Bible Diary for December 22nd – 28th

December 22nd

4th Sunday of Advent

1st Reading: Is 7:10-14:
Once again Yahweh addressed Ahaz, “Ask for a sign from Yahweh your God, let it come either from the deepest depths or from the heights of heaven.” But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask, I will not put Yahweh to the test.” Then Isaiah said, “Now listen, descendants of David. Have you not been satisfied trying the patience of people, that you also try the patience of my God? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The Virgin is with child and bears a son and calls his name Immanuel.

2nd Reading: Rom 1:1-7:
From Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, an apostle, called and set apart for God’s Good News, the very promises he foretold through his prophets in the sacred Scriptures, regarding his Son, who was born in the flesh a descendant of David, and has been recognized as the Son of God, endowed with Power, upon rising from the dead, through the Holy Spirit.

Through him, Jesus Christ, our Lord, and for the sake of his name, we received grace, and mission in all the nations, for them to accept the faith. All of you, the elected of Christ, are part of them, you, the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy: May God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, give you grace and peace.

Gospel: Mt 1:18-24:
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.

We honor St. Joseph in the Gospel today. Joseph is a man of silence yet of noble deeds. Greatness is not in the words being spoken. It is how we make our life as a witness to those words. When Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant, he did not want to disgrace her publicly. By this, Joseph is defined in the Gospel as a righteous man. He is a person who does what is right. A principle influenced by his inner relationship with God. Even before Joseph realized his plan, the angel appeared to him in a dream. The angel told Joseph of the plan of God for him.

It is not only the fiat of Mary that took an important part in the history of salvation. It is also the response of Joseph. The first reading Isaiah prophesied already about the coming of the savior “Emmanuel”. Joseph just acceded to the plan of the Father. God has a plan for each one of us. He has that plan even before we were born. However, he needs our response. Mary and Joseph gave their “yes”. We need also to give our consent to God. Let us allow ourselves to be open to his will. Lord may we be guided by St. Joseph the foster father of Jesus, to be able to give protection and care for all those given us under our care.

December 23rd

St. John of Kanty

1st Reading: Mal 3:1-4, 23-24:
Thus says the Lord God:
Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; and suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek, And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye.

He will sit refining and purifying silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi, Refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the Lord. Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem will please the Lord, as in the days of old, as in years gone by. Lo, I will send you Elijah, the prophet, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and terrible day, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with doom.

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 made signs to his father 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.

The Vatican Council II has emboldened the reality that all the baptized are missionaries and that the Church, by its very nature is missionary. We hear this often and much in theology classes and even in basic catechesis. We are being sent by God to proclaim his love to all the corners of the world. We are being challenged to be “salt of the earth and the light of the world”.

The first reading today from the book of the prophet Malachi relays that God would send Elijah, a messenger, “to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their father”. The Gospel accounts the naming of John, the messenger who came before Jesus. To the people who took the unfolding of things in their heart, John was referred to the gospel as “the hand of God was with him” The Lord’s coming inspires us too to look for signs and wonders so that we may be led to God’s loving plan.

December 24th

Christmas Eve

1st Reading: 2 S 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16:
When King David was settled in his palace, and the Lord had given him rest from his enemies on every side, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!” Nathan answered the king, “Go, do whatever you have in mind, for the Lord is with you.”

But that night the Lord spoke to Nathan and said: “Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: Should you build me a house to dwell in? It was I who took you from the pasture and from the care of the flock to be commander of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went, and I have destroyed all your enemies before you. And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth. I will fix a place for my people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance. Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old, since the time I first appointed judges over my people Israel. I will give you rest from all your enemies. The Lord also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you. And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his Kingdom firm. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. Your house and your Kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.'”

Gospel: Lk 1:67-79:
Zechariah, filled with the 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.”

My experience of the Typhoon Haiyan cannot be forgotten. Houses made of light materials were easily blown off by the strong winds. Even our seminary which we thought can hold on the tough winds, was in shambles. Our Gospel reading today is all about the Benedictus of Zechariah. Zechariah says “… He has raised up for us a mighty savior, born of the house of his servant David.” Indeed, it is the Lord who gives strength to the house of Israel.

The first reading beautifully describes that it is really the Lord not any man or King David that will have to build a house for His people. As we enter the Christmas season, let us remember that our God is made flesh in our midst and dwells among us. We have the confidence that we can surmount every sufferings and difficulties coming our ways. Even with the strong typhoons and calamities in life we are assured that God is with us till the end.

December 25th

Christmas Day

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 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 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. (…) 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. (…)

As we greet each other today “Merry Christmas”, it is good to remember the coming into flesh or the incarnation of the Word. The eternal word of God becoming flesh and dwells in us. This is a reinforcement of his promise to redeem His people. The first reading from Isaiah tells us: “the Lord comforts his people, he redeems Jerusalem”. This indeed is truly realized in the mystery of incarnation.

“God has spoken to us through His Son, whom he made heir of all things” (2nd Reading). Heavenly father, you, who have revealed yourself through Your Son Jesus, we have received our redemption and opens up the gates of eternal life. May we be conscious that we who have been gifted with salvation, may also become a sign of Your Son’s presence- a testimony of the God’s presence in our midst.

December 26th

St. Stephen

1st Reading: Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59:
Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people. Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen, Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and people from Cilicia and Asia, came forward and debated with Stephen, but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke. When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him.

But he, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.   As they were stoning Stephen, he called out “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.

The disciple of the Apostles (which we technically call Church Father) by the name of Tertullian wonderfully describes “the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christianity”. Nowadays, we hear of persecuted Christians everywhere. Some are killed, some are judged, some are displaced and some are maligned. This is the same story we hear from the first reading today. St. Stephen, our first martyr, was stoned to death after preaching to the Jews the good news of Jesus.

They “cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears and rushed upon him together”. Jesus, in the gospel, inspires his disciples, that even in sufferings, the Spirit would come to their aid. The Spirit of Christmas reminds us that “God is on the side of the suffering” (JPII, Crossing the Threshold of Hope) and that “God who became flesh and dwelt among us would know understand the pangs of human suffering. Indeed, the blood of St. Stephen encourages us to look at Jesus. With Jesus, we may be persecuted, but we are not crushed (cf 1 Corinthians).

December 27th

St. John

1st Reading: 1 Jn 1:1-4:
What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life — for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us—what we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; for our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.

Gospel: Jn 20:1a & 2-8:
Now, on the first day after the Sabbath, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark, and she saw that the stone blocking the tomb had been moved away. She ran to Peter, and the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and she said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have laid him.” Peter then set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb.

They ran together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down and saw the linen cloths lying flat, but he did not enter. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and entered the tomb; he, too, saw the linen cloths lying flat. The napkin, which had been around his head, was not lying flat like the other linen cloths, but lay rolled up in its place. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in; he saw and believed.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have encouraged us to define faith not just as a lofty idea, but an encounter with God. Through this definition, we are reminded that theology is not just “faith seeking understanding”, but a relationship with God who made himself known to us especially in Christmas. Today’s feast of St. John Apostle and Evangelist reechoes his encounter with God and his attitude to share it.

“What we have seen and heard, we proclaim it now to you” (I John 1). His experience of the resurrection cultivated his faith and impelled him to share it, even when met with persecution. Indeed, the life of St. John brings us to encounter God. And when we have encountered him we cannot help but share it to others. Truly, encounter with God and mission to people are inseparable.

December 28th

The Holy Innocents

1st Reading: 1 Jn 1:5–2:2:
This is the message that we have heard from Jesus Christ and proclaim to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” while we continue to walk in darkness, we lie and do not act in truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the Blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We are without sin,” we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing. If we say, “We have not sinned,” we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My children, I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.

Gospel: Mt 2:13-18:
After the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, for Herod will soon be looking for the child in order to kill him.” Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and left that night for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. In this way, what the Lord had said through the prophet was fulfilled: I called my son out of Egypt.

When Herod found out that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was furious. He gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its neighborhood who were two years old or under. This was done, according to what he had learned from the wise men about the time when the star appeared. In this way, what the prophet Jeremiah had said was fulfilled: A cry is heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation: Rachel weeps for her children. She refuses to be comforted, for they are no more.

The Church always safeguards life, even of the unborn. Even in the early life of the Church, we have consistently protected life from “womb to tomb”. The letter to Diognetus, a non-Christian, explained that Christians “do not kill babies”. The martyrdom of the Holy Innocents reminds us of the sacredness of life, especially of the unborn.

We recall today the infants who were killed at the order of Herod the Great, who was not so comfortable with the thought of a “messiah” or by and large, to his perceived competitor. Indeed the first reading is right, “God is light and in his there is no darkness”. We cannot allow darkness to rule, injustice to ruin the truth and “Rachel weeping again for her children”. The Christmas season brings us to a perspective of life. We are agents of light and life and not people of darkness and sin.