Bible Diary for February 13th – 19th

February 13th

6th Sunday of Ordinary Time

1st Reading: Jer 17:5–8:
This is what Yahweh says, “Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings and depends on a mortal for his life, while his heart is drawn away from Yahweh! He is like a bunch of thistles in dry land, in parched desert places, in a salt land where no one lives and who never finds happiness. Blessed is the man who puts his trust in Yahweh and whose confidence is in him! He is like a tree planted by the water, sending out its roots towards the stream. He has no fear when the heat comes, his leaves are always green; the year of drought is no problem and he can always bear fruit.”

2nd Reading: 1 Cor 15:12, 16–20:
If Christ is preached as risen from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith gives you nothing, and you are still in sin. Also those who fall asleep in Christ are lost. If it is only for this life that we hope in Christ, we are the most unfortunate of all people. But no, Christ has been raised from the dead and he comes before all those who have fallen asleep.

Gospel: Lk 6:17, 20–26:
Coming down the hill with them, Jesus stood on a level place. Many of his disciples were there and a large crowd of people who had come from all parts of Judea and Jerusalem and from the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon. Then looking at his disciples, Jesus said, “Fortunate are you who are poor, the kingdom of God is yours. Fortunate are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Fortunate are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

“Fortunate are you when people hate you, when they reject you and insult you and number you among criminals, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for a great reward is kept for you in heaven. Remember that is how the ancestors of this people treated the prophets. But alas for you who have wealth, for you have been comforted now. Alas for you who are full, for you will go hungry. Alas for you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Alas for you when people speak well of you, for that is how the ancestors of these people treated the false prophets.”

A tree planted in dry land is an apt reference for those who seek happiness or fulfillment in the things of this world. Similarly, for those who seek success only in this life. Such, according to St. Paul, are “the most unfortunate of men.” They are planting a tree amidst thistles, in parched desert land. Jesus instead blesses those who are poor, who hunger, who weep, who face insults and persecution. To follow Jesus is to enter an upside down kingdom, where what was up is down; what seemed like solid ground is now over our heads; where what was dead is now alive! Lord, let us feast in hope, laugh and rejoice in your promises, and believe in the good news that Jesus is truly risen!

February 14th

St. Valentine
Sts. Cyril and Methodius

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 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.

This scriptural passage reminds us once again about our mortality. We need constant reminding because we tend to lull ourselves in the delusion that it will not happen to us for a long time. We see our friends going before us, our loved ones, people younger than us, but somehow we cannot imagine it happening to ourselves. So we need constant reminders: MEMENTO MORI. But this should not make us morbid but, rather, it should make us value life more than ever. The flowers of the field are beautiful but they will pass away. But their existence has been worthwhile because of the passersby who had been given joy by admiring its beauty.

Mao Tse Tung said:“ Death can be as heavy as a mountain and as light as a feather“ What a mystical statement for an atheist. I don‘t know if for him a heavy death is better than one as light as feather. One can make an argument for both. A heavy death can be positive if it meant that one‘s life has been so worthwhile that one would be missed heavily by those who have benefitted from it. And a light death may be the consequence of light, meaningless life. In other words it means the difference between a significant life and a life without consequence. Reminding us of our mortality makes us want to live each moment significantly.

February 15th

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 first fruits of his creatures.

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?”

No human being goes throughout life without trials. Of course these trials vary in kind and intensity. Whether big or small, the thing is it is our trial. Maybe others have bigger trials but they are the ones enduring them. Actually trials can be blessings. I was told that the Chinese character for “crisis“ is the same as “opportunity“ so crisis or trials can be opportunities for growth. It may sound like a cliché or motherhood statement but it is true that what does not break us, strengthens us. I am inspired when I read a personal testimony of a cancer survivor who says that her cancer is God‘s greatest gift to her, because it had made her closer to God.

I am amazed at the ability of human beings to endure, for example, the concentration camps of the Nazis, the torture in prison camps. I read of a person who was put in isolation in a small dark room. The only light came from a slit below his door and a small weed happened to grow just in front of it. Everyday, he would lie on his stomach and watch the weed grow and he said later on that this was what kept him sane — this tiny green plant which to everyone else is absolutely useless. It is a consolation to know that God will not allow us to be tried beyond our strength. Somehow God will send us help to endure our trials patiently even if it is only a tiny green plant.

February 16th

1st Reading: Jas 1:19-27:
Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger for anger does not accomplish the righteousness of God. Therefore, put away all filth and evil excess and humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls. Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his own face in a mirror.

He sees himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like. But the one who peers into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres, and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts; such a one shall be blessed in what he does. If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, his religion is vain. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Gospel: Mk 8:22–26:
When Jesus and his disciples 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.”

Seeing clearly is a process. It does not come with having a functional pair of eyes but the capacity to discern the deeper reality of the object in sight. The blind man who had been in darkness for a long time could not clearly see people. They looked like trees. Thus Jesus had to lay His hands once again on his eyes before perfect sight is restored. For some people it takes a lifetime before they clearly can see things as they are. Their darkness is too thick that it takes a special intervention from God before they can see things in the light. Then, they realize they cannot go back to their former ways, like the blind who was enjoined not to go back to his village, to what was familiar and comfortable. Seeing opens a new horizon. A new road beckons. Once you see clearly you can never go back to your former life again.

February 17th

Seven Founders of the Order of Servites

1st Reading: Jas 2:1-9:
My brothers and sisters, show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. For if a man with gold rings and fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person with shabby clothes also comes in,  and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Sit here, please,” while you say to the poor one, “Stand there,” or “Sit at my feet,”  have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs?

Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom that he promised to those who love him? But you dishonored the poor. Are not the rich oppressing you? And do they themselves not haul you off to court? Is it not they who blaspheme the noble name that was invoked over you? However, if you fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, You shall love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

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.”

Friendship allows us to know each other better. The longer time we spend with one another gives us the chance to map out contours of each other’s person that are not accessible to mere acquaintances. This is the reason why we believe in the testimony of the apostles. It is they who have seen, heard and touched the Lord. Their knowledge of the Lord is the product of their time spent with Him. Thus they can declare with confidence that Jesus is the Messiah.

But even then, they still had to grow in knowledge as to what kind of Messiah the Lord is. Peter on behalf of others could not accept a suffering vulnerable Messiah so off tangent to the triumphant Messiah that they hoped Him to be; hence the rebuke. It will take Peter and the other disciples a longer time before their knowledge of Jesus will be such that they too will embrace suffering and death, the way Jesus did, without hesitation.

February 18th

1st Reading: Jas 2:14-24, 26:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day,
and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone might say, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works,
and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble.

Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works. Thus the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called the friend of God. See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

Gospel: Mk 8:34–9:1:
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 but destroy yourself? There is nothing you can give to recover your life. 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.”

Following someone means the willingness to be led and be taught. This entails self divestment. Someone full of himself or herself cannot listen to others. The harder the lessons are, the more effort one must exert to accept it. Learning is easy if we have confidence and trust in the teacher. After all, it is the person of the teacher that carries more weight in the teaching process. It is not his or her words alone nor his or her action apart. It is the totality of his or her person. It is for this reason why following of Jesus entails trust and confidence in Him. Following is easy if one believes. Faith matters. May we have it in abundance to follow the Lord even unto death.

February 19th

1st Reading: Jas 3:1-10:
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you realize that we will be judged more strictly, for we all fall short in many respects. If anyone does not fall short in speech, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also. If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide their whole bodies. It is the same with ships: even though they are so large and driven by fierce winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot’s inclination wishes. In the same way the tongue is a small member and yet has great pretensions.

Consider how small a fire can set a huge forest ablaze. The tongue is also a fire. It exists among our members as a world of malice, defiling the whole body and setting the entire course of our lives on fire, itself set on fire by Gehenna. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this need not be so.

Gospel: Mk 9:2–13:
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 this word, “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 be 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.”

In Church tradition, the event in today’s Gospel is called the Transfiguration. It is an account of Jesus being wonderfully changed and being wonderfully owned by God. It helped to prepare him for the difficult times that lay ahead. We sometimes forget that Jesus was human and that he had to struggle mightily against the pressures and temptations that were brought with such force against him. This event, more graphically and more forcefully than any other, demonstrated the superiority of Jesus Christ over all previous, messianic systems and teachers.

The Transfiguration has rich meaning for each of us today. It enables us to feel the glory and majesty of God more than we could possibly feel it without this dramatic scene. It helps us to get a little of the spine-tingling, awe-inspiring feeling that we need when we contemplate the greatness of God and Christ. We are more likely to be ready to meet Christ in all his glory at the judgment, if we feel something of it in this life. And our respect for Christ and his teachings becomes all the greater because of this Transfiguration.