Bible Diary for January 10th – 16th
Baptism of the Lord
1st Reading: Is 55:1–11:
Come here, all you who are thirsty, come to the water! All who have no money, come! Yes, without money and at no cost, buy and drink wine and milk. Why spend money on what is not food and labor for what does not satisfy? Listen to me, and you will eat well; you will enjoy the richest of fare. Incline your ear and come to me; listen, that your soul may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, I will fulfill in you my promises to David. See, I have given him for a witness to the nations, a leader and commander of the people.
Likewise you will summon a nation unknown to you, and nations that do not know you will come hurrying to you for the sake of Yahweh your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has promoted you. Seek Yahweh while he may be found; call to him while he is near. Let the wicked abandon his way, let him forsake his thoughts, let him turn to Yahweh for he will have mercy, for our God is generous in forgiving. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways are not your ways, says Yahweh.
For as the heavens are above the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts. 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.
2nd Reading: 1 Jn 5:1–9:
All those who believe that Jesus is the Anointed, are born of God; whoever loves the Father, loves the Son. How may we know that we love the children of God? If we love God and fulfill his commands, for God’s love requires us to keep his commands. In fact, his commandments are not a burden because all those born of God overcome the world. And the victory which overcomes the world is our faith. Who has overcome the world?
The one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus Christ was acknowledged through water, but also through blood. Not only water but water and blood. And the Spirit, too, witnesses to him for the Spirit is truth. There are then three testimonies: the Spirit, the water and the blood, and these three witnesses agree. If we accept human testimony, with greater reason must we accept that of God, given in favor of his Son.
Gospel: Mk 1:7–11:
He preached to the people, saying, “After me comes one who is more powerful than I am; I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.” At that time Jesus came from Nazareth, a town of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And the moment he came up out of the water, heaven opened before him, and he saw the Spirit coming down on him like a dove. And these words were heard from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved, the One I have chosen.”
After Christmas, the liturgy shows us the start of the Public life of Jesus. It all starts with the baptism done by John. The baptism of the Lord inaugurates his mission as Messiah revealed in his obedience to the Father and closeness to the poor and sinners. The Lord’s Baptism also reminds us of our baptism, dying to our own sinfulness and rising up as beloved children of the Father. Our Gospel invites to follow Jesus who is to commence the journey that would lead him to death and resurrection.
Almighty ever-loving Father, nourish us with the fire of your saving and comforting love as we tread the path of life amidst trials and problems. Look kindly upon us your children that we may be able to fulfill our roles and responsibilities as Christians, spreading love and generosity! Amen. Nurture the love of God dwelling deep within your heart. Take time to listen to a person whom you do not like to be with. Offer to the least member of your community one of your most dear possessions, like a shirt or pair of shoes, etc…
1st Reading: Heb 1:1–6:
God has spoken in the past to our ancestors through the prophets, in many different ways, although never completely; but in our times he has spoken definitively to us through his Son. He is the one God appointed heir of all things, since through him he unfolded the stages of the world.
He is the radiance of God’s glory and bears the stamp of God’s hidden being, so that his powerful word upholds the universe. And after taking away sin, he took his place at the right hand of the divine Majesty in heaven. So he is now far superior to angels just as the name he received sets him apart from them. To what angel did God say: You are my son, I have begotten you today?
And to what angel did he promise: I shall be a father to him and he will be a son to me? On sending his Firstborn to the world, God says: Let all the angels adore him.
Gospel: Mk 1:14–20:
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.” As Jesus was walking along the shore of Lake Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” At once, they abandoned their nets and followed him. Jesus went a little farther on and saw James and John, the sons of Zebedee; they were in their boat mending their nets. Immediately Jesus called them and they followed him, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men.
We encounter Jesus and our calling along our life’s journey. We might have our own life plans or be busy with our jobs, as were the first disciples who were busy being fishers. Sometimes when Jesus calls us to join him, he does not take us away from the work that we know, instead he invites us to use it in another way, one that would entail being with and for others. He called his first disciples to continue to be fishers, but no longer of fish but of people.
At other times, we might be called to abandon our familiar way of life and take the risk of starting anew in following him. When we heed Jesus’ call to join him in his journey, we are challenged to rearrange our life choices so that we may have more time in prayer to know him more and his plans for us. The major changes in the lives of any human being are results of having deeply met influential and impressive people. Is our encounter with Jesus deep enough to allow him to influence us to change our ways and follow in his footsteps?
1st Reading: Heb 2:5–12:
The angels were not given dominion over the new world of which we are speaking. Instead someone declared in Scripture: What is man, that you should be mindful of him, what is the son of man that you should care for him? For a while you placed him a little lower than the angels, but you crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over all things. When it is said that God gave him dominion over all things, nothing is excluded. As it is, we do not yet see his dominion over all things.
But Jesus who suffered death and for a little while was placed lower than the angels has been crowned with honor and glory. For the merciful plan of God demanded that he experience death on behalf of everyone. God, from whom all come and by whom all things exist, wanted to bring many children to glory, and he thought it fitting to make perfect through suffering the initiator of their salvation. So he who gives and those who receive holiness are one. He himself is not ashamed of calling us brothers and sisters, as we read: Lord, I will proclaim your name to my brothers; I will praise you in the congregation.
Gospel: Mk 1:21–28:
They went into the town of Capernaum and Jesus taught in the synagogue on the sabbath day. The people were astonished at the way he taught, for he spoke as one having authority and not like the teachers of the Law. It happened that a man with an evil spirit was in their synagogue, and he shouted, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: you are the Holy One of God.”
Then Jesus faced him and said with authority, “Be silent, and come out of this man!” The evil spirit shook the man violently and, with a loud shriek, came out of him. All the people were astonished, and they wondered, “What is this? With what authority he preaches! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him!” And Jesus’ fame spread throughout all the country of Galilee.
Evil in its many forms will always be a human reality we have to contend with. It can dwell in human hearts and can be perpetrated by an individual, a group, a system, or even a nation causing conflicts, wars, and untold human sufferings. One form of evil that has been the subject of intense scrutiny is that of some forms of mental illness that can lead to violent behavior. Yet we do not have to be mentally ill to know that evil can settle in our hearts. In our sinful nature, there is already in us a constant struggle between the forces of good and the spirits of evil.
Although we strive for love, peace and unity, there is also in us a force that works for strife and division. We can be weighed down by our wounded past, tempting us to choose the path of darkness. In today’s Gospel, evil spirits even in a place of worship is confronting Jesus. Invariably these spirits recognize him, his true identity and mission, even confessing his divinity and power over them. As the Gospel demonstrates, only the power of Jesus’ words is able to cast away all spirits of deceit, violence, burden and pain.
1st 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: 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.
When Jesus heals, two things happen. First, the person entrusts oneself or an ill person to Jesus as did Simon in our Gospel today. Then, there is the spontaneous response of the person healed—gratitude shown through one’s act of hospitality and service. Whenever Jesus heals, he sends the person from some inner condition to the outer world of relationships and service. These two movements are the healing from and the healing for, since any kind of illness is debilitating.
The healing Jesus brings frees us from any kind of debilitating condition that tends to limit our capacity for life. Faith and healing are closely linked. Faith opens us up to greater possibilities—to believe in ourselves and in God who is the giver of life. When we allow self-doubt to settle in our hearts, we put limits to our capacities and to what can God do through us. Faith teaches us to believe that we are meant for something more and healing enables us to be and to do something more for God and for others.
1st Reading: Heb 3:7–14:
Listen to what the Holy Spirit says: If only you would hear God’s voice today! Do not be stubborn, as they were in the place called Rebellion, when your ancestors challenged me in the desert, although they had seen my deeds for forty years. That is why I was angry with those people and said: Their hearts are always going astray and they do not understand my ways. I was angry and made a solemn vow: They will never enter my rest.
So, brothers, be careful lest some of you come to have an evil and unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. Encourage one another, day by day, as long as it is called today. Let no one become hardened in the deceitful way of sin. We are associated with Christ provided we hold steadfastly to our initial hope until the end.
Gospel: Mk 1:40–45:
A leper came to Jesus and begged him, “If you want to, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do want to; be clean.” The leprosy left the man at once and he was made clean. As Jesus sent the man away, he sternly warned him, “Don’t tell anyone about this, but go and show yourself to the priest, and for the cleansing bring the offering ordered by Moses; in this way you will give to them your testimony.” However, as soon as the man went out, he began spreading the news everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter any town. But even though he stayed in the rural areas, people came to him from everywhere.
As we reflect on today’s Gospel, it makes us wonder who our society and our church consider to be the modern day lepers. Lepers were outcasts of society, banned from entering the city and forced to live under the restrictions of the Mosaic Law until a priest certified them as cleansed. So, Jesus’ command to the leper to submit to this procedure was itself an act of mercy, for only then could the man return to a normal life with his family and friends. Leprosy symbolizes our many fears, anxieties, unfreedoms, and prejudices.
These make us unconsciously project on others something and anything in ourselves that we dislike, deny, feel uncomfortable with and find unacceptable. Today’s lepers confront us with our own biases and prejudices. They make us aware that we are also afflicted with leprosy and that we need God’s mercy and cleansing. Like anyone else, today’s lepers also need love, mercy, kindness, affirmation, forgiveness and hope. For as long as we are not healed of our own leprosy, there will always be “lepers” in our world who will be ostracized, banished, and marginalized unless we reach out to them.
1st Reading: Heb 4:1–5, 11:
Therefore let us fear while we are invited to enter the rest of God, lest any of you be left behind. We received the Gospel exactly as they did, but hearing the message did them no good, because they did not share the faith of those who did listen. We are now to enter this rest because we believed, as it was said: I was angry and made a solemn vow: they will never enter my rest—that is the rest of God after he created the world. In another part it was said about the seventh day: And God rested on the seventh day from all his works. But now it is said: They will not enter my rest. Let us strive, then, to enter the rest, and not to share the misfortune of those who disobeyed.
Gospel: Mk 2:1–12:
After some days Jesus returned to Capernaum. As the news spread that he was in the house, so many people gathered, that there was no longer room even outside the door. While Jesus was preaching the Word to them, some people brought to him a paralyzed man. The four men who carried him couldn’t get near Jesus because of the crowd, so they opened the roof above the room where Jesus was and, through the hole, lowered the man on his mat. When Jesus saw the faith of these people, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”
Now some teachers of the Law, who were sitting there, wondered within themselves, “How can he speak like this, insulting God? Who can forgive sins except God?” At once Jesus knew in his spirit what they were thinking, and asked, “Why do you wonder? Is it easier to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your mat and walk?’ But now you shall know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” And he said to the paralytic, “Stand up, take up your mat and go home.” The man rose and, in the sight of all those people, he took up his mat and went out. All of them were astonished and praised God, saying, “Never have we seen anything like this!”
Most of us, if not all, have something within us where we feel shame–whether it is something stupid we have done in the past, or some kind of physical disability, or something we dislike and find unacceptable in ourselves. All these affect our self-image, paralyzing us from moving forward with our life. No one wants to suffer from any kind of paralysis, much less be made a spectacle because of one’s condition. As much as possible we hide our flaws and imperfections from others’ view. Imagine how the paralytic must have felt when he was being lowered through the roof and made a spectacle before the crowd.
He must have felt humiliated when all attention was upon him and his paralysis. But like him we want to be healed of our paralysis and be willing to accept whatever it takes to be freed from our shame and suffering. This is where the compassion of Jesus and the support of our friends can help in our healing process. We need to be forgiven first of our sin against love—our inability to love ourselves and to accept that God loves us. Only God’s forgiving love can enable us to move forward.
1st Reading: Heb 4:12–16:
For the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword. It pierces to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and judges the intentions and thoughts of the heart. All creation is transparent to Him; everything is uncovered and laid bare to the eyes of Him to whom we render account. We have a great High Priest, Jesus, the Son of God, who has entered heaven. Let us, then, hold fast to the faith we profess. Our high priest is not indifferent to our weaknesses, for he was tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sinning. Let us, then, with confidence approach the throne of grace; we will obtain mercy and, through his favor, help in due time.
Gospel: Mk 2:13–17:
When Jesus went out again beside the lake, a crowd came to him, and he taught them. As he walked along, he saw a tax collector sitting in his office. This was Levi, the son of Alpheus. Jesus said to him, “Follow me!” And Levi got up and followed him. And it so happened that when Jesus was eating in Levi’s house, tax collectors and sinners sat with him and his disciples; there were a lot of them, and they used to follow Jesus.
But Pharisees, men educated in the Law, when they saw Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does your master eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus heard them, and answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
If the story on the call of Levi were to happen today, with whom would Jesus be spending time? What kind of sinners would Jesus be eating with? Perhaps not just prostitutes, maybe drug addicts, corrupt government officials and politicians as well. In fact, he will be spending time with any of us who feel the misery of sin. Our sins are the very reasons why Jesus wants to be with us. The punch line is Jesus’ statement: “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
The example of Levi, a tax collector and thus, a sinner in the eyes of the righteous, gives us courage to approach Jesus and to follow him. I have heard people say that they do not feel worthy to follow the call to join the priesthood, the religious life, or to be a lay missionary, because they are sinners. The Gospel wants to demonstrate to us that when Jesus chooses us, he takes no notice of our achievements or human qualities. Instead he reckons with what is nothing and worthless to humble those who believe only in their own powers and righteousness.