Bible Diary for February 27th – March 5th

February 27th

8th Sunday in Ordinary Time

1st Reading: Sir 27:4-7:
When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear; so do one’s faults when one speaks. As the test of what the potter molds is in the furnace, so in tribulation is the test of the just. The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had; so too does one’s speech disclose the bent of one’s mind. Praise no one before he speaks, for it is then that people are tested.

2nd Reading: 1 Cor 15:54-58:
Brothers and sisters:
When this which is corruptible clothes itself with incorruptibility and this which is mortal clothes itself with immortality, then the word that is written shall come about: Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Gospel: Lk 6:39-45:
Jesus told his disciples a parable, “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’ when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! 

“Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye. A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not pick figs from thorn bushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles. A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.”

February 28th

1st Reading: 1 Pt 1:3–9:
Let us praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for his great mercy. In raising Jesus Christ from the dead, he has given us new life, and a living hope. The inheritance that does not corrupt, nor goes bad, nor passes away, was reserved for you, in heaven, since God’s power shall keep you faithful, until salvation is revealed, in the last days. There is cause for joy, then, even though you may, for a time, have to suffer many trials.

Thus will your faith be tested, like gold in a furnace. Gold, however, passes away, but faith, worth so much more, will bring you, in the end, praise, glory and honor, when Jesus Christ appears. You have not, yet, seen him, and, yet, you love him; even without seeing him, you believe in him, and experience a heavenly joy beyond all words, for you are reaching the goal of your faith: the salvation of your souls.

Gospel: Mk 10:17–27:
Just as Jesus was setting out on his journey again, a man ran up, knelt before him and asked, “Good Master, what must I do to have eternal life?” Jesus answered, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: Do not kill; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; do not cheat; honor your father and mother.” The man replied, “I have obeyed all these commandments since my childhood.” Then Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him; and he said, “For you, one thing is lacking. Go, sell what you have, and give the money to the poor; and you will have riches in heaven. Then, come, and follow me.”

On hearing these words, his face fell and he went away sorrowful, for he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were shocked at these words, but Jesus insisted, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were more astonished than ever and wondered, “Who, then, can be saved?” Jesus looked steadily at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God; all things are possible with God.”

We should never ask God what to do when we are not ready to risk it all. We might fulfill the minimal demands and feel good about it, considering that even these are difficult for many, but this does not impress God one bit. We might boast about this achievement but God wants something more. And when we dare ask Him what more we should do, we ran the risk of bursting our illusion of being good and of being just in front of God. He will demand all that we have. He will deliberately impoverish us. And once we are empty, He will lavish us with the richness of His grace. We will want for nothing for having God in us will suffice.

March 1st

1st Reading: 1 Pt 1:10–16:
This was the salvation for which the prophets so eagerly looked when, in days past, they foretold the favor of God, with regard to you. But they could only investigate when the Spirit of Christ present within them, pointed out the time and the circumstances, of this—the sufferings of Christ, and the glories which would follow. It was revealed to them, that they were working, not for themselves, but for you.

Thus, in these days, after the Holy Spirit has been sent from heaven, the gospel’s preachers have taught you these mysteries, which even the angels long to see. So, then, let your spirit be ready. Be alert, with confident trust, in the grace you will receive, when Jesus Christ appears. Like obedient children, do not return to your former life, given over to ignorance and passions. Imitate the one who called you. As he is holy, so you, too, be holy, in all your conduct, since Scripture says: Be holy for I am holy.

Gospel: Mk 10:28–31:
Peter spoke up and said, “We have given up everything to follow you.” Jesus answered, “Truly, there is no one who has left house, or brothers or sisters, or father or mother, or children, or lands, for my sake, and for the gospel, who will not receive his reward. I say to you: even in the midst of persecution, he will receive a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and lands in the present time; and, in the world to come, eternal life. Do pay attention: many who now are the first will be last, and the last, first.”

This is a continuation of our reflection yesterday on letting go of everything for God. There is indeed an exchange for what we have given up for the Kingdom. But there is a catch, the economics of heaven is different from earthly commerce. It is not a one to one exchange of goods with equal value. The odds are stacked high on the part of God, He deliberately loses to us because some of the things exchanged are neither seen nor felt; we are not even aware of it sometimes but it is there. Only a heart that is sensitive to the workings of the divine can discern his or her blessedness. A material exchange for the things we have given up for the Lord is a poor exchange. A life lived meaningfully and fruitful is a good bargain that the Lord willingly exchanges for the pittance that we offer.

March 2nd

Ash Wednesday

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 kind ness, 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 people: 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:
So we present ourselves as ambassadors, in the name of Christ, as if God, himself, makes an appeal to you, through us. Let God reconcile you; this, we ask you, in the name of Christ. He had no sin, but God made him bear our sin, so, that, in him, we might share the holiness of God. Being God’s helpers, we beg you: let it not be in vain, that you received this grace of God. Scripture says: At the favorable time I listened to you, on the day of salvation I helped you. This is the favorable time, this 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 any – thing 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.

Righteousness is not something for display. It is a way of life that is the product of consistency in words and actions. You do not ascribe it to yourself. It is others who begin to notice your spiritual growth and they affirm it by their testimony and belief in the righteousness that you displayed all along. Righteousness if flaunted loses its power to influence and transform others. It becomes a superficial and cheap effort to impress. This is why Jesus warned His disciples not to resort to this kind of gimmickry. Better strive for holiness in secret to avoid the distraction of having to deal with people’s attention. Since a righteous life cannot be contained, when that comes, you are strong enough to realize that it is not you but the righteous God who took possession of you who attracted them.

March 3rd

St. Katharine Drexel

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 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?

Jesus never promised His disciples an easy life. As a matter of fact, early on, He already disclosed to them the kind of end He would have: an ignoble death but one that would lead to new life. However, His disciples could not grasp the significance of His last words on death and being raised to new life. The very idea of death troubled them. Thus the invitation of Jesus on denying the self and taking up the cross fell on deaf ears. It would take the very death and resurrection of Jesus to convince them to embrace this path. Even then, it would be a long time before some of them became fully convinced.

March 4th

St. Casimir

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.

Joy is the byproduct of a life lived for Jesus. No wonder, many saints were known to be advocates or provocateurs of joy. The reason why the Son of Man came into the world is precisely to bring back to us this capacity to know joy that we lost when we deliberately turned our back on God’s friendship. From that time on, we tried to win back God’s favor through a life of penance, mortification and sacrifice. But Jesus came and befriended us again. We have joy back in our midst. There is no reason to be unhappy. That is why Jesus’ disciples do not fast. That will come when Jesus will be separated from them.

March 5th

1st Reading: Is 58:9b–14:
Then you will call and Yahweh will answer, you will cry and he will say, I am here. 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.”

Not all those considered sinners are stubborn of heart. We might be surprised to learn that beneath the sinful exterior is someone sincerely looking for meaning in life. Levi is such a case. He was at his tax collector’s table doing his “sinful” job during an ordinary day. Yet, someone extraordinary passed by and invited him to a life that he could not have conceived of before. He is given a chance; he will not allow it to pass. It’s amazing sometimes how people condemn others without even bothering to give them a chance to reform.

Or even if they were given the chance were not accorded the necessary companionship and support to help them overcome their sinful situation. Jesus did not only invite Levi, He also showed His confidence and support by attending Levi’s feast and defending him in front of people who would not allow him to change. Levi found someone who would risk for him. For someone like him following Jesus would be a no brainer.