Bible Diary for December 5th – 11th

Sunday
December 5th

2nd Sunday of Advent

1st Reading: Bar 5:1-9:
Jerusalem, put off your garment of mourning and unhappiness, put on the splendor and glory of God forever. Wrap yourself in the mantle of holiness that comes from God, put on your head the crown of glory of the Eternal One. For God will show your splendor to every being under Heaven. He will call your name forever, “Peace in Justice” and “Glory in the Fear of the Lord.” Rise up, Jerusalem, stand on the heights. Look towards the East and see your children gathered together from the setting of the sun to its rising, by the voice of the Holy One, rejoicing because God has remembered them.

They left you on foot, taken away by the enemy. God will lead them back, carried gloriously like royal princes. For God has resolved to bring low every high mountain and the everlasting hills, to fill up the valleys and level out the ground, in order that Israel may walk in safety under the Glory of God. Even the forests and the fragrant trees will give shade to Israel at God’s command. For God will lead Israel with joy by the light of his Glory, escorting them with his mercy and justice.

2nd Reading: Phil 1:4-6, 8-11:
And when I pray for you, I pray with joy. I cannot forget all you shared with me in the service of the Gospel, from the first day until now. Since God began such a good work in you, I am certain that he will complete it in the day of Christ Jesus. God knows that I love you dearly with the love of Christ Jesus, and in my prayers I ask that your love may lead you each day to a deeper knowledge and clearer discernment, that you may have good criteria for everything. So you may be pure of heart and come blameless to the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of holiness that comes through Christ Jesus, for the glory and praise of

Gospel: Lk 3:1-6:
It was the fifteenth year of the rule of the Emperor Tiberius; Pontius Pilatus was governor of Judea; Herod ruled over Galilee, his brother Philip ruled over the country of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias over Abilene. Annas and Caiaphas were the High Priests at that time when the word of God came to John, the son of Zechariah in the desert. John proclaimed a baptism for repentant people to obtain forgiveness of sins and he went through the whole country bordering the Jordan River.

It was just as is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah: listen to this voice crying out in the desert: prepare the way of the Lord, make his path straight. The valleys will be filled and the mountains and hills made low. Everything crooked will be made straight and the rough paths smooth; and every human being will see the salvation of God.

Reflection:
The summons of God come to us sometimes during the most inconvenient time. On the part of John it came when he was in the desert, relishing his solitude and separation from the world. Now that the Lord had called him to active duty, he would once again face the grit and grind of life. But John had a pretty burden to carry. He had to prepare the way of his Lord. He is an important actor in the plans of God but he would not be the main protagonist. He would cross paths with powerful men and women and rankle their nerves. It would not be an easy life from then on. But did this prospect deter the likes of John? Some walk away, others out of fear do it with bitterness;, still others carry on in sullen pride thinking of it as their destiny.

But John, he just did it. He had spent too much time in silence to know that the word of God cannot be contained. The Lord extends His invitation to us to be part of His team. Was I ever aware that I am being called to something greater than my own worries and personal pursuits in life? Perhaps I need a desert experience today, to shut myself from the noise of the world and listen to the voice of the Lord calling me to a life that is more than the ordinary. Lord, disturb me today from my wanderings to the jungle of this world. Invite me to the desert of prayer that I may know You better, hear You better and love You more. May my day be a day of rediscovering how beautiful You are my God and thereby be smitten by it. That I may cling to You only throughout. Amen.

Monday
December 6th

St. Nicholas

1st Reading: Is 35:1-10:
The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song. The glory of Lebanon will be given to them, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God. Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.

Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe. The burning sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground, springs of water; the abode where jackals lurk will be a marsh for the reed and papyrus. A highway will be there, called the holy way; no one unclean may pass over it, nor fools go astray on it. No lion will be there, nor beast of prey go up to be met upon it. It is for those with a journey to make, and on it the redeemed will walk. Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.

Gospel: Lk 5:17-26:
One day Jesus was teaching and many Pharisees and teachers of the Law had come from every part of Galilee and Judea and even from Jerusalem. They were sitting there while the power of the Lord was at work to heal the sick. Then some men brought a paralyzed man who lay on his mat. They tried to enter the house to place him before Jesus, but they couldn’t find a way through the crowd. So they went up on the roof and, removing the tiles, they lowered him on his mat into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “My friend, your sins are forgiven.”

At once the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees began to wonder, “This man insults God! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” But Jesus knew their thoughts and asked them, “Why are you reacting like this? Which is easier to say: ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or: ‘Get up and walk’? Now you shall know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” And Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” At once the man stood before them. He took up the mat he had been lying on and went home praising God. Amazement seized the people and they praised God. They were filled with a holy fear and said, “What wonderful things we have seen today!”

Reflection:
Who are the different persons and attitudes in this lovely scene? First, the paralyzed and his helpers, and we stress here their faith; second is Jesus and his words and deeds; here we stress his power to forgive sins and to heal sick; third is the reaction of the teachers of Law and the Pharisees who accuse Jesus of blasphemy. The framework is the crowd, filled with holy fear. We admire the faith of this team accompanying the paralyzed and removing the tiles from the roof. We understand the correct suspicion of the learned Jews: only God can forgive sins.

But follow the great lesson of the Lord. He begins with the spiritual cure, i.e., the forgiveness of sins. He accepts the objection of Scribes and Pharisees, but puts forth an evident question about feasibility: pardon is invisible, while healing is visible. The final lesson is clear: the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. He is not blaspheming. He is among us to reconcile sinners with God in the name of God the Father and in his own authority as his Son, and miracles are only signs of it. Are we encouraged in our faith in Jesus upon hearing this word of God?

Tuesday
December 7th

St. Ambrose

1st Reading: Is 40:1-11
Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated; Indeed, she has received from the hand of the Lord double for all her sins. A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

A voice says, “Cry out!” I answer, “What shall I cry out?” “All flesh is grass, and all their glory like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower wilts, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it. So then, the people is the grass. Though the grass withers and the flower wilts, the word of our God stands forever.” Go up onto a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings; cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news! Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: here is your God! Here comes with power the Lord God, who rules by his strong arm; here is his reward with him, his recompense before him. Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.

Gospel: Mt 18:12-14
What do you think of this? If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them strays, won‘t he leave the ninety-nine on the hillside, and go to look for the stray one? And I tell you, when he finally finds it, he is more pleased about it than about the ninety-nine that did not go astray. It is the same with your Father in heaven. Your Father in heaven doesn‘t want even one of these little ones to perish.

Reflection:
The discourse deals with various issues involving relationships in the Christian community, and especially when those relationships break down. The ‘little ones‘ are not just children but those who are weak and immature in their Christian faith. They can easily be misled and abused. They may find themselves lost and alienated in the process. It is at this point that Jesus speaks the parable of the shepherd. A shepherd who has lost just one sheep out of one hundred. He leaves all the ‘good‘ ones and goes in search of the stray. And, when he finds it and brings it back, he is happier over this lost sheep than he is over the ninety-nine who never wandered away.

A significant point is being made here: God loves us unconditionally and is not only ready to have us back in the fold but rejoices in having somebody who is left behind being again part of the community. This parable can be applied both to those ‘little ones‘ who were led astray or those who did the terrible thing of leading them astray. Both will be welcomed back with equal joy. What matters is having an inclusive faith and not an exclusive mindset. It is important to reflect on how we look on those who have gone astray morally or on those who may have been instrumental in causing scandal or damaging a relationship. How welcoming are we to receive back the wrongdoer not just grudgingly but with forgiveness and joy?

Wednesday
December 8th

Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary

1st Reading: Gen 3:9-15, 20:
Yahweh God called the man saying to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard your voice in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree I ordered you not to eat?” The man answered, “The woman you put with me gave me fruit from the tree and I ate it.” God said to the woman, “What have you done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.”

Yahweh God said to the serpent, “Since you have done that, be cursed among all the cattle and wild beasts! You will crawl on your belly and eat dust all the days of your life. I will make you enemies, you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel. The man called his wife by the name of Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.

2nd Reading: Eph 1:3-6, 11-12:
Brothers and sisters: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.  In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved. In him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ.

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 if 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.

Reflection:
The Immaculate Conception of Mary was declared by Bl. Pius IX in 1854. Centuries of liturgical celebration and theological discussions had preceded it. In 1830 the grace of the “miraculous medal” and the 1858 apparition of Mary at Lourdes confirmed the papal proclamation. But the source of this particular grace of Mary lies in the Gospel of today, and is the realization of the promised victory against Satan in the eternal design of God. Yes, Mary was full of grace from the moment of her conception in the womb of St Ann. Demons never dominated her soul, because she was predestined to be the mother of Jesus, the Son of God who became man for us in her womb.

Can we live this celebration as personal “good news?” We can praise and thank God for the fullness of grace of Mary that prepares the advent of Jesus. But also the “Immaculate Conception” is the starting point that will flourish in the glory of Assumption, through a life of faithfulness to Jesus. Our baptism is the starting point of grace that will support us until the final resurrection beyond our death. Let us behold in Mary the model and the intercessor of our holiness and salvation.

Thursday
December 9th

St. Juan Diego

1st Reading: Is 41:13-20:
For I, Yahweh, your God, take hold of your right hand and say to you: “Fear not, I am your assistance.” Fear not, Jacob, poor worm, and you, people of Israel, so frail. I am your redeemer, says Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel, your helper. I will make you a thresher, new and with sharp double teeth: you will thresh hills and mountains, crushing them and reducing them to chaff. You will winnow them, the wind will carry them off and the storm will scatter them. But you will rejoice in Yahweh and glory in the Holy One of Israel. The poor and the afflicted seek water, and find none.

Their tongues are parched with thirst. But I, Yahweh, will hear them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will open up streams over the barren heights and let the rivers flow through all the valleys; I will turn the desert into lakes and brooks and the thirsty earth into a land of springs. I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle and the olive; I will plant in the wasteland fir, cypress and pine— that all may see and know, consider and understand, that the hand of Yahweh has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.

Gospel: Mt 11:11-15:
I tell you this: no one greater than John the Baptist has arisen among the sons of women, and yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven is something to be conquered and violent men seize it. Up to the time of John, there was only prophesy: all the prophets and the Law; and if you believe me, John is indeed that Elijah, whose coming was predicted. Let anyone with ears listen!

Reflection:
John the Baptist is one of the figures that leads us in the spirit of Advent. Jesus praises him. John is not a reed swept by the wind, nor a man dressed in fine clothes. He is the greatest representative of the First Covenant. He is the powerful voice in the desert. But Jesus marks the greatness of the New Covenant in himself. With much humility, let us acknowledge our membership in this final period of the History of Salvation, and be faithful to it. How? The following sentence of Jesus gives us a clue. The Kingdom needs strenuous effort, and the unyielding will take it by force.

This is the moral struggle against the enemies of our salvation in Christ – our passions, the examples of the society and the inner temptations of devil. The steadfast seize it, as we see in Christian Martyrs and Saints. The last words of Jesus refer to the prophesy of Malachi – “I am going to send you the prophet Elijah before the day of the Lord comes” (3:23), and are applied to John the Baptist, his very forerunner even in the suffering element of redemption.

Friday
December 10th

1st Reading: Is 48:17-19:
Thus says Yahweh, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I, Yahweh, your God, teach you what is best for you; I lead you in the way that you must go. Had you paid attention to my commandments, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea. Your descendants would have been like the sand, and those born of your stock like its grains, their names never cut off nor blotted out from my presence.

Gospel: Mt 11:16-19:
Now, to what can I compare the people of this day? They are like children sitting in the marketplace, about whom their companions complain: ‘We played the flute for you but you would not dance. We sang a funeral-song but you would not cry!’ For John came fasting and people said: ‘He is possessed by a demon.’ Then the Son of Man came, he ate and drank, and people said, ‘Look at this man: a glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her works.”

Reflection:
The Gospel of today is one of the frequent laments of Jesus about his generation and its reluctance to accept his preaching. He uses here a parable about children in the market place. They play flutes like for a wedding, but the people don’t dance. They sing funeral-songs and the people don’t cry. Jesus gives us the meaning of the parable. John’s message of penance should be “funeral-songs.” The reaction was only partially good. In fact he was accused of demoniac possession, even if some Jews were baptized. Jesus is not in desert, except during the forty days before his public ministry.

He frequents the social life of villages and towns including joining in the festivities like singing the songs during wedding. The reaction similarly is negative: he is glutton and drunkard, a friend of sinners. However the design of the divine Wisdom was right in its progressive pedagogy to lead to the full salvation in God. Can we apply Jesus’ lament to our generation? We see in Advent, no penance and in Christmas, only materialistic pleasures. Where is the spiritual preparation for the coming of Jesus and the holy happiness in his presence?

Saturday
December 11th

St. Damasus I

1st Reading: Sir 48:1-4, 9-11
In those days, like a fire there appeared the prophet Elijah whose words were as a flaming furnace. Their staff of bread he shattered, in his zeal he reduced them to straits; By the Lord’s word he shut up the heavens and three times brought down fire. How awesome are you, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds! Whose glory is equal to yours? You were taken aloft in a whirlwind of fire, in a chariot with fiery horses. You were destined, it is written, in time to come to put an end to wrath before the day of the LORD, To turn back the hearts of fathers toward their sons, and to re-establish the tribes of Jacob. Blessed is he who shall have seen you and who falls asleep in your friendship.

Gospel: Mt 17:9a, 10-13
And as they came down the mountain, Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man be raised from the dead. The disciples asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?“ Jesus answered, “So it is: first comes Elijah; and he will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come; and they did not recognize him; and they treated him as they pleased. And they will also make the Son of Man suffer.“ Then the disciples understood that Jesus was referring to John the Baptist.

Reflection:
God gives signs to show his active presence in the world. His presence is disruptive as he points the way to truthful and merciful living. Humanity is called to a higher form of consciousness by responding to God‘s reign of justice and mercy. John the Baptist is one disruptive person who pointed to Jesus and prepared the way for his coming. John fulfilled the essential task of all the prophets: to be signs pointing to Jesus Christ. John is the last and greatest prophet of the old covenant. The Jews expected that when the Messiah would come, Elijah would appear to announce his presence. John fills the role of Elijah and prepares the way for the coming of Jesus Christ by preaching a baptism of repentance and renewal.

Are we reading the signs of God in our lives or we blind to the prophets pointing to the new covenant offered by Jesus to us? Are we watchful servants preparing for the Lord‘s coming by moving away from our former way of life and moving to a life of truth and love? Are you eager to follow the way of the prophets and are you prepared to meet the Lord Jesus when he returns in glory? The challenge of the prophets is freedom from complacency and from compromising with the ways of falsehood and lies and freedom to live in the way of the new covenant. Truth-telling and the exercise of mercy are the ways to prepare for the coming of Jesus.