Bible Diary for February 7th – 13th

February 7th

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Bl. Pius IX

1st Reading: Job 7:1–4, 6–7:
Man’s life on earth is a thankless job, his days are those of a mercenary. Like a slave he longs for the shade of evening, like a hireling waiting for his wages. Thus I am allotted months of boredom and nights of grief and misery. In bed I say, “When shall the day break?” On rising, I think, “When shall evening come?” and I toss restless till dawn. My days pass swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, heading without hope to their end. My life is like wind, you well know it, O God; never will I see happiness again.

2nd Reading: 1 Cor 9:16–19, 22–23:
Because I cannot boast of announcing the Gospel: I am bound to do it. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel! If I preached voluntarily, I could expect my reward, but I have been trusted this office against my will. How can I, then, deserve a reward? In announcing the Gospel, I will do it freely without making use of the rights given to me by the Gospel. So, feeling free with everybody, I have become everybody’s slave in order to gain a greater number. To the weak I made myself weak, to win the weak. So I made myself all things to all people in order to save, by all possible means, some of them. This I do  for the Gospel, so that I too have a share of it.

Gospel: Mk 1:29–39:
On leaving the synagogue, Jesus went to the home of Simon and Andrew with James and John. As Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with fever, they immediately told him about her. Jesus went to her and, taking her by the hand, raised her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. That evening at sundown, people brought to Jesus all the sick and those who had evil spirits: the whole town was pressing around the door.

Jesus healed many who had various diseases, and drove out many demons; but he did not let them speak, for they knew who he was. Very early in the morning, before daylight, Jesus went off to a lonely place where he prayed. Simon and the others went out also, searching for him; and when they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Let us go to the nearby villages so that I may preach there too; for that is why I came.” So Jesus set out to preach in all the synagogues throughout Galilee; he also cast out demons.

How do you see suffering in your personal and communitarian experience? Is it a punishment or a moment to redirect us towards God? Nurturing one’s relationship with God and others is not exempted from trials and sufferings; yet we are not afraid for we are assured of God’s continued comforting and loving presence if only we open our heart and soul to God day and night, in good and in bad times.

Lord, make us docile to the promptings of your Holy Spirit, guiding us every day of our lives. Show us the way to face our daily chores with firm faith and hope in your loving and comforting presence in our lives. Amen. Identify the most challenging experience you have these past days and try to discern what God is calling you to do now in your life. Say to yourself: “Have a time to relax and allow God to work in you!”

February 8th

St. Jerome Emiliani
St. Josephine Bakhita

1st Reading: Gen 1:1–19:
In the beginning, when God began to create the heavens and the earth, the earth had no form and was void; darkness was over the deep and the Spirit of God hovered over the waters. God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘Day’ and the darkness ‘Night’. There was evening and there was morning: the first day. God said, “Let there be a firm ceiling between the waters and let it separate waters from waters.”

So God made the ceiling and separated the waters below it from the waters above it. And so it was. God called the firm ceiling ‘Sky’. There was evening and there was morning: the second day. God said, “Let the waters below the sky be gathered together in one place and let dry land appear.” And so it was. God called the dry land ‘Earth’, and the waters gathered together he called ‘Seas’. God saw that it was good. God said, “Let the earth produce vegetation, seedbearing plants, fruit trees bearing fruit with seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth.”

And so it was. The earth produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kind and trees producing fruit which has seed, according to their kind. God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning: the third day. God said, “Let there be lights in the ceiling of the sky to separate day from night and to serve as signs for the seasons, days and years; and let these lights in the sky shine above the earth.”

And so it was. God therefore made two great lights, the greater light to govern the day and the smaller light to govern the night; and God made the stars as well. God placed them in the ceiling of the sky to give light on the earth and to separate the light from the darkness. God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning: the fourth day.

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.

The power of touch! Touch is the first sense we acquire and the first language of love we understand. It is also considered the secret ingredient in many successful relationships. Studies have shown that abandoned babies who do not experience enough human touch and care can easily get sick, and can even shrivel and die of illness. One research demonstrated that touch can communicate different emotions and that we have an innate ability to decode emotions via touch alone. No wonder, when Jesus healed, he used the power of touch.

This is the striking image the gospel presents—Jesus touching the sick to heal them, communicating to them God’s love and care. Without words, the people he touched understood the unspoken language of love, forgiveness, and acceptance; they were made whole again. Were the people in Jesus’ time like us today—not only hungry for food, but also hungry for love? No wonder they were crowding around Jesus because in him their deepest yearning for healing and wholeness were being fulfilled. Jesus invites us to approach him, to allow him to touch us in our depths so we may be healed of our doubts, that God truly loves us.

February 9th

1st Reading: Gen 1:20–2:4a:
(…) God said, “Let us make man in our image, to our likeness. Let them rule over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, over the cattle, over the wild animals, and over all creeping things that crawl along the ground.” So God created man in his image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (…)

God said, “I have given you every seed-bearing plant which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree that bears fruit with seed. It will be for your food. To every wild animal, to every bird of the sky, to everything that creeps along the ground, to everything that has the breath of life, I give every green plant for food.” So it was. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. There was evening and there was morning: the sixth day. That was the way the sky and earth were created and all their vast array. By the seventh day the work God had done was completed, and he rested. (…)

Gospel: Mk 7:1–13:
One day the Pharisees gathered around Jesus, and with them were some teachers of the Law who had just come from Jerusalem. They noticed that some of his disciples were eating their meal with unclean hands, that is, without washing them. Now the Pharisees, and in fact all the Jews, never eat without washing their hands, for they follow the tradition received from their ancestors. Nor do they eat anything, when they come from the market, without first washing themselves. (…) 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?” (…)

And Jesus commented, “You have a fine way of disregarding the commandments of God in order to enforce your own traditions! For example, Moses said: Do your duty to your father and your mother, and: Whoever curses his father or his mother is to be put to death. But according to you, someone could say to his father or mother, ‘I already declared Corban (which means “offered to God”) what you could have expected from me.’ In this case, you no longer require him to do anything for his father or mother, and so you nullify the word of God through the tradition you have handed on. And you do many other things like that.”

Traditions are not only important for many religions, they are also very much part of any culture. Even families have traditions they consider sacrosanct. The word “tradition” means “something handed down,” from one generation to the next. It could be a teaching or a practice. Precisely because traditions are handed down, the way they are interpreted can change over time as cultures and people’s contexts change. Sometimes people observe traditions without even understanding their significance. Meanings can get lost in transmission, not just in translation.

In itself, tradition is not bad. If so, what is Jesus really criticizing in today’s gospel? I don’t think it is tradition as such, since it appears that Jesus himself was not against all tradition. We are told that he observed some traditions like going regularly to the synagogue “as was his custom.” What Jesus was against is when a human-made tradition is being taught as an absolute, when it is done to earn salvation, or when it is given priority over God’s commandment of love. Tradition of this kind can only lead to an empty, hypocritical and superficial worship of God. Jesus invites us to worship God from our depths.

February 10th

St. Scholastica

1st Reading: Gen 2:4b–9, 15–17:
On the day that Yahweh God made the earth and the heavens, there was not yet on the earth any shrub of the fields, nor had any plant yet sprung up, for Yahweh God had not made it rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the earth, but a mist went up from the earth and watered the surface of the earth. Then Yahweh God formed Man, dust drawn from the clay, and breathed into his nostrils a breath of life and Man became alive with breath. God planted a garden in Eden in the east and there he placed Man whom he had created.

Yahweh God caused to grow from the ground every kind of tree that is pleasing to see and good to eat, also the tree of Life in the middle of the garden and the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Yahweh God took Man and placed him in the garden of Eden to till it and take care of it. Then Yahweh God gave an order to Man saying, “You may eat of every tree in the garden, but of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, you will not eat, for on the day you eat of it, you will die.”

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.”

We are confronted again with the question of evil. Questions like, why does evil exist or how can evil be eliminated from our lives, continue to beg for satisfactory answers. The Jews in Jesus’ time believed that evil comes from outside and that even what they eat if unclean can make one impure. Jesus dealt with this issue in responding to the religious leaders’ concern with ritual defilement, which would render a person unsuitable to worship God. They were under the illusion that on the inside they were good and godly. This narrow-minded interpretation totally missed the bigger picture about human nature.

Sin is not only an external problem, even if we live in a world of injustice and pain. Our tendency towards evil resides deep within us. This is aggravated by external influences impinging on our conscience development. True religion is not only concerned with actions but also motivations, not just rituals but also spirituality. The problem with evil is that it is often rationalized, unrecognized or hidden behind thick crusts of cultural conditioning. It takes grace to have the courage to look inside ourselves and face the sinful tendencies that reside in our wounded, unbelieving and hardened hearts.

February 11th

Our Lady of Lourdes

1st Reading: Gen 2:18–25:
Yahweh God said, “It is not good for Man to be alone; I will give him a helper who will be like him.” Then Yahweh God formed from the earth all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air and brought them to Man to see what he would call them; and whatever Man called every living creature, that was its name. So Man gave names to all the cattle, the birds of the air and to every beast of the field. But he did not find among them a helper like himself.

Then Yahweh God caused a deep sleep to come over Man and he fell asleep. He took one of his ribs and filled its place with flesh. The rib which Yahweh God had taken from Man he formed into a woman and brought her to the man. The man then said, “Now this is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman because she was taken from man.” That is why man leaves his father and mother and is attached to his wife, and with her becomes one flesh. Both the man and his wife were naked and were not ashamed.

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.

We are presented with a disturbing image of Jesus as seemingly cruel and haughty in his dismissive attitude toward the pagan woman who was begging for his help in behalf of her possessed daughter. This is a rather incongruent image of him as compassionate towards the suffering and the possessed, and merciful towards sinners and outcasts. The Syrophoenician, being a woman and a pagan, was therefore an outcast. Although Jesus is presented as someone who seemed to have a narrow understanding of his own mission—only to the Jews—the audacity of the woman’s faith compelled him to broaden the scope of his mission, making it more inclusive and expansive.

Perhaps the story is meant to force us to look more intently into our own faith and attitude: Do we truly believe in Jesus? Is our faith challenging us to change our attitudes towards others? We know that showing bias on the basis of someone’s religion or gender or social standing is against common morality. Perhaps this story does not offend us enough if our actions continue to communicate an “us and them” attitude. If Jesus in his humanity was open to change, are we willing to follow his example?

February 12th

1st Reading: Gen 3:1–8:
Now the serpent was the most crafty of all the wild creatures that Yahweh God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say: You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees in the garden, but of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden God said: You must not eat, and you must not touch it or you will die.” The serpent said to the woman, “You will not die, but God knows that the day you eat it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil.”

The woman saw that the fruit was good to eat, and pleasant to the eyes, and ideal for gaining knowledge. She took its fruit and ate it and gave some to her husband who was with her. He ate it. Then their eyes were opened and both of them knew they were naked. So they sewed leaves of a fig tree together and made themselves loincloths. They heard the voice of Yahweh God walking in the garden, in the cool of the day, and they, the man and his wife, hid from Yahweh God among the trees of the garden.

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.”

The beautiful song in Handel’s Messiah from Is 35:5-6 about “the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped” and “the tongue of the dumb shall sing” reverberates in today’s gospel. Although this is a story of physical healing, the deeper significance of the event must not be lost on us. When Jesus heals, he invites us to go beyond the physical and into the spiritual. Jesus’ first action before he healed the deaf-mute is significant. It describes a three-stage movement from the physical realm to the spiritual: he (1) “took” the man (2) “apart,” leading him to a private space, away (3) “from the crowd.”

It was in a quiet space where the deafmute gave his full attention on Jesus that the healing occurred. When we approach Jesus in our need, he leads us first to a space of solitude where we are less distracted and able to communicate with him as we are. “Ephphatha, be opened!” With ears unplugged, Jesus invites us to listen not only with our ears but also with our hearts to God’s dream for us. With tongues loosened, we are able to sing with our entire being our desires and deep longings for God.

February 13th

1st Reading: Gen 3:9–24:
Yahweh God called the man saying to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard your voice in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree I ordered you not to eat?” The man answered, “The woman you put with me gave me fruit from the tree and I ate it.” God said to the woman, “What have you done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.” Yahweh God said to the serpent, “Since you have done that, be cursed (…) I will make you enemies, you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.”

To the woman, God said, “I will increase your suffering in childbearing, and you will give birth to your children in pain. (…) To the man, He said, “Because you have listened to your wife, (…) cursed be the soil because of you! In suffering you will provide food for yourself from it, all the days of your life. (…) With sweat on your face you will eat your bread, until you return to clay, since it was from clay that you were taken, for you are dust and to dust you shall return.” (…) Then Yahweh God said, “Man has now become like one of us, making himself judge of good and evil. Let him not stretch out his hand to take and eat from the tree of Life as well, and live forever.” So God cast him from the garden of Eden to till the soil from which he had been made. (…)

Gospel: Mk 8:1–10:
(…) 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. (…)

From our real life experience we can understand the feeling of hunger and its effects on the mind and body. When we see pictures of emaciated children dying of hunger in famine-stricken places, we understand what it is like. Today’s gospel presents us with a familiar scene—for the second time Jesus is confronted with a hungry crowd, which again evokes compassion from him. What might be the significance of repeating a similar story? The location, a non-Jewish territory, and the previous stories of Jesus ministering to non-Jews, give us clues—that God knows our needs and feeds our hunger irrespective of our race, religion, or background.

Jesus’ disciples did not seem to understand this and reacted to Jesus’ challenge in the same way they did during the first miracle of the loaves. Like the disciples, we often misinterpret, disobey, or doubt our Christian call. All of us hunger for God not only for food. The people that followed Jesus were hungry for his word to fulfill their empty lives. Whatever provisions they brought with them did not last, making them physically hungry again. Only Jesus could satisfy both hungers in their life as he does today for us who believe.