Bible Diary for December 12th – 18th
3rd Sunday of Advent
Our Lady of Guadalupe
1st Reading: Zep 3:14-18a:
Cry out with joy, O daughter of Zion; rejoice, O people of Israel! Sing joyfully with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! Yahweh has lifted your sentence and has driven your enemies away. Yahweh, the King of Israel is with you; do not fear any misfortune. On that day they will say to Jerusalem: Do not be afraid nor let your hands tremble, for Yahweh your God is within you, Yahweh, saving warrior. He will jump for joy on seeing you, for he has revived his love. For you he will cry out with joy, as you do in the days of the feast. I will drive away the evil I warned you about, and you will no longer be shamed.
2nd Reading: Phil 4:4-7:
Rejoice in the Lord always! I say it again: rejoice and may everyone experience your gentle and understanding heart. The Lord is near: do not be anxious about anything. In everything resort to prayer and supplication together with thanksgiving and bring your requests before God. Then the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Gospel: Lk 3:10-18:
The people asked him, “What are we to do?” And John answered, “If you have two coats, give one to the person who has none; and if you have food, do the same.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized and asked him, “Master, what must we do?” John said to them, “Collect no more than your fixed rate.” Then some soldiers asked John, “What about us? What are we to do?” And he answered, “Don’t take anything by force or threaten the people by denouncing them falsely. Be content with your pay.”
The people were wondering about John’s identity, “Could he be the Messiah?” Then John answered them, “I baptize you with water, but the one who is coming will do much more: he will baptize you with Holy Spirit and fire. As for me, I am not worthy to untie his sandal. He comes with a winnowing fan to clear his threshing floor and gather the grain into his barn. But the chaff he will burn with fire that never goes out.” With these and many other words John announced the Good News to the people.
Big projects and well thought of programs are the usual temptation for us when we are given the chance to work for the welfare of the people. It’s all about physical needs first. After all since human beings are embodied beings, the need to survive physically is an important component of their living a dignified life and their salvation. But to his surprise when he started active ministry John was not asked by people to put bread in their table or clothing to their back or shelter over their heads. He was asked for help on how to live a holy life, of what is right or wrong, or how to have eternal life. That is why John was led to the desert for his preparations.
Before he dutifully proclaimed God’s word to others he needed to listen to himself and to God. This in turn enabled him to understand his proper place in God’s scheme. He was the bearer and not the Word that would liberate the world. How do I react to playing second fiddle sometimes? Do I know where my responses come from? Perhaps being more attentive to my feelings and responses to situations of being at the center stage or at the margins will help me understand myself better. Lord, help me to realize that my worth is not found in whether I am at the center or not. May I be the same in any situation and rejoice only in the fact that I can help, whether I am the main actor or not. This we ask in your name. Amen.
1st Reading: Num 24:2-7, 15-17a:
He looked up and saw Israel camping, tribe by tribe; and the spirit of God came upon him and he uttered his song: “Word of Balaam, son of Beor, the seer, the one who hears the words of God, and beholds the vision of the Almighty, in ecstasy, with eyes unveiled. How goodly are your tents, Jacob, your encampments, Israel! Like valleys stretching far, like gardens beside a stream, like aloes planted by Yahweh, like cedars beside the waters. His buckets are overflowing and his seeds are always watered. His king becomes stronger than Agag, and his kingdom grows.
Then Balaam pronounced his oracle: “Word of Balaam, son of Beor, the seer, the one who hears the words of God, who has knowledge from the Most High, and sees the vision of the Almighty, in ecstasy, with eyes unveiled. I see a figure, but not really. I behold him but not near. A star shall come forth from Jacob, he rises with a staff in his hand; he shatters the forehead of Moab and tears down all the sons of Sheth.
Gospel: Mt 21:23-27:
Jesus had entered the temple and was teaching, when the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the Jewish authorities came to him, and asked, “What authority have you to act like this? Who gave you authority to do all this?” Jesus answered them, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things.” Where did John’s baptism come from? From heaven or from people?”
They discussed this among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ And if we say, ‘The baptism of John was merely something human’, we’ve got to beware of the people, for all consider John to be a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Jesus doesn’t refuse to enter into a discussion with priests, teachers of the Law and even Jewish authorities. His deep conscience of the mission entrusted by the Father gives him always the suitable answer. Today, for example, Jesus puts another question to his interlocutors, when they asked for his authority. In fact, the question of Jesus becomes so embarrassing for them that they decide to decline the answer, saying: “We don’t know whether the baptism of John was a work of God, or merely something human.” What do we discover in this defiance of the chiefs of Israel?
Obviously, we sense a lack of honesty. They don’t look for the truth. They are not open to accept it, when it appears. They already are deeply prejudiced against Jesus, but they fear the simple people. This calculated position according to our own interests arrives often in human relations. We know it by our own experience. So, we can fear the silence of Jesus when even in our prayers we do not approach him with humble and open heart. We cannot ask him for the confirmation of our prejudices or narrowness of mind.
St. John of the Cross
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 to 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.
It is not difficult to understand the parable of the two children. The first says no to the father’s order, but repents afterwards and obeys. The second, with his lips, says yes, but doesn’t accomplish the father’s will. Jesus himself gives the explication: tax collectors and prostitutes at the beginning are sinners, they do not fulfill the commandments of God – the 7th and the 6th – but through John’s and Jesus’ preaching they are changed. Priests and elders seem to say yes and appear very upright; however in their hearts they aren’t truly converted, neither to John, nor to Jesus Can we see there a parable of the religious communities?
Apparently we have said yes to the Lord, but maybe our hearts abide far from Jesus’ will and love, our charity is weak and our apostolic ministry lacks fervor and responsibility. Yet, today so many laypeople living in the world, give example of prayer, generosity and apostolic commitment. The appeal of the Gospel is universal and the grace of the baptism and the particular graces of each one’s vocation does push us to a real and complete yes to the Father’s invitation.
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:
So 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 or 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.”
John is in prison and has an essential question for Jesus. He has been witness of the baptism of Jesus, and so he knows his messiahship. Nevertheless, the preaching doesn’t match with the idea of the eschatological judge who establishes the Kingdom with power and glory. So, as the Jews asked John: “Who are you?” John now asks Jesus: “Who are you?” The answer of Jesus is accordingly in biblical style. In fact, when the messengers from John arrive at Jesus’ doorstep, he is seen healing many people, and expelling evil spirits. So, Jesus can tell them to explain to John the signs they have seen. The allusion to the figure of the Messiah according to the prophecies is clear.
No doubt, even if the eschatological aspect is not yet evident. Jesus adds a final aspect that deserves to be marked: “the poor are given good news.” The Kingdom is preached to humble people. And Jesus underlines: “happy are you if you are not scandalized by it.” We need not hesitate to put questions to Jesus, to interrogate about his message and his heart, and be attentive to his suggestions and subtle answers through Scripture, prayer and the encounters in life. Thus will we discover the true face of our Messiah.
1st Reading: Is 54:1-10:
Raise a glad cry, you barren one who did not bear, break forth in jubilant song, you who were not in labor, for more numerous are the children of the deserted wife than the children of her who has a husband, says the Lord. Enlarge the space for your tent, spread out your tent cloths unsparingly; lengthen your ropes and make firm your stakes. For you shall spread abroad to the right and to the left; your descendants shall dispossess the nations and shall people the desolate cities. Fear not, you shall not be put to shame; you need not blush, for you shall not be disgraced. The shame of your youth you shall forget, the reproach of your widowhood no longer remember.
For he who has become your husband is your Maker; his name is the Lord of hosts; your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, called God of all the earth. The Lord calls you back, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, s wife married in youth and then cast off, says your God. For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great tenderness I will take you back. In an outburst of wrath, for a moment I hid my face from you; but with enduring love I take pity on you, says the Lord, your redeemer. This is for me like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah should never again deluge the earth; so I have sworn not to be angry with you, or to rebuke you. Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, my love shall never leave you nor my covenant of peace be shaken, says the Lord, who has mercy on 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: 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 in all 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.
Who is Jesus? Jesus is the Son of God who took human flesh in the womb of Mary, the virginal spouse of Joseph, the descendant of Jewish lineage to whom the birth of the Messiah was promised. To prove it, Matthew, the Jewish evangelist, gives us the genealogy of Jesus-Christ, i.e. the list of ancestors in a conventional way. We stress two names: Abraham and David: Abraham, the father of Israel who received the promise of universal blessing in his sibling and believed; David, from the tribe of Judah, the head of the dynasty to whom the kingdom was promised forever.
Jesus is the son of Abraham and the son of David in the legal line that finally reaches Joseph, the husband of Mary. He is the Emmanuel, the Christ, the anointed by God, to be the Savior of all. But, are we Jews? By blood, we are not Jews. But by Spirit, we are adoptive brothers and sisters of Jesus, and the promises given to the Jewish people can be attained by us, and all the people of the earth, called to embrace faith and Salvation in Christ. Let us pray for the universal light of Christmas in our time and offer ourselves to Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
1st Reading: Jer 23:5-8:
Yahweh further says, “The day is coming when I will raise up a king who is David’s righteous successor. He will rule wisely and govern with justice and righteousness. That will be a grandiose era when Judah will enjoy peace and Israel will live in safety. He will be called Yahweh-our-justice!” “The days are coming,” says Yahweh, “when people shall no longer swear by Yahweh as the living God who freed the people of Israel from the land of Egypt. Rather, they will swear by Yahweh as the living God who restored the descendants of Israel from the northern empire and from all the lands where he had driven them, to live again in their own land!”
Gospel: Mt 1:18-25:
This is how Jesus Christ was born. Mary his mother had been given to Joseph in marriage but before they lived together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph, her husband, made plans to divorce her in all secrecy. He was an upright man, and in no way did he want to disgrace her. While he was pondering over this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. She has conceived by the Holy Spirit, and now she will bear a son. You shall call him ‘Jesus’ for he will save his people from their sins.”
All this happened in order to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: The virgin will conceive and bear a son, and he will be called Emmanuel which means: God-with-us. When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do and he took his wife to his home. She gave birth to a son and he had not had marital relations with her. Joseph gave him the name of Jesus.
We read today the announcement to Joseph. In the Scripture Joseph appears as a “silent saint”: he hears the messages from God and obeys. But his mission was crucial during the birth and childhood of Jesus. Remember: Nazareth, Bethlehem, Egypt, and Nazareth again, Jerusalem at Easter, and Nazareth until his death, before the public life of Jesus. The Christian community slowly discovered the mission of Joseph. John Paul II dedicated to him the letter Redemptoris custos (the protector of the Redeemer). What is the lesson of the gospel for us? Righteousness with compassion.
In the dilemma between the pregnancy of Mary and the application of the law for adulterers, Joseph decided to abandon her silently without accusation. He was righteous and compassionate. Attentive to God’s signs Joseph shows perfect fidelity to the angel’s message. He understood so he did not question nor refuse. He believed. Immediately, Joseph obeys at once, without hesitation or complaints. Since his acceptance, Joseph with Mary entered in a very supernatural way, through human and simple duties. He becomes the pillar of the Holy Family. O Joseph, we need your intercession to be attached to Mary and Jesus and to spread the faith in them, in families, Church and world.