Bible Diary for January 12th – 18th
Baptism of the Lord
1st Reading: Is 42:1-4, 6-7:
Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight. I have put my spirit upon him, and he will bring justice to the nations. He does not shout or raise his voice. Proclamations are not heard in the streets. A broken reed he will not crush, nor will he snuff out the light of the wavering wick. He will make justice appear in truth.
He will not waver or be broken until he has established justice on earth; the islands are waiting for his law. I, Yahweh, have called you for the sake of justice; I will hold your hand to make you firm; I will make you as a Covenant to the people, and as a light to the nations, to open eyes that do not see, to free captives from prison, to bring out to light those who sit in darkness.
2nd Reading: Acts 10:34-38:
Peter then spoke to them, “Truly, I realize that God does not show partiality, but in all nations he listens to everyone who fears God and does good. And this is the message he has sent to the children of Israel, the good news of peace he has proclaimed, through Jesus Christ, who is the Lord of all.
No doubt you have heard of the event that occurred throughout the whole country of the Jews, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism John preached. You know how God anointed Jesus, the Nazorean with the Holy Spirit, and power. He went about doing good, and healing all who were under the devil’s power, because God was with him.
Gospel: Mt 3:13-17:
At that time, Jesus arrived from Galilee and came to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent him, and said, “How is it, you come to me? I should be baptized by you!“ But Jesus answered him, “Let it be like that for now; so that we may fulfill the right order.“ John agreed. As soon as he was baptized, Jesus came up out of the water. All at once, the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God come down, like a dove, and rest upon him. At the same time, a voice from heaven was heard, “This is my Son, the Beloved; he is my Chosen One.“
John, who introduced Jesus to us last week, now completes his own mission and now ushers Jesus to his own mission. John is quick to tell us that Jesus did not need the baptism of repentance that he was giving as Jesus had no sin to repent of. (John’s baptism is not the same as the Sacrament of Baptism that we now celebrate. John’s baptism was more a rite of admitting one’s sinfulness and desire for forgiveness; whereas, our sacramental baptism actually washes us of all sin and makes of us all adopted children of the Father and members of the body of Christ.) Jesus insists on being baptized, nonetheless, in order to fulfill the right order.
What is this “Right Order?“ Jesus had come to do the “Order“ of the Father. The plan of the Father was for Jesus to make atonement for all sin by becoming the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and thus reconcile all to the Father. The work of reconciliation meant that Jesus had to be numbered amongst sinners and share the lot of all sinners (see 2 Cor 5:21) and then expiate for all sin by his sacrificial death.
Jesus, the beloved Son of the Father, was to fulfill all that had been prophesied of the suffering servant of Yahweh in the book of the Prophet Isaiah. The mystery of the Baptism of the Lord at Jordan is so profound! The readings of this week will unfold the full implication of Jesus’ descent into the waters of the Jordan to undergo the baptism of John the Baptist!
1st Reading: 1 S 1:1–8:
There was a man from Ramathaim, in the hills of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah. He was son of Tohu, son of Jeroham, of the clan of Zuph. He had two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had children but Hannah had none. Every year Elkanah went to worship and to sacrifice to Yahweh of hosts at Shiloh. The priests there were the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phineas. Whenever Elkanah offered sacrifice, he gave portions to his wife, Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters.
To Hannah, however, he gave the more delightful portion because he loved her more, although she had no child. Yet Hannah’s rival used to tease her for being barren. So it happened every year when they went to Yahweh’s house. Peninnah irritated Hannah and she would weep and refuse to eat. Once Elkanah, her husband, asked her, “Hannah, why do you weep instead of eating? Why are you sad? Are you not better off with me than with many sons?”
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 in the lake, for they were fishermen.
And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” At once, they left 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.
It is good to labor, alone if you must, on certain convictions in life. But if this is too big for one person the natural thing to do is gather a group that will work with you. Jesus did not find it beneath His dignity to seek partners and collaborators to help in His task. He may be the Lord and King of the universe but He willingly entered our state. Thus He also embraced the finiteness of our possibilities.
Jesus sanctified collaboration and shared mission when He called His first apostles. He who by His word can effect what He wills will now learn and understand in a human way how it is to need partners in the one task of proclaiming the kingdom of God. It would be days of mutual discovery between God and man. It would be an exciting journey of Master and follower in the days ahead.
1st Reading: 1 S 1:9–20:
After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah stood up not far from Eli, the priest: his seat was beside the doorpost of Yahweh’s house. Deeply distressed she wept and prayed to Yahweh and made this vow, “O Yahweh of hosts, if only you will have compassion on your maidservant and give me a son, I will put him in your service for as long as he lives and no razor shall touch his head.” As she prayed before Yahweh, Eli observed the movement of her lips. Hannah was praying silently; she moved her lips but uttered no sound and Eli thought Hannah was drunk. He, therefore, said to her: “For how long will you be drunk? Let your drunkenness pass.” But Hannah answered: “No, my lord, I am a woman in great distress, not drunk.
I have not drunk wine or strong drink, but I am pouring out my soul before Yahweh. Do not take me for a bad woman. I was so afflicted that my prayer flowed continuously.” Then Eli said, “Go in peace and may the God of Israel grant you what you asked for.” Hannah answered, “Let your maidservant deserve your kindness.” Then she left the temple and when she was at table, she seemed a different woman. Elkanah rose early in the morning and worshiped before Yahweh with his wives. Then they went back home to Ramah. When Elkanah slept with his wife, Hannah, Yahweh took compassion on her, and she became pregnant. She gave birth to a son and called him Samuel because she said: “I have asked Yahweh to give him to me.”
Gospel: Mk 1:21–28:
They went into the town of Capernaum and Jesus taught in the synagogue during the Sabbath assemblies. 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 orders evil spirits and they obey him!” And Jesus’ fame spread throughout all the country of Galilee.
The synagogue is a sacred space and the Sabbath is a sacred day. Combine them with Jesus, the holy one of God and you have a space and time most holy. But then surprisingly there is a man with an evil spirit in this sacred space on a sacred time in the presence of Jesus. This tells us that evil can live side by side with all things sacred. Thus it is not surprising that evil deeds are done even in sacred offices, ministries and missions. It is not that God tolerates it or is impotent in the face of it.
Jesus did show the evil spirit who is Lord and Master between them. But sometimes, evil tries to wear the mantle of holiness to test our resolve. Thus scandalizes us and sometimes robs us of our faith, hope and love. Faced with evil Jesus did not shrink but with authority commanded it to leave. Likewise we are enjoined to bring back the sacred in defiled spaces, time and offices. We can only do this if our love and zeal for the Lord is greater than our fear, disappointment and hate.
1st Reading: 1 S 3:1–10, 19–20:
The boy Samuel ministered to Yahweh under Eli’s care in a time in which the word of Yahweh was rarely heard; visions were not seen. One night Eli was lying down in his room, half blind as he was. The lamp of God was still lighted and Samuel also lay in the house of Yahweh near the ark of God. Then Yahweh called, “Samuel! Samuel!” Samuel answered, “I am here!” and ran to Eli saying, “I am here, did you not call me?” But Eli said, “I did not call, go back to sleep.” So he went and lay down. Then Yahweh called again, “Samuel!” and Samuel stood up and went to Eli saying, “You called me; I am here.” But Eli answered, “I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep.”
Samuel did not yet know Yahweh and the word of Yahweh had not yet been revealed to him. But Yahweh called Samuel for the third time and, as he went again to Eli saying, “I am here for you have called me,” Eli realized that it was Yahweh calling the boy. So he said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you again, answer: “Speak, Yahweh, your servant listens.” Then Yahweh came and stood there calling as he did before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant listens.” Samuel grew; Yahweh was with him and made all his words become true. All Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, knew that Samuel was really Yahweh’s prophet.
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, too, searching for him; and when they found him they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Let’s 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.
A strong prayer life may have been one salient feature of Jesus that remained in the memory of the apostles but it is always in function to His mission. Prayer does not take away the Lord from His work but it is the wellspring and springboard of His creativity. Thus when He was praying and His apostles sought Him because of the pressing need of people, Jesus did not linger but immediately invited them to go to nearby villages to preach and expel demons. His prayer did not take Him away from others. It prepared Him to encounter them meaningfully.
1st Reading: 1 S 4:1–11:
At that time Samuel was a prophet of Israel. The Israelites went out to battle against the Philistines. They encamped at Ebenezer, while the Philistines encamped at Aphek. The Philistines then drew up in battle formation. They attacked Israel and after a fierce struggle, Israel was defeated, leaving about four thousand men dead on the battlefield.
When the troops retreated to their camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why has Yahweh allowed us to be defeated by the Philistines? Let us take the ark of God from Shiloh and bring it here so that Yahweh may be with us and save us from our enemies.” So the people sent messengers to Shiloh to take the ark of Yahweh who is seated on the cherubim. Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phineas, accompanied the ark. As soon as the ark of Yahweh entered the camp, the Israelites began to cheer so loudly that the earth resounded.
The Philistines heard the shouting and asked, “What does this loud shout in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” And they were told that the ark of Yahweh had been brought to the camp. The Philistines were overcome with fear. They exclaimed, “A god has come into the camp. Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. Woe to us! Who can save us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all sorts of plagues—and in the desert.
Take courage and conduct yourselves like men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews the way they have been slaves to you. Be manly and fight.” So the Philistines fought and Israel was defeated. Everyone fled to his home. It was a disastrous defeat; thirty thousand foot soldiers of Israel were killed. The ark of God was captured and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phineas, were slain.
Gospel: Mk 1:40–45:
A leper came to Jesus and begged him, “If you so will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; 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 make your declaration.” 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.
The leper in today’s Gospel could teach us some aspects of a good prayer of petition. First, his prayer leaves all possibilities in the hand of God. “If you so will, you can make me clean.” He does not dictate and coerce but asks humbly. He knows his place and lets the Lord be the Lord. Secondly, he did not keep it upon himself but proclaimed to others the goodness of Jesus once his petition was answered. Thus his blessing becomes the blessing of the community.
1st Reading: 1 S 8:4–7, 10–22a:
Because of this, all the chiefs of Israel gathered together and went to Samuel in Ramah. They said to him, “You are already old and your sons are not following your ways. Give us a king to rule over us as in all the other nations.” Samuel was very displeased with what they said, “Give us a king to rule us,” and he prayed to Yahweh. And Yahweh told him, “Give to this people all that they ask for.”
So Samuel answered those who were asking him for a king, and he told them all that Yahweh said to him, “Look, these will be the demands of your king: he will take your sons and assign them to his chariot and his horses and have them run before his chariot. Some he will assign as commanders over a thousand men and commanders over fifty. He will take your daughters as well to prepare perfumes, to cook and to bake for him, take the best of your fields, your vineyards and your olive orchards.
He will take a tenth portion of your grain and of your vineyards, and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your menservants and maidservants, the best of your cattle and your asses for his own work. He will take the tenth of your flocks and you yourselves will become his slaves. When these things happen, you will cry out because of the king whom you have chosen for yourselves.
But by then, Yahweh will not answer you.” The people paid no attention to all that Samuel said. They insisted, “No! We want a king to govern us as in all the other nations. Our king shall govern us, lead us and go ahead of us in our battles.” Upon hearing all that his people said, Samuel repeated it to Yahweh. But Yahweh said to him, “Listen to them and give them a king.” Samuel then said to the Israelites, “Go back, all of you, to your own cities.”
Gospel: Mk 2:1–12:
Jesus returned to Capernaum. As the news spread that he was at home, 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 a paralyzed man to him. 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 through 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, “We have never seen anything like this!”
The grind of daily life that crowds and obscures Jesus Christ in our life is sometimes daunting and seemingly insurmountable. It is in these situations that friends are indeed blessings from God. The paralytic himself could never go near the Lord. There were too many people like him wanting an audience with Jesus.
But he was carried on the shoulders of his friends. On the strength of his friends’ perseverance their efforts led him directly in front of the Lord who cured him. Let us thank God for friends who care enough to carry us towards the Lord when our own faith fails us. And may we too be their support when they in turn experience paralysis in their life.
1st Reading: 1 S 9:1–4, 17–19, 10:1:
There was a man from the tribe of Benjamin whose name was Kish. He was the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, a valiant Benjaminite. Kish had a son named Saul, a handsome young man who had no equal among the Israelites, for he was a head taller than any of them. It happened that the asses of Kish were lost. So he said to his son Saul, “Take one of the boys with you and go look for the asses.” They went all over the hill country of Ephraim and the land of Shalishah but did not find them. They passed through the land of Shaalim and the land of Benjamin, but the asses were nowhere to be found.
So, when Samuel saw Saul, Yahweh told him, “Here is the man I spoke to you about! He shall rule over my people.” Saul approached Samuel in the gateway and said, “Tell me, where is the house of the seer?” Samuel answered Saul, “I am the seer. Go up ahead of me to the high place, for today you shall eat with me. In the morning, before you leave, I will tell you all that is in your heart.” Then Samuel took a vial of oil and poured it on Saul’s head. And kissing Saul, Samuel said, “Yahweh has anointed you to rule over and to lead his people Israel. And this will be Yahweh’s sign to you that he has anointed you.”
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 while Jesus was eating in Levi’s house, tax collectors and sinners were sitting with him and his disciples for there were indeed many of them.
But there were also teachers of the Law of the Pharisees’ party, among those who followed Jesus, and when they saw him eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why! He eats 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.”
It was a simple and direct invitation. “Follow me,” without frills or fanfare. Surprisingly, “Levi got up and followed Him.” The invitation of a mature God found an astonishing response from a man who was numbered among the habitual sinners, “the small people,” the anawim of God.
It is perhaps to point to us that greatness is something ingrained in each and every one of us irrespective of our background and social attainments. The invitation to actualize it comes to us many times and in various ways, some not as obvious as the invitation of Jesus to Levi. It is whether we have the capacity to risk or not that makes the difference.