Bible Diary for February 11th – February 17th

February 11th

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Our Lady of Lourdes

1st Reading: Lv 13:1-2, 44-46:
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “If someone has on his skin a scab or pustule or blotch which appears to be the sore of leprosy, he shall be brought to Aaron, the priest, or to one of the priests among his descendants. If the man is leprous and unclean, the priest shall declare him unclean by reason of the sore on his head. “The one who bears the sore of leprosy shall keep his garments rent and his head bare, and shall muffle his beard; he shall cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean!’ As long as the sore is on him he shall declare himself unclean, since he is in fact unclean. He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.”

2nd Reading: 1 Cor 10:31—11:1:
Brothers and sisters, Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Avoid giving offense, whether to the Jews or Greeks or the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in every way, not seeking my own benefit but that of the many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

Gospel: Mk 1:40-45:
A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once. He said to him, “See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.” The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

How do I consider people not of my own religion, beliefs or customs? How do I relate with people who have AIDS or other contagious diseases? Do I also seek what is good for the least of my brothers and sisters? Almighty ever living God, you are the source of our life. Teach us how to be caring not only of ourselves and our own interests but also be able to take care and be of help to what others need, for the good of my family, country and the world. Amen. Take time to visit your sick neighbors, assist the needs of the prisoners or help the victims of natural and man-made calamities.

February 12th

1st Reading: Jas 1:1-11:
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes in the dispersion, greetings. Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it.

But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways. The brother in lowly circumstances should take pride in high standing, and the rich one in his lowliness, for he will pass away “like the flower of the field.” For the sun comes up with its scorching heat and dries up the grass, its flower droops, and the beauty of its appearance vanishes. So will the rich person fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

Gospel: Mk 8:11-13:
The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” Then he left them, got into the boat again, and went off to the other shore.

The Pharisees asked for a sign but Jesus gave them a deep sigh instead. Why did Jesus sigh? Why do we sigh? In general, sighs are associated with a negative mood—a sign of disappointment, defeat, frustration, boredom, and longing. Sighing is a way to soothe ourselves when we feel mentally and spiritually exasperated, like feeling empty in our prayer. Jesus sighed in frustration because despite the many signs he showed through his miracles, the Pharisees were still asking for more. Clearly, no matter what sign Jesus had given them, they would not have recognized and believed it anyway.

Their unbelief and envy blinded them from seeing and believing the sign right there before them—Jesus himself. Jesus sighed deeply in his spirit. From his deep sigh, we come to learn that Jesus cared deeply. He cared that those who witnessed his miracles and heard his teachings would come to believe in him and his mission. Today Jesus continues to sigh deeply in his spirit whenever we doubt his gospel message and stop believing in him and his love for us. Whenever we sigh out of frustration or longing, let us be reminded that Jesus sighs in us and with us.

February 13th

1st Reading: Jas 1:12-18:
Blessed is he who perseveres in temptation, for when he has been proven he will receive the crown of life that he promised to those who love him. No one experiencing temptation should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one. Rather, each person is tempted when lured and enticed by his desire. Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers and sisters: all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change. He willed to give us birth by the word of truth that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Gospel: Mk 8:14-21:
The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. Jesus enjoined them, “Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” They concluded among themselves that it was because they had no bread. When he became aware of this he said to them, “Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread? Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear? And do you not remember, when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?” They answered him, “Twelve.” “When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many full baskets of fragments did you pick up?” They answered him, “Seven.” He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

In today’s gospel, Jesus sounded exasperated with his disciples. His questions to his disciples appealed to what their minds and senses had perceived from Jesus’ words and deeds. Despite their privileged positions as Jesus’ companions, they were still not able “to connect the dots,” thus misunderstanding Jesus’ message. They tended to interpret Jesus’ warning literally in the issue of the bread, thinking that he was reproaching them for not having purchased bread. Thus, they missed the significance of the metaphor of the bread and the leaven that Jesus used in likening the Pharisees’ hypocrisy and Herod’s personal ambition as “yeast” that is corrupting the principles and ideals of faith.

Jesus’ teachings require a pure and simple heart, not a naïve and undiscerning mind, to understand the true significance of his message. Unfortunately, just as the disciples were too slow to understand Jesus’ parables and metaphors, many of us are similarly indisposed, slow to comprehend that we are not reading literal history, that much of Scripture uses language that invites reflection and deeper understanding born out of faith in God’s word. Jesus invites us to develop a discerning heart so that we may not be easily swayed by misleading principles and beliefs.

February 14th

Ash Wednesday
St. Valentine’s Day
Sts. Cyril and Methodius

1st Reading: Jl 2:12-18:
Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment. Perhaps he will again relent and leave behind him a blessing, Offerings and libations for the Lord, your God. Blow the trumpet in Zion! proclaim a fast, call an assembly; Gather the people, notify the congregation; Assemble the elders, gather the children and the infants at the breast; Let the bridegroom quit his room and the bride her chamber. Between the porch and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep, And say, “Spare, O Lord, your people, and make not your heritage a reproach, with the nations ruling over them! Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” Then the Lord was stirred to concern for his land and took pity on his people.

2nd Reading: 2 Cor 5:20—6:2:
Brothers and sisters: We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. Working together, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says: In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you. Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Gospel: Mt 6:1-6, 16-18:
Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of our Lenten journey, an invitation to integrity through a deepening relationship with God. The contrast between inward and outward motivation runs through Jesus’ teachings on almsgiving, prayer and fasting. His message is appropriate for our times where so much emphasis is placed on what can be seen and shown on the outside. This only gives rise to hypocrisy and superficiality, especially if there is a big gap between how we present ourselves on the outside and who we are on the inside.

Except for those who are utterly enslaved to self-deception, we all long for integrity; we desire harmony between our inner person and our public self. It creates great tension and guilt within us when there is a dichotomy between what we are inside and how we manifest ourselves outside. Jesus invites us to look into our human heart to see that deep within us is a desire to enter into a relationship with God as we are, without pretensions or masks. What we are inwardly and how we act and appear outwardly are brought to integration and harmony at the core of our relationship with God in prayer.

February 15th

1st Reading: Dt 30:15-20:
Moses said to the people: “Today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom. If you obey the commandments of the Lord, your God, which I enjoin on you today, loving him, and walking in his ways, and keeping his commandments, statutes and decrees, you will live and grow numerous, and the Lord, your God, will bless you in the land you are entering to occupy. If, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen, but are led astray and adore and serve other gods, I tell you now that you will certainly perish; you will not have a long life on the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and occupy. I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him. For that will mean life for you, a long life for you to live on the land that the Lord swore he would give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

Gospel: Lk 9:22-25:
Jesus said to his disciples: “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?”

There is something very countercultural in Jesus’ invitation to deny oneself, take up his cross and follow him. This is an invitation that a lot of people in today’s world do not find attractive. Normally when people are asked what they want from life, they would say they want to live a happy, healthy and successful life. For most people, success is when they are able to achieve their goals in life, to earn more money to buy and do what they want, and to live a comfortable life. This is what the advertisements are selling, especially to the young.

We know that when we try to deny ourselves even the little things that we enjoy, it can be a great struggle for us. Yet, when we are able to do so, we feel a sense of meaning that we have been able to go beyond our created comforts in reaching out to someone in need. It is somewhat paradoxical, because the more we are able to deny ourselves, the more we feel the meaningfulness of life. Jesus invites us to believe in something beyond this transitory world. He leads us along that path and invites us to follow him.

February 16th

1st Reading: Is 58:1-9a:
Thus says the Lord God: Cry out full-throated and unsparingly, lift up your voice like a trumpet blast; Tell my people their wickedness, and the house of Jacob their sins. They seek me day after day, and desire to know my ways, Like a nation that has done what is just and not abandoned the law of their God; They ask me to declare what is due them, pleased to gain access to God. “Why do we fast, and you do not see it? afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?” Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits, and drive all your laborers. Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting, striking with wicked claw.

Would that today you might fast so as to make your voice heard on high! Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance: That a man bow his head like a reed and lie in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!

Gospel: Mt 9:14-15:
The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

Criticizing someone because that person does not conform to certain expectations happens everyday. In today’s gospel, the issue on fasting was yet another thing the people found to criticize Jesus. Like John’s disciples, we have a tendency to interpret certain pious practices in a bigoted way. Fasting is often seen from the narrow view of not eating or drinking, yet there is more to it than that. Jesus challenges us to see the bigger picture, that there is a time for fasting and for feasting.

To be with Jesus is a time of feasting as in a wedding celebration when everyone shares in the joy of the new couple. But there is also a time when Jesus’ followers must fast as they bear the crucible of humiliation and cleansing in their discipleship. Fasting and feasting are part of one continuum. Often in practicing our Christian faith we fail to give witness to the joy of being loved and forgiven by God. The disciples who accompanied Jesus were feasting in the love given them by Jesus while at the same time fasting from being self-righteous and critical. Can we feast as beloved sinners and fast from being critical towards others?

February 17th

Seven Founders of the Order of Servites

1st Reading: Is 58:9b-14:
Thus says the Lord: If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday; Then the Lord will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land. He will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails. The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake, and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up; “Repairer of the breach,” they shall call you, “Restorer of ruined homesteads.”

If you hold back your foot on the sabbath from following your own pursuits on my holy day; If you call the sabbath a delight, and the Lord’s holy day honorable; If you honor it by not following your ways, seeking your own interests, or speaking with malice— Then you shall delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will nourish you with the heritage of Jacob, your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

Gospel: Lk 5:27-32:
Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were at table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”

There seems to be no end to the criticisms the Pharisees were heaping upon Jesus. The issue this time is on the kind of company he was keeping, seemingly giving credence to the saying we often hear, “You can tell a person by the company one keeps.” It is evident in the Pharisees’ complaints that to be a friend of sinners was a “no-no” and something shameful. Yet, his critics totally missed the greatest miracle that happened, which gives flesh to Jesus’ conviction that he did not “come to call the just, but sinners to a change of heart”—the total turn-around of Levi, a kind of person whom we might consider today as a conspirator, a turncoat, a white-collar criminal. His sin had made him the opposite of who he was meant to be as a human person with dignity. Having been valued by Jesus as a person worthy of forgiveness and acceptance, he was freed from the dungeons of his sinfulness. Jesus sought out those in greatest need of healing. He seeks us out as he sought out Levi. Like a true physician he wants to heal our whole person—body, psyche, and spirit, if we allow him.