Bible Diary for February 12th – February 18th

February 12th

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

1st Reading: Sir 15:15-20:
If you wish, you can keep the commandments and it is in your power to remain faithful. He has set fire and water before you; you stretch out your hand to whichever you prefer. Life and death are set before man: which ever a man prefers will be given him. How magnificent is the wisdom of the Lord! He is powerful and all-seeing. His eyes are on those who fear him. He knows all the works of man. He has commanded no one to be godless and has given no one permission to sin.

2nd Reading: 1 Cor 2:6-10:
In fact, we do speak of wisdom to the mature in faith, although it is not a wisdom of this world or of its rulers, who are doomed to perish. We teach the mystery, and secret plan, of divine wisdom, which God destined from the beginning, to bring us to glory. No ruler of this world ever knew this; otherwise, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as Scripture says: Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it dawned on the mind, what God has prepared for those who love him. God has revealed it to us, through his Spirit, because the Spirit probes everything, even the depth of God.

Gospel: Mt 5:17-37:
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not think that I have come to annul the law and the prophets. I have not come to annul them, but to fulfill them. I tell you this: as long as heaven and earth last, not the smallest letter or dot in the law will change, until all is fulfilled. So then, whoever breaks the least important of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be the least in the kingdom of heaven. On the other hand, whoever obeys them, and teaches others to do the same, will be great in the kingdom of heaven. I tell you, if your sense of right and wrong is not keener than that of the Lawyers and the Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

“You have heard, that it was said to our people in the past: Do not commit murder; anyone who murders will have to face trial. But now, I tell you: whoever gets angry with a brother or sister will have to face trial. Whoever insults a brother or sister is liable, to be brought before the council. Whoever calls a brother or sister “Fool!” is liable, of being thrown into the fire of hell. So, if you are about to offer your gift at the altar, and you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there, in front of the altar; go at once, and make peace with your brother, and then come back and offer your gift to God.  Don’t forget this: be reconciled with your opponent quickly when you are together on the way to court. Otherwise he will turn you over to the judge, who will hand you over to the police, who will put you in jail.

“There, you will stay, until you have paid the last penny. You have heard that it was said: Do not commit adultery. But I tell you this: anyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent, has already committed adultery with her in his heart. So, if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose a part of your body, than to have your whole body thrown into hell. If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is better for you to lose a part of your body, than to have your whole body thrown into hell.

“It was also said: Anyone who divorces his wife, must give her a written notice of divorce. But what I tell you is this: if a man divorces his wife, except in the case of unlawful union, he causes her to commit adultery. And the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. You have also heard that people were told in the past: Do not break your oath; an oath sworn to the Lord must be kept. But I tell you this: do not take oaths. Do not swear by the heavens, for they are God’s throne; nor by the earth, because it is his foot stool; nor by Jerusalem, because it is the city of the great king. Do not even swear by your head, because you cannot make a single hair white or black. Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ anything else you say comes from the evil one.”

God has placed life and death before us; it is up to us to choose wisely. Those who choose wisely will receive what God has prepared for them from eternity. Through his discourse, Jesus invites his listeners to observe the law in its essence and spirit, and thus become worthy entrants to the Kingdom. Spirit knows our innermost being, with its desires and intentions. We cannot fool God by our external observance of the commandments. So let us keep our intentions pure and weed out anything that makes our observance of law less than wholesome. Recite a prayer to the Holy Spirit for the cleansing and renewal of heart. Do an honest examination of conscience today.

February 13th

1st Reading: Gen 4:1-15, 25:
Adam had intercourse with Eve his wife; she became pregnant and gave birth to a child. She named him Cain, for she said, “I have got a man with help from Yahweh.” She later gave birth to Abel, his brother. Abel was a shepherd and kept flocks, and Cain tilled the soil. It happened after a time that Cain brought fruits of the soil as an offering to Yahweh. Abel for his part brought the firstborn of his flock, and some fat as well. Now Yahweh was well pleased with Abel and his offering, but towards Cain and his offering he showed no pleasure. This made Cain very angry and downcast.

Then Yahweh said to Cain, “Why are you angry and downcast? If you do right, why do you not look up? But if you are not doing what is right, sin is lurking at the door. It is striving to get you, but you must control it.” Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go to the fields.” Once there, Cain turned on his brother Abel and killed him. Yahweh said to Cain, “Where is your brother, Abel?” He answered, “I don’t know; am I my brother’s keeper?” Yahweh asked, “What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now be cursed and driven from the ground that has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood that your hand has shed. When you till the soil, it will no longer yield you its produce. You will be a fugitive wandering on the earth.”

Cain said to Yahweh, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. See! Today you drive me from this land. I must hide from you and be a wanderer and a fugitive on the earth, and it will so happen that whoever meets me will kill me.” Yahweh said to him, “Well then, whoever kills Cain, will suffer vengeance seven times.” And Yahweh put a mark on Cain to prevent anyone who met him from killing him. Adam again had intercourse with his wife and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth; for she said, “Yahweh has given me another child in place of Abel since Cain killed him.” To Seth also a son was born and he called him Enosh. At that time people began to call on the name of Yahweh.

Gospel: Mk 8:11-13:
The Pharisees came and started to argue with Jesus. Hoping to embarrass him, they asked for some heavenly sign. Then his spirit was moved. He gave a deep sigh and said, “Why do the people of this present time ask for a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this people.” Then he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side of the lake.

The story of Cain and Abel reveal to us the great mystery of God’s justice. When Cain kills his brother Abel, God confronts Cain with his sin. The gravity of the sin of Cain has cosmic repercussions. Even the earth rebels against the deed! Sin, all sin, cry for Divine retribution! No one can hide sin from the all-knowing God! As Yahweh pronounces the punishment due to Cain–a fugitive–Cain cries out for mercy. He begs that his miserable life may not be taken by others. God, the most just, is also the most merciful and so decreed that He would avenge Cain should he be killed!

Divine justice condemns sin; Divine justice punishes the sinner; Divine justice prohibits human vengeance. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay” says the Lord! (Rom 12:19) This revelation of the “justice of God” should be our guide also in our administration of justice. In particular we can see in this biblical narrative God’s original penal code: No to “capital punishment.” It often happens that cries for justice easily turn out to be cries for vengeance. How easily an angry man can arrogate to himself the Divine prerogative and thus commit the same crime he condemns!

February 14th

St. Valentine’s Day
Sts. Cyril and Methodius

1st Reading: Gen 6:5-8; 7:1-5, 10:
Yahweh saw how great was the wickedness of man on the earth and that evil was always the only thought of his heart. Yahweh regretted having created man on the earth and his heart grieved. He said, “I will destroy man whom I created and blot him out from the face of the earth, as well as the beasts, creeping creatures and birds, for I am sorry I made them.” But Noah was pleasing to God. Yahweh said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I see that you are just in this generation.

Of all the clean animals, you are to take with you seven of each kind, male and female, and a pair of unclean animals, a male and a female. In the same way for the birds of the air, take seven and seven, male and female, to keep their kind alive over all the earth, for in seven days I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights. I will blot out from the face of the earth all the living creatures I have created.” Noah did all as Yahweh had commanded. And after seven days the waters of the flood were over the earth.

Gospel: Mk 8:14-21:
The disciples had forgotten to bring more bread, and had only one loaf with them in the boat. Then Jesus warned them, “Keep your eyes open, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” And they said to one another, “He saw that we have no bread.” Aware of this, Jesus asked them, “Why are you talking about the loaves you are short of? Do you not see or understand? Are your minds closed? Have you eyes that don’t see and ears that don’t hear? And do you not remember when I broke the five loaves among five thousand? How many baskets full of leftovers did you collect?” They answered, “Twelve.” “And having distributed seven loaves to the four thousand, how many wicker baskets of leftovers did you collect?” They answered, “Seven.” Then Jesus said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

The story of the flood tells us that the wickedness of man had become so widespread that God, who at creation saw that all that he had created “was very good” had now become so corrupted as a result of the sin of man. Now Scripture tells us that God was so displeased that he was ready to destroy all of creation! Once again, as in yesterday’s reading, God’s justice is immediately tempered by his mercy as He finds Noah and instructs him to build an ark so as to save all creation (the symbolic number 7) for a new order. Even as God punishes he also makes plans for restoration! Our God is a God who Saves, indeed! His mercy always shines out. As we wish “Happy Valentine” our loved ones today, it is good to remember that to say “I love you” is also to say “I forgive you!” Our God is a God of love!

February 15th

1st Reading: Gen 8:6-13, 20-22:
At the end of the forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had built and let the raven out. This went off and kept flying to and fro until the waters had dried up from the earth. Then Noah let out the dove to see if the waters were receding from the earth. But the dove could not find a place to set its foot and flew back to him in the ark for the waters still covered the surface of the whole earth. So Noah stretched out his hand, took hold of it and brought it back to himself in the ark. He waited some more days and again sent the dove out from the ark. This time the dove came back to him in the evening with a fresh olive branch in its beak.

Then Noah knew the waters had receded from the earth. He waited seven more days and let the dove loose, but it did not return to him anymore. In the year six hundred and one, in the first month, on the first day of the month, the waters dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and looked out and saw that the surface of the earth was dry. Noah built an altar to Yahweh and, taking some of all the clean animals and all the clean birds, he offered burnt offerings on it. Yahweh smelled the pleasing aroma and said to himself: “Never again will I curse the earth because of man, even though his heart is set on evil from childhood; never again will I strike down every living creature as I have done. As long as the earth lasts, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease to be.”

Gospel: Mk 8:22-26:
When they came to Bethsaida, Jesus was asked to touch a blind man who was brought to him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had put spittle on his eyes and laid his hands upon him, he asked, “Can you see anything?” The man, who was beginning to see, replied, “I see people! They look like trees, but they move around.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again and the man could see perfectly. His sight was restored and he could see everything clearly. Then Jesus sent him home, saying, “Do not return to the village.”

We are blessed with a Pope who has consistently taught us the fundamental character of our God, namely: Our God is first and foremost a God who forgives, a God who always takes the initiative in restoring order, in giving us Peace! Such is the key message of our first reading today. Noah is given the good news that God would understand human weakness and will henceforth be merciful to man. This reminds us of the first prayer of Jesus on the cross “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”

The dove of peace with the olive branch, the universal symbol of peace, brings to the broken world of man the good news we are reminded at Christmastime through the song of the cherubim “Glory to God in the Highest and Peace to men of good will!“ Our God is a God of peace who is always ready to extend his hands (even on the cross) so that there could be peace. We are called today then, to extend our hands and offer peace to our brothers and sisters. It is not always easy to extend the hand of peace to one who has hurt us. But our God has shown us the way. Christ, our peace, invites us to be merciful for we all are in need of God’s mercy. Brothers and sisters, who is the one person you need to give an olive branch to today?

February 16th

1st Reading: Gen 9:1-13:
God blessed Noah and his sons and he said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. Fear and dread of you will be in all the animals of the earth and in all the birds of the air, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. They are given to you. Everything that moves and lives shall be food for you; as I gave you the green plants, I have now given you everything. Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is its blood. But I will also demand a reckoning for your lifeblood. I will demand it from every animal; and from man, too, I will demand a reckoning for the life of his fellow man. He who sheds the blood of man shall have his blood shed by man; for in the image of God has God made man. As for you, be fruitful and increase. Abound on the earth and be master of it.”

God spoke to Noah and his sons, “See I am making a Covenant with you and with your descendants after you; also with every living animal with you: birds, cattle, that is, with every living creature of the earth that came out of the ark. I establish my Covenant with you. Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” God said, “This is the sign of the Covenant I make between me and you, and every animal living with you for all future generations. I set my bow in the clouds and it will be a sign of the Covenant between me and the earth.

Gospel: Mk 8:27-33:
Jesus set out with his disciples for the villages around Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” And they told him, “Some say, you are John the Baptist; others say, you are Elijah or one of the prophets.” Then Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” And he ordered them not to tell anyone about him. Jesus then began to teach them that the Son of Man had to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law. He would be killed, and after three days rise again. Jesus said all this quite openly, so that Peter took him aside and began to protest strongly. But Jesus, turning around, and looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You are thinking not as God does, but as people do.”

After the flood, God renews the blessing for man and creation and issues a “new food law.” Whereas before the fall of man God had ordained a “vegetarian diet” for man, after the fall of man, God now allows even a “meat diet” for man!  But there is a caveat to God’s new food law. Man could not eat the meat with its blood! God gives a reason, namely: inasmuch as life is in the blood and all life is sacred, God ordained abstinence from blood so that man may be reminded to respect all life!

In the New Testament this food law will cease to have its binding legal force, like other similar ritual laws of the Jews (purification laws and dietary laws–see Mark 7).  Whether we follow a vegetarian diet or we prefer a meat diet, however, is not the issue. At the core of this food law we see that we have a God who provides our food. In our prayer before and after meals we recognize that we receive all from the bountiful goodness of God. Yes, we give thanks to the Lord for his providence of food for us!

February 17th

Seven Founders of the Order of Servites

1st Reading: Gen 11:1-9:
The whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved from east, they found a plain in the country of Shinar where they settled. They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them in fire.” They used brick for stone and bitumen for mortar. They said also, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top reaching heaven; so that we may become a great people and not be scattered over the face of the earth!”

Yahweh came down to see the city and the tower that the sons of man were building, and Yahweh said, “They are one people and they have one language. If they carry this through, nothing they decide to do from now on will be impossible. Come! Let us go down and confuse their language so that they will no longer understand each other.” So Yahweh scattered them over all the earth and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel, because there Yahweh confused the language of the whole earth and from there Yahweh scattered them over the whole face of the earth.

Gospel: Mk 8:34–9:1:
Then Jesus called the people and his disciples, and said, “If you want to follow me, deny yourself; take up your cross and follow me. For if you choose to save your life, you will lose it; and if you lose your life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, you will save it. What good is it, to gain the whole world, while destroying your soul? There is nothing more precious than your soul. I tell you, if anyone is ashamed of me and of my words, among this adulterous and sinful people, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” And he went on to say, “Truly I tell you, there are some here who will not die before they see the kingdom of God coming with power.”

The story of the Tower of Babel presents a fundamental reality of our being creatures, namely, our longing for God. The desire to reach heaven is at the very core of our being created. As the hind longs for running waters so does the very soul of man long for God (see Ps 42). The towers–both secular and religious–that humanity express that longing for heaven. The sacred writer through this story reveals to us that the return to God, however, cannot be a human effort. The knowledge and skills of man are not enough and are bound to fail.

Man cannot reach out to God from his own human resources. The journey to God is not a human endeavor; it is rather a work of Grace! The “babel” that ensued, the multiplication of languages in the world will one day be corrected with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost! The journey back to heaven is to be accomplished not by human efforts but by Grace, by the action of God Himself! For it is in vain that man builds, unless it is the Lord who builds! (see Psalm 127) May we always beg God to bless our journey back to Him.

February 18th

1st Reading: Heb 11:1-7:
Faith is the assurance of what we hope for, being certain of what we cannot see. Because of their faith, our ancestors were approved. By faith, we understand that the stages of creation were disposed by God’s word, and what is visible came from what cannot be seen. Because of Abel’s faith his offering was more acceptable than that of his brother Cain, which meant he was upright, and God, himself, approved his offering. Because of this faith he cried to God, as said in Scripture, even after he died.

By faith, Enoch was taken to heaven, instead of experiencing death: he could not be found, because God had taken him. In fact, it is said, that before being taken up, he had pleased God. Yet, without faith, it is impossible to please him: no one draws near to God, without first believing, that he exists, and that he rewards those who seek him earnestly. By faith, Noah was instructed of events which could not yet be seen and, heeding what he heard, he built a boat, in which to save his family. The faith of Noah condemned the world, and he reached holiness, born of faith.

Gospel: Mk 9:2-13:
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain. There, his appearance was changed before their eyes. Even his clothes shone, becoming as white as no bleach of this world could make them. Elijah and Moses appeared to them; the two were talking with Jesus. Then Peter spoke and said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.“ For he did not know what to say: they were overcome with awe. But a cloud formed, covering them in a shadow, and from the cloud came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved: listen to him!”

And suddenly, as they looked around, they no longer saw anyone except Jesus with them. As they came down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept this to themselves, although they discussed with one another what ‘to rise from the dead’ could mean. Finally they asked him, “Why, then, do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus answered them, “Of course Elijah will come first, so that everything may be as it should be. But why do the Scriptures say that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be despised? I tell you that Elijah has already come; and they have treated him as they pleased, as the Scriptures say of him.”

The letter to the Hebrews reminds us that we journey in Faith, just like our ancestors in the Faith. In the encyclical “Lumen Fidei” (the unique document of two Popes–Benedict and Francis), we are told that Faith illumines the path of believers. It was Faith that led Abraham, Moses, and the Israelites to the Promised Land. It was Faith that made the Magi kneel before the infant in Bethlehem. It was Faith that made the Martyrs face death bravely and with joy! It will be Faith also that will make the Christian of today stand firm in the Faith against all the attack leveled at the Church and her teachings!

Faith is trusting that our God cannot lie. Though at times our reason cannot fathom the ways of God, yet do we remain faithful for we are certain that God wills what is good for us. Though we walk through the valley of death we will not be afraid because Jesus, our Good Shepherd will be there to see us through (see Ps 23).  Perhaps today might be a good time to renew our Faith in our faithful God. We may tell Him our troubles and worries, our difficulties and frustrations. And we can sing “Be not afraid, I go before you always. Come follow me, and I will give you rest.