I am Yahweh, and there is no other. I form the light and create the dark; I usher in prosperity and bring calamity. I, Yahweh, do all this. Let the heavens send righteousness like dew and the clouds rain it down. Let the earth open and salvation blossom, so that justice also may sprout; I, Yahweh, have created it. Yes, this is what Yahweh says, he who created the heavens,– for he is God, who formed and shaped the earth,– for he himself set it: “I did not let confusion in it, I wanted people to live there instead”—for I am Yahweh and there is no other.
There is no other God besides me, a Savior, a God of justice, there is no other one but me. Turn to me and be saved, all you from the ends of the earth, for I am God and there is no other. By my own self I swear it, and what comes from my mouth is truth, a word I say will not be revoked. Before me every knee will bend, by me every tongue will swear, saying, “In Yahweh alone are righteousness and strength.” All who have raged against him will come to him in shame. But through Yahweh there will be victory and glory to the people of Israel.
Gospel: Lk 7:18b-23:
John called two of his disciples, and sent them to the Lord with this message, “Are you the one we are expecting, or should we wait for another?” These men came to Jesus and said, “John the Baptist sent us to ask you: Are you the one we are to expect, or should we wait for another?” At that time, Jesus healed many people of their sicknesses and diseases; he freed them from evil spirits and he gave sight to the blind. Then he answered the messengers, “Go back and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind see again, the lame walk, lepers are made clean, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the poor are given good news. Now, listen: Fortunate are those who meet me, and are not offended by me.”
In today’s gospel reading we hear how John the Baptist is dismayed when Jesus appears on the scene and is quite the opposite of a violent Messiah. John sends two disciples to question Jesus on his identity. And Jesus answers by pointing out that his kind behavior towards the sick and the poor fulfills the prophecies about the coming Messiah as found especially in Isaiah (Is 35:5-6; 61:1). This answer resolves John’s doubts. Now two things are to be noticed here. First, John honestly acknowledges his doubt. Second, he tries to resolve it. In acting thus, John is our model.
As we grow up, we stop believing in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy and the Boogey Man because our minds become more critical and analytical. And this means that we will also question our primitive and infantile notions in the area of our faith. Such doubts are natural and healthy. They should never be quashed or buried. They should be carefully examined and formulated as clearly as possible. Then, like John the Baptist, we have to take steps to settle our doubt, namely, by asking informed Christians, read up on the matter, etc. Our faith must not be blind. It must be clear-headed and discerning.
1st Reading: Is 54:1-10:
Rejoice, O barren woman who has not given birth; sing and shout for joy, you who never had children, for more are the children of the rejected woman than the children of the married wife, says Yahweh. Enlarge the space for your tent, stretch out your hangings, lengthen your ropes and strengthen your stakes, for you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will take possession of the nations and inhabit cities that have been abandoned. Do not be afraid for you will not be deceived, do not be ashamed for you will not be disgraced.
You will forget the shame of your youth; no longer will you remember the disgrace of your widowhood. For your Maker is to marry you: Yahweh Sabaoth is his name. Your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel: He is called God of all the earth. For Yahweh has called you back as one forsaken and grieved in spirit. Who could abandon his first beloved? says your God. For a brief moment I have abandoned you, but with great tenderness I will gather my people.
For a moment, in an outburst of anger, I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I have had mercy on you, says Yahweh, your Redeemer. This is for me like Noah’s waters, when I swore that they would no more flood the earth; so now I swear not to be angry with you and never again to rebuke you. The mountains may depart and the hills be moved, but never will my love depart from you nor my Covenant of peace be removed, says Yahweh whose compassion is for you.
Gospel: Lk 7:24-30:
When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began speaking to the people about John. And he said, “What did you want to see, when you went to the desert? A reed blowing in the wind? What was there to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? But people who wear fine clothes and enjoy delicate food are found in palaces. What did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
For John is the one foretold in Scripture in these words: I am sending my messenger ahead of you to prepare your way. No one may be found greater than John among those born of women; but, I tell you, the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. All the people listening to him, even the tax collectors, had acknowledged the will of God in receiving the baptism of John, whereas the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, in not letting themselves be baptized by him, ignored the will of God.
Many Christians belong to the Old Testament and imagine God as sometimes smiling at them (when they are good) and sometimes angry at them (when they commit a serious sin). For in the Old Testament practically all the authors who write it project on God their own infantile notions of a God who gets angry and then calms down, only to get angry again at his people’s next lapse. But these depictions of God, found almost everywhere in the Old Testament (and a few times in the New Testament—bad habits die hard!) are completely wrong.
God never gets angry, because by nature he cannot change. A change would imply an imperfection, and he is all-perfection. Jesus tells us of God, “the Father judges no one” (Jn 5:22), and John tells us, “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8, 16). A better picture of God is found in today’s first reading. There God speaks as a fiancé eager to show his deep love for us, his people: “Your Maker is to marry you… Who could abandon his first beloved?… With everlasting love I have had mercy on you… Never will my love depart from you.” These tender declarations should forever exorcise our false notions of God.
1st Reading: Is 56:1-3a, 6-8:
This is what Yahweh says: Maintain what is right and do what is just, for my salvation is close at hand, my justice is soon to come. Blessed is the mortal who does these things, and perseveres in them, who does not defile the Sabbath and who refrains from evil. Let no foreigner say, “Surely Yahweh will exclude me from his people.” Yahweh says to the foreigners who join him, serving him and loving his name, keeping his Sabbath unprofaned and remaining faithful to his Covenant: I will bring them to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. I will accept on my altar their burnt offerings and sacrifices, for my house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations. Thus says the Lord Yahweh, who gathers the exiles of Israel: There are others I will gather besides those already gathered.
Gospel: Jn 5:33-36:
John also bore witness to the truth when you sent messengers to him, but I do not seek such human testimony; I recall this for you, so that you may be saved. John was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were willing to enjoy his light. But I have greater evidence than that of John—the works which the Father entrusted to me to carry out. The very works I do bear witness: the Father has sent me.
One feature of the Old Testament which is quite striking is the complete misunderstanding which the Israelites had of God’s plan of salvation and of their role in it. Since they were God’s Chosen People (Ex 19:5; etc.), they conclude that God had no use for other peoples, and consequently they looked down on the rest of the world. But in God’s plan, Israel was merely a kind of spiritual funnel through which “all the communities of the earth shall find blessing,” as God told Abraham (Gen 12:3). The choice of Israel was only the first step in God’s plan.
The second step would come with the sending of his Son in a desperate attempt to bring back lost Israel. And the third step would be the sending of Jesus’ disciples throughout the world to “make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19). This universalist perspective is occasionally reflected in some prophetic texts such as the one of Second-Isaiah in today’s first reading: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Some Catholics are a bit like Israel of old. They cannot easily imagine that God wants to save all human beings, including Buddhists and Hindus, Muslims and animists—yes, atheists and agnostics. These people, too, are God’s Chosen People.
1st Reading: Gen 49:2, 8-10:
“Gather around, sons of Jacob. And listen to your father Israel! Judah, your brothers will praise you! You shall seize your enemies by the neck! Your father’s sons shall bow before you. Judah, a young lion! You return from the prey, my son! Like a lion he stoops and crouches, and like a lioness, who dares to rouse him? The scepter shall not be taken from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs, and who has the obedience of the nations.
Gospel: Mt 1:1-17:
This is the account of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (their mother was Tamar), Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron of Aram. Aram was the father of Aminadab, Aminadab of Nahshon, Nahshon of Salmon. Salmon was the father of Boaz. His mother was Rahab. Boaz was the father of Obed. His mother was Ruth. Obed was the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David, the king. David was the father of Solomon. His mother had been Uriah’s wife. Solomon was the father of Rehoboam.
Then came the kings: Abijah, Asaph, Jehoshaphat, Joram, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, Josiah. Josiah was the father of Jechoniah and his brothers at the time of the deportation to Babylon. After the deportation to Babylon, Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel and Salathiel of Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud, Abiud of Eliakim, and Eliakim of Azor. Azor was the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, and Akim the father of Eliud. Eliud was the father of Eleazar, Eleazar of Matthan, and Matthan of Jacob. Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and from her came Jesus who is called the Christ—the Messiah. There were then fourteen generations from Abraham to David, and fourteen generations from David to the deportation to Babylon, and fourteen generations from the deportation to Babylon to the birth of Christ.
Today’s gospel reading presents the genealogy of Jesus covering the span of time between Abraham and Jesus, namely, 1850 years or so. There are 42 names in the list, arranged in series of 14 names. But this list should contain 74 names, if we count 4 generations per century. Why is it so incomplete? Because Matthew wanted to have a symbolic list, a list which would express a theological message “between the lines,” as it were. This is how it works. Each letter of the Hebrew alphabet has a numerical value: the first, aleph, is equal to 1; the second, beth, is equal to 2; etc.
Which means that each proper name is equivalent to a number, based on the consonants of the name (the vowels do not count). So the name David is equivalent to 4+6+4 or 14. This figure 14 symbolically represents King David. Now Matthew tells us through these symbols that Jesus comes after 3 times 14 generations, that he is a triple David, a Super-David! (The triple repetition in Hebrew is equivalent to a superlative, as the Holy, Holy, Holy of Isaiah’s vision in Is 6). In brief, Matthew is telling us, Jesus is the promised super-king, the Messiah.