Bible Diary for February 19th – February 25th

February 19th

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time

1st Reading: Lev 19:1-2, 17-18:
Yahweh spoke to Moses and said, “Speak to the entire assembly of the people of Israel and say to them: Be holy for I, Yahweh, your God, am holy. Do not hate your brother in your heart; rebuke your neighbor frankly so as not to share in his guilt. Do not seek revenge or nurture a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am Yahweh.

2nd Reading: 1 Cor 3:16-23:
Do you not know that you are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit abides within you? If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him. God’s temple is holy, and you are this temple. Do not deceive yourselves. If anyone of you considers himself wise in the ways of the world, let him become a fool, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s eyes. To this, Scripture says: God catches the wise in their own wisdom. It also says: The Lord knows the reasoning of the wise, that it is useless. Because of this, let no one boast about human beings, for everything belongs to you; Paul, Apollos, Cephas life, death, the present and the future. Everything is yours, and you, you belong to Christ, and Christ is of God.

Gospel: Mt 5:38-48:
Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard, that it was said: An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you this: do not oppose evil with evil; if someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn and offer the other. If someone sues you in court for your shirt, give him your coat as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give when asked, and do not turn your back on anyone who wants to borrow from you.

“You have heard, that it was said: Love your neighbor and do not do good to your enemy. But this I tell you: love your enemies; and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. For he makes his sun rise on both the wicked and the good; and he gives rain to both the just and the unjust.  “If you love those who love you, what is special about that? Do not even tax collectors do as much? And if you are friendly only to your friends, what is so exceptional about that? Do not even the pagans do as much? As for you, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Yahweh invites people to share in his holiness. Once we do so, we become the temple of God, where His Spirit dwells. Jesus explains how being holy and God’s temple demands certain behavioral and relational imperatives. Being God’s temple, we are invited to practice everyday holiness. But doing so goes against the wisdom of the world and would invite world’s rejection. You might have to walk a lonely path. Are you ready for walking this narrow path? Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, make my heart your home. Mend a broken relationship in your life.

February 20th

Sts. Jacinta and Francisco Marto

1st Reading: Sir 1:1-10:
All wisdom comes from the Lord and endures with him forever. The grains of sand, the drops of rain and the days of eternity, who can count them? The height of heaven, the extent of the earth and the depths of the abyss, who can measure them? Wisdom was created before all things and the prudent intellect before the beginning of time. To whom was the source of Wisdom revealed? Who has known her secret designs? One alone is wise and greatly to be feared. The One who is seated upon his throne. The Lord himself created Wisdom. He looked on her and knew her value. He poured her out over all his works; upon all mortal beings, in accordance with his goodness. He lavished her on those who love him.

Gospel: Mk 9:14-29:
When they came to the place where they had left the disciples, they saw many people around them and some teachers of the law arguing with them. When the people saw Jesus, they were astonished and ran to greet him. He asked, “What are you arguing about with them?” A man answered him from the crowd, “Master, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit, deaf and mute. Whenever the spirit seizes him, it throws him down and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth and becomes stiff all over. I asked your disciples to drive the spirit out, but they could not.” Jesus replied, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him.

As soon as the spirit saw Jesus, it shook and convulsed the boy, who fell on the ground and began rolling about, foaming at the mouth. Then Jesus asked the father, “How long has this been happening to him?” He replied, “From childhood. And it has often thrown him into the fi re and into the water to destroy him. If you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “Why do you say, ‘If you can?’ All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately, the father of the boy cried out, “I do believe, but help the little faith I have.”

Jesus saw that the crowd was increasing rapidly, so he ordered the evil spirit, “Dumb and deaf spirit, I command you: Leave the boy and never enter him again.” The evil spirit shook and convulsed the boy and with a terrible shriek came out. The boy lay like a corpse and people said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and the boy stood up. After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive out the spirit?” And he answered, “Only prayer can drive out this kind, nothing else.”

Last Saturday we spoke about having the Faith of our ancestors. Today we encounter in the Gospel a man who confesses that he has little faith and so he asks the Lord to help his little faith. His humble admission of his weak faith moved the Lord to act on the plea of the helpless father. Sometimes we can feel that we are most unworthy of Divine intervention. When we think thus, we put limits to what God can do. This father with little faith tells us, however, that when we humbly admit our limitations we eventually surrender to God’s powerful intervention! Little faith we indeed may have, but if we humble ourselves before the powerful God so many great things can happen to us! In truth, true Faith is recognizing that we indeed are helpless without the grace of God. The flipside, so to speak, of faith is humility. One who has great humility will have his little faith complimented! We pray with the distraught father in the Gospel today: “Lord, help the little faith I have!”

February 21st

St. Peter Damian

1st Reading: Sir 2:1-11:
My son, if you have decided to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials. Keep your heart upright and remain resolute; do not be upset in the time of adversity. Hold fast to the Lord, do not separate yourself from him so that you may be successful to the end of your days. Accept all that happens to you, be patient when you are humbled, for as gold is tested in the fire, so those acceptable to God are tested in the crucible of humiliation. Have confidence in him and he will take care of you; follow the right path and hope in him.

You who fear the Lord, wait for his mercy and do not turn away lest you fall. You who fear the Lord, trust him and you will not lose your reward. You who fear the Lord, hope for all good things; hope for eternal joy and mercy. Remember what happened to your ancestors. Who has ever trusted in the Lord and been confounded? Who has persevered in fear of the Lord and been abandoned? Who has called upon him and not been heard? For the Lord is compassion and loving-kindness; he forgives our sins and saves us in time of distress.

Gospel: Mk 9:30-37:
After leaving that place, they made their way through Galilee; but Jesus did not want people to know where he was because he was teaching his disciples. And he told them, “The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, but three days after he has been killed, he will rise.” The disciples, however, did not understand these words and they were afraid to ask him what he meant. They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, Jesus asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?”

But they did not answer, because they had been arguing about who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve and said to them, “If someone wants to be first, let him be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child, placed him in their midst, and putting his arms around him he said to them, “Whoever welcomes a child such as this in my name, welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me, welcomes not me, but the One who sent me.”

The opening verse of our reading today, “My son, if you have decided to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials” is beautifully echoed by St. Benedict, father of the Benedictine Order, in the prologue of his Holy Rule for monks. One who seeks to take seriously the Christian life, like the monks or any other serious minded Christian, must be ready to endure discipline. Perfection in the Christian way of life demands much sacrifice. In particular, St. Benedict taught the monks to observe the discipline of obedience and to grow in humility, or more precisely, to be willing to be humiliated! St. Benedict spoke of 12 steps or grades of humility!

Jesus in the Gospel was also teaching his disciples in much the same vein like Ben Sirach, our first reading, when He told them of His impending suffering, his humiliation. Unfortunately, his disciples could not quite understand their Master. Jesus was teaching them that the way to the “top” was by going down “below!” Such is the Christian paradox! To be great one must become little! To lead, one must serve! Today we are called to become wise! Ben Sirach tells us to be resolute, and when the going gets tough, the tough get going but humbly and in obedience like Jesus who embraced death, death on a cross!

February 22nd

Ash Wednesday
Chair of St. Peter

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.”

“Hiram sa Diyos ang aking buhay“ is a title of a beautiful song that reminds us of a fundamental truth. The period of “Lent“ is a good time to remember this truth. When, therefore, we receive the ashes today the priest tells us “Remember man that you are dust and to dust you shall return.“ Life has been “lent“ to us, and we are one day to return that life to the Author of all Life, God! When we do return to God we have to return with “interest,“ that is, with “value added“ in the form of good we have done.

In our Judaic tradition that takes the form of our classic Lenten practices–prayer, almsgiving, and sacrifice. This Lenten season is precisely a season of grace because with these Lenten practices we make God central of our lives, we remember the poor, and we make atonement for our sins. May this season of grace be truly for us all the occasion for us to Return to God as we spend more time, not in shopping but in praying, more time spending for the poor and the needy than for our own comfort and leisure, and more time fasting rather than feasting!

February 23rd

St. Polycarp

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?”

In the desert Moses challenged the Israelites to make a decision. Either to follow the path to life or the path to death. To follow the Law was life; to disobey the Law meant death. The Israelites had to make the choice. In the same way, Christ challenged his disciples in today’s Gospel. To follow Christ and his Gospel or to choose the world and its fruit, damnation. We are invited to choose Life; we are invited to choose to follow Christ. Choosing Christ is not quite attractive, though! Jesus does not mince his words. “If you wish to be a follower of mine … take up your cross…“

To choose Christ is to accept the cross. Not easy! It is not easy to be good to those who are bad to us. It is not easy to love the unlovable. It is not easy to forgive those who have wronged us. It is not easy to suffer humiliation. It is not easy to be accused of a wrong you are not guilty of. It is not easy to suffer for the sake of others. It is not easy to die. So that we may learn to follow Jesus and take up our cross, the Church offers to us the Via Crucis as our prayer and penance for the season of Lent. Through our meditation of the Via Crucis we will not only understand the Cross that Christ had to carry but also be encouraged to choose life in Christ, to follow Christ on the way to true Life!

February 24th

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.”

What is “Fasting and abstinence?“ The law of fasting requires Catholics ages18–60 years to take only one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal in quantity on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The law of abstinence, which is not eating meat on Ash Wednesdays and all Fridays of Lent, binds those who have completed their fourteenth year onwards. The sick, of course, are not obliged. Why Fasting and Abstinence? It is not for diet purposes. We abstain and fast for a salutary spiritual reasons (1) as penance for our sins and as (2) a spiritual discipline.

We remember that Christ spent 40 days in desert in fasting and prayer before He began his public ministry. Those who have to contend with the evil, those who intend to exorcise the evil one prepare for the spiritual combat through prayer and fasting. St. Jean Vianney was so effective in driving the evil one at the confessional because of his prayer and fasting. Fasting and abstinence are spiritual exercises that build our spiritual muscles or our ability to do battle with the evil one. We are always tempted. The devil likes to offer us always an easy path. The devil always offers us comfort. Fasting and abstinence train us to resist the lure of the easy path and instead train us to face the difficult path of the way of the cross to which Jesus calls us.

February 25th

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.”

When do we go to the Doctor? When we are sick. Sometimes, though, even when we are sick we delay going to the Doctor until we can no longer bear the pain. So sometimes our Doctors tell us, “you should have come earlier.“ In our Gospel today Jesus presents himself as our Doctor, our Spiritual Doctor. But there is something so wonderful about Jesus as our Doctor. He is the one who goes out in search of the sick! Our Gospel tells us that Jesus “noticed“ Levi at his post.

It was not Levi who went to the Lord. It was Jesus, the Divine Doctor, who went to the “sick“ Levi! Such is our Lord! He takes the initiative. Jesus, the Divine Physician, looks at the spiritually sick and reaches out to them with eyes of mercy and compassion. In our own time this particular verse spoke to one Jorge Mario Bergolio (a.k.a. Pope Francis). After listening to this Gospel he went to confession and made a radical turn around in his life. He was 17 years old. The tender gaze of the Divine Physician healed him. We, too, must let the eyes of mercy and compassion of the Lord penetrate our hearts!