Bible Diary for December 15th – 21st

December 15th

3rd Sunday of Advent

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 water will break out in the wilderness and streams gush forth from the desert. 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.

The first reading is telling that even the wilderness and the desert will be joyful – the wilderness that is wild and barren, and the desert that is so arid because of little rainfall. Life will spring from them. There is the command to strengthen the weak and assure with the presence of God those who are afraid. There is also the prophecy that the blind will see, the deaf will hear and the ransomed will return to their land. These things signify that somebody is coming and will make all things to happen.

He will bring life and joy in his coming. We are excited for his presence, we want to witness how these things will happen, but the second reading is teaching us to be patient. There is no time in waiting. Somebody who waits is not bound by time, only by the joy of expecting. Let us strengthen our hearts as we wait. The Gospel is revealing that it is Jesus who is coming. He alone has the power to heal and restore those who have disability. In his presence creation is revived, and so the blossoming of the wilderness and the desert. The Lord is near, let us rejoice!

December 16th

1st Reading: Num 24:2-7, 15-17a:
When Balaam raised his eyes and saw Israel encamped, tribe by tribe, the spirit of God came upon him, and he gave voice to his oracle: The utterance of Balaam, son of Beor, the utterance of a man whose eye is true, the utterance of one who hears what God says, and knows what the Most High knows, of one who sees what the Almighty sees, enraptured, and with eyes unveiled: How goodly are your tents, O Jacob; your encampments, O Israel! They are like gardens beside a stream, like the cedars planted by the Lord. His wells shall yield free-flowing waters, he shall have the sea within reach; His king shall rise higher, and his royalty shall be exalted.

Then Balaam gave voice to his oracle: The utterance of Balaam, son of Beor, the utterance of the man whose eye is true, The utterance of one who hears what God says, and knows what the Most High knows, of one who sees what the Almighty sees, enraptured, and with eyes unveiled. I see him, though not now; I behold him, though not near: A star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel.

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.”

When the typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) struck Tacloban, Leyte and its neighboring provinces, we were taken affront with innumerable questions. Some questions sometimes challenge authority. In the midst of restlessness, we wrestled towards the authority of God, a God, who according to Pope Francis, “would not put us down” and who would allow us to experience His love in ways we would not understand. We journeyed on God’s will and accompanied people through their hunger and crisis.

The first reading refreshes us with the oracle of Balaam. The oracle speaks so well of God’s plan on the rise of David and on his beloved chosen people. It is through His authority that good things unfolded. The Gospel brings us to look for God’s authority at all times. Jesus hid his answer not really because he was not capable of it but because of the trap which the Pharisees and Sadducees would have laid on him. In discerning for authority, it would always be safe to take refuge in God’s loving authority.

December 17th

1st Reading: Gen 49:2, 8-10:
Jacob called his sons and said to them: “Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob, listen to Israel, your father. You, Judah, shall your brothers praise –your hand on the neck of your enemies; the sons of your father shall bow down to you. Judah, like a lion’s whelp, you have grown up on prey, my son. He crouches like a lion recumbent, the king of beasts–who would dare rouse him? The scepter shall never depart from Judah, or the mace from between his legs, while tribute is brought to him, and he receives the people’s homage.”

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.

My priesthood was also happily spent in the seminary, where I would accompany students who are preparing themselves for the priesthood. It is always a joy to see them ordained after years of their toil. It is perfect for the Church, perfect for me and other formatters and perfect for the faithful. “It is perfect” means God has blessed them.

Like the first reading which showcases the blessing of Jacob to Judah, with its joyful accolades and certain assurances. “It is perfect” means that every vocation always comes in God’s perfect time. The Gospel, portraying the triple fourteen generations tells us that God saves us in His perfect time. The season of Advent reminds that God will always save, accompany and sustain us when we truly believe in His loving plan for us. With this faith, we could all the more utter “it is perfect”.

December 18th

1st Reading: Jer 23:5-8:
Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David; as king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security. This is the name they give him: “The Lord our justice.” Therefore, the days will come, says the Lord, when they shall no longer say, “As the Lord lives, who brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt”; but rather, “As the Lord lives, who brought the descendants of the house of Israel up from the land of the north”– and from all the lands to which I banished them; they shall again live on 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.

Stories of conversion, life of hope and victory over evil are themes which interest most of us. We would excitingly read articles of prominent people who returned to the faith and lived a life patterned from God. We rejoice with this victory and join in their crusade, at least by spirit. Celebrating Advent is not simply waiting. It is also hoping for God’s light, peace and joy.

The first reading from the book of the prophet Jeremiah reminds us of the good times God has in store for his people, where Israel “shall dwell in security”. Our Gospel also reminds us of a perturbed St. Joseph, who could not fully understand the eventuality, was given a hope by God through the angel. While some of us may be experiencing darkness in our personal life, family circles and sometimes in the society we live in, God allows us to hope, that in him, all things will be well. “Advent” may also mean “we could always hope”.

December 19th

1st Reading: Jdg 13:2-7, 24-25a:
There was a certain man from Zorah, of the clan of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. His wife was barren and had borne no children. An angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Though you are barren and have had no children, yet you will conceive and bear a son. Now, then, be careful to take no wine or strong drink and to eat nothing unclean. As for the son you will conceive and bear, no razor shall touch his head, for this boy is to be consecrated to God from the womb. It is he who will begin the deliverance of Israel from the power of the Philistines.”

The woman went and told her husband, “A man of God came to me; he had the appearance of an angel of God, terrible indeed. I did not ask him where he came from, nor did he tell me his name. But he said to me, ‘You will be with child and will bear a son. So take neither wine nor strong drink, and eat nothing unclean. For the boy shall be consecrated to God from the womb, until the day of his death.’” The woman bore a son and named him Samson. The boy grew up and the Lord blessed him; the Spirit of the Lord stirred him.

Gospel: Lk 1:5-25:
(…) 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. (…) 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. (…) 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. (…)

He, himself, will open the way to the Lord, with the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah (…) 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.“ (…) When his time of service was completed, Zechariah returned home; and, sometime later, Elizabeth became pregnant. (…)

Years ago, I would not have imagined where I am now. St. Augustine and St. Therese of the Child Jesus would always say: “everything is grace”. Indeed, in my life all is grace. It is grace that I became a priest. It is grace to serve the Archdiocese of Cebu. It is grace to be with the catholic chaplains in the Armed Services of the Philippines. The reading today from the book of Judges reminds us of God’s faithfulness.

While Manoah and his wife would suffer from societal alienation on account of their being childless, God would rescue them and lift them up. The same is underlined in the Gospel reading. Elizabeth, the wife of Zechariah, who is barren was graced to conceive a child. The Scriptures is full of evidence that God is faithful. In saying “everything is grace”, we also mean, God is truly faithful.

December 20th

1st Reading: Is 7:10-14:
The Lord spoke to Ahaz: Ask for a sign from the Lord, your God; let it be deep as the nether world, or high as the sky! But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask! I will not tempt the Lord!” Then Isaiah said: Listen, O house of David! Is it not enough for you to weary men, must you also weary my God? Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.

Gospel: Lk 1:26-38:
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God, to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent to a virgin, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. The angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But the angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a son; and you shall call him Jesus. He will be great, and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the kingdom of David, his ancestor; he will rule over the people of Jacob forever; and his reign shall have no end.”

Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the holy child to be born of you shall be called Son of God. Even your relative, Elizabeth, is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child; and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible.” Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the angel left her.

When St. John Paul II assumed the papacy the among first words that we hear from him are these: “Do not be afraid”. These are strong words from a spiritual leader. This will signal to all that fear will have no bearing in our faith journey. Our Gospel today is also anchored on the words of the Angel Gabriel: “Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

With these words of the angel, Mary could only utter the words of faith and trust in the Lord. “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done unto me according to your word.” May we also be anchored on the very words of the Scriptures whenever we are confronted with fear and anxiety. This is a challenge to always believe in the Word who is Jesus himself.

December 21st

St. Peter Canisius

1st Reading: Song 2:8-14:
Hark! My lover–here he comes springing across the mountains, leaping across the hills. My lover is like a gazelle or a young stag. Here he stands behind our wall, gazing through the windows, peering through the lattices.

My lover speaks; he says to me, “Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one, and come! For see, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of pruning the vines has come, and the song of the dove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance. Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come! O my dove in the clefts of the rock, in the secret recesses of the cliff, let me see you, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and you are lovely.”

Gospel: Lk 1:39-45:
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!”

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.