Bible Diary for December 13th – 19th
3rd Sunday of Advent
1st Reading: Is 61:1–2a, 10–11:
The spirit of the Lord Yahweh is upon me, because Yahweh has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up broken hearts, to proclaim liberty to the captives, freedom to those languishing in prison; to announce the year of Yahweh’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God; to give comfort to all who grieve; I rejoice greatly in Yahweh, my soul exults for joy in my God, for he has clothed me in the garments of his salvation, he has covered me with the robe of his righteousness, like a bridegroom wearing a garland, like a bride adorned with jewels. For as the earth brings forth its growth, and as a garden makes seeds spring up, so will the Lord Yahweh make justice and praise spring up in the sight of all nations.
2nd Reading: 1 Thes 5:16–24:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing and give thanks to God at every moment. This is the will of God, your vocation as Christians. Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise the prophets’ warnings. Put everything to the test and hold fast to what is good. Avoid evil, wherever it may be. May the God of peace make you holy and bring you to perfection. May you be completely blameless, in spirit, soul and body, till the coming of Christ Jesus, our Lord; he who called you is faithful and will do it.
Gospel: Jn 1:6–8, 19–28:
A man came, sent by God; his name was John. He came to bear witness, as a witness to introduce the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but a witness to introduce the Light; this was the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites to ask him, “Who are you?” John recognized the truth, and did not deny it. He said, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “Then who are you? Elijah?” He answered, “I am not.” They said, “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Tell us who you are, so that we can give some answer to those who sent us. How do you see yourself?”
And John said, quoting the prophet Isaiah, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord!” Those who had been sent were Pharisees; and they put a further question to John, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are not the Messiah, or Elijah, or the Prophet?” John answered, “I baptize you with water, but among you stands one whom you do not know; although he comes after me, I am not worthy to untie the strap of his sandal.” This happened in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
John’s character is an enigma. The miracle son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, he took away the shame of his parents when he was born. Now as a grown up, he faces the “shame” of having to insist on his secondary status to the one whose sandal strap he is not worthy to untie. Clearly he could have gotten more stature than what he had if he played along with the expectations of people. He was a child conceived in miracle; now he is spreading the miracle of humility to all who meet him.
He doesn’t have to be somebody other than himself. To be humble is a lifelong struggle. It needs a conscious decision on our part since it contradicts our human need to be recognized. Perhaps today is a good start to embark on our journey towards humility. Why not write down the many moments you think you have not handled well the praise and humiliation that have come your way. Find out the root cause or causes. It will give us a guide on how to be more humble next year.
St. John of the Cross
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.”
Those who will never believe will always have a reason to discredit you. That is why it is useless to argue with them. You will waste time and effort with those whose ways are set. It is like hitting your head against a brick wall. The religious and political leaders of Jesus’ time had joined forces to make life difficult for Jesus. They questioned the ground of His action, that is, by whose authority He did all those things. Jesus refused to be dragged into their semantics. He cleverly sidestepped their trap by asking them a question Himself. He would not waste time arguing and justifying Himself to them. His works can stand the scrutiny of time.
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.
Is it better to say yes to a command and disobey later on, or to say no and have a change of heart and obey later? The gospel today presents us two sets of response. None of the two seemed to be an ideal response but taking into account human frailty, repentance seemed to be the better response rather than false obedience. That is why the publicans and sinners who initially rejected God but later repented when they heard the preaching of John and, later, that of Jesus, had a head start in God’s kingdom.
They obeyed when the moment to do so came. Whereas the heirs of Abraham became hard headed, proud and haughty in their privilege, set in their ways, unrepentant and unwilling to change. Bad for them, such pedigree will do them no good when they enter heaven. The doors will be slammed shut on them.
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: 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.
The humanity of Jesus is strongly emphasized in no other passage of the Gospels than in our Gospel today. The long procession of ancestors seemed to hammer the fact that God inserted Himself in our history; therefore, His commitment to humanity is irrevocable. The humanity of the Lord is highlighted by His own share of colorful kin. God does not reserve for Himself only the best of humanity but also embraces our fallen and fallible nature. God is not scared by our inadequacy. Neither should we be scared of God’s plenitude that spills constantly.
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 awoke, he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do, and he took his wife to his home. He did not have any marital relations with her. When she gave birth to a son, Joseph gave him the name Jesus.
Traditional homilies tend to accept the fact that Joseph suspected Mary’s fidelity to him. This prompted Joseph accordingly to contemplate divorcing his betrothed quietly to spare her from possible death as prescribed by the Law. But few speak of the possibility that Joseph knew of the mysterious circumstances surrounding Mary’s pregnancy.
And being a simple God-fearing Jew, he thought himself not worthy of protecting the Son of God as an earthly father. This was beyond his competence. He decided to give way. And so God has to step in and confirm that indeed Mary is pregnant according to the plan of God. And he will name the child to signify his earthly fatherhood. Obedient and trusting, Joseph, like Mary, obeyed God faithfully.
1st Reading: Jdg 13:2–7, 24–25a:
There was a man of Zorah of the tribe of Dan, called Manoah. His wife could not bear children. The angel of Yahweh appeared to this woman and said to her, “You have not borne children and have not given birth, but see, you are to conceive and give birth to a son. Because of this, take care not to take wine or any alcoholic drink, nor to eat unclean foods from now on, for you shall bear a son who shall be a Nazirite of Yahweh from the womb of his mother. Never shall his hair be cut for he is consecrated to Yahweh. He shall begin the liberation of the Israelites from the Philistine oppression.”
The woman went to her husband and told him, “A messenger of God who bore the majesty of an angel spoke to me. I did not ask him where he came from nor did he tell me his name. But he said to me: ‘You are to conceive and give birth to a son. Henceforth, you shall not drink wine or fermented drinks, nor eat anything unclean, for your son shall be a Nazirite of God from the womb of his mother until the day of his death.’” The woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson. The boy grew and Yahweh blessed him. Then the Spirit of Yahweh began to move him when he was in Mahane Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.
Gospel: Lk 1:5–25:
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there lived a priest named Zechariah, belonging to the priestly clan of Abiah. Elizabeth, Zechariah’s wife, also belonged to a priestly family. Both of them were upright in the eyes of God, and lived blamelessly, in accordance with all the laws and commands of the Lord, but they had no child. Elizabeth could not have any and now they were both very old. Now, while Zechariah and those with him were fulﬁlling their ofﬁce, it fell to him by lot, according to the custom of the priests, to enter the Sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense.
At the time of offering incense, all the people were praying outside; it was then, that an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. On seeing the angel, Zechariah was deeply troubled and fear took hold of him. But the angel said to him, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah, be assured that your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you shall name him John. He will bring joy and gladness to you, and many will rejoice at his birth. This son of yours will be great in the eyes of the Lord. Listen: he shall never drink wine or strong drink; but he will be ﬁlled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.
Through him, many of the people of Israel will turn to the Lord their God. He, himself, will open the way to the Lord, with the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah; he will reconcile fathers and children; and lead the disobedient to wisdom and righteousness, in order to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I believe this? I am an old man and my wife is elderly, too.” The angel replied, “I am Gabriel, who stands before God; and I am the one sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news! My words will come true in their time. But you would not believe; and now, you will be silent and unable to speak until this has happened.”
Meanwhile, the people waited for Zechariah; and they were surprised that he delayed so long in the Sanctuary. When he ﬁnally appeared, he could not speak to them; and they realized that he had seen a vision in the Sanctuary. He remained dumb and made signs to them. When his time of service was completed, Zechariah returned home; and, some time later, Elizabeth became pregnant. For ﬁve months she kept to herself, remaining at home, and thinking, “This, for me, is the Lord’s doing! This is his time for mercy, and for taking away my public disgrace.”
God set in motion His plan of salvation when He sent the angel Gabriel to old Zechariah to take away his shame as a childless man. With the conception of the precursor, the Messiah will not be far behind. The opportune time has come. Not even the skepticism of Zechariah can put on hold the project of God. He will be silenced for a while. There is no use listening to doubts and fears when what has been planned will now be set in motion. The silence of Zechariah will be strategic in not preempting prematurely the dawn of salvation arriving at last.