Bible Diary for December 27th – January 2nd
Feast of the Holy Family
1st Reading: Gen 15:1–6; 21:1–3:
After this the word of Yahweh was spoken to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward will be very great!” Abram said, “My Lord Yahweh, where are your promises? I am still childless and all I have will go to Eliezer of Damascus. You have given me no children, so a slave of mine will be my heir.” Then the word of Yahweh was spoken to him again, “Eliezer will not be your heir, but a child born of you (your own ﬂesh and blood) will be your heir.”
Then Yahweh brought him outside and said to him, “Look up at the sky and count the stars if you can. Your descendants will be like that.” Abram believed Yahweh who, be -cause of this, held him to be an upright man. And he said, “I am Yahweh who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land as your possession.” Yahweh was kind to Sarah as he had said, and fulﬁlled his promise to her. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time Yahweh had promised. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son that Sarah bore him.
2nd Reading Col 3:12-21:
Brothers and sisters: Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged.
Gospel: Lk 2:22–40:
When the day came for the puriﬁcation according to the law of Moses, they brought the baby up to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord, as it is written in the law of the Lord: Every ﬁrstborn male shall be consecrated to God. And they offered a sacriﬁce, as ordered in the law of the Lord: a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. There lived in Jerusalem, at this time, a very upright and devout man named Simeon; the Holy Spirit was in him. He looked forward to the time when the Lord would comfort Israel; and he had been assured, by the Holy Spirit, that he would not die before seeing the Messiah of the Lord. So, he was led into the temple by the Holy Spirit at the time the parents brought the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law.
Simeon took the child in his arms, and blessed God, saying, “Now, O Lord, you can dismiss your servant in peace, for you have fulﬁlled your word and my eyes have seen your salvation, which you display for all the people to see. Here is the light you will reveal to the nations, and the glory of your people Israel.” His father and mother wondered at what was said about the child. Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary, his mother, “Know this: your son is a sign; a sign established for the falling and rising of many in Israel, a sign of contradiction; and a sword will pierce your own soul, so that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”
There was also a prophetess named Anna, daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. After leaving her father’s home, she had been seven years with her husband; and since then, she had been continually about the temple, serving God, as a widow, night and day, in fasting and prayer. She was now eighty-four. Coming up at that time, she gave praise to God, and spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem. When the parents had fulﬁlled all that was required by the law of the Lord, they returned to their town, Nazareth in Galilee. There, the child grew in stature and strength, and was ﬁlled with wisdom: the grace of God was upon him.
Wonder happens even in the most ordinary setting. Simeon and Anna encountered the greatest wonder of their life when in the Temple they chanced upon a poor and simple couple from the backwater town of Nazareth. Their simplicity belies the treasure beyond price that they carry, the baby who will be the light and glory of Israel. Yet these two personages are not themselves ordinary as they appear. They may be bereft of signs of power and wealth but their spirit is great.
They were able to see beyond the plain appearances of the Holy Family. They saw Him of whom others had waited for a long time to recognize. Thus they deserve the joy and happiness that they felt that day. They were ready when the rest of humanity was not. When was the last time I visited a temple, a sacred place or a pilgrimage site other than the church that I usually go for masses and personal prayer? Today might be a good day for planning a visitation to that holy place I dreamed of visiting and set the date to do so.
Feast of the Holy Innocents
1st Reading: 1 Jn 1: 5—2:2:
We heard his message from him and announce it to you: God is light and there is no darkness in him. If we say we are in fellowship with him, while we walk in darkness, we lie instead of being in truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we are in fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, the Son of God, purifies us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all wickedness. If we say that we do not sin, we make God a liar, his word is not in us. My little children, I write to you that you may not sin. But if anyone sins, we have an intercessor with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Just One. He is the sacrificial victim for our sins and the sins 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.
In caves between the Orthodox basilica and the medieval one in Bethlehem today we can view many little skulls. According to tradition they belong to the innocent martyrs beheaded by Herod. Historically it is difficult to verify this, but monuments help us to remember historical events. Today’s feast is scandalous on the one hand, but mysterious on the other. We all reject this act of cruelty of Herod moved as he is by jealousy of any other possible king.
But it is also true that this bloody testimony is somehow linked to the future shedding of another blood, the blood of the innocent Lamb of God, now preserved from dying by the Providence of his Father, through the anguish and rushed flight to Egypt of Joseph, Mary and the child. Should not today be the moment to rekindle our deep compassion for so many innocent victims in the streets of our cities and provide them home, nourishment and education?
St. Thomas Becket
1st Reading: 1 Jn 2: 3-11:
How can we know that we know him? If we fulfill his commands. If you say, “I know him,” but do not fulfill his commands, you are a liar and the truth is not in you. But if you keep his word, God’s love is made complete in you. This is how we know that we are in him: he who claims to live in him must live as he lived. My dear friends, I am not writing you a new commandment, but reminding you of an old one, one you had from the beginning.
This old commandment is the word you have heard. But, in a way, I give it as a new commandment that is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light already shines. If you claim to be in the light but hate your brother, you are still in darkness. If you love your brothers and sisters, you remain in the light and nothing in you will make you fall. (…)
Gospel: Lk 2: 22-35:
When the day came for the purification according to the law of Moses, they brought the baby up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, as it is written in the law of the Lord: Every firstborn male shall be consecrated to God. And they offered a sacrifice as ordered in the law of the Lord: a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. There lived in Jerusalem at this time a very upright and devout man named Simeon; the Holy Spirit was in him. He looked forward to the time when the Lord would comfort Israel, and he had been assured by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before seeing the Messiah of the Lord. So he was led into the Temple by the Holy Spirit at the time the parents brought the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law.
Simeon took the child in his arms and blessed God, saying, “Now, O Lord, you can dismiss your servant in peace, for you have fulfilled your word and my eyes have seen your salvation, which you display for all the people to see. Here is the light you will reveal to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.” His father and mother wondered at what was said about the child. Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary, his mother, “Know this: your son is a sign; a sign established for the falling and rising of many in Israel, a sign of contradiction; and a sword will pierce your own soul, so that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”
Did you realize that in the text the Holy Spirit appears three times? First: Simeon was a very upright and devout man and the Holy Spirit was in him. So, justice and piety, even the expectation of the consolation of Israel, are effects of the Holy Spirit. Similarly for us, virtues and perseverance waiting for the consolation of the Church, are fruits from the Spirit. Second: It was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not experience death until he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. It was a great interior revelation and promise; for a Jew, the summit of divine graces.
Haven’t we also promises and dreams that enlighten us in our Christian life? Third: Simeon came to the temple inspired by the Spirit and when the parents brought in the child Jesus… he took him in his hands and blessed God. That was the moment of fulfillment. Nobody recognized in this poor couple with a child the “consolation” of Israel. Only the Spirit could disclose the hidden mystery and act in the time of God. Can we not be attentive to the Spirit’s guidance like the pious Simeon and embrace the Child Jesus in our hands?
1st Reading: 1 Jn 2: 12-17:
My dear children, I write this to you: you have already received the forgiveness of your sins through the name of Jesus. Fathers, I write this to you: you know him who is from the beginning. Young men, I write this to you: you have overcome the Evil One. My dear children, I write to you because you already know the Father. Fathers, I write to you because you know him who is from the beginning.
Young men, I write to you because you are strong and the Word of God lives in you who have indeed overcome the evil one. Do not love the world or what is in it. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the craving of the flesh, the greed of eyes and people boasting of their superiority— all this belongs to the world, not to the Father. The world passes away with all its craving but those who do the will of God remain forever.
Gospel: Lk 2: 36-40:
There was also a prophetess named Anna, daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. After leaving her father’s home, she had been seven years with her husband, and since then she had been continually about the Temple, serving God as a widow night and day in fasting and prayer. She was now eighty-four. Coming up at that time, she gave praise to God and spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem. When the parents had fulfilled all that was required by the law of the Lord, they returned to their town, Nazareth in Galilee. There the child grew in stature and strength and was filled with wisdom: the grace of God was upon him.
Today, we have the case of Anna. Luke presents her genealogy and praises her long widowhood in the temple: praying, fasting and serving. She also was inspired to join the humble couple in their presentation of the firstborn in the temple. She praised God and spoke of the child to all who looked to the deliverance of Jerusalem. This discrete presence of a prophetess comes to complete the scene of blessings. In Simeon, the prophecy on Jesus and Mary was explicit and mysterious: universality of his light and suffering of the mother because of the contradiction around her son.
Here, have we not a special message wherein we may bathe in the same atmosphere of praise, thanksgiving and redemption? Finally we have a summary of the childhood of Jesus which parallels the childhood of John. In fact we read about the Baptist: “As the child grew, he was seen to be strong in the Spirit; he lived in the desert till the day when he appeared openly in Israel” (Lk 1:80). And about Jesus: “The child grew in stature and strength and was filled with wisdom: the grace of God was upon him” (Lk 2: 40). With Simeon and Anna let us accept and meditate on this simple testimony of the Gospel.
St. Sylvester I
1st Reading: 1 Jn 2: 18-21:
My dear children, it is the last hour. You were told that an antichrist would come; but several antichrists have already come, by which we know that it is now the last hour. They went out from us though they did not really belong to us. Had they belonged to us, they would have remained with us. So it became clear that not all of us were really ours. But you have the anointing from the Holy One, so that all of you have true wisdom. I write to you, not because you lack knowledge of the truth, but because you already know it, and lies have nothing in common with the truth.
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.
In Christmas, we not only have descriptions of Jesus’ birth, but also texts in which we grasp the depth of the mystery which is behind the humble circumstances of Bethlehem, the stable and the manger. The Prologue of the Gospel of John is one of these manifestations of the true personality of this child. After the affirmation of the eternal divinity of the Word and his participation in creation and revelation to everyone, we hear the essential tenet of our faith: “And the Word was made flesh; …, and we have seen his Glory, the Glory of the only Son coming from the Father: fullness of truth and loving-kindness.”
God is quite invisible, but the only Son of God is now visible in his flesh and as such we can see him in his fullness of grace and truth. This is why the beloved disciple, John, could write: “The Word was with the Father and made himself known to us. So we tell you what we have seen and heard that you may be in fellowship with us, and us, with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” And he even denounces: “Who is the liar? The one who denies that Jesus is the Christ. This is the antichrist, who denies both the Father and the Son.” This solemn warning reminds us the conviction of our Catholic faith based in the Scripture and proclaimed everywhere since the apostolic times. Christmas is then the gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God.
Feast of Mary Mother of God
1st Reading: Num 6:22–27:
Then Yahweh spoke to Moses saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons and say to them: This is how you shall bless the people of Israel; you shall say: May Yahweh bless you and keep you! May Yahweh let his face shine on you, and be gracious to you! May Yahweh look kindly on you, and give you his peace! In that way shall they put my name on the people of Israel and I will bless them.”
2nd Reading: Gal 4:4–7:
But when the fullness of time came, God sent his Son. He came born of woman and subject to the Law, in order to redeem the subjects of the Law, that we might receive adoption as children of God. And because you are children, God has sent into your hearts the Spirit of his Son which cries out: Abba! that is, Father! You yourself are no longer a slave but a son or daughter, and yours is the inheritance by God’s grace.
Gospel: Lk 2:16–21:
So they [shepherds] came hurriedly, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. On seeing him they related what they had been told about the child, and all were astonished on hearing the shepherds. As for Mary, she treasured all these words, and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds then returned, giving glory and praise to God for all they had heard and seen, just as the angels had told them. On the eighth day the circumcision of the baby had to be performed; he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
As we begin a new year, it is but fitting to honor Mary as the Mother of God. The readings remind us of God’s faithfulness and goodness—in loving us and in gifting us with his Son, Jesus. It is as if God is filling us up according to the size of the cup we are holding before the Divine presence. God wants to fill up our containers to the brim, so that we may never feel empty and unfulfilled, and so that in Jesus we may know what it means to belong and to be part of a family.
Mary invites us to pause as she did, so we may discover the blessings present in our life situations. Perhaps she was asking herself why she was so privileged not only to be the mother of the Messiah but also to belong to God? There are moments in our life when we also wonder why we are where we are. We need time to ponder, to treasure and to discover the purpose of our life situation, in the same way that Mary needed time to treasure and ponder in her heart the meaning of the events that accompanied her son’s birth.
Sts. Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen
1st Reading: 1 Jn 2:22–28:
Who is the liar? The one who denies that Jesus is the Christ. This is an antichrist, who denies both the Father and the Son. The one who denies the Son is without the Father, and those who acknowledge the Son also have the Father. Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you. If what you heard from the beginning remains in you, you, too, will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise he himself gave us: eternal life.
I write this to you thinking of those who try to lead you astray. You received from him an anointing, and it remains in you, so you do not need someone to teach you. His anointing teaches you all things, it speaks the truth and does not lie to you; so remain in him, and keep what he has taught you. And now, my children, live in him, so that when he appears in his glory, we may be confident and not ashamed before him when he comes.
Gospel: Jn 1:19–28:
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 crying out in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord.”
Those who had been sent were Pharisees; so 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.
“Who is the liar?” To answer this question, we can say that just about everyone is a liar. We live in a world where truth is easily compromised, where we glibly deny reality and conveniently rationalize any concealment of truth. The “economy of the truth” as the expression goes, describes a careful use of facts so as not to reveal too much. It is tantamount to concealing the whole truth with half-truths and therefore, a lie. At the heart of our human tendency to lie and to deny reality is our avoidance of the uncomfortable truth and our fear of rejection.
Denial of our real self, of our background and history, is a denial of the gift of self that God has given us. This denial is a form of lie. This is the challenge of today’s Gospel echoed in the question posed to John the Baptist: “Who are you?” Can we, like John, reveal our true selves to others and not deny who we truly are by hiding behind masks, achievements, titles, and roles? Are we, like John, able to recognize and proclaim the truth with humility that “we are not worthy to untie the strap of his sandal?”