Bible Diary for February 14th – 20th

February 14th

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. Valentine
Sts. Cyril and Methodius

1st Reading: Lev 13:1–2, 44–46:
Yahweh said to Moses and Aaron, “If someone has a boil, an inflammation or a sore on his skin which could develop into leprosy, he must be brought to Aaron the priest, or to one of the priests, his descendants. “This means that the man is leprous: he is unclean. The priest shall declare him unclean; he is suffering from leprosy of the head. “A person infected with leprosy must wear torn clothing and leave his hair uncombed; he must cover his upper lip and cry, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ As long as the disease lasts he must be unclean; and therefore he must live away from others: he must live outside the camp.”

2nd Reading: 1 Cor 10:31–11:1:
Then, whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do it for the glory of God. Give no offense to the Jews, or to the Greeks, or to the Church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything. I do not seek my own interest, but that of many, this is: that they be saved. Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.

Gospel: Mk 1:40–45:
A leper came to Jesus and begged him, “If you want to, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do want to; be clean.” The leprosy left the man at once and he was made clean. As Jesus sent the man away, he sternly warned him, “Don’t tell anyone about this, but go and show yourself to the priest, and for the cleansing bring the offering ordered by Moses; in this way you will give to them your testimony.” However, as soon as the man went out, he began spreading the news everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter any town. But even though he stayed in the rural areas, people came 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 15th

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.”

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 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 16th

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. Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters covered the earth. 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?”

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 17th

Ash Wednesday
Seven Founders of the Order of Servites

1st Reading: Jl 2:12–18:
Yahweh says, “Yet even now, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, weeping and mourning. Rend your heart, not your garment. Return to Yahweh, your God—gracious and compassionate.” Yahweh is slow to anger, full of kindness, and he repents of having punished. Who knows? Probably he will relent once more and spare some part of the harvest from which we may bring sacred offerings to Yahweh, your God. Blow the trumpet in Zion, proclaim a sacred fast, call a solemn assembly.

Gather the people, sanctify the community, bring together the elders, even the children and infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his bed, and the bride her room. Between the vestibule and the altar, let the priests, Yahweh’s ministers, weep and say: Spare your people, Yahweh. Do not humble them or make them an object of scorn among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples: Where is their God? Yahweh has become jealous for his land; he has had 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:
Be careful not to make a show of your good deeds before people. If you do so, you do not gain anything from your Father in heaven. When you give something to the poor, do not have it trumpeted before you, as do those who want to be noticed in the synagogues and in the streets, in order to be praised by people. I assure you, they have their reward. If you give something to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your gift remains really secret. Your Father, who sees what is kept secret, will reward you. When you pray, do not be like those who want to be noticed. They love to stand and pray in the synagogues or on street corners in order to be seen by everyone.

I assure you, they have their reward. When you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father who is with you in secret; and your Father who sees what is kept secret will reward you. When you fast, do not put on a miserable face as do the hypocrites. They put on a gloomy face, so that people can see they are fasting. I tell you this: they have been paid in full already. When you fast, wash your face and make yourself look cheerful, because you are not fasting for appearances or for people, but for your Father who sees beyond appearances. And your Father, who sees what is kept secret, will reward 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 18th

1st Reading: Dt 30:15–20:
See, I set before you on this day life and good, evil and death. I command you to love Yahweh, your God and follow his ways. Observe his commandments, his norms and his laws, and you will live and increase, and Yahweh will give you his blessing in the land you are going to possess. But if your heart turns away and does not listen, if you are drawn away and bow before other gods to serve them, I declare on this day that you shall perish.

You shall not last in the land you are going to occupy on the other side of the Jordan. Let the heavens and the earth listen, that they may be witnesses against you. I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life that you and your descendants may live, loving Yahweh, listening to his voice, and being one with him. In this is life for you and length of days in the land which Yahweh swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Gospel: Lk 9:22–25:
And he (Jesus) added, “The Son of Man must suffer many things. He will be rejected by the elders and chief priests and teachers of the Law, and be put to death. Then after three days he will be raised to life.” Jesus also said to all the people, “If you wish to be a follower of mine, deny yourself and take up your cross each day, and follow me! For if you choose to save your life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake, you will save it. What does it profit you to gain the whole world, if you destroy or damage yourself?”

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 19th

1st Reading: Is 58:1–9a:
Cry out aloud for all you are worth; raise your voice like a trumpet blast; tell my people of their offenses, Jacob’s family of their sins. Is it true that they seek me day after day, longing to know my ways, as a people that does what is right and has not forsaken the word of its God? They want to know the just laws and not to drift away from their God. “Why are we fasting,” they complain, “and you do not even see it? We are doing penance and you never notice it.” Look, on your fast days you push your trade and you oppress your laborers.

Yes, you fast but end up quarreling, striking each other with wicked blows. Fasting as you do will not make your voice heard on high. Is that the kind of fast that pleases me, just a day to humble oneself? Is fasting merely bowing down one’s head, and making use of sackcloth and ashes? Would you call that fasting, a day acceptable to Yahweh? See the fast that pleases me: breaking the fetters of injustice and unfastening the thongs of the yoke, setting the oppressed free and breaking every yoke.

Fast by sharing your food with the hungry, bring to your house the homeless, clothe the one you see naked and do not turn away from your own kin. Then will your light break forth as the dawn and your healing come in a flash. Your righteousness will be your vanguard, the glory of Yahweh your rearguard. Then you will call and Yahweh will answer, you will cry and he will say, I am here.

Gospel: Mt 9:14–15:
Then the disciples of John came to him with the question, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast on many occasions, but not your disciples?” Jesus answered them, “How can you expect wedding guests to mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The time will come, when the bridegroom will be 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 20th

Sts. Jacinta and Francisco Marto

1st Reading: Is 58:9b–14:
Thus says the Lord: If you remove from your midst the yoke, the clenched fist and the wicked word, if you share your food with the hungry and give relief to the oppressed, then your light will rise in the dark, your night will be like noon. Yahweh will guide you always and give you relief in desert places. He will strengthen your bones; he will make you as a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins will be rebuilt, the age-old foundations will be raised.

You will be called the Breach-mender, and the Restorer of ruined houses. If you stop profaning the Sabbath and doing as you please on the holy day, if you call the Sabbath a day of delight and keep sacred Yahweh’s holy day, if you honor it by not going your own way, not doing as you please and not speaking with malice, then you will find happiness in Yahweh, over the heights you will ride triumphantly, and feast joyfully on the inheritance of your father Jacob. The mouth of Yahweh has spoken.

Gospel: Lk 5:27–32:
After this Jesus went out, and noticing a tax collector named Levi, sitting in the tax-office, he said to him, “Follow me!” So Levi, leaving everything, got up and followed Jesus. Levi gave a great feast for Jesus, and many tax collectors came to his house, and took their places at the table with the other people. Then the Pharisees and their followers complained to Jesus’ disciples, “How is it that you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” But Jesus spoke up, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I have not come to call the just, but sinners to a change of heart.”

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.