Bible Diary for January 19th – 25th
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
1st Reading: Is 49:3, 5–6:
He said to me, “You are Israel, my servant, through you I will be known.” And now Yahweh has spoken, he who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, to gather Israel to him. He said: “It is not enough that you be my servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob, to bring back the remnant of Israel. I will make you the light of the nations, that my salvation will reach to the ends of the earth.”
2nd Reading: 1 Cor 1:1–3:
From Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and from Sosthenes, our brother, to God’s Church which is in Corinth; to you whom God has sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with those who everywhere call upon the name of our Lord Christ Jesus, their Lord and ours.
Gospel: Jn 1:29–34:
The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, “There is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. It is he of whom I said: A man comes after me who is already ahead of me, for he was before me. I myself did not know him, but I came baptizing to prepare for him, so that he might be revealed in Israel.
And John also gave this testimony, “I saw the Spirit coming down on him like a dove from heaven and resting on him. I myself did not know him but God who sent me to baptize told me: ‘You will see the Spirit coming down and resting on the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ Yes, I have seen! And I declare that this is the Chosen One of God.”
John gave this testimony, “Yes, I have seen! And I declare that this is the Chosen One of God.” All of us have a mission. Like John, we should give witness to Jesus. We should make a declaration about Jesus. Jesus reveals Himself personally to us. Let us ask for the strength to tell the world who He is and what He means to us.
1st Reading: 1 S 15:16–23:
Samuel then told Saul, “Enough! Let me tell you what Yahweh said to me last night.” Saul replied, “Please tell me. So Samuel went on and said, “Though you had no confidence in yourself, you became chief of the tribes of Israel, for Yahweh wanted to anoint you king over Israel. Then he sent you with this command, ‘Go. Completely crush the Amalekite offenders, engaging them in battle until they are destroyed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of Yahweh but instead swooped down on the spoil, doing what was evil in his sight?”
To this, Saul replied, “I have obeyed the voice of Yahweh and have carried out the mission for which he sent me. I have captured Agag, king of Amalek and completely destroyed the Amalekites. If my men spared the best sheep and oxen from among those to be destroyed, it was in order to sacrifice them to Yahweh, your God, in Gilgal.” Samuel then said, “Does Yahweh take as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obedience to his command? Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission better than the fat of rams. Rebellion is like the sin of divination, and stubbornness like holding onto idols. Since you have rejected the word of Yahweh, he too has rejected you as king.”
Gospel: Mk 2:18–22:
One day, when the disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees were fasting, some people asked Jesus, “Why is it that both the disciples of John and of the Pharisees 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 wineskins, for the wine would burst the skins and then both the wine and the skins would be lost. But new wine, new skins!”
To try something new is risky. One needs a lot of adjustment to one’s mindset as well as that of others. We are more comfortable with what is the usual, the old and familiar. They provide us with security; change always unsettles, provokes fear and anxiety and generates negative reactions. But no human convention is ever written in stones. Most of all, they are always subservient to the Law of Love.
Jesus Christ the Word of God and the Author of law and order is divine love embodied. Thus before Him every human convention and law bend their knees. When we are before Him, we need to constantly adjust our perspectives until we put on the new man or the new woman. Then we will never again struggle with love because we have it within us forever.
1st Reading: 1 S 16:1–13:
Yahweh asked Samuel, “How long will you be grieving over Saul whom I have rejected as king of Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way to Jesse the Bethlehemite for I have chosen my king from among his sons.” Samuel asked, “How can I go? If Saul hears of this, he will kill me!” Yahweh replied, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to Yahweh.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice and I will let you know what to do next. You shall anoint for me the one I point out to you.”
Samuel did what Yahweh commanded and left for Bethlehem. When he appeared, the elders of the city came to him asking, fearfully, “Do you bring us peace?” Samuel replied, “I come in peace; I am here to sacrifice to Yahweh. Cleanse yourselves and join me in the sacrifice.” He also had Jesse and his sons cleansed and invited them to the sacrifice. As they came, Samuel looked at Eliab the older and thought, “This must be Yahweh’s anointed.”
But Yahweh told Samuel, “Do not judge by his looks or his stature for I have rejected him. Yahweh does not judge as man judges; humans see with the eyes; Yahweh sees the heart.” Jesse called his son Abinadab and presented him to Samuel who said, “Yahweh has not chosen this one either.” Jesse presented Shammah and Samuel said, “Nor has Yahweh chosen this one.” Jesse presented seven of his sons to Samuel who said, “Yahweh has chosen none of them. But are all your sons here?”
Jesse replied, “There is still the youngest, tending the flock just now.” Samuel said to him, “Send for him and bring him to me; we shall not sit down to eat until he arrives.” So Jesse sent for his youngest son and brought him to Samuel. He was a handsome lad with ruddy complexion and beautiful eyes. And Yahweh spoke, “Go, anoint him for he is the one.” Samuel then took the horn of oil and anointed him in his brothers’ presence. From that day onwards, Yahweh’s Spirit took hold of David. Then Samuel left for Ramah.
Gospel: Mk 2:23–28:
One Sabbath he was walking through grainfields. 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.”
When we become too preoccupied with the externals to the point of obsession, we tend to miss the bigger picture of why the externals exist in the first place. They are meant to articulate deeper realities on the physical plane. In the case of the Sabbath, it is to give us the chance to rest, to recuperate and recreate ourselves so that we may go back again to our works renewed. It is not meant to impose more things to do but to ease our burden. Sabbaths are meant to be times of rejoicing and gladness. The Pharisees with their number of do’s and don’ts’s turned it into a burden instead of a blessing.
St. Vincent of Saragossa
1st Reading: 1 S 17:32–33, 37, 40–51:
David said to Saul, “Let no one be discouraged on account of this Philistine, for your servant will engage him in battle.” Saul told David, “You cannot fight with this Philistine for you are still young, whereas this man has been a warrior from his youth.” David continued, “Yahweh, who delivered me from the paws of lions and bears, will deliver me from the hands of the Philistine.” Saul then told David, “Go and may Yahweh be with you!”
David got rid of all this armor, took his staff, picked up five smooth stones from the brook and dropped them inside his shepherd’s bag. And with his sling in hand, he drew near to the Philistine. The Philistine moved forward, closing in on David, his shield-bearer in front of him. When he saw that David was only a lad, (he was of fresh complexion and handsome) he despised him. Cursing David by his gods, he continued, “Come and I will give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the beasts of the field!”
David answered, “You have come against me with sword, spear and javelin, but I come against you with Yahweh, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have defied. Yahweh will deliver you this day into my hands and I will strike you down and cut off your head. I will give the corpses of the Philistine army today to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, and all the earth shall know that there is a God of Israel. All the people gathered here shall know that Yahweh saves not by sword or spear; and he will deliver you into our hands.”
No sooner had the Philistine moved to attack him than David rushed to the battleground. Putting his hand into his bag, he took out a stone, slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead; it penetrated his forehead and he fell on his face to the ground. David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone. He rushed forward, stood over him, took the Philistine’s sword and slew him by cutting off his head. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they scattered in all directions.
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 because they had closed their minds. And he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and his hand was healed. But as soon as the Pharisees left, they met with Herod’s supporters, looking for a way to destroy Jesus.
One of the greatest tragedies that may befall us is to acquire a closed mind in the course of our life. We become enclosed, hindered and unfree. The real paralytic in the Gospel today may not be the man with paralyzed hands but those people whose minds had been paralyzed by routine, legalism and self-righteousness.
Physical infirmities never presented any difficulties on the part of Jesus. He cured them easily. It was only when people stubbornly clung to their beliefs to the point of being blind to the miracle unfolding in front of them that even He could hardly perform any miracle. It is our spiritual paralysis that could dry up the spring of wonder flowing from God.
St. Marianne Cope
1st Reading: 1 S 18:6–9; 19:1–7:
When they arrived after David had slain the Philistine, the women came out from the cities of Israel to meet King Saul singing and dancing with timbrels and musical instruments. They were merrily singing this song: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David, his tens of thousands.” Saul was very displeased with this song and said, “They have given tens of thousands to David but to me only thousands! By now he has everything but the kingdom!” From then on, Saul became very distrustful of David. Saul told his son Jonathan and his servants of his intention to kill David. But Jonathan, who liked David very much, said to David, “My father Saul wants to kill you. Be on your guard tomorrow morning and hide yourself in a secret place.
I will go out and keep my father company in the countryside where you are and I will speak to him about you. If I find out something, I will let you know.” Jonathan spoke well of David to his father Saul and said, “Let not the king sin against his servant David for he has not sinned against you. On the contrary, what he has done has benefited you. He risked his life in killing the Philistine and Yahweh brought about a great victory for Israel. You yourself saw this and greatly rejoiced. Why then sin against innocent blood and kill David without cause?” Saul heeded Jonathan’s plea and swore, “As Yahweh lives, he shall not be put to death.” So Jonathan called David and told him all these things. He then brought him to Saul and David was back in Saul’s service as before.
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 towards him to touch him. Even the people who had evil spirits, whenever they saw him, 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.
Being at the service of God sometimes creates danger, a hazard of the trade known as fame. People cannot get enough of us. Since we are conduits of God’s grace, just being near us or just by touching us makes them think that they have touched heaven itself. This might be a real incentive for some, but it does bring a lot of responsibilities.
The challenge is not to think that it’s because of us that all of these things happen and to redirect this attention to God who is the reason why people come to us in the first place. It is to fulfill the role with dignity while being detached from the perks that come with it. For we too are followers and are not meant to usurp the role of God whom we serve.
St. Francis de Sales
1st Reading: 1 S 24:3–21:
Saul took three thousand picked men from all Israel and went in search of David and his men to the east of the Wild Goat crags. When he came to the sheepfolds along the way, he entered a cave to relieve himself. Now David and his men were far back in the cave. David’s men said to him, “This is the day which Yahweh spoke of: look I will deliver your enemy into your hands and you will do with him as you see fit.” So David moved up and stealthily cut off an end of Saul’s robe. But afterward, David regretted having cut off an end of Saul’s robe, and he said to his men, “Let me not lay my hands on my master, for he is Yahweh’s anointed.” With these words, David restrained his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. Saul then left the cave and went on his way.
Then David himself stepped out of the cave and called after Saul, “My master, the king!” When Saul looked back, David knelt and then bowed to the ground in homage and asked him, “Why do you listen to those who say that I want to harm you? Look, today you have seen that Yahweh delivered you into my hands in the cave, and I was told to kill you but I held myself back and I said: ‘I will not lift my hands against my master who is Yahweh’s anointed.’ My father, look at this end of your robe which I am holding! I cut off the end of your robe but did not kill you. Now you may know that I mean you no harm or treason. I have done you no wrong and yet you are hunting me down to kill me. May Yahweh be judge between you and me and may he exact justice from you in my case, but I shall do you no harm. As the saying goes, ‘From the wicked comes wickedness’; as for me, my hand shall not harm you. But who is it you are after, O king of Israel? Are you pursuing a dead dog? A flea? May Yahweh be judge between you and me. May he see and uphold my cause and deliver me from your hands.”
After David had spoken these words, Saul asked, “Is that your voice, my son David?” He wept aloud and said to David, “You are right and I am wrong, for you have repaid with kindness the harm I have inflicted on you. This day you have shown your righteousness to me by not taking my life when Yahweh put me into your hands. For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go unharmed? May Yahweh reward you for what you have done for me today. Now I know for certain that you shall reign and the kingdom of Israel will be firm in your hand.
Gospel: Mk 3:13–19:
Jesus went up into the hill country and called those he wanted and they came to him. So 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.
Now is the test whether collaboration between God and man could flourish. After all, our faith history has been littered with hits and misses on this divine-human partnership. Jesus sends His appointed apostles to preach and heal, to teach and make whole, to show the way and liberate people. We have seen the journeys of these apostles, their struggles, their defeats and triumphs. They mirror who we are and what we could become if we but hold on to faith. The Eleven kept the faith while Judas Iscariot did not. To whose side do we belong?
Conversion of St. Paul
1st Reading: Acts 22:3–16:
“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up here, in this city, where I was educated in the school of Gamaliel, according to the strict observance of our law. And I was dedicated to God’s service, as are all of you today. As for this way, I persecuted it to the point of death and arrested its followers, both men and women, throwing them into prison. The High Priest and the whole Council of elders can bear witness to this. From them, I received letters for the Jewish brothers in Damascus; and I set out to arrest those who were there, and bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment.
But, as I was traveling along, nearing Damascus, at sky suddenly flashed about me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me: ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ I answered: ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me: ‘I am Jesus, the Nazorean, whom you persecute.’ The men who were with me saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me. I asked: ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord replied: ‘Get up and go to Damascus; there, you will be told all that you are destined to do.’ Yet, the brightness of that light had blinded me; and, so, I was led by the hand into Damascus by my companions.
There, a certain Ananias came to me. He was a devout observer of the law, and well spoken of by all the Jews who were living there. As he stood by me, he said: ‘Brother Saul, recover your sight.’ At that moment, I could see; and I looked at him. He, then, said, ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Just One, and to hear the words from his mouth. From now on you shall be his witness before all the pagan people, and tell them all that you have seen and heard. And now, why delay? Get up and be baptized; and have your sins washed away, by calling upon his Name.’
Gospel: Mk 16:15–18:
Then he told them, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned. Signs like these will accompany those who have believed: in my name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”
Today, we celebrate the rebirth of a remarkable man, Paul of Tarsus who was a former persecutor of Jesus’ followers but turned ardent and faithful apostle. His conversion on the road to Damascus was a turning point in our faith history. For here is an outsider being invited by the Lord to be one of His own.
His outsider status might appear as a handicap but later developments showed that Paul was precisely needed in order to expand the notion of mission as being for the whole world and not only for Israel. Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles was God’s instrument in unleashing His love to all.