Bible Diary for December 6th – 12th

December 6th

2nd Sunday of Advent
St. Nicholas

1st Reading: Is 40:1–5, 9–11:
Be comforted, my people, be strengthened, says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, proclaim to her that her time of bondage is at an end, that her guilt has been paid for, that from the hand of Yahweh she has received double punishment for all her iniquity. A voice cries, “In the wilderness prepare the way for Yahweh. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley will be raised up; every mountain and hill will be laid low. The stumbling blocks shall become level and the rugged places smooth. The glory of Yahweh will be revealed, and all mortals together will see it; for the mouth of Yahweh has spoken.”

Go up onto the high mountain, messenger of good news to Zion, lift up your voice with strength, fear not to cry aloud when you tell Jerusalem and announce to the cities of Judah: Here is your God! Here comes Yahweh Sabbath with might; his strong arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and here before him is his booty. Like a shepherd he tends his flock: he gathers the lambs in his arms, he carries them in his bosom, gently leading those that are with young.

2nd Reading: 2 Pt 3:8–14:
Do not forget, beloved, that with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day. The Lord does not delay in fulfilling his promise, though some speak of delay; rather, he gives you time, because he does not want anyone to perish, but that all may come to conversion. The Day of the Lord is to come like a thief. Then, the heavens will dissolve with a great noise; the elements will melt away by fire, and the earth, with all that is on it, will be burned up.

Since all things are to vanish, how holy and religious your way of life must be, as you wait for the day of God, and long for its coming, when the heavens will dissolve in fire, and the elements melt away in the heat. We wait for a new heaven and a new earth, in which justice reigns, according to God’s promise. Therefore, beloved, as you wait in expectation of this, strive, that God may find you rooted in peace, without blemish or fault.

Gospel: Mk 1:1–8:
This is the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in the book of Isaiah, the prophet, “I am sending my messenger ahead of you, to prepare your way. Let the people hear the voice calling in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord, level his paths.” So John began to baptize in the desert; he preached a baptism of repentance, for the forgiveness of sins.

All Judea and all the people from the city of Jerusalem went out to John to confess their sins, and to be baptized by him in the river Jordan. John was clothed in camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and honey. He preached to the people, saying, “After me comes one who is more powerful than I am; I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.”

It’s not easy to play second fiddle especially if you too have your own set of followers and have been in the trade for some time. But that is precisely what John did. From the very beginning he knew his place and acted responsibly. No temptation for self-promotion or seeking out his own personal glory deterred him from his task. He was a man comfortable with himself. He did not need external signs of his stature. Even his lifestyle pointed to a conscious decision he made for himself.

Clothed only in camel’s hair with the barest of sustenance to support him, his greatness lay within. Playing second did not diminish who he was. He was God’s servant and would remain as one no matter what. Advent is about disposing of our extras that we might have room for the Child to be born on Christmas. Let John be our guide today for simple living. Why don’t we dispose all our accumulated things that we don’t need anyway and give it to those who might have better use for it. Maybe, it is a good idea to start with our closet.

December 7th

St. Ambrose

1st Reading: Is 35:1-10:
Let the wilderness and the arid land rejoice, the desert be glad and blossom. Covered with flowers, it sings and shouts with joy, adorned with the splendor of Lebanon, the magnificence of Carmel and Sharon. They, my people, see the glory of Yahweh, the majesty of our God. Give vigor to weary hands and strength to enfeebled knees. Say to those who are afraid: “Have courage, do not fear. See, your God comes, demanding justice. He is the God who rewards, the God who comes to save you.” Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unsealed.

Then will the lame leap as a hart and the tongue of the dumb sing and shout. For water will break out in the wilderness and streams gush forth from the desert. The thirsty ground will become a pool, the arid land springs of water. In the haunts where once reptiles lay, grass will grow with reeds and rushes. There will be a highway which will be called The Way of Holiness; no one unclean will pass over it nor any wicked fool stray there. No lion will be found there nor any beast of prey. Only the redeemed will walk there. For the ransomed of Yahweh will return: with everlasting joy upon their heads, they will come to Zion singing, gladness and joy marching with them, while sorrow and sighing flee away.

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!“

“Amazement seized the people and they praised God.“ “What wonderful things we have seen today.“ When we witness something usual, we are amazed, we praise God, we tell others of the wonderful things we have seen. Same expressions were uttered by the people, who witnessed the wonders Jesus showed when He healed the paralyzed man. What were they wondering? They were amazed and wondered at the paralyzed man‘s faith. Nothing stopped them not to bring the man to Jesus. They were so determined. Even Jesus wondered: “when Jesus saw their faith, He said to the man, “My friend your sins are forgiven.“

They wondered how the man was forgiven and how he got up, took his mat, walked and went home praising God. The wonderful event brings to recall and to learn a lesson that people can be saved through the instrumentality of others: parents, friends, officemates, classmates, etc. St. Monica converted her most sinful and immoral son through her tears and prayers, now a great pillar of the Church, St. Augustine. Many of us can recall the persons who brought us to church, to the sacraments, encouraged and advised us, saved us. Every time, I see lay people who are so committed to their ministry, couple who are so faithful to each other, I wondered. My commitment and fidelity to my priestly life and vows are strengthened. Let us pray and be grateful to people who brought us to God.

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:
Blessed be God, the Father of Christ Jesus our Lord, who, in Christ, has blessed us from heaven, with every spiritual blessing. God chose us, in Christ, before the creation of the world, to be holy, and without sin in his presence. From eternity he destined us, in love, to be his adopted sons and daughters, through Christ Jesus, thus fulfilling his free and generous will. This goal suited him: that his loving-kindness, which he granted us in his beloved might finally receive all glory and praise. By a decree of him, who disposes all things, according to his own plan and decision, we, the Jews, have been chosen and called, and we were awaiting the Messiah, for the praise of his glory.

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 handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the angel left her.

Mary had a reason to rejoice on that blessed day when the angel Gabriel first brought the news to her. She was entrusted with a ministry that God had never asked before from any of the great personalities in the Old Testament. The divine confidence rests on the fragile shoulder of a girl-child of perhaps fourteen or fifteen years of age.

Many speak about the obedience and docility of the Blessed Virgin. But few ever talk about her courage. To be chosen as the Mother of the Son of the Most High is a tall order. Yet, this simple maiden did not hesitate and carried the ministry with quiet courage and dignity. No wonder she was blessed among women. She was blessed with uncommon valor not found in anyone who preceded her.

December 9th

St. Juan Diego

1st Reading: Is 40:25–31:
To whom, then, will you liken me or make me equal? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and see: who has created all this? He has ordered them as a starry host and called them each by name. So mighty is his power, so great his strength, that not one of them is missing. How can you say, O Jacob, how can you complain, O Israel, that your destiny is hidden from me, that your rights are ignored by Yahweh?

Have you not known, have you not heard that Yahweh is an everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth? He does not grow tired or weary, his knowledge is without limit. He gives strength to the enfeebled, he gives vigor to the wearied. Youth may grow tired and faint, young men will stumble and fall, but those who hope in Yahweh will renew their strength. They will soar as with eagle’s wings; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and never tire.

Gospel: Mt 11:28–30:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest. For my yoke is easy; and my burden is light.”

Burden is a matter of perspective. What is considered a burden by some is nothing to others. That is why Jesus’ yoke is nothing to complain about because it is borne from the perspective of love. With love, sacrifices are counted as nothing. One is not focused on the pain but on the joy that one will harvest once the difficulties have been surmounted. Thus love sees not only the now but the future that will dawn. The yoke of love may be full of sacrifices but it is never considered heavy.

December 10th

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 from 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!

Jesus Himself now proclaims directly who will be one of our guides in navigating our way towards Christmas. It is John the Baptist, greatest among the sons of women but humble enough to accept that even he is unfit to untie the sandal straps of the Chosen One of God. It is John’s humility which is his greatest virtue. Perhaps the Lord invites us to cultivate humility in this season of Advent for us to be numbered among the lowly shepherds who, on the first Christmas night, saw the baby Jesus ahead of the wise men from the east, and the rest of those who came.

December 11th

St. Damasus I

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.“

When I was a seminarian, idealistic as I was, I had harsh comments to some priests. Now that I am a priest, I am eating my own words, and having a dose of my own medicine. It is not easy to be a priest, and more, to be a good one. I realize that experience is the best teacher. Jesus in our gospel describes the people of his time, pointing at their failure to respond accordingly to what He is offering. They did not see the message and purpose of John the Baptist, branding him as a demon possessed.

They too regarded Jesus as a glutton and a drunkard. They were always negative to Jesus. Our situation, this modern time, is not very far from the generations of John and Jesus. Today‘s generations are indifferent to what God is presenting–the fullness of life and salvation. In this season of Advent, let us pray that God may open our eyes to see beyond what meets the eye, to see the signs of times and to love every person that comes our way.

December 12th

Our Lady of Guadalupe

1st Reading: Zec 2:14–17:
“Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for I am about to come, I shall dwell among you,” says Yahweh. “On that day, many nations will join Yahweh and be my people, but my dwelling is among you.” The people of Judah will be for Yahweh as his portion in his holy land. He will choose Jerusalem again. Keep still in Yahweh’s presence, for he comes, having risen from his holy dwelling.

Gospel: Lk 1:39–47:
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 the 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!” And Mary said, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God, my savior!

Wherever the Virgin Mary visits, joy spontaneously arises. She brings the joy of one who is pregnant with the divine and thus does not keep it to herself but generously brings it to others. Today we celebrate the feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Mary visited a lowly mestizo named Juan Diego and brought him the joy that would significantly alter the landscape of Catholicism in Mexico. Because of her, the Mexicans “leapt” for joy in receiving Jesus as their Lord and Savior. That visit transformed the whole nation.