Bible Diary for February 2nd – 8th
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
1st Reading: Mal 3:1-4:
Now I am sending my messenger ahead of me, to clear the way; then, suddenly, the Lord, for whom you long, will enter the Sanctuary. The envoy of the Covenant which you so greatly desire, already comes, says Yahweh of hosts. Who can bear the day of his coming and remain standing when he appears?
For he will be like fire in the foundry and like the lye used for bleaching. He will be as a refiner or a fuller. He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them, like gold and silver. So Yahweh will have priests who will present the offering as it should be. Then Yahweh will accept with pleasure the offering of Judah and Jerusalem, as in former days.
2nd Reading: Heb 2:14-18:
And because all those children share one same nature of flesh and blood, Jesus, likewise, had to share this nature. This is why his death destroyed the one holding the power of death, that is the devil, and freed those who remained in bondage all their lifetime, because of the fear of death.
Jesus came, to take by the hand, not the angels but the human race. So, he had to be like his brothers and sisters, in every respect, in order to be the high priest, faithful to God and merciful to them, a priest, able to ask pardon, and atone for their sins. Having been tested through suffering, he is able to help those who are tested.
Gospel: Lk 2:22-40:
When the day came for the purification according to the law of Moses, they brought the baby up to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord, as it is written in the law of the Lord: Every first born male shall be consecrated to God. And they offered a sacrifice, as ordered in the law of the Lord: a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. There lived in Jerusalem, at this time, a very upright and devout man named Simeon; the Holy Spirit was in him. He looked forward to the time when the Lord would comfort Israel; and he had been assured, by the Holy Spirit, that he would not die before seeing the Messiah of the Lord.
So, he was led into the temple by the Holy Spirit at the time the parents brought the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law. Simeon took the child in his arms, and blessed God, saying, “Now, O Lord, you can dismiss your servant in peace, for you have fulfilled your word and my eyes have seen your salvation, which you display for all the people to see. Here is the light you will reveal to the nations, and the glory of your people Israel.“
His father and mother wondered at what was said about the child. Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary, his mother, “Know this: your son is a sign; a sign established for the falling and rising of many in Israel, a sign of contradiction; and a sword will pierce your own soul, so that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.“ There was also a prophetess named Anna, daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.
After leaving her father’s home, she had been seven years with her husband; and since then, she had been continually about the temple, serving God, as a widow, night and day, in fasting and prayer. She was now eighty-four. Coming up at that time, she gave praise to God, and spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem. When the parents had fulfilled all that was required by the law of the Lord, they returned to their town, Nazareth in Galilee. There, the child grew in stature and strength, and was filled with wisdom: the grace of God was upon him.
One of the most interesting rites of the Jews was the “Rite of Purification“ that the mother had to go through (Lev 12). In this rite, the woman considered unclean goes to the temple to offer sacrifice for her cleansing. She was also to redeem her child by offering a lamb or two turtledoves. But what awesome mystery we have here! The Immaculate Mother, who did not need to be purified, goes to the temple, to redeem her firstborn son! She brings her offering-two turtledoves, the offering of the poor. But the priest does not take the turtle doves! Instead, the priest takes her child!
Simeon rejoiced to see before his death the true Lamb! He then prophesies that she would receive back her child for now! But the time will come when the child, the Lamb of God, will be sacrificed! In the fullness of time, her own soul shall be pierced when she shall see her son pierced through! Oh Mary, you had to redeem the Redeemer! But you would, in the fullness of time, be united to your son in His sacrifice. Deign to intercede for me that I may appreciate the sacrifice you have made and be willing to be united also to the sacrifice of my Redeemer!
1st Reading: 2 S 15:13–14, 30; 16:5–13:
A messenger came to report to David that the Israelites were siding with Absalom. Then David said to all his servants who were with him in Jerusalem, “Let us ﬂee, for we cannot resist Absalom. Go quickly, lest he come hurriedly and overtake us. Surely he will put the city to the sword if he can bring disaster upon us.” David himself went up the Mount of Olives, weeping. He was barefooted and had his head covered, and all the people who were with him had their heads covered and wept as they went.
Gospel: Mk 5:1–20:
They arrived at the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gerasenes. No sooner did Jesus leave the boat than he was met by a man with evil spirits, who had come from the tombs. The man lived among the tombs, and no one could restrain him, even with a chain. He had often been bound with fetters and chains; but he would pull the chains apart and smash the fetters; and no one had the strength to control him. Night and day he stayed among the tombs on the hillsides, and was continually screaming, and beating himself with stones.
When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell at his feet, and cried with a loud voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? For God’s sake, I beg you, do not torment me!” He said this, because Jesus had commanded, “Evil spirit, come out of the man!” When Jesus asked the evil spirit, “What is your name?” it replied, “Legion is my name, for we are many.” And it kept begging Jesus, not to send them out of that region.
Now a great herd of pigs was feeding on the hillside, and the evil spirits begged him, “Send us to the pigs, and let us go into them.” So Jesus let them go. The evil spirits came out of the man and went into the pigs; and immediately, the herd rushed down the cliff; and all were drowned in the lake. The herdsmen ﬂed, and reported this in the town and in the countryside. So all the people came to see what had happened. They came to Jesus, and saw the man freed of the evil spirits, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind; the same man who had been possessed by the legion.
They were afraid. And when those who had seen it, told what had happened to the man and to the pigs, the people begged Jesus to leave their neighborhood. When Jesus was getting into the boat, the man, who had been possessed, begged to stay with him. Jesus would not let him, and said, “Go home to your people, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So he went throughout the country of Decapolis, telling everyone how much Jesus had done for him; and all the people were astonished.
A journey to the other side could open new possibilities and challenges. Jesus was met by a demoniac who was violent and unrestrained. He probably did not expect such a welcome committee. Nevertheless, He turned the surprise into another surprise of His own. He showed Himself as firmly in control of the demoniac without domination but by engaging the legion of demons inside the latter for a talk.
This led to a resolution acceptable to all, the man possessed was freed, the demons were not tormented, but went ahead anyway to their destruction and the people who could not believe begged Him to leave. The irony in the story is that the demoniac was freed and sang the praises of Jesus while the people of the place continued to be “possessed” by their fears. Indeed truth is stranger than fiction.
1st Reading: 2 S 18:9–10, 14b, 24–25a, 30 – 19:3:
Absalom was riding a mule and happened to meet the guards of David. As the mule passed under the thick branches of a big oak tree, his head was caught in the oak tree and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule he was riding went its way. Someone reported to Joab, “I saw Absalom hanging from an oak tree.” Joab replied, “I will not waste time talking with you.”
So he took three spears in his hand and thrust them into Absalom’s heart while he was still alive in the oak tree. David was sitting between the two gates. The watchman posted at the roof of the gate, on the wall, saw a man running alone. So he called out and reported to the king who said, “If he is alone, he brings good news.” As he was drawing near, So the king said, “Move away and stand here.”
He moved aside and stayed there. The Cushite arrived and said, “Good news for my lord the king! Yahweh has done you justice today and saved you from all those who rebelled against you.” The king asked the Cushite, “How is the young Absalom?” The Cushite answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rebel against you end up like that young man.”
The king was greatly disturbed and, going up to the room over the gate, he wept and said, “O, my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! Would that I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” It was reported to Joab, “The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.” So the victory that day turned into mourning for all the people, when they heard that the king was grieving over his son.
Gospel: Mk 5:21–43:
Jesus then crossed to the other side of the lake; and while he was still on the shore, a large crowd gathered around him. Jairus, an ofﬁcial of the synagogue, came up and, seeing Jesus, threw himself at his feet; and begged him earnestly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may get well and live.” Jesus went with him, and many people followed, pressing around him. Among the crowd was a woman who had suffered from bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a lot at the hands of many doctors and had spent everything she had, but instead of getting better, she was worse.
Because she had heard about Jesus, this woman came up behind him and touched his cloak, thinking, “If I just touch his clothing, I shall get well.” Her ﬂow of blood dried up at once, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her complaint. But Jesus was conscious that healing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd, and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” His disciples answered, “You see how the people are crowding around you. Why do you ask who touched you?” But he kept looking around to see who had done it.
Then the woman, aware of what had happened, came forward, trembling and afraid. She knelt before him, and told him the whole truth. Then Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be free of this illness.” While Jesus was still speaking, some people arrived from the ofﬁcial’s house to inform him, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Master any further?” But Jesus ignored what they said, and told the ofﬁcial, “Do not fear, just believe.” And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.
When they arrived at the house, Jesus saw a great commotion, with people weeping and wailing loudly. Jesus entered, and said to them, “Why all this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead, but asleep.” They laughed at him. So Jesus sent them outside, and went with the child’s father and mother and his companions into the room, where the child lay. Taking her by the hand, he said to her, “Talitha kumi!” which means, “Little girl, get up!” The girl got up at once and began to walk around. (She was twelve years old.) The parents were amazed, greatly amazed. Jesus strictly ordered them not to let anyone know about it; and he told them to give her something to eat.
A woman suffering from bleeding and a girl of twelve were restored to health that day. Two marginalized sectors of society found completeness and healing. It is worth noting that the woman who was of right age willed herself to be healed by approaching Jesus and touching His cloak whereas the girl-child had to be helped by her father’s intercession due to her minor age and helplessness.
Two images of healing, one is actively willed while the other is dependent on others. Both approaches got what was wanted. So, the question is who are we when we have something to ask from God, an adult mature person who knows what to ask for, or a child who puts his or her trust in the hands of others?
St. Philip of Jesus
1st Reading: 2 S 24:2, 9–17:
The king said to Joab and the commanders of the army who were with him, “Go through all the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and count the people that I may know how many they are.” Joab gave the total count of the people to the king: eight hundred thousand sword-wielding warriors in Israel and ﬁve hundred thousand men in Judah. But after he had the people counted, David felt remorse and said to Yahweh, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done, but now, O Yahweh, I ask you to forgive my sin for I have acted foolishly.”
The following day, before David awoke, Yahweh’s word had come to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, “Go, and give David this message: I offer you three things and I will let one of them befall you according to your own choice.” So Gad went to David and asked him, “Do you want three years of famine in your land? Or do you want to be pursued for three months by your foes while you ﬂee from them? Or do you want three days’ pestilence in your land? Now, think and decide what answer I shall give him who sent me.”
David answered Gad, “I am greatly troubled. Let me fall into the hands of Yahweh whose mercy is abundant; but let me not fall into human hands.” So Yahweh sent a pestilence on Israel from morning until the appointed time, causing the death of seventy thousand men from Dan to Beersheba. When the angel stretched forth his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, Yahweh would punish no more and said to the angel who was causing destruction among the people, “It is enough, hold back your hand.”
The angel of Yahweh was already at the threshing ﬂoor of Araunah, the Jebusite. When David saw the angel striking the people, he spoke to Yahweh and said, “I have sinned and acted wickedly, but these are only the sheep; what have they done? Let your hand strike me and my father’s family.”
Gospel: Mk 6:1–6:
Leaving that place, Jesus returned to his own country, and his disciples followed him. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and most of those who heard him were astonished. But they said, “How did this come to him? What kind of wisdom has been given to him, that he also performs such miracles? Who is he but the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?
His sisters, too, are they not here among us?” So they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “Prophets are despised only in their own country, among their relatives, and in their own family.” And he could work no miracles there, but only healed a few sick people, by laying his hands on them. Jesus himself was astounded at their unbelief. Jesus then went around the villages, teaching.
We always feel safe when we are in our own environment. After all, home is where the heart is and the heart resides in places where it is comfortable and secure. However, home or hometown could also be a place that constricts, that prevents us to be who we are if it runs contrary to preordained notions and the conventional wisdom of that place.
Thus Jesus was boxed as the carpenter’s son, the brother of so and so. This carries the tag of someone who should not be different from us. Thus his hometown missed what the other towns enjoyed when they accepted Jesus for who He was and not as interpreted by His town mates.
St. Paul Miki and Companions
1st Reading: 1 K 2:1–4, 10–12:
When David was about to die, he gave his son Solomon this instruction, “I am about to go the way of all creatures. Be strong and show yourself a man. Keep the commandments of Yahweh your God and walk in his ways. Keep his statutes, his commands, his ordinances and declarations written in the law of Moses, that you may succeed in whatever you do and wherever you go.
If you do so, Yahweh will fulﬁll the promise he made to me: ‘If your sons take care to walk before me faithfully with their whole heart and their whole soul, you shall always have one of your descendants on the throne of Israel.’” Then David rested with his ancestors and was buried in the city of David. David reigned over Israel for forty years: seven years in Hebron and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. So Solomon sat on the throne of David his father and his reign was ﬁrmly established.
Gospel: Mk 6:7–13:
He called the Twelve to him, and began to send them out two by two, giving them authority over evil spirits. And he ordered them to take nothing for the journey, except a staff: no food, no bag, no money in their belts. They were to wear sandals and were not to take an extra tunic.
And he added, “In whatever house you are welcomed, stay there until you leave the place. If any place doesn’t receive you, and the people refuse to listen to you, leave after shaking the dust off your feet. It will be a testimony against them.” So they set out to proclaim that this was the time to repent. They drove out many demons and healed many sick people by anointing them.
What we do on behalf of the People of God will always be God’s mission not ours. And as a reminder, Jesus sent His disciples in pairs. No one will claim exclusive authorship for what he or she did on behalf of the Lord. They are not even to rely on their own strengths and endowments as signified by their not bringing of food, bag, money and extra tunics.
We are but mere instruments of God in this mission. It is He who will initiate, support and bring the work to a happy conclusion in His own time. What does this truth imply? It is a more relaxed interpretation of our collaboration in God’s mission; thus we can relax. The mission might not be accomplished in our lifetime but surely will happen since God is the author of it all.
Blessed Pius IX
1st Reading: Sir 47:2–11:
As fat is selected from the peace offering, so David was chosen from among the Israelites. He played with lions and bears as if they were lambs or young goats. He was still young when he slew a giant, to restore the honor of his people; with a sling he aimed a stone that killed the arrogant Goliath. He invoked the Lord Most High, who gave him strength to slay a mighty warrior, and so exalt the power of his people. So they gloriﬁed him for his ten thousands and praised him as a blessing from the Lord when he was chosen king. For he wiped out his enemies on all sides and annihilated his adversaries, the Philistines, crushing their power forever.
In all that he did, he gave thanks to the Most High, and showed his love for his Maker by singing with all his heart. He placed singers accompanied by harps before the altar to make beautiful music; he gave splendor to feasts and even greater magniﬁcence to the more solemn occasions, exalting the holy name of the Lord and having the Sanctuary ring with his praises from early morning. The Lord forgave David’s sins and established his power forever; he made a Covenant with him for the beneﬁt of the kings and gave him a glorious throne in Israel.
Gospel: Mk 6:14–29:
King Herod also heard about Jesus, because his name had become well-known. Some people said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” Others thought, “He is Elijah,” and others, “He is a prophet like the prophets of times past.” When Herod was told of this, he thought, “I had John beheaded; yet, he has risen from the dead!”
For this is what had happened: Herod had ordered John to be arrested; and had had him bound and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herod had married her; and John had told him, “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.” So Herodias held a grudge against John and wanted to kill him; but she could not, because Herod respected John. He knew John to be an upright and holy man, and kept him safe. And he liked listening to him; although he became very disturbed whenever he heard him.
Herodias had her chance on Herod’s birthday, when he gave a dinner for all the senior government ofﬁcials, military chiefs, and the leaders of Galilee. On that occasion, the daughter of Herodias came in and danced; and she delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want and I will give it to you.” And he went so far as to say with many oaths, “I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?”
The mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried to the king and made her request, “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist, here and now, on a dish.” The king was very displeased, but he would not refuse in front of his guests because of his oaths. So he sent one of the bodyguards, with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded John in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl. And the girl gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard of this, they came and took his body and buried it.
Poor John: he was the victim of a woman’s wrath. It’s shocking what smoldering anger is capable of. It does not rest, is always on the lookout to get even, ever tenacious and creative in a vindictive way. Who would ever have thought that a birthday would be the occasion of John’s demise?
It’s amazing how much energy we expend sometimes on useless feelings such as anger like Herodias, subservience like the daughter, and fear of shame like Herod. In the end, we are left with nothing but a head detached from its shoulder, thus a useless head. It is not only John but also these three who literally lost their heads that night.
St. Jerome Emiliani
St. Josephine Bakhita
1st Reading: 1 K 3:4–13:
The king used to sacriﬁce at Gibeon, the great high place; on the altar there he had offered a thousand burnt offerings. It was in Gibeon, during the night, that Yahweh appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, “Ask what you want me to give you.” Solomon answered, “You have shown your servant David my father a great and steadfast love because he served you faithfully and was righteous and sincere towards you. You have given him proof of your steadfast love in making a son of his sit on his throne this day. And now, O Yahweh my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a young boy who does not know how to undertake anything. Meantime, your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen—a people so great that they can neither be numbered nor counted. Give me, therefore, an understanding mind in governing your people that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to govern this multitude of people of yours?”
Yahweh was pleased that Solomon had made this request. And he told him, “Because you have requested this rather than long life or wealth or even vengeance on your enemies; indeed, because you have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I shall grant you your request. I now give you a wise and discerning mind such as no one has had before you nor anyone after you shall ever have. “I will also give you what you have not asked for, both wealth and fame; and no king shall be your equal during your lifetime.
Gospel: Mk 6:30–34:
The apostles returned and reported to Jesus all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, “Let us go off by ourselves into a remote place and have some rest.” For there were so many people coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a secluded area by themselves.
But people saw them leaving, and many could guess where they were going. So, from all the towns, they hurried there on foot, arriving ahead of them. As Jesus went ashore, he saw a large crowd, and he had compassion on them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.
How do we balance work and rest especially if we are on a roll, our work is thriving, and people can’t get enough of us? We tend to continue enjoying the fruits of our success without regard to health and well being. Yet Jesus advised His disciples to go to a remote place and recharge. They had to recover their energy and inner balance in order to be fruitful still.
It is not only movement that brings success but sitting still and being quiet; getting in touch with our inner world is as equally important. Thus, equilibrium between action and non-action, between doing and being, between motion and stillness, between work and prayer: this is the tried and tested recipe for success.