Bible Diary for February 16th – 22nd
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:
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. 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.
Jesus may look very unconventional, unlike the teachers of that time. But looks are deceiving for He does not come to bring a new teaching and do away with the old. He came to fulfill them to the fullest. Thus he reminded His hearers that the Laws and the Prophets ought to be followed. The moral and ethical life must have a basis. It is not dependent on what feels good lest we fall into thinking that we are the measure of what is good and true and beautiful. It is always good to have a common reference point to evaluate our actions.
Jesus is not someone who detests the old ways. He only presents them in a new way that makes them always relevant: the archaic that never goes out of style. Stop and ponder the “laws” for good living that we intentionally break because we think they are too insignificant to be bothered with: the white lies we make, the promises we do not keep and the countless other little law-breaking things we make. Today is a good day to make a resolution to be faithful in anything no matter how small and insignificant this may be.
Seven Founders of the Order of Servites
1st Reading: Jas 1:1-11:
James, a servant of God, and of the Lord Jesus Christ, sends greetings to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations. Consider yourselves fortunate, my brothers and sisters, when you meet with every kind of trial, for you know, that the testing of your faith makes you steadfast. Let your steadfastness become perfect, with deeds, that you, yourselves, may be perfect and blameless, without any defect. If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all easily and unconditionally.
But ask with faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave driven and tossed on the sea by the wind. Such a person should not expect anything from the Lord, since the doubter has two minds and his conduct will always be insecure. Let the believer who is poor, boast, in being uplifted, and let the rich one boast, in being humbled, because he will pass away like the ﬂower of the ﬁeld. The sun rises and its heat dries the grass; the ﬂower withers and its beauty vanishes. So, too, will the rich person fade away, even in the midst of his pursuits.
Gospel: Mark 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.
Signs are comforting. They assure us that we are on the right track or not and therefore we can easily adjust and reorient ourselves. Signs help us see well especially if we are in an unfamiliar and out-of-the-way place. But people who have trod familiar roads do not need signs anymore. They know the terrain as intimately as the palm of their hand. Their own experience is a better guide.
Because of this the Pharisees who traversed the byways and hi-ways of holiness and faithfulness to God should have known better when Jesus came. They should have known that Jesus came from above. Yet they were obstinate and hardheaded. This exasperates the Lord. They do not need signs. What they need is a change of heart.
1st Reading: Jas 1:12-18:
Happy are those who patiently endure trials, because, afterward, they will receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to those who love him. No one, when tempted, should say, “This temptation comes from God.” God is never tempted, and he can never tempt anyone. Instead, each of us is lured, and enticed, by our own evil desire.
Once this desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and sin, when fully grown, gives birth to death. Do not be deceived, my beloved. Every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of Light, in whom there is no change, or shadow of a change. By his own will, he gave us life, through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of offering to him, among his creatures.
Gospel: Mark 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 re member 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?”
When minds and hearts are not in synch there is bound to be misunderstanding. We communicate at different levels; meanings and intentions are misinterpreted. This is the reason why the disciples could not understand the words of their Master.
They are stuck in the ordinary and the mundane, while Jesus’ discourse is of a higher plane, of the spiritual realm whose resonances in life is deeper than physical realities. The disciples have not yet attained the maturity of spirit to keep abreast with Jesus. They are indeed students at the feet of the Teacher. They will not understand for a long time. But they will get there someday.
1st Reading: Jas 1:19-27:
My beloved, be quick to hear but slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not fulﬁll the justice of God. So get rid of any ﬁlth, and reject the prevailing evil, and welcome the word that has been planted in you, and has the power to save you. Be doers of the word, and not just hearers, lest you deceive yourselves. The hearer, who does not become a doer, is like that one, who looked at himself in the mirror; he looked, and then promptly forgot what he was like.
But those who ﬁx their gaze on the perfect law of freedom, and hold onto it, not listening and then forgetting, but acting on it, will ﬁnd blessing on their deeds. Those who think they are religious, but do not restrain their tongue, deceive themselves, and their religion is in vain. In the sight of God, our Father, pure and blameless religion lies in helping the orphans, and widows in their need, and keeping oneself from the world’s corruption.
Gospel: Mark 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.”
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.
1st Reading: Jas 2:1-9:
My brothers and sisters, if you truly believe in our gloriﬁed Lord, Jesus Christ, you will not discriminate between persons. Suppose a person enters the synagogue where you are assembled, dressed magniﬁcently and wearing a gold ring; at the same time, a poor person enters dressed in rags. If you focus your attention on the well-dressed and say, “Come and sit in the best seat,” while, to the poor one you say, “Stay standing, or else sit down at my feet,” have you not, in fact, made a distinction between the two?
Have you not judged, using a double standard? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters, did God not choose the poor of this world to receive the riches of faith, and to inherit the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? Yet, you despise them! Is it not the rich who are against you, and drag you to court? Do they not insult the holy name of Christ by which you are called? If you keep the law of the kingdom, according to Scripture: Love your neighbor as yourself, you do well; but if you make distinctions between persons, you break the law, and are condemned by the same law.
Gospel: Mark 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.
St. Peter Damian
1st Reading: Jas 2:14-24, 26:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, to profess faith, without showing works? Such faith has no power to save you. If a brother or sister is in need of clothes or food, and one of you says, “May things go well for you; be warm and satisﬁed,” without attending to their material needs, what good is that?
So, it is, for faith without deeds: it is totally dead. Say to whoever challenges you, “You have faith and I have good deeds; show me your faith apart from actions and I, for my part, will show you my faith in the way I act.” Do you believe there is one God?
Well enough, but do not forget, that the demons, also, believe, and tremble with fear! You foolish one, do you have to be convinced, that faith without deeds is useless? Think of our father Abraham. Was he not justiﬁed by the act of offering his son Isaac on the altar? So you see, his faith was active, along with his deeds, and became perfect by what he did.
The word of Scripture was thus fulﬁlled, Abraham believed in God so he was considered a righteous person and he was called the friend of God. So you see, a person is justiﬁed by works, and not by faith alone. So, just as the body is dead without its spirit, so faith, without deeds is also dead.
Gospel: Mark 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.”
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.
Chair of St. Peter
1st Reading: 1 P 5:1–4:
I now address myself to those elders among you; I, too, am an elder, and a witness to the sufferings of Christ, hoping to share the glory that is to be revealed.
Shepherd the ﬂock which God has entrusted to you, guarding it, not out of obligation, but, willingly, for God’s sake; not as one looking for a reward, but with a generous heart; do not lord it over, those in your care, rather be an example to your ﬂock. Then, when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will be given a crown of unfading glory.
Gospel: Mt 16:13–19:
After that, Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They said, “For some of them, you are John the Baptist; for others Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “It is well for you, Simon Barjona, for it is not ﬂesh or blood that has revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And now I say to you: You are Peter; and on this Rock I will build my Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.”
What we confess stands on steady ground, on the rock of Peter’s own solid faith in Jesus. This should give us assurances that what we have inherited from the apostles could withstand the scrutiny of time and people. However some of us still give in to doubt. Others disillusioned by the outside practice of the faith or of the people entrusted to safeguard it bail out and shop for other faith groups that might restore their sense of balance and peace.
But aren’t we convinced that what we have has been guaranteed by Jesus? After all we received the faith from the Apostles. It is they who have seen, heard and touched Him. Outside their testimony, all would be conjectures. May we remain in the solid ground of Peter’s confession, ever vigilant to safeguard the faith but not too narrow-minded as to close ourselves from the wisdom of other faith traditions that might illumine our understanding of our own faith.