Bible Diary for December 31st – January 6th

December 31st

The Holy Family
St. Sylvester I

1st Reading: Sir 3:2-6, 12-14:
God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons. Whoever honors his father atones for sins, and preserves himself from them. When he prays, he is heard; he stores up riches who reveres his mother. Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children, and, when he prays, is heard. Whoever reveres his father will live a long life; he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother. My son, take care of your father when he is old; grieve him not as long as he lives. Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him; revile him not all the days of his life; kindness to a father will not be forgotten, firmly planted against the debt of your sins —a house raised in justice to you.

2nd Reading: Col 3:12-21 or 3:12-17:
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 days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, They took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord. Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.

He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, He took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted —and you yourself a sword will pierce— so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

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?

January 1st

New Year’s Day
Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

1st Reading: Nm 6:22-27:
The Lord said to Moses: “Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them: This is how you shall bless the Israelites. Say to them: The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace! So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

2nd Reading: Gal 4:4-7:
Brothers and sisters: When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. As proof that you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then also an heir, through God.

Gospel: Lk 2:16-21:
The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them. When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

“She treasured all these words, and pondered them in her heart.” The Doctors of the Church endlessly repeat that, before ever conceiving Jesus in her body, Mary conceived him in her heart. By which expression they mean to say that the affinity between Mary and Jesus was not only the physical affinity existing between any normal mother and child. It was much more than that. It was a spiritual affinity, the one uniting two minds thinking on the same wave length, two hearts loving the same values, two wills deeply aligned on God’s will.

Most Christians emphasize the fact that Mary was Jesus’ physical mother. But they rarely go beyond and grasp that Mary was Jesus’ mother at such a depth that it defies our imagination. This does not mean that Mary understood Jesus perfectly, for she did not, as later gospel events will show. But she was willing to “ponder” the mystery of her Son, despite its awful incomprehensibility. She is our unsurpassable model in this. Instead of being so busy doing all kinds of things for the Kingdom, maybe we should spend more time in solitude, pondering the things of God in our hearts.

January 2nd

Sts. Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen

1st Reading: 1 JN 2:22-28:
Beloved: Who is the liar? Whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Whoever denies the Father and the Son, this is the antichrist. Anyone who denies the Son does not have the Father, but whoever confesses the Son has the Father as well. Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you. If what you heard from the beginning remains in you, then you will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made us: eternal life. I write you these things about those who would deceive you. As for you, the anointing that you received from him remains in you, so that you do not need anyone to teach you. But his anointing teaches you about everything and is true and not false; just as it taught you, remain in him. And now, children, remain in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not be put to shame by him at his coming.

Gospel: Jn 1:19-28:
This is the testimony of John. When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him to ask him, “Who are you?” he admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, “I am not the Christ.” So they asked him, “What are you then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?” He said: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” Some Pharisees were also sent. They asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” This happened in Bethany across 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?”

January 3rd

The Most Holy Name of Jesus
St. Genevieve

1st Reading: 1 JN 2:29–3:6:
If you consider that God is righteous, you also know that everyone who acts in righteousness is begotten by him. See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure. Everyone who commits sin commits lawlessness, for sin is lawlessness. You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who remains in him sins; no one who sins has seen him or known him.

Gospel: Jn 1:29-34:
John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

According to Luke, the mothers of Jesus and John were “kinswomen.” (Lk 1:36). Yet John here reveals no prior familiarity with Jesus; “I myself did not know him,” he says. Nevertheless, on the basis of a sign he had been awaiting, he instantly recognized Jesus as “the Chosen One of God.” John was living for this moment. His personal mission was entirely attuned to such a sign, and he recognized it when it arrived.

There where probably others at the scene who strained their eyes to see who John was talking about: “What? Who? You mean him?” Are we capable of recognizing the presence of the Spirit when it appears in our lives or our moment in history? In most cases it does not appear in the form of a dove. Perhaps it comes in a flash of understanding, or an occasion of reconciliation, or a long-awaited victory for the cause of justice. Others may let it pass. It is only with the eyes of faith, long attuned to such signs, that we may find ourselves able to proclaim: “Yes, I have seen!”

January 4th

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

1st Reading: 1 Jn 3:7-10:
Children, let no one deceive you. The person who acts in righteousness is righteous, just as he is righteous. Whoever sins belongs to the Devil, because the Devil has sinned from the beginning. Indeed, the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the Devil. No one who is begotten by God commits sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot sin because he is begotten by God. In this way, the children of God and the children of the Devil are made plain; no one who fails to act in righteousness belongs to God, nor anyone who does not love his brother.

Gospel: Jn 1:35-42:
John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah,” which is translated Christ. Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas,” which is translated Peter.

What is our purpose in the brief, precious time we are given in this life? What is it that we are looking for? That is the question that Jesus put to the disciples of John the Baptist who suddenly left their former master and began tagging along after him: “What are you looking for?” Of course they were seeking the deepest meaning of life, God’s will for their lives, the coming of God’s Kingdom. . . They hardly knew how to put it into words, though they sensed that this mysterious stranger somehow held a key to the answers.

In their awkwardness they gave just about the lamest possible reply: “Where are you staying?” To this Jesus simply replied, “Come and see.” Which they did. We approach the Lord awkwardly, hardly knowing the words to express the deepest questions in our hearts. But he knows what we are seeking, and he knows that the only answer comes from seeing for ourselves: What it is like to live in his presence, to tag along after him and observe his ways, to find where he is staying, with the hope that we might stay with him forever.

January 5th

St. John Neumann

1st Reading: 1 Jn 3:11-21:
Beloved: This is the message you have heard from the beginning: we should love one another, unlike Cain who belonged to the Evil One and slaughtered his brother. Why did he slaughter him? Because his own works were evil, and those of his brother righteous. Do not be amazed, then, brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. Whoever does not love remains in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him.

The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth. Now this is how we shall know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts before him in whatever our hearts condemn, for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God.

Gospel: Jn 1:43-51:
Jesus decided to go to Galilee, and he found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Jesus comes from a town so obscure that it is the punch line for jokes: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” But it takes very little for Nathanael to change his mind about the mysterious stranger: “Master, you are the Son of God!” he proclaims. What causes this sudden change of heart? Was it Jesus’ apparent clairvoyance in seeing him under a fig tree? Jesus’ words evidently convey more to Nathanael than we can know: a capacity not merely to perceive his location but to read and weigh the value of his heart. Even still, as Jesus notes, the disciple will see “greater things than that.” As John notes in his epistle, “God is greater than our conscience and he knows everything.” John measures the content of a heart that lives in the truth and opens itself in love toward those who are in need. And yet the followers of Jesus will witness greater love than this: “He gave his life for us.” It follows that “we, too, ought to give our life for our brothers and sisters.”

January 6th

St. André Bessette

1st Reading: 1 Jn 5:5-13:
Beloved: Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the one who came through water and Blood, Jesus Christ, not by water alone, but by water and Blood. The Spirit is the one who testifies, and the Spirit is truth. So there are three that testify, the Spirit, the water, and the Blood, and the three are of one accord. If we accept human testimony, the testimony of God is surely greater. Now the testimony of God is this, that he has testified on behalf of his Son.

Whoever believes in the Son of God has this testimony within himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar by not believing the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever possesses the Son has life; whoever does not possess the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you so that you may know that you have eternal life, you who believe in the name of the Son of God.

Gospel: Mk 1:7-11:
This is what John the Baptist proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

After Christmas, the liturgy shows us the start of the Public life of Jesus. It all starts with the baptism done by John. The baptism of the Lord inaugurates his mission as Messiah revealed in his obedience to the Father and closeness to the poor and sinners. The Lord’s Baptism also reminds us of our baptism, dying to our own sinfulness and rising up as beloved children of the Father. Our Gospel invites to follow Jesus who is to commence the journey that would lead him to death and resurrection.

Almighty ever-loving Father, nourish us with the fire of your saving and comforting love as we tread the path of life amidst trials and problems. Look kindly upon us your children that we may be able to fulfill our roles and responsibilities as Christians, spreading love and generosity! Amen. Nurture the love of God dwelling deep within your heart. Take time to listen to a person whom you do not like to be with. Offer to the least member of your community one of your most dear possessions, like a shirt or pair of shoes, etc…