Bible Diary for February 21st – 27th
1st Sunday of Lent
St. Peter Damian
1st Reading: Gen 9:8–15:
God spoke to Noah and his sons, “See I am making a Covenant with you and with your descendants after you; also with every living animal with you: birds, cattle, that is, with every living creature of the earth that came out of the ark. I establish my Covenant with you. Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
God said, “This is the sign of the Covenant I make between me and you, and every animal living with you for all future generations. I set my bow in the clouds and it will be a sign of the Covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember the Covenant between me and you and every kind of living creature, so that never again will floodwaters destroy all flesh.”
2nd Reading: 1 P 3:18–22:
Remember how Christ died, once and for all, for our sins. He, the just one, died for the unjust in order to lead us to God. In the body he was put to death, in the Spirit he was raised to life, and it was then that he went to preach to the imprisoned spirits. They were the generation who did not believe when God, in his great patience, delayed punishing the world while Noah was building the ark in which a small group of eight persons escaped through water. That was a type of the baptism that now saves you; this baptism is not a matter of physical cleansing but of asking God to reconcile us through the resurrection of Christ Jesus. He has ascended to heaven and is at the right hand of God, having subjected the angels, Dominations and Powers.
Gospel: Mk 1:12–15:
Then the Spirit drove him into the desert. Jesus stayed in the desert forty days and was tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, but angels ministered to him. After John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee and began preaching the Good News of God. He said, “The time has come; the kingdom of God is at hand. Change your ways and believe the Good News.”
In life there are situations when we are tested, not necessarily enticed to do evil. There are situations that everyone, even the upright person, has to face where we are invited to take a stand and thus strengthen our faith. How do you see and address temptations or the lure of the devil in your everyday life? Do you welcome them for growth and purification or just run and avoid them and stay in fear or trembling?
Lord Jesus, my Savior, grant me the serenity of heart to face the trials that may come along my way. Lead me to uphold what is right and give me the wisdom to understand the good and the bad happening in my journey personally and as a community and lead me to compose myself as a person with honor and dignity as a child of God. Amen. Identify three things that you would like to change in your ways of doing things or in your attitude as you begin the Season of Lent and plan or visualize how you will do it.
Chair of St. Peter
1st Reading: 1 P 5:1-4:
Beloved: I exhort the presbyters among you, as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed. Tend the flock of God in your midst, overseeing not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of 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.“
Pope Francis has many pastoral admonitions — He tells the Bishops to be Pastors rather than airport bishops. He tells them and all pastors to be with their sheep and actually should smell like their sheep. This is one way of saying be an example to your flock. You should not be a distant figure admonishing them just from the pulpit. They must see their pastor as a human being like them, struggling to be good, sometimes failing, always rising again. Being an example does not mean one has to be perfect.
But people should see that one is really trying to walk one‘s talk. As a teacher for many decades, I know that the students are very observant and know which teachers do not practice what they preach. When they look back to their student days they realize that they learned most not from the most brilliant but from those who taught them by example how to be good human beings.
1st Reading: Is 55:10–11:
As the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return till they have watered the earth, making it yield seed for the sower and food for others to eat, so is my word that goes forth out of my mouth: it will not return to me idle, but it shall accomplish my will, the purpose for which it has been sent.
Gospel: Mt 6:7–15:
When you pray, do not use a lot of words, as the pagans do, for they believe that the more they say, the more chance they have of being heard. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need, even before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, holy be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we forgive those who are in debt to us. Do not bring us to the test, but deliver us from the evil one. If you forgive others their wrongdoings, your Father in heaven will also forgive yours. If you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive you.
The Lord’s Prayer is one of the best known prayers ever. As Christians, we learn to recite it early in life. However, the words have become so familiar that we tend to pray it so mechanically and mindlessly to the point that it no longer comes from the heart. When Jesus taught his disciples this prayer, he meant it to be a personal and intimate communication from a beloved child to a loving father. Jesus teaches us that prayer is first of all a relationship between God and us, a relationship built on love and trust, more than fear. Unless we believe in the goodness of God, we cannot pray this prayer from our hearts.
In faith, we ask God to provide for our daily needs as we learn to live our life one day at a time. This serves as an antidote against our tendency to hoard supplies as insurance for future shortages, indicating a lack of trust in God’s care and protection. Prayer is incomplete if it does not end in action and change. True prayer teaches our hearts to forgive those who have hurt us, an act which requires courage and faith in God’s healing love.
1st Reading: Jon 3: 1-10:
The word of Yahweh came to Jonah a second time: “Go to Nineveh, the great city, and announce to them the message I give you.” In obedience to the word of Yahweh, Jonah went to Nineveh. It was a very large city, and it took three days just to cross it. So Jonah walked a single day’s journey and began proclaiming, “Forty days more and Nineveh will be destroyed.” The people of the city believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. Upon hearing the news, the king of Nineveh got up from his throne, took off his royal robe, put on sackcloth and sat down in ashes.
He issued a proclamation throughout Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles, no people or beasts, herd or flock, will taste anything; neither will they eat nor drink. But let people and beasts be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call aloud to God, turn from his evil ways and violence. Who knows? God may yet relent, turn from his fierce anger and spare us.” When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened upon them.
Gospel: Lk 11:29–32:
As the crowd increased, Jesus spoke the following words: “People of the present time are troubled people. They ask for a sign, but no sign will be given to them except the sign of Jonah. As Jonah became a sign for the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be a sign for this generation. The Queen of the South will rise up on Judgment Day with the people of these times and accuse them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and here there is greater than Solomon. The people of Nineveh will rise up on Judgment Day with the people of these times and accuse them, for Jonah’s preaching made them turn from their sins, and here there is greater than Jonah.”
People normally pay attention to signs in practically every aspect of their lives, like a young woman who had been waiting for a sign whether or not to enter the convent. It seemed easier for her to wait for an external sign than to look deeply into herself with great honesty about what she really wanted to do with her life. She never got the sign she was expecting and she never made a decision until it was too late. Signs can carry different meanings and indications depending on people’s culture, personalities and backgrounds.
Signs can be an object, a particular trait, or an event whose occurrence can indicate a probable happening, such as a portent of things to come. Jesus does not dismiss the importance of signs; he simply reproaches us of having tunnel visions, looking for signs that are based only on our own expectations, thus blinding us from seeing God’s presence and from hearing God’s call to conversion. Jesus draws our attention to himself as the sign we have been waiting for, challenging us to acknowledge our own frailties and sinfulness. The real sign of conversion is a contrite heart seeking to return to God.
1st Reading: Es C:12, 14-16, 23-25:
Seized with anguish in her fear of death, Queen Esther likewise had recourse to the Lord. Then she prayed to the Lord God of Israel: My Lord, you who stand alone, come to my help; I am alone and have no help but you. Through my own choice I am endangering my life. As a child I was wont to hear from the people of the land of my forebears that you, O Lord, chose Israel from among all peoples, and our fathers from among their ancestors to be your lasting heritage; that you did for them, all that you have promised.
Remember us, Lord; reveal yourself in the time of our calamity. Give me courage, King of gods and master of all power. Make my words persuasive when I face the lion; turn his heart against our enemy, that the latter and his like may be brought to their end. Save us by your hand; help me who am alone and have none but you, O Lord.
Gospel: Mt 7:7-12:
Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives; whoever seeks, finds; and to him who knocks the door will be opened. Would any of you give a stone to your son, when he asks for bread? Or give him a snake, when he asks for a fish? However bad you may be, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more, then, will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! So, do to others whatever you would that others do to you: there you have the Law and the Prophets.
A middle-aged woman commented to me that she had stopped praying because God never gave her what she had been asking for and that perhaps there was no God after all. She asked God to make her rich so that she could live a more comfortable life and would be able to help other people. She had not realized that her asking and seeking were centered on herself, her wants and desires; there was nothing in her understanding of prayer that would indicate her interest in establishing an ongoing relationship with God. God to her was someone who “should” fulfill her petitions no matter how self-serving they are.
She allowed discouragement and frustration to set in and could not persevere. This is one of the tragedies in the church: people are less inclined to persevere in prayer. How can one ask, seek, and knock in prayer if their image of God is someone not present and involved in their daily lives, someone distant and unreachable? Today’s passage deals basically with the effectiveness of prayer. That is, that God does actually hear and answer prayer, but not according to our expectations. God desires first to enter into a relationship with us.
1st Reading: Ez 18:21-28:
If the sinner turns from his sin, observes my decrees and practices what is right and just, he will live, he will not die. None of the sins he committed will be charged against him; he will live as a consequence of his righteous deeds. Do I want the death of the sinner?—word of Yahweh. Do I not rather want him to turn from his ways and live? But if the righteous man turns away from what is good and commits sins as the wicked do, will he live? His righteous deeds will no longer be credited to him, but he will die because of his infidelity and his sins.
But you say: Yahweh’s way is not just! Why, Israel! Is my position wrong? Is it not rather that yours is wrong? If the righteous man dies after turning from his righteous deeds and sinning, he dies because of his sins. And if the wicked man does what is good and right, after turning from the sins he committed, he will save his life. He will live and not die, because he has opened his eyes, and turned from the sins he has committed.
Gospel: Mt 5:20-26:
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.
Today’s gospel focuses on reconciliation, one of the basic themes presented to us during Lent. To reconcile with someone who has hurt us or someone whom we have wronged is an overwhelming challenge for our spiritual growth. Experience tells us that even taking the first step towards reconciliation can be difficult because the deeper the ties of love are, the more painful the wounds caused by offenses are. Anger, as the gospel tells us, can cause deep hurt and can lead to sinful actions such as insults. Unchecked anger can even lead to physical and verbal abuse.
We know that the longer we nurture anger, the deeper it settles in our heart, feeding our spirit with resentment and depriving us of peace. To forgive the other is the first step towards reconciliation. Yet forgiveness is difficult because it makes us look at our selfishness, our judgments and expectations of the other, our negative reactions and to lay them aside while accepting the person as he or she is. It calls us to muster courage to approach the other in humility. Forgiveness may be hard but it is greatly fulfilling when we are able to reconcile with someone we deeply love.
1st Reading: Dt 26:16-19:
On this day, Yahweh, your God, commands you to fulfill these norms and these commandments. Obey them now and put them into practice with all your heart and with all your soul. Today Yahweh has declared to you that he will be your God, and so you shall follow his ways, observing his norms, his commandments and his laws, and listening to his voice. Today Yahweh has declared that you will be his very own people even as he had promised you, and you must obey all his commandments. He, for his part, will give you honor, renown and glory, and set you high above all the nations he has made, and you will become a nation consecrated to Yahweh, your God, as he has declared.
Gospel: Mt 5:43-48:
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.
Let’s be honest. Jesus’ call in today’s gospel to love our enemies is one of the most difficult to practice. We don’t like everyone. There are people who don’t like us either. Therefore, not everyone can be our friend. This is human reality. However, liking and loving are not the same. If we are serious about living our Christian faith, then Jesus’ commandment of love is part of the equation. It is the “code of conduct” that marks our belonging to him. This is also the area where we are challenged the most and where we can easily fail as sinners. How we regard others speaks a lot about our character, our level of maturity and our faith.
Often the ones we consider our “enemies” are the people who have hurt our loved ones or us. Our tendency is to react negatively in their presence or absence; or simply avoid them so as not to be reminded of our hurts. We might not be able to love and accept them, but to love them as “enemies” from a distance is to keep the door of reconciliation open and to hope for a time of forgiveness and healing. To love them is to pray for them; or if I am not ready to pray for them, to beg God for the grace that I might desire praying for them. Jesus invites us to grow in freedom to refuse treating our “enemies” as enemies by calling us to bring our “enemies” before God in prayer with the hope that we will not remain enemies for long.