Bible Diary for January 15th – January 21st
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
1st Reading: Is 9:1-6:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. A light has dawned on those who live in the land of the shadow of death. You have enlarged the nation; you have increased their joy. They rejoice before you, as people rejoice at harvest time as they rejoice in dividing the spoil. For the yoke of their burden, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressors, you have broken it as on the day of Midian. Every warrior’s boot that tramped in war, every cloak rolled in blood, will be thrown out for burning, will serve as fuel for the fire.
For a child is born to us, a son is given us; the royal ornament is laid upon his shoulder, and his name is proclaimed: “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” To the increase of his powerful rule in peace, there will be no end. Vast will be his dominion, he will reign on David’s throne and over all his kingdom, to establish and uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time onward and forever. The zealous love of Yahweh Sabaoth will do this.
2nd Reading: Eph 1:3-6, 15-18:
Blessed be God, the Father of Christ Jesus our Lord, who, in Christ, has blessed us from heaven, with every spiritual blessing. God chose us, in Christ, before the creation of the world, to be holy, and without sin in his presence. From eternity he destined us, in love, to be his adopted sons and daughters, through Christ Jesus, thus fulfilling his free and generous will. This goal suited him: that his loving-kindness, which he granted us in his beloved might finally receive all glory and praise.
I have been told of your faith and your affection toward all the believers, so I always give thanks to God, remembering you in my prayers. May the God of Christ Jesus our Lord, the Father of glory, reveal himself to you, and give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation, that you may know him. May he enlighten your inner vision, that you may appreciate the things we hope for, since we were called by God. May you know how great is the inheritance, the glory, God sets apart for his saints.
Gospel: Mt 18:1-5, 10:
At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child, set the child in the midst of the disciples, and said, “I assure you, that, unless you change, and become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble, like this child, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and whoever receives such a child, in my name, receives me. See that you do not despise any of these little ones; for I tell you, their angels in heaven continually see the face of my heavenly Father.
The great light has come into human lives in the form of a little child. In and through this little child, we will be transformed into children of God. One who is great in the Kingdom of God is one who can receive God in and through little things and people, and become like a child. How do I define greatness in myself and others? Am I able to recognize greatness in mundane things and ordinary people? Am I ready to be like a little child? How receptive am I towards people who appear to be little and insignificant in the eyes of the world? Pray for the gift of humility. Reach out to someone who is on the peripheries of the society.
1st Reading: Heb 5:1-10:
Every high priest is taken from among mortals, and appointed, to be their representative before God, to offer gifts, and sacrifices for sin. He is able to understand the ignorant and erring, for he, himself, is subject to weakness. This is why he is bound to offer sacrifices, for his sins, as well as, for the sins of the people. Besides, one does not presume to take this dignity, but takes it only when called by God, as Aaron was. Nor did Christ become high priest in taking upon himself this dignity, but it was given to him, by the one who says: You are my son, I have begotten you today. And in another place: You are a priest forever, in the priestly order of Melchizedek.
Christ, in the days of his mortal life, offered his sacrifice with tears and cries. He prayed to him, who could save him from death, and he was heard, because of his humble submission. Although he was Son, he learned, through suffering, what obedience was, and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation, for those who obey him. This is how God proclaimed him Priest in the order of Melchizedek.
Gospel: Mk 2:18-22:
One day, when the Pharisees and the disciples of John the Baptist were fasting, some people asked Jesus, “Why is it that both the Pharisees and the disciples of John fast, but yours do not?“ Jesus answered, “How can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the day will come, when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. No one sews a piece of new cloth on an old coat, because the new patch will shrink and tear away from the old cloth, making a worse tear. And no one puts new wine into old wine skins, for the wine would burst the skins, and then both the wine and the skins would be lost. But new wine, new skins!”
We begin this Monday with a disturbing comparison between John the Baptist and Jesus on the question of Fasting. The Pharisees are scandalized that Jesus and his disciples were not fasting like pious Jews and like the disciples of John the Baptist. Jesus answers with two images: (1) the Wedding Banquet and (2) new wine in new wine skins. In the first image Jesus calls himself the Bridegroom celebrating his Wedding Banquet with his friends. It is not the time for fasting but celebration. Yet, Jesus does continue, and say that there will eventually be time for fasting too–when the Bridegroom would no longer be around.
Then will his disciples fast, as once again they will await the return–the second coming–of the Bridegroom! The Holy Mass we celebrate is now referred to as the Wedding Banquet. And so we are not glum but joyful! As Pope Francis tells us, Christians are filled with the joy of the Gospel. Yet we do not forget that we are looking forward also to the second coming of Jesus and so we do fast at appointed times in our liturgical year. The second image, the new wine in new wine skins, will become clearer in our subsequent readings this week.
St. Anthony the Great
1st Reading: Heb 6:10-20:
God is not unjust, and will not forget everything you have done for love of his name; you have helped, and still help, the believers. We desire each of you to have, until the end, the same zeal for reaching what you have hoped for. Do not grow careless, but imitate those, who, by their faith and determination, inherit the promise. Remember God’s promise to Abraham. God wanted to confirm it with an oath, and, as no one is higher than God, he swore by himself: I shall bless you and give you many descendants. By just patiently waiting, Abraham obtained the promise.
People are used to swearing by someone higher than themselves, and their oath affirms everything that could be denied. So God committed himself, with an oath, in order to convince those who were to wait for his promise, that he would never change his mind. Thus, we have two certainties, in which it is impossible that God be proved false: promise and oath. That is enough to encourage us strongly, when we leave everything, to hold to the hope set before us. This hope is like a steadfast anchor of the soul, secure and firm, thrust beyond the curtain of the temple, into the Sanctuary itself, where Jesus has entered ahead of us—Jesus, high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
Gospel: Mk 2:23-28:
One Sabbath he was walking through grain fields. As his disciples walked along with him, they began to pick the heads of grain and crush them in their hands. Then the Pharisees said to Jesus, “Look! They are doing what is forbidden on the Sabbath!” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did in his time of need; when he and his men were very hungry? He went into the House of God, when Abiathar was High Priest, and ate; the bread of offering, which only the priests are allowed to eat, and he also gave some to the men who were with him.“ Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is master even of the Sabbath.”
Once again, the ever scandalized Pharisees, attack Jesus in todays’ Gospel episode for the “sin” of breaking the “Sabbath Law on mandatory rest. The Sabbath obligation of rest was so strictly observed by the pious Jews. They were probably asking “How could this Rabbi be so tolerating of the violation of the Sabbath Rest by his disciples?” But Jesus confronts them with the example of no less than King David who ordered his men to eat the bread of offering that was normally reserved only for the priests.
In this incident Jesus was in the first place pointing out the higher law of charity over mere ritual rulings. In the second place, Jesus was already indicating that as the son of David he was inaugurating a “new order of things” (refer to the image of the “new wine skins for new wine” in yesterday’s Gospel.) Jesus then makes a pronouncement that must have further disturbed the Pharisees when he said that he was “Master of the Sabbath!“ In other words, that Jesus had the authority to promulgate “new” laws! That He was equal to God!
1st Reading: Heb 7:1-3, 15-17:
Scripture says that Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, came out to meet Abraham, who returned from defeating the kings. He blessed Abraham, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. Let us note, that the name Melchizedek means king of Justice, and that king of Salem means king of Peace. There is no mention of father, mother or genealogy; nothing is said about the beginning or the end of his life. In this, he is the figure of the Son of God, the priest who remains forever. All this, however, becomes clear, if this priest, after the likeness of Melchizedek, has, in fact, received his mission, not on the basis of any human law, but by the power of an immortal life. Because Scripture says: You are a priest, forever, in the priestly order of Melchizedek.
Gospel: Mk 3:1-6:
Again, Jesus entered the synagogue. A man, who had a paralyzed hand, was there; and some people watched Jesus: would he heal the man on the Sabbath? If he did, they could accuse him. Jesus said to the man with the paralyzed hand, “Stand here, in the center.” Then he asked them, “What does the law allow us to do on the Sabbath? To do good or to do harm? To save life or to kill?” But they were silent. Then Jesus looked around at them with anger and deep sadness at their hardness of heart. And he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was healed. As soon as the Pharisees left, they met with Herod’s supporters, looking for a way to destroy Jesus.
The conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees come to a head in today’s Gospel. Once again the ire of the Pharisees is ignited when Jesus cures on a Sabbath! Unlike in the earlier episodes where Jesus was almost on the defensive, now Jesus takes the offensive. Jesus looked at the opposition block with “anger and sadness” and challenges the Pharisees. Going to the very heart of the Sabbath Law Jesus asks “What does the law allow us to do on the Sabbath? To do good or to do harm? To save life or to kill?”
Today we are reminded then to be faithful to the fundamental law: to love, or to do good. And this obligation is to be fulfilled at all times. It is what we would now say 24/7! We cannot only be good on Sunday and then forget our moral obligations the rest of the week. Going back to the Gospel, it is interesting to note the conclusion of conflict of Jesus with the Pharisees. The Pharisees decide to destroy Jesus! To do this they will even seek the help of the Herodians, their avowed enemies! Their hatred for Jesus drove them to plot the death of Jesus!
1st Reading: Heb 7:25–8:6:
Consequently, he is able to save, for all time, those who approach God, through him. He always lives, to intercede on their behalf. It was fitting that our high priest be holy, undefiled, set apart from sinners, and exalted above the heavens; a priest, who does not, first, need to offer sacrifice for himself, before offering for the sins of the people, as high priests do. He offered himself in sacrifice, once, and for all. And, whereas, the law elected weak men as high priests, now, after the law, the word of God, with an oath, appointed the Son, made perfect forever. The main point of what we are saying is that we have a high priest.
He is seated at the right hand of the divine majesty, in heaven, where he serves as minister of the true temple and Sanctuary, set up not by any mortal, but by the Lord. A high priest is appointed to offer to God gifts and sacrifices, and Jesus, also, has to offer some sacrifice. Had he remained on earth, he would not be a priest, since others offer the gifts, according to the law. In fact, the ritual celebrated by those priests is only an imitation, and shadow of the heavenly Sanctuary. We know the word of God to Moses, with regard to the construction of the holy tent. He said: You are to make everything according to the pattern shown to you on the mountain. Now, however, Jesus enjoys a much higher ministry, in being the mediator of a better Covenant, founded on better promises.
Gospel: Mk 3:7-12:
Jesus and his disciples withdrew to the lakeside, and a large crowd from Galilee followed him. A great number of people also came from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, Transjordan, and from the region of Tyre and Sidon, for they had heard of all that he was doing. Because of the crowd, Jesus told his disciples to have a boat ready for him, to prevent the people from crushing him. He healed so many, that all who had diseases kept pressing toward him to touch him. Even the people who had evil spirits, whenever they saw him, they would fall down before him and cry out, “You are the Son of God.” But he warned them sternly not to tell anyone who he was.
We have a transition in the ministry of Jesus at this point. The self-righteous Pharisees were the staunchest oppositions to the “new ways” of Jesus in regard to the fulfillment of the law. This compelled Jesus to withdraw from ministry in the centers and instead to the peripheries (the new wine skin). Jesus made a strategic shift in his pastoral ministry. He now goes to the “crowd“–the “common tao” who knew next to nothing about the law. Jesus would offer them the good news!
Mark tells us that people from all over–Galilee, Judea, and even pagan regions–went to Jesus. Mark further adds a beautiful detail, namely, he tells us that to prevent the people from “crushing him” he had to board a boat. (It was not yet time for Jesus to be “crushed” to produce the “new wine!” The right time for that would come in due time.) It can sometimes happen that those who seem to be “church” people unfortunately can be the staunchest oppositionists to “new movements of the Spirit.” In contrast it can happen that the “unchurched” are more open to “new” teachings!
1st Reading: Heb 8:6-13:
Now, however, Jesus enjoys a much higher ministry, in being the mediator of a better Covenant, founded on better promises. If all had been perfect in the first Covenant, there would have been no need for another one. Yet God sees defects when he says: The days are coming—it is the word of the Lord—when I will draw up a new Covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the Covenant that I made with their ancestors on the day I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt.
They did not keep my Covenant, and so I myself have forsaken them, says the Lord. But this is the Covenant that I will make with the people of Israel in the days to come: I will put my laws into their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people. None of them will have to teach one another or say to each other: Know the Lord, for they will know me from the least to the greatest. I will forgive their sins and no longer remember their wrongs. Here, we are being told of a new Covenant; which means, that the first one had become obsolete, and what is obsolete, and aging, is soon to disappear.
Gospel: Mk 3:13-19:
Then Jesus went up into the hill country, and called those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed Twelve to be with him, and he called them ‘apostles.’ He wanted to send them out to preach; and he gave them authority to drive out demons. These are the Twelve: Simon, to whom he gave the name Peter; James, son of Zebedee, and John his brother, to whom he gave the name Boanerges, which means ‘men of thunder’; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alpheus, Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.
We now see Jesus establish a “new order” in today’s Gospel by calling those whom he wanted to become his disciples. Jesus, the High Priest in the order of Melchizedek (not Aaron) creates a “new community” that could accept the “new order” of things, a New Covenant! Now Jesus has a “new wine skin for the new wine.” The Apostles constitute the core of this New Covenanted People. The 12 come from different backgrounds and with different personalities.
You have among them, fishermen (Simon and Andrew, James and John), a tax collector (Levi), a zealot (Simon), a possible scripture scholar (Nathanael). And there was Judas, who would betray Jesus. Jesus continues to call disciples and apostles even today. They come from different sectors of society. Those called are always not the best. Indeed all those Jesus calls have flaws, idiosyncrasies, sins! You and I have been called by the Lord to be his disciples today! Despite our obvious unworthiness! What privilege! Don’t say “No” to his invitation!
1st Reading: Heb 9:2-3, 11-14:
A first tent was prepared, with the lamp stand, the table and the bread of the presence; this is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain, there is a second Sanctuary, called the Most Holy Place. But, now, Christ has appeared, as the high priest, with regard to the good things of these new times. He passed through a Sanctuary more noble and perfect, not made by hands, that is, not created.
He did not take with himself the blood of goats and bulls, but his own blood, when he entered, once, and for all, into this Sanctuary, after obtaining definitive redemption. If the sprinkling of people, defiled by sin, with the blood of goats and bulls, or with the ashes of a heifer, provides them with exterior cleanness and holiness, how much more will it be, with the blood of Christ? He, moved by the eternal spirit, offered himself, as an unblemished victim, to God, and his blood cleanses us from dead works, so that we may serve the living God.
Gospel: Mk 3:20-21:
They went home. The crowd began to gather again and they couldn’t even have a meal. Knowing what was happening, his relatives came to take charge of him. “He is out of his mind,” they said.
We conclude this week’s meditations with a very short but loaded Gospel: This Jesus was “out of his mind,” i.e. “CRAZY!“ To recap, Jesus went afoul with the religious leaders of his time, the Pharisees. Next, he moved from the Center to the periphery and associate with the “unchurched!” Then he started a “New Covenanted People” by choosing ordinary unlettered men to form his core group! Crazy indeed! The “foolishness” of Jesus, however, finds its ultimate in what the letter to the Hebrews (which we have been reading all week) tells us.
Jesus, the High Priest of the New Covenant offered a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. But he did not offer the blood of bulls or goats; instead he offered his very self! He became both priest and victim! Crazy!?! But God’s ways are not like the ways of man. And the foolishness of God is a wisdom beyond the wisdom of the world! And all who follow this “crazy Jesus” can also be rightly called “fools!” Disciples are “fools for the sake of Christ and the Gospel!” St. Agnes, our Saint of today was certainly judged “foolish” for turning down the opportunity to become rich and powerful and instead choosing to die at so young an age! Jesus now asks: Will you join my company?