Bible Diary for February 6th – 12th

February 6th

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. Paul Miki and Companions

1st Reading: Is 6:1-2a, 3-8:
In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted; the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings. They were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is Yahweh Sabaoth. All the earth is filled with his glory!” At the sound of their voices the foundations of the threshold shook and the temple was filled with smoke. I said, “Poor me! I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips living among a people of unclean lips, and yet I have seen the King, Yahweh Sabaoth.”

Then one of the seraphs flew to me; in his hands was a live coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” I answered, “Here I am. Send me!”

2nd Reading: 1 Cor 15:1-11:
Let me remind you, brothers and sisters, of the Good News that I preached to you, and which you received, and on which, you stand firm. By that gospel, you are saved, provided that you hold to it, as I preached it. Otherwise, you will have believed in vain. In the first place, I have passed on to you what I, myself, received: that Christ died for our sins, as Scripture says; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas and then to the Twelve. Afterward, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters together; most of them are still alive, although some have already gone to rest.

Then he appeared to James, and after that, to all the apostles. And last of all, he appeared to the most despicable of them, this is, to me. For I am the last of the apostles, and I do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. Nevertheless, by the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been without fruit. Far from it, I have toiled more than all of them, although, not I, rather the grace of God, in me. Now, whether it was I or they, this, we preach, and this, you have believed.

Gospel: Lk 5:1-11:
One day, as Jesus stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, with a crowd gathered around him listening to the word of God, he caught sight of two boats, left at the water’s edge by fishermen, now washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to pull out a little from the shore. There he sat, and continued to teach the crowd. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon replied, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing. But if you say so, I will lower the nets.” This they did, and caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.

They signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They came, and they filled both boats almost to the point of sinking. Upon seeing this, Simon Peter fell at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and his companions were amazed at the catch they had made, and so were Simon’s partners, James and John, Zebedee’s sons. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. You will catch people from now on.” So they brought their boats to land and followed him, leaving everything.

Today’s gospel scene presents us with what could be defined as the essence of faith (not only of religious faith but of any kind of faith for that matter) and it is to act on a person’s word, confident that our action will bring about the desired results. For that is precisely what happens to Peter. Jesus tells him to go fishing in broad daylight after a fruitless night spent at it. As a professional fisherman, Peter knows that the odds for catching fish in such adverse circumstances are practically nil, and he frankly voices his skepticism to Jesus. Yet, for some obscure reason, he takes Jesus at his word and goes ahead with what he considers Mission Impossible.

Why? Here we must speculate. We know that Peter shortly before witnessed the miraculous healing of his mother-in-law (Lk 4:38-39), as also on that same evening he saw Jesus healing and exorcising many people. People could also see that Jesus personally rang true. So he made the leap of faith: “If you say so, I will lower the nets.” An act of faith is always some sort of leap—but we always end up in the arms of God! To have faith, any kind of faith, is to act on a person’s word and to expect positive results. Today let us do something daring for God, trusting in his help.

February 7th

Blessed Pius IX

1st Reading: 1 Kgs 8:1-7, 9-13:
Then Solomon assembled before him in Jerusalem the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, as well as the leaders of the ancestral houses of the Israelites, to bring up the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh from the city of David, which is Zion. All the Israelites assembled near king Solomon in the month of Ethanim, the seventh month. When all the elders of Israel arrived, the priests carried the Ark of Yahweh and brought it up together with the Tent of Meeting and all the holy vessels that were in the tent. After the priests and Levites had brought them up, king Solomon with the entire congregation of Israel that had assembled before him and were with him before the Ark, sacrificed so many sheep and oxen that they could neither be counted nor numbered.

Then the priests laid the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh in its place in the inner Sanctuary of the house—the Most Holy Place—underneath the wings of the cherubim. The cherubim had their wings spread out over the place of the ark, providing a covering above the Ark and its poles. There was nothing in the Ark except the two tablets of stone which Moses placed there at Horeb, where Yahweh made a Covenant with the Israelites when they came out of the land of Egypt. And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, such a cloud filled Yahweh’s house that the priests could not continue to minister. Indeed, the glory of Yahweh filled his house. Then Solomon said, “Yahweh has said that he would dwell in thick darkness. So the house I have built you will be your house, a place for you to dwell in forever.”

Gospel: Mk 6:53-56:
Having crossed the lake, they came ashore at Gennesaret, where they tied up the boat. As soon as they landed, people recognized Jesus, and ran to spread the news throughout the countryside. Wherever he was, they brought to him the sick lying on their mats; and wherever he went, to villages, towns or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplace, and begged him to let them touch just the fringe of his cloak. And all who touched him were cured.

One aspect of Christ‘s ministry that is not often emphasized is his healing ministry. Pope Francis, however, makes it the essence of the Gospel when he said that the task of the Church is not to make moral and dogmatic pronouncements but to HEAL THE WOUNDS AND TOUCH THE HEARTS OF PEOPLE. All of us need healing at one time or the other, some from physical disease, others from spiritual and psychological wounds, and others from both. God has given some people the gift of healing both physical and spiritual wounds. In our own way, even if we are not given this extraordinary gift of healing, we can still do our part in our own small way in our own limited circle.

Someone we know just lost a loved one. Staying with this person, listening and offering a shoulder to cry on helps in the healing of this person‘s grief. When we forgive someone who hurt us, we not only heal this person, we heal ourselves also. When we empathize with people who fail, when we are there to console them, it heals the wound to their self-esteem. And when we do these, it is like making the persons suffering touch the hand of Christ who is the one who actually heals them.

February 8th

St. Jerome Emiliani
St. Josephine Bakhita

1st Reading: 1 Kgs 8:22-23, 27-30:
Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of the whole community of Israel, and stretching forth his hands toward heaven, he said, “Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below; you keep your covenant of mercy with your servants who are faithful to you with their whole heart. Can it indeed be that God dwells on earth? If the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain you, how much less this temple which I have built! 

Look kindly on the prayer and petition of your servant, O Lord, my God, and listen to the cry of supplication which I, your servant, utter before you this day. May your eyes watch night and day over this temple, the place where you have decreed you shall be honored; may you heed the prayer which I, your servant, offer in this place. Listen to the petitions of your servant and of your people Israel which they offer in this place. Listen from your heavenly dwelling and grant pardon.”

Gospel: Mk 7:1-13:
One day, the Pharisees gathered around Jesus, andwith them were some teachers of the law who had just comefrom Jerusalem.They noticed that some of his disciples were eating theirmeal with unclean hands, that is, without washing them.Now the Pharisees, and in fact all the Jews, never eat withoutwashing their hands, for they follow the tradition receivedfrom their ancestors. Nor do they eat anything, when theycome from the market, without first washing themselves.And there are many other traditions they observe; forexample, the ritual washing of cups, pots and plates.So the Pharisees and the teachers of the law asked him,“Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders,but eat with unclean hands?”

Jesus answered, “You shallow people! How well Isaiahprophesied of you when he wrote: This people honors mewith their lips, but their heart is far from me. The worship theyoffer me is worthless, for what they teach are only human rules.You even put aside the commandment of God to hold fast tohuman tradition.”And Jesus commented, “You have a fine way of disregardingthe commandments of God in order to enforceyour own traditions!

For example, Moses said: Do yourduty to your father and your mother, and: Whoever curses hisfather or his mother is to be put to death. But according toyou, someone could say to his father or mother, ‘I alreadydeclared Corban (which means “offered to God”) what youcould have expected from me.’ In this case, you no longerrequire him to do anything for his father or mother; and soyou nullify the word of God through the tradition you havehanded on. And you do many other things like that.”

The Fourth Commandment, “Honor your father and your mother” (Ex 20:12) was clearly meant from the outset to be an admonition to take care of them in their old age, especially if they were needy. Everybody in Israel agreed on this. However, the Pharisees had found a way to circumvent that obligation by inventing the rule of the qorban—a Hebrew word which came to mean “gift” (to the temple of Jerusalem). According to the Pharisees, if a son wanted to avoid supporting his needy parents, all he had to do was to consecrate his property to the temple while continuing to enjoy its revenues.

Since property consecrated to the temple could not be employed for profane use, the son was thus dispensed from supporting his parents. At his death his property would revert to the temple treasury. Jesus cuts through this trickery and shows it to be what it is: a betrayal of God’ word. We are all potential Pharisees, ready to split hairs when we are faced with an obligation we do not like. Let us resist this kind of temptation and let us be big-hearted with God and neighbor. We will never regret it.

February 9th

1st Reading: 1 Kgs 10:1-10:
The queen of Sheba, having heard of Solomon’s fame, came to test him with subtle questions. She arrived in Jerusalem with a very numerous retinue, and with camels bearing spices, a large amount of gold, and precious stones. She came to Solomon and questioned him on every subject in which she was interested. King Solomon explained everything she asked about, and there remained nothing hidden from him that he could not explain to her. When the queen of Sheba witnessed Solomon’s great wisdom, the palace he had built, the food at his table, the seating of his ministers, the attendance and garb of his waiters, his banquet service, and the burnt offerings he offered in the temple of the Lord, she was breathless.

“The report I heard in my country about your deeds and your wisdom is true,” she told the king. “Though I did not believe the report until I came and saw with my own eyes, I have discovered that they were not telling me the half. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report I heard. Blessed are your men, blessed these servants of yours, who stand before you always and listen to your wisdom. Blessed be the Lord, your God, whom it has pleased to place you on the throne of Israel. In his enduring love for Israel, the Lord has made you king to carry out judgment and justice.” Then she gave the king one hundred and twenty gold talents, a very large quantity of spices, and precious stones. Never again did anyone bring such an abundance of spices as the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.

Gospel: Mk 7:14-23:
Jesus then called the people to him again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and try to understand. Nothing that enters a person from the outside can make that person unclean. It is what comes from within that makes a person unclean. Let everyone who has ears listen.” When Jesus got home and was away from the crowd, his disciples asked him about this saying, and he replied, “So even you are dull?

Do you not see that whatever comes from outside cannot make a person unclean, since it enters not the heart but the stomach, and is finally passed out?” Thus Jesus declared that all foods are clean. And he went on, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him, for evil designs come out of the heart: theft, murder, adultery, jealousy, greed, maliciousness, deceit, indecency, slander, pride and folly. All these evil things come from within and make a person unclean.”

Actually, it is important for everyone to develop an inner freedom that enables him/her to do and to say what one thinks is right and not be affected by the reactions of people. What we have to pay attention to is what we utter, because words can wound, words can kill. And it also shows what kind of person we are. Once we have uttered these words we cannot totally erase them even how much we apologize. Remember the story of how a wise person asked someone to go up a tower and there throw down a basket of feathers. Then he asked the person to gather all the feathers which of course is impossible. That is a graphic description of how the words we utter cannot be taken back. Lord, help us to keep watch over our tongue.

February 10th

St. Scholastica

1st Reading: 1 Kgs 11:4-13:
When Solomon was old his wives had turned his heart to strange gods, and his heart was not entirely with the Lord, his God, as the heart of his father David had been. By adoring Astarte, the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom, the idol of the Ammonites, Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord; he did not follow him unreservedly as his father David had done. Solomon then built a high place to Chemosh, the idol of Moab, and to Molech, the idol of the Ammonites, on the hill opposite Jerusalem. He did the same for all his foreign wives who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.

The Lord, therefore, became angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice (for though the Lord had forbidden him  this very act of following strange gods, Solomon had not obeyed him). So the Lord said to Solomon: “Since this is what you want, and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes which I enjoined on you, I will deprive you of the kingdom and give it to your servant. I will not do this during your lifetime, however, for the sake of your father David; it is your son whom I will deprive. Nor will I take away the whole kingdom. I will leave your son one tribe for the sake of my servant David and of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”

Gospel: Mk 7:24-30:
When Jesus left that place, he went to the border of the Tyrian country. There, he entered a house, and did not want anyone to know he was there; but he could not remain hidden. A woman, whose small daughter had an evil spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet. Now this woman was a pagan, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter. Jesus told her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children‘s bread and throw it to the puppies.” But she replied, “Sir, even the puppies under the table eat the crumbs from the children‘s bread.” Then Jesus said to her, “You may go your way; because of such a response, the demon has gone out of your daughter.” And when the woman went home, she found her child lying in bed, and the demon gone.

Solomon in his old age turned away from Yahweh and worshipped other gods. HIS HEART WAS NO LONGER GIVEN TO YAHWEH, HIS GOD. In the convent, the religious can likewise turn away from their original zeal when they enter and become lukewarm in the service of God. If humans can become unfaithful to God, so much more can they be unfaithful to other human beings. Many marriages are plagued with infidelity. So in our relationship with each other and with God, there is a need to regularly renew our first enthusiasm. In the religious life, one will have to be faithful to one‘s daily obligations and be faithful to one‘s prayer life.

We have a monthly recollection and an 8 day retreat every year to make sure that we will not fall into luke-warmness and mediocrity. Married couples have to also find ways to cultivate their friendship with one another so that when the first thrill of romance fades away, they can continue to deepen their relationship with one another. Loving God, you know our weakness and our propensity to lose our first fervor. Help us to go on giving our heart to you in spite of dryness and spiritual fatigue. Send your Holy Spirit to once again enkindle in us the fire of your love. Amen.

February 11th

Our Lady of Lourdes

1 Kgs 11:29-32; 12:19:
Jeroboam left Jerusalem, and the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite met him on the road. The two were alone in the area, and the prophet was wearing a new cloak. Ahijah took off his new cloak, tore it into twelve pieces, and said to Jeroboam: “Take ten pieces for yourself; the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I will tear away the kingdom from Solomon’s grasp and will give you ten of the tribes. One tribe shall remain to him for the sake of David my servant, and of Jerusalem, the city I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel.’” Israel went into rebellion against David’s house to this day.

Gospel: Mk 7:31-37:
Again, Jesus set out: from the country of Tyre he passed through Sidon and, skirting the sea of Galilee, he came to the territory of Decapolis. There, a deaf man, who also had difficulty in speaking, was brought to him. They asked Jesus to lay his hand upon him. Jesus took him apart from the crowd, put his fingers into the man‘s ears, and touched his tongue with spittle. Then, looking up to heaven, he said with a deep sigh, “Ephphata!“ that is, “Be opened!“ And immediately, his ears were opened, his tongue was loosened, and he began to speak clearly. Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone about it; but the more he insisted, the more they proclaimed it. The people were completely astonished and said, “He has done all things well; he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.”

I am sure that even how much we try, we will never truly know how it feels to be deaf — to hear no sound, to live in absolute silence. Imagine not being able to listen to the voice of your loved ones, to listen to the sounds of nature — the chirping of birds, the tinkle of water, the rush of rivers, the sound of waves. Imagine not being able to listen to music — to Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, etc. or even to the singing of a children‘s choir. We take these things for granted and yet what a great difference to our lives if we lose this hearing capacity. But there are other kinds of deafness besides the physical one. We can be deaf to God‘s call to a certain vocation. We can turn a deaf ear to our conscience whispering to us to avoid evil and to do good.

We can be deaf to our parents, teachers, or guardians who try to guide us. We can be deaf to the cries of the poor, the needy, the abandoned, the persecuted, to the victims of violence. We close our ears to the groaning of nature raped by human greed and desecrated by pollution. When Jesus looked upon the deaf person in the Gospel, touched his ears and commanded it to be opened, the person must have fallen into ecstatic bliss when he began to hear again. We do not need a miracle to open the ears of our heart to listen to God‘s voice speaking to us in the depth of our heart and in nature and people around us.

February 12th

1 Kgs 12:26-32; 13:33-34:
Jeroboam thought to himself: “The kingdom will return to David’s house. If now this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, the hearts of this people will return to their master, Rehoboam, king of Judah, and they will kill me.” After taking counsel, the king made two calves of gold and said to the people: “You have been going up to Jerusalem long enough. Here is your God, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” And he put one in Bethel, the other in Dan. This led to sin, because the people frequented those calves in Bethel and in Dan. He also built temples on the high places and made priests from among the people who were not Levites.

Jeroboam established a feast in the eighth month on the fifteenth day of the month to duplicate in Bethel the pilgrimage feast of Judah, with sacrifices to the calves he had made; and he stationed in Bethel priests of the high places he had built. Jeroboam did not give up his evil ways after this, but again made priests for the high places from among the common people. Whoever desired it was consecrated and became a priest of the high places. This was a sin on the part of the house of Jeroboam for which it was to be cut off and destroyed from the earth.

Gospel: Mk 8:1-10;
Soon afterward, Jesus was in the midst of another large crowd, that obviously had nothing to eat. So he called his disciples and said to them, “I feel sorry for these people, because they have been with me for three days and now have nothing to eat. If I send them to their homes hungry, they will faint on the way; some of them have come a long way.” His disciples replied, “Where, in a deserted place like this, could we get enough bread to feed these people?” He asked them, “How many loaves have you?” And they answered, “Seven.” Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground.

Taking the seven loaves and giving thanks, he broke them, and handed them to his disciples to distribute. And they distributed them among the people. They also had some small fish. So Jesus said a blessing, and asked that these be shared as well. The people ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Now those who had eaten were about four thousand in number. Jesus sent them away, and immediately got into the boat with his disciples, and went to the region of Dalmanutha.

Believe it or not, we can sometimes experience spiritual enlightenment during a political event. I remember during Martial Law in the Philippines, many of us Sisters were attending a convention of about 500 workers in St. Joseph‘s College on Labor Day. While we were there, Marcos was giving a talk in Luneta. All of a sudden we found ourselves — actually the whole campus of St. Joseph surrounded by the military because they thought we and the 500 workers might march to Luneta and heckle Marcos. We could not get out. As it turned into evening the Sisters of St. Joseph worried about how to feed the workers. They cooked all the rice they had and opened all the canned goods they could find but of course these were too little for so many.

And so we Sisters from other congregations called up our convents to send food to the workers. Soon cooked food from all parts of Manila found their way to St. Joseph. Like in the Gospel we asked the workers to sit by 50s in the auditorium and distributed the food. The next day we had more than 12 baskets of food left over which we then wrapped for the workers to take home. In our reflection, we came to the conclusion that in the Gospel story the miracle was not really the suspension of natural laws but the conversion of hearts.