Bible Diary for February 20th – 26th

February 20th

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sts. Jacinta and Francisco Marto

1st Reading: 1 Sm 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23:
On hearing this, Saul went down with three thousand picked men of Israel to the desert of Ziph in search of David. So, that night, David and Abishai went into the camp and found Saul sleeping in the center, his spear thrust into the ground at his head, while Abner and the rest of the soldiers were sleeping around him. Abishai said to David, “God has delivered your enemy into your hands this day. Let me nail him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I will not repeat it.”

But David answered Abishai, “Do not harm him. For who could harm Yahweh’s anointed and not be punished? So David took the spear and the water jug from near Saul’s head and they left. Nobody saw, nobody knew, nobody woke up. All remained asleep, for a deep sleep from Yahweh had fallen on them. On the opposite slope David stood at a distance, on top of the hill. David answered, “I have your spear with me, O king! Let one of your servants come over to fetch it. Yahweh rewards a righteous and loyal man. Today he delivered you into my hands but I refused to harm Yahweh’s anointed.

2nd Reading: 1 Cor 15:45-49:
Scripture says that Adam, the first man, became a living being; but the last Adam has become a life-giving spirit. The spirit does not appear first, but the natural life, and afterward comes the spirit. The first man comes from the earth and is earthly, while the second one comes from heaven. As it was with the earthly one, so is it with the earthly people. As it is with Christ, so with the heavenly. This is why, after bearing the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one.

Gospel: Lk 6:27-38:
“But I say to you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who treat you badly. To the one who strikes you on the cheek, turn the other cheek; from the one who takes your coat, do not keep back your shirt. Give to the one who asks, and if anyone has taken something from you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have others do to you. If you love only those who love you, what kind of grace is yours? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do favors to those who are good to you, what kind of grace is yours? Even sinners do the same. If you lend only when you expect to receive, what kind of grace is yours?

“For sinners also lend to sinners, expecting to receive something in return. But love your enemies and do good to them, and lend when there is nothing to expect in return. Then will your reward be great, and you will be sons and daughters of the Most High. For he is kind toward the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Don’t be a judge of others and you will not be judged; do not condemn and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you, and you will receive in your sack good measure, pressed down, full and running over. For the measure you give will be the measure you receive back.”

It is easy to love people who are loveable. But how are we to love people who are disagreeable or even “unlovable”? How are we to love our enemies? The love that Jesus describes is not a feeling, nor is it based on the merits of the one we love. Love is active; it is a matter of the will; it is choice to return good for evil, mercy for those who treat us badly. Not because they “deserve it,” but because we aspire to be true sons and daughters of the God whose very nature is Love, whose very name is Mercy. Lord, where there is no love, let me put love, that I may find love.

February 21st

St. Peter Damian

1st Reading: Jas 3:13-18:
If you consider yourself wise and learned, show it by your good life, and let your actions, in all humility, be an example for others. But if your heart is full of bitter jealousy, and ambition, do not try to show off; that would be covering up the truth; this kind of wisdom does not come from above, but from the world, and it is earthly and devilish. Wherever there is jealousy and ambition, you will also find discord, and all that is evil. Instead, the wisdom that comes from above is pure and peace-loving. Persons with this wisdom show understanding, and listen to advice; they are full of compassion and good works; they are impartial and sincere. Peacemakers, who sow peace, reap a harvest of justice.

Gospel: Mark 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 fire 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.”

The disciples were asked to effect a particular healing. It was a boy oppressed by a dumb and deaf spirit. It was just one of those days when they were at a loss how to explain their impotence before something which they had lorded over before. It was just an ordinary case yet there they were embarrassed at their own inadequacy. It is in this context that arguments began. Expectations were not met, hope was dashed to the ground, the friendly atmosphere turned sour with disappointment.

And then Jesus found them. He remedied the case by expelling the cause of the little boy’s illness. And order was once again restored. That day, Jesus taught His disciples a valuable lesson that would stay with them forever. When faced with an enormous task beyond their skill, they should not resort to defensive behavior but to prayer.

February 22nd

Chair of St. Peter

1st Reading: 1 Pt 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.

February 23rd

St. Polycarp

1st Reading: Jas 4:13–17:
Listen now, you who speak like this, “Today or tomorrow we will go off to this city and spend a year there; we will do business and make money.” You have no idea what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? No more than a mist, which appears for a moment and then disappears. Instead of this, you should say, “God willing, we will live and do this or that.” But no! You boast of your plans: this brazen pride is wicked. Anyone who knows what is good, and does not do it, sins.

Gospel: Mk 9:38–40:
John said to him, “Master, we saw someone who drove out demons by calling upon your name, and we tried to forbid him, because he does not belong to our group.” Jesus answered, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in my name can soon after speak evil of me. For whoever is not against us is for us.

Owning exclusive rights of Jesus is bad business for Him who came that all might be saved. His love is without borders. Thus from the onset of His ministry, Jesus taught His disciples not to be jealous of others who were using His name casting out demons but did not belong to their group. These people could not malign the source of their own fruitfulness in their ministry. He is simply too big for all of us.

The feeling of threat from others with the same activity as ours should not mobilize us towards defense and offense. Rather than concentrating on eliminating each other, our efforts should be directed to serving the community. If we ever have to compete with them, let us compete who among us could serve our brothers and sisters more. The only competition allowed among the followers of Jesus is the competition to service.

February 24th

1st Reading: Jas 5:1–6:
So, now, for what concerns the rich, cry and weep, for the misfortunes that are coming upon you. Your riches are rotting, and your clothes, eaten up by the moths. Your silver and gold have rusted, and their rust grows into a witness against you. It will consume your flesh, like fire, for having piled up riches, in these, the last days. You deceived the workers who harvested your fields, but, now, their wages cry out to the heavens. The reapers’ complaints have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You lived in luxury and pleasure in this world, thus, fattening yourselves for the day of slaughter. You have easily condemned, and killed the innocent since they offered no resistance.

Gospel: Mk 9:41–50:
If anyone gives you a drink of water because you belong to Christ and bear his name, truly, I say to you, he will not go without reward. If anyone should cause one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble and sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a great millstone around his neck. If your hand makes you fall into sin, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life without a hand, than with two hands to go to hell, to the fire that never goes out.

And if your foot makes you fall into sin, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life without a foot, than with both feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye makes you fall into sin, tear it out! It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, keeping both eyes, to be thrown into hell, where the worms that eat them never die, and the fire never goes out. The fire itself will preserve them. Salt is a good thing; but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.”

Be mindful of the “little things” in life for they have the power to determine our fate in eternity. Who would ever have thought that a glass of water offered to Christ’s own would merit a reward? And conversely, messing with God’s little ones causing them to trip would also merit condemnation? We tend to dismiss the little, insignificant things in this life. We are awed with size and we compete to have the biggest of everything if we could manage it.

We expend so much energy and waste so much time to possess them. But God’s way subverts this natural proclivity. It offers an alternative way, the way of self-emptiness, of self-diminishment and the continuous giving of the self, the way Jesus showed us ages ago when He was still walking among us. The smaller we become in the sight of the world in the service of the Kingdom, the bigger our stature will be in God’s.

February 25th

1st Reading: Jas 5:9–12:
Beloved, do not fight among yourselves and you will not be judged. See, the judge is already at the door. Take for yourselves, as an example of patience, the suffering of the prophets, who spoke in the Lord’s name. See how those who were patient are called blessed. You have heard of the patience of Job and know how the Lord dealt with him in the end. For the Lord is merciful and shows compassion. Above all, my beloved, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth, or make a habit of swearing. Let your yes be yes and your no be no, lest you become liable for judgment.

Gospel: Mk 10:1–12:
Jesus then left that place and went to the province of Judea, beyond the Jordan River. Once more, crowds gathered around him and, once more, he taught them, as he always did. Some (Pharisees came and) put him to the test with this question: “Is it right for a husband to divorce his wife?” He replied, “What law did Moses give you?” They answered, “Moses allowed us to write a certificate of dismissal in order to divorce.”

Then Jesus said to them, “Moses wrote this law for you, because you have hearts of stone. But in the beginning of creation God made them male and female; and because of this, man has to leave father and mother and be joined to his wife; and the two shall become one body. So, they are no longer two, but one body. Therefore, let no one separate what God has joined.” When they were indoors at home, the disciples again asked him about this, and he told them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against his wife; and the woman who divorces her husband and marries another, also commits adultery.”

Our God is a mature God whose sense of responsibility to what He has promised is rock steady. It does not change with the passage of time. It’s the reason why Jesus can in no way accept the dissolution of marriage that is founded on the love of God whose very nature is unchangeable, irrevocable and forever valid. God will never renege on His promise. That is why it is presupposed that those who undertake marriage are already of right age, capable of right judgment and responsible for the decision made. Marriage is not something to be taken lightly because it touches on a mystery bigger than us. We participate in the very essence of God. Thus if ever a marriage really breaks up, it is not God who is the unfaithful one. It is us.

February 26th

1st Reading: Jas 5:13–20:
Are any among you, discouraged? They should pray. Are any of you happy? They should sing songs to God. If anyone is sick, let him call on the elders of the Church. They shall pray for him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer said in faith will save the sick person; the Lord will raise him up and if he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven. There will be healing, if you con fess your sins to one another, and pray for each other.

The prayer of the upright man has great power, provided he perseveres. Elijah was a human being, like ourselves, and when he prayed, earnestly, for it not to rain, no rain fell for three and a half years. Then he prayed again: the sky yielded rain and the earth produced its fruit. Brothers, if any one of you strays far away from the truth, and another person brings him back to it, be sure of this: he who brings back a sinner from the wrong way, will save his soul from death and win forgiveness for many sins.

Gospel: Mk 10:13–16:
People were bringing their little children to him to have him touch them; and the disciples rebuked them for this. When Jesus noticed it, he was very angry and said, “Let the children come to me and don’t stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Then he took the children in his arms and, laying his hands on them, blessed them.

Little things take time to grow but they are worth investing in. After all, from the little acorn comes an oak tree. But it takes patience and long vision to invest in that which takes years to grow. And this is where Jesus excels most, minding the little ones and making them grow towards their potential. He does not mind the discomfort of touching so many children and through them consequently, touching also their parents who feel good seeing their children thus blessed by someone they admire.

It takes greatness to see potential where others like the disciples see only distractions. They could not see that in front of God they too were no more than mere children. They have a lot to learn. Jesus showed them another truth to be reflected upon: there is nothing so ordinary and too banal that God will not take time to mind them. All have worth in God’s divine sight.