Bible Diary for December 20th – 26th
4th Sunday of Advent
1st Reading: 2 Sm 7:1–5, 8b–12, 14a, 16:
When the king had settled in his palace and Yahweh had rid him of all his surrounding enemies, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Look, I live in a house of cedar but the Ark of God is housed in a tent.” Nathan replied, “Do as it seems ﬁt to you for Yahweh is with you.” But that very night, Yahweh’s word came to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, this is what Yahweh says: Are you able to build a house for me to live in? Now you will tell my servant David, this is what Yahweh of Hosts says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the sheep, to make you commander of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went, cutting down all your enemies before you.
“Now I will make your name great, as the name of the great ones on earth. I will provide a place for my people Israel and plant them that they may live there in peace. They shall no longer be harassed, nor shall wicked men oppress them as before. From the time when I appointed judges over my people Israel it is only to you that I have given rest from all your enemies. Yahweh also tells you that he will build you a house. When the time comes for you to rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your son after you, the one born of you; and I will make his reign secure. I will be a father to him and he shall be my son. If he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod, as men do. Your house and your reign shall last forever before me, and your throne shall be forever ﬁrm.”
2nd Reading: Rom 16:25–27:
Glory be to God! He is able to give you strength, according to the Good News I proclaim, announcing Christ Jesus. Now is revealed the mysterious plan, kept hidden for long ages in the past. By the will of the eternal God it is brought to light, through the prophetic books, and all nations shall believe the faith proclaimed to them. Glory to God, who alone is wise, through Christ Jesus, forever! Amen.
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 hand-maid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the angel left her.
There is only one Annunciation that has changed the course of salvation history: that which is recorded in our Gospel today. However, there are countless annunciations that take place every day. Perhaps we too have been given a message from heaven. The central question is: are we as courageous as the young virgin in our generosity to respond to God’s invitation to serve? If we resist and reject, our ordinary life will continue. But we lose an opportunity to be bigger than ourselves.
Greatness passes us by, the doors will close and the roads will vanish. Mary was blessed among women not merely because she was docile. It was her courage that made her great in heaven and on earth. When was the last time I postponed my plan to do something to help my church or the charitable organization that I vowed to support? Today is a good day to actualize that plan and not postpone it again.
St. Peter Canisius
1st Reading: Sg 2: 8-14:
The voice of my lover! Behold he comes, springing across the mountains, jumping over the hills, like a gazelle or a young stag. Now he stands behind our wall, looking through the windows, peering through the lattice. My lover speaks to me, “Arise, my love, my beautiful one! Come, the winter is gone, the rains are over. Flowers have appeared on earth; the season of singing has come; the cooing of doves is heard. The fig tree forms its early fruit, the vines in blossom are fragrant. Arise, my beautiful one, come with me, my love, come. O my dove in the rocky cleft, in the secret places of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice. Your face—how lovely! Your voice—how sweet!
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 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!”
The older woman Elizabeth, mother of John, greets Mary, the young mother of Jesus. The Holy Spirit inspires her soul. She sings the blessing of Mary over all women and the uniqueness of her son, Jesus. Only in the grace of the Lord are we able to perceive and to praise God’s presence in the humble womb of Mary. For a moment, let us adore Jesus in these sacred nine months in the womb of his mother (pause). Mary is the mother of the Lord. As soon as she knew the pregnancy of Elizabeth, Mary came from Galilee to Judea to greet and help her older cousin.
Elizabeth discloses the secret of her joy: the leap of John in her womb. For the first time, the forerunner and the Messiah meet together in so hidden and mysterious a way! Maybe, Elizabeth recalls the doubt of Zechariah as she praises the faith of Mary and reaffirms the hope of the Lord’s fulfillment. In this present Advent, when the feeling of the coming of Jesus is growing more and more, let us ask the Holy Spirit for the grace of rejoicing in Jesus like these two singular women at the threshold of our Salvation.
1st Reading: 1 Sm 1: 24-28:
When the child was weaned, Hannah took him with her along with a three-year-old bull, a measure of flour and a flask of wine, and she brought him to Yahweh’s house at Shiloh. The child was still young. After they had slain the bull, they brought the child to Eli. Hannah exclaimed: “Oh, my lord, look! I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to Yahweh. I asked for this child and Yahweh granted me the favor I begged of him. Now, I think, Yahweh is asking for this child. As long as he lives, he belongs to Yahweh.”
Gospel: Lk 1: 46-56:
And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God my savior! He has looked upon his servant in her lowliness, and people forever will call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, Holy is his Name! From age to age his mercy extends to those who live in his presence. He has acted with power and done wonders, and scattered the proud with their plans.
“He has put down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up those who are downtrodden. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He held out his hand to Israel, his servant, for he remembered his mercy, even as he promised our fathers, Abraham and his descendants forever.” Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months and then returned home.
Today we have an excellent biblical lesson. The first reading tells us of the fulfillment of the prophecy of Eli on Hannah, the barren woman who became the mother of Samuel. The responsorial psalm is the mother’s canticle, a drawing of Mary’s canticle. In fact we find in it joy, thanksgiving, confidence in the strength of God, victory over mighty and exaltation of weak, hungry and childless. The Lord lifts up the lowly and the poor, to give them a glorious throne. The criteria of God are beyond the criteria of this world. The preference of the Lord is in the lowly and weak rather than in the high and strong, because the latter are easily proud while the first trust in Him with open hearts.
In Mary’s canticle we find similar expressions, but now the reason is higher. It is not the birth from a barren woman, but the birth of a virgin one, and the child is not a prophet but the Emmanuel. So the victory is complete; the enemy is defeated; the hope of the poor is fulfilled; and the promises to Abraham are accomplished. Let us ask Hannah and Mary to pour out on us the same spirit of joy and thanksgiving that comes from God and that prepares us for his coming.
St. John of Kanty
1st Reading: Mal 3: 1-4, 23-24:
Now I am sending my messenger ahead of me to clear the way; then suddenly the Lord for whom you long will enter the Sanctuary. The envoy of the Covenant which you so greatly desire already comes, says Yahweh of Hosts. Who can bear the day of his coming and remain standing when he appears? For he will be like fire in the foundry and like the lye used for bleaching. He will be as a refiner or a fuller. He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver.
So Yahweh will have priests who will present the offering as it should be. Then Yahweh will accept with pleasure the offering of Judah and Jerusalem, as in former days. I am going to send you the prophet Elijah before the day of Yahweh comes, for it will be a great and terrible day. He will reconcile parents with their children, and the children with their parents, so that I may not have to curse this land when I come.”
Gospel: Lk 1: 57-66:
When the time came for Elizabeth, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the merciful Lord had done a wonderful thing for her and they rejoiced with her. When on the eighth day they came to attend the circumcision of the child, they wanted to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “Not so; he shall be called John.” They said to her, “But no one in your family has that name”; and they asked the father by means of signs for the name he wanted to give him.
Zechariah asked for a writing tablet and wrote on it, “His name is John,” and they were very surprised. Immediately Zechariah could speak again and his first words were in praise of God. A holy fear came on all in the neighborhood, and throughout the hill country of Judea the people talked about these events. All who heard of it pondered in their minds and wondered, “What will this child be?” For they understood that the hand of the Lord was with him.
Zechariah was a priest. Elizabeth belonged to the descendants of Aaron. Undoubtedly, John was a Levite, and his destiny should have been to practice the Jewish priesthood. However his vocation was another to be the last and greatest of the prophets, the forerunner of the Messiah. Today we read the narrative of his circumcision, and the imposition of his name, John, according to prophecies. John is from the tribe of Levi – priests -, and Jesus from Judah – kings – but both will act as prophets.
However, in the reading of Malachi the Messiah appears as purifying the priestly office: “He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and then they will make the offering to the Lord as it should be made.” Jesus is the Messiah, and the Church is the messianic People of God. May Jesus accomplish anew this “purification of the sons of Levi”, i.e. the priests of the New Covenant. May the Holy Spirit renew in them the strength of John the Baptist, to turn the hearts of the fathers towards their children and the hearts of the children towards their fathers, to prepare for the Lord a perfect people, with the support of consecrated persons and lay faithful in the Church and for the world.
1st Reading: 2 Sm 7: 1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16:
When the king had settled in his palace and Yahweh had rid him of all his surrounding enemies, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Look, I live in a house of cedar but the Ark of God is housed in a tent.” Nathan replied, “Do as it seems fit to you for Yahweh is with you.” But that very night, Yahweh’s word came to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, this is what Yahweh says: Are you able to build a house for me to live in? I took you from the pasture, from tending the sheep, to make you commander of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went, cutting down all your enemies before you.
“Now I will make your name great as the name of the great ones on earth. I will provide a place for my people Israel and plant them that they may live there in peace. They shall no longer be harassed, nor shall wicked men oppress them as before. From the time when I appointed judges over my people Israel it is only to you that I have given rest from all your enemies. Yahweh also tells you that he will build you a house. When the time comes for you to rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your son after you, the one born of you and I will make his reign secure. I will be a father to him and he shall be my son. Your house and your reign shall last forever before me, and your throne shall be forever firm.”
Gospel: Lk 1: 67-79:
Zechariah, filled with holy spirit, sang this canticle: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has come and redeemed his people. In the house of David his servant, he has raised up for us a victorious Savior; as he promised through his prophets of old, salvation from our enemies and from the hand of our foes. He has shown mercy to our fathers; and remembered his holy Covenant, the oath he swore to Abraham, our father, to deliver us from the enemy, that we might serve him fearlessly, as a holy and righteous people, all the days of our lives.
“And you, my child, shall be called prophet of the Most High, for you shall go before the Lord to prepare the way for him, and to enable his people to know of their salvation, when he comes to forgive their sins. This is the work of the mercy of our God, who comes from on high, as a rising sun, shining on those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, and guiding our feet into the way of peace.”
The canticle of Zechariah is a complete hymn about the fidelity of God to his covenant and promises. The occasion was the birth of John, but the purpose is quite universal. The aim of this old priest’s thanksgiving is the entire History of Salvation and points first to the mission of the Messiah. Who is this “victorious Savior in the house of David?” He is Jesus. What are consequences of his presence in Israel? They are redemption, salvation from enemies and foes, holiness, security and righteousness. The merciful presence of the Savior is compared with a rising sun shining in darkness and guiding us into the way of peace.
That was the promise through the prophets of old, and this the realization in this messianic times. With Zechariah we can see the future of God’s action through his Christ, with a complete victory over the enemies. Of course, he includes the mission of John the child who comes to prepare the way for the Messiah, to know him and to grant the forgiveness of sins to his people. In this vigil of Christmas, the words of Zechariah can inspire us to understand and embrace the Child Jesus with adoration and gratitude asking for the complete realization of his mission among us all the days of our lives.
1st Reading: Is 52:7-10:
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, “Your God is King!” Hark! Your sentinels raise a cry, together they shout for joy, for they see directly, before their eyes, the Lord restoring Zion. Break out together in song, O ruins of Jerusalem! For the Lord comforts his people, he redeems Jerusalem. The Lord has bared his holy arm in the sight of all the nations; all the ends of the earth will behold the salvation of our God.
2nd Reading: Heb 1:1-6:
Brothers and sisters: In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through the Son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe, who is the refulgence of his glory, the very imprint of his being, and who sustains all things by his mighty word.
When he had accomplished purification from sins, he took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high, as far superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say: You are my son; this day I have begotten you? Or again: I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me? And again, when he leads the firstborn into the world, he says: Let all the angels of God worship him.
Gospel: Jn 1: 1-18:
In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God; he was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him and without him nothing came to be. Whatever has come to be, found life in him, life which for human beings was also light. Light that shines in the darkness: light that darkness could not overcome. 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; for the Light was coming into the world, the true Light that enlightens everyone.
He was in the world, and through him the world was made, the very world that did not know him. He came to his own, yet his own people did not receive him; but to all who received him, he empowers to become children of God, for they believe in his name. These are born, but not by seed, or carnal desire, nor by the will of man: they are born of God. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us; and we have seen his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father: fullness of truth and loving-kindness.
John bore witness to him openly, saying, “This is the one who comes after me, but he is already ahead of me, for he was before me.” From his fullness we have all received, favor upon favor. For God had given us the law through Moses, but Truth and Loving-kindness came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God-the-only-Son made him known: the one, who is in and with the Father.
John’s Prologue is a canticle to the Word of God in his being and in all his successive functions: The Word is divine and eternal, The Word is creator, The Word enlightens all men, The Word came to his people and was not received, The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, so he became visible and we have seen his glory as the only begotten Son of the Father full of grace and truth. And it is the faith in Jesus that made us children of God beyond blood, carnal desires and human will.
The incarnate Word is the summit of God’s gifts beyond Moses’ and John’s witnessing. Only Jesus is the fullness of grace and the total revelation of God, since he is his Son among us. When and how these “good news” can transform our reality today? Yes, we must spread them with love and perseverance, trusting in the grace of the Father who sent his Son and the Holy Spirit, and being attentive to the multifold signs of salvation that we recognize among us every day.
1st Reading: Acts 6: 8-10; 7: 54-59:
Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. Some persons then came forward, who belonged to the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia and Asia. They argued with Stephen but they could not match the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke. When they heard this reproach, they were enraged and they gnashed their teeth against Stephen.
But he, full of the Holy Spirit, fixed his eyes on heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus at God’s right hand, so he declared: “I see the heavens open and the Son of Man at the right hand of God.” But they shouted and covered their ears with their hands and rushed together upon him. They brought him out of the city and stoned him, and the witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning him, Stephen prayed saying: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Gospel: Mt 10: 17-22:
Be on your guard with people, for they will hand you over to their courts, and they will flog you in their synagogues. You will be brought to trial before rulers and kings because of me, so that you may witness to them and the pagans. But when you are arrested, do not worry about what you are to say, or how you are to say it; when the hour comes, you will be given what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father, speaking through you. Brother will hand over his brother to death, and a father his child; children will turn against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of me, but whoever stands firm to the end will be saved.
In Stephen we focus the fulfillment of the promise of Christ. In the Gospel we read: “Do not worry about how to speak…what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes; because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you,” and this was exactly the case of Stephen. We don’t know anything about Stephen’s studies, but evidently he mastered Scriptures. In a short time after the Paschal Mystery he was able to summarize the history of Israel and interpret it in the light of Jesus Christ.
Certainly he was supported by the Holy Spirit; his face looked like the face of an angel. He was aware of the risk of his preaching, but was filled with wisdom and strength, and was encouraged by the vision of Jesus in glory. Paul, the witness of his death, will benefit from a similar vision later. Stephen’s death is a perfect copy of Jesus’. He entrusts his soul in the hands of God and dies asking for pardon for his murderers. Our time is particularly fecund in martyrdoms with the same Spirit’s grace. Isn’t this a proof of the incredible presence of Christ among us?