Bible Diary for December 8th – 14th
2nd Sunday of Advent
1st Reading: Is 11:1-10:
From the stump of Jesse a shoot will come forth; from his roots a branch will grow and bear fruit. The spirit of the Lord will rest upon him—a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and power, a spirit of knowledge and fear of Yahweh. Not by appearances will he judge, nor by what is said must he decide, but with justice he will judge the poor and with righteousness decide for the meek. Like a rod, his word will strike the oppressor, and the breath of his lips slay the wicked. Justice will be the girdle of his waist, truth the girdle of his loins.
The wolf will dwell with the lamb, the leopard will rest beside the kid, the calf and the lion cub will feed together and a little child will lead them. Befriending each other, the cow and the bear will see their young ones lie down together. Like cattle, the lion will eat hay. By the cobra’s den the infant will play. The child will put his hand into the viper’s lair. No one will harm or destroy over my holy mountain, for as water fills the sea the earth will be filled with the knowledge of Yahweh. On that day the “Root of Jesse” will be raised as a signal for the nations. The people will come in search of him, thus making his dwelling place glorious.
2nd Reading: Rom 15:4-9:
And we know, that whatever was written in the past, was written for our instruction, for both perseverance and comfort, given us by the Scripture, sustain our hope. May God, the source of all perseverance and comfort, give to all of you, to live in peace in Christ Jesus, that you may be able to praise, in one voice God, Father of Christ Jesus, our Lord. Welcome, then, one another, as Christ welcomed you for the glory of God. Look: Christ put himself at the service of the Jewish world, to fulfill the promises made by God to their ancestors; here, you see God’s faithfulness. The pagans, instead, give thanks to God for his mercy, as Scripture says: Because of that, I will sing and praise your name among the pagans.
Gospel: Mt 3:1-12:
In the course of time, John the Baptist appeared in the desert of Judea and began to proclaim his message: “Change your ways; the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” It was about him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: A voice is shouting in the desert, ‘Prepare a way for the Lord; make his paths straight!’ John had a leather garment around his waist and wore a cloak of camel’s hair; his food was locusts and wild honey. People came to him from Jerusalem, from all Judea and from the whole Jordan valley, and they were baptized by him in the Jordan, as they confessed their sins. When he saw several Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he baptized, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who told you that you could escape the punishment that is to come?
Let it be seen that you are serious in your conversion; and do not think: We have Abraham for our father. I tell you, that God can raise children for Abraham from these stones! The ax is already laid to the roots of the trees; any tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown in the fire. I baptize you in water for a change of heart, but the one who is coming after me is more powerful than I am; indeed, I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. He has the winnowing fan in his hand; and he will clear out his threshing floor. He will gather his wheat into the barn; but the chaff, he will burn in inextinguishable fire.”
What is paramount in our readings for this second Sunday of Advent is the call to repentance. However, repentance is just a word. It will have no meaning if it remains to be a word. Thus, repentance must have some tangible things to show. This is the reason why this leads us to think that when we are repentant then we need to do is to put flesh to the conversion and repentance that we aspire.
This means our good and charitable works should be seen. Our relationship with one another should also be tangible to people. They should see these actions in flesh. Thus, repentance invites us to be good in our relation with others, for in the end it is relations that count for we are relational beings. And Isaiah’s prophesy in the first reading says: “his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” Lord give me the heart and mind to put others at the center of my life.
Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
1st Reading: Gen 3:9-15, 20:
After the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree, the Lord God called to the man and asked him, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself.” Then he asked, “Who told you that you were naked? You have eaten, then, from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!” The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me— she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.” The Lord God then asked the woman, “Why did you do such a thing?” The woman answered, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.”
Then the Lord God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, you shall be banned from all the animals and from all the wild creatures; on your belly shall you crawl, and dirt shall you eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” The man called his wife Eve, because she became 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:
The angel Gabriel came to Mary 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 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.
As we celebrate today the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, it is good to remind ourselves how Mary responded to the invitation brought by the Angel Gabriel: “I am the handmaid of the Lord”. It seems that Mary is inviting every believer to reflect that all are handmaids or servants of the Lord. We are called to serve Him in one another. In effect our lives are lives for Service.
“I am the handmaid of the Lord”. We are called to be like Mary, who was not stingy of herself but gave it for humanity. Lord, make us always understand that our calling is for the service of the Church and humanity. Our Lady has shown us the way: “I am the handmaid of the Lord”. May we be ready as well to utter the same words of Mary when we are confronted with challenging tasks ahead.
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.
God is a God of comfort and of all consolations! This is the Good News that prophet Isaiah proclaims today. He would come to make straight in the wasteland a highway for the Lord so that whoever would come to follow him would never get lost. And if one goes astray, it would be easy for him to notice it and take him back to the fold. This is the fulfillment of today’s Gospel. Jesus speaks the parable of the shepherd who has lost just one sheep out of one hundred. He leaves all the ninety-nine and goes in search of the stray. And, when he finds it, he brings it back.
He was happier over this lost sheep than the ninety-nine who never wandered away. Indeed, God counts on every one of us. He loves us unconditionally and is not only ready to have us back in the fold but is positively overjoyed about it. Christmas season is an opportune time for us all to reflect our own way of tending and shepherding those whoever is entrusted to us. Am I fulfilling the mission of a good shepherd, just as Jesus did? This is the message of Christmas: Be a good shepherd and companion to others. Accompany those in need of your presence. Lead them to Jesus. Enjoy the company of Jesus. Amen.
St. Damasus I
1st Reading: Is 40:25-31:
To whom can you liken me as an equal? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these things: He leads out their army and numbers them, calling them all by name. By his great might and the strength of his power not one of them is missing! Why, O Jacob, do you say, and declare, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”?
Do you not know or have you not heard? The Lord is the eternal God, creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint nor grow weary, and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny. He gives strength to the fainting; for the weak he makes vigor abound. Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall, they that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles’ wings; they will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.
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.”
Our readings for today remind us that our God is always here with us, ever present and is never far away, especially in times of trouble and despair. This is the reality of Christmas: God with us. In the Gospel, Jesus exemplifies this promise and gives an invitation. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavily laden, and I will give you rest.” Jesus reaffirms what Isaiah says, that we have a caring and tireless God: “I am gentle and lowly of heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
There are many people today who are bombarded with many trials and difficulties. Perhaps, one of us is experiencing so much troubled spirit. Perhaps, your friend, your brother or sister is heavily burdened now. Comfort him with the warmth assurance that God is ever present to us. Indeed, to whom can we liken our God? The Lord is the eternal God, creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint nor grow weary, and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny.
1st Reading: Is 41:13-20:
Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the Lord. Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day, and they shall be his people, and he will dwell among you, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. The Lord will possess Judah as his portion in the holy land, and he will again choose Jerusalem. Silence, all mankind, in the presence of the Lord! For he stirs forth from his holy dwelling.
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!
Our Gospel reading has given us a model of Christian Discipleship: John the Baptist. He was greatly praised by Jesus. What made him great is that he always points to the coming of the Savior. He always leads people to Jesus, teaching them repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation. He teaches them to transform their lives. Nevertheless, John never saw Jesus’ inauguration of the Kingdom of God. He was not able to see and witness Jesus’ miracles, healings, passion, death, resurrection and ascension. He was persecuted and beheaded. True enough!
The Incarnation marks the inauguration of the Kingdom of God here on earth. In the first reading Isaiah already prophesied: “I will help you, say the Lord; your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel”. All these has been immortalized in John the Baptist. To follow the example of John the Baptist is a challenge to everyone. He persevered in the faith. He continued preaching about Jesus. This is the message of Christmas: Jesus was born for us to be steadfast in our faith despite the many forms of resistance and violence, to preach the Good News of the Kingdom and to lead others to Jesus! Jesus, Emmanuel, God is always with us!
1st Reading: Is 48:17-19:
Thus says the Lord, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go. If you would hearken to my commandments, your prosperity would be like a river, and your vindication like the waves of the sea; your descendants would be like the sand, and those born of your stock like its grains, their name never cut off or 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.”
Jesus reminds us of this one most neglected Christian virtue: to listen to what God is saying to us in every moment of our lives. Today, Jesus reproaches the crowds for not listening. The message of the Gospel comes to us through hearing. Thus, when John came and proclaimed the coming of the Messiah, people thought of him to be possessed by an evil spirit. When Jesus came, people thought of him to be glutton and drunkard simply because he was with the sinners, tax collectors and they persecuted him in the end.
Prophet Isaiah in the first reading, reminds us that the Lord, our Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, would teach us always what is good for us. He would lead us to the way we should go. If only we would listen to his voice, our prosperity would be like a river flowing down the streams giving life to all it passes by. The birth of Jesus is the embodiment of the faith we heard from our forefathers. What we have listened to and meditated upon, has now a Face – Jesus of Nazareth.
St. John of the Cross
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.
In today’s readings, we heard of a prominent figure in the Old Testament – the Prophet Elijah. The Gospel narrative follows immediately after the Transfiguration event wherein Jesus’ three disciples Peter, James and John, have seen a vision of Jesus as the glorious Son of the Father. In that event, they saw Moses and Elijah speaking with Jesus and thereby giving them a hint of the mission of Jesus as Messiah, and his fate: suffering, dying and rising again. While they were on their way down, the disciples asked Jesus, “Why do the scribes says that Elijah has to come first?”
To which Jesus replied: “I tell you that Elijah has come already and they did not recognize him but treated him as they pleased.” Elijah had, indeed, arrived, but they did not recognize him. This would also be Jesus’ fate. He came but they did not recognize him. Instead, they persecuted him. The role of Elijah’s return was to pave the way for the coming of the Messiah and this is what John the Baptist did exactly. Friends, both Elijah and John the Baptist reminds us of our obligation as disciples of the Lord: to do our share in preparing the way for the Lord’s coming. Now, how do I make my own preparations for the Lord’s birth?