Bible Diary for January 21st – January 27th

January 21st

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. Agnes

1st Reading: Jon 3:1-5, 10:
The word of the Lord came to Jonah, saying: “Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you.” So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh, according to the Lord’s bidding. Now Nineveh was an enormously large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began his journey through the city, and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed, ” when the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth. When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.

2nd Reading: 1 Cor 7:29-31:
I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully. For the world in its present form is passing away.

Gospel: Mk 1:14-20:
After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.

What is God calling me now at this stage of my life? Do I run like Jonah because of a painful experience of being exiled or do I respond positively like the people of Nineveh, or like the first disciples? Loving Father, make me your faithful servant, keep me as a light amidst darkness, keep me upright even when others are not… even when others cannot… even when others will not. Amen. Review your list of resolutions to be done this New Year or make resolutions if you have not yet done and visualize on how you will realize them in the light of your being a follower of Christ.

January 22nd

1st Reading: 2 Sm 5:1-7, 10:
All the tribes of Israel came to David in Hebron and said: “Here we are, your bone and your flesh. In days past, when Saul was our king, it was you who led the children of Israel out and brought them back. And the Lord said to you, ‘You shall shepherd my people Israel and shall be commander of Israel.'” When all the elders of Israel came to David in Hebron, King David made an agreement with them there before the Lord, and they anointed him king of Israel. David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned for forty years: seven years and six months in Hebron over Judah, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem over all Israel and Judah.

Then the king and his men set out for Jerusalem against the Jebusites who inhabited the region. David was told, “You cannot enter here: the blind and the lame will drive you away!” which was their way of saying, “David cannot enter here.” But David did take the stronghold of Zion, which is the City of David. David grew steadily more powerful, for the Lord of hosts was with him.

Gospel: Mk 3:22-30:
The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said of Jesus, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.” Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him. But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can plunder his house. Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.” For they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

In the Scriptures, we can quote words of God the Father and of Jesus but we cannot find any word that we can attribute to the Holy Spirit. It is the aspect of the Holy Trinity that shows that God remains MYSTERIUM TREMENDUM. But in my experience it is the Holy Spirit that seems to be the one that is most active in my spiritual life. I love the feast of the Pentecost. I feel that the Holy Spirit realizes most of the aspirations of my life, enlightening me when I am in darkness or when confronted with difficult choices. I attribute to the Spirit the sudden insights the inspirations that suddenly present themselves to my mind.

There are also unexpected events not only in my personal life but in our life as a people that I attribute to the Spirit. When things seem to go all wrong and there is no solution in sight, the Holy Spirit acts in a manner exceeding our wildest imagination. Maybe that is why Jesus kept on saying that when the Paraclete comes, she will teach the apostles all truth and they would begin to understand what Jesus was trying to tell them all along. “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your spirit and we shall be created and thou shalt renew the face of the earth!”

January 23rd

St. Vincent
St. Ildephonsus
St. Marianne Cope
St. Emerentiana

1st Reading: 2 Sm 6:12b-15, 17-19:
David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the City of David amid festivities. As soon as the bearers of the ark of the Lord had advanced six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. Then David, girt with a linen apron, came dancing before the Lord with abandon, as he and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and to the sound of the horn. The ark of the Lord was brought in and set in its place within the tent David had pitched for it. Then David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. When he finished making these offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts. He then distributed among all the people, to each man and each woman in the entire multitude of Israel, a loaf of bread, a cut of roast meat, and a raisin cake. With this, all the people left for their homes.

Gospel: Mk 3:31-35:
The mother of Jesus and his brothers arrived at the house. Standing outside, they sent word to Jesus and called him. A crowd seated around him told him, “Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you.” But he said to them in reply, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

When Jesus said this, He surely did not mean to diminish the importance of a family. He was only pointing at a new level of relationship that goes beyond blood relationship — the bond of faith and love. In our experience as members of a human family, we know the many factors that can lead to conflicts in the family even to rifts and even to hatred. How many cases have we known where the death of old parents can cause envy, jealousy and enmity over inheritance, etc. Blood relationship seems not to overcome such sad alienation among family members.

But if their bond goes beyond blood into a strong relationship of FAITH, even if conflicts happen, there is a great chance that they will overcome these and remain in close spiritual union. There is a saying that “blood is thicker than water“ – that somehow we tend to look beyond the failings of those related to us by blood. But I think the one that is more effective in preserving this family unity is when each member has truly a deep faith and that each one sincerely wishes to do or to accept God‘s will in faith and love. Father, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

January 24th

St. Francis de Sales

1st Reading: 2 Sm 7:4-17:
That night the Lord spoke to Nathan and said: “Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: Should you build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day on which I led the children of Israel out of Egypt to the present, but I have been going about in a tent under cloth. In all my wanderings everywhere among the children of Israel, did I ever utter a word to any one of the judges whom I charged to tend my people Israel, to ask: Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’ “Now then, speak thus to my servant David, ‘The Lord of hosts has this to say: It was I who took you from the pasture and from the care of the flock to be commander of my people Israel.

“‘I have been with you wherever you went, and I have destroyed all your enemies before you. And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth. I will fix a place for my people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance. Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old, since the time I first appointed judges over my people Israel. I will give you rest from all your enemies. The Lord also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you. And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his Kingdom firm.

“‘It is he who shall build a house for my name. And I will make his royal throne firm forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. And if he does wrong, I will correct him with the rod of men and with human chastisements; but I will not withdraw my favor from him as I withdrew it from your predecessor Saul, whom I removed from my presence. Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.'” Nathan reported all these words and this entire vision to David.

Gospel: Mk 4:1-20:
On another occasion, Jesus began to teach by the sea. A very large crowd gathered around him so that he got into a boat on the sea and sat down. And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land. And he taught them at length in parables, and in the course of his instruction he said to them, “Hear this! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep. And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it and it produced no grain. And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit. It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”

He added, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.” And when he was alone, those present along with the Twelve questioned him about the parables. He answered them, “The mystery of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you. But to those outside everything comes in parables, so that they may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.”

Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand any of the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones on the path where the word is sown. As soon as they hear, Satan comes at once and takes away the word sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground who, when they hear the word, receive it at once with joy. But they have no roots; they last only for a time. Then when tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Those sown among thorns are another sort. They are the people who hear the word, but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches, and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word, and it bears no fruit. But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”

The parable of the sower has been read by people throughout the ages. Certainly there are nuances of meaning in different contexts but the meaning remains: the different ways of receiving the Word of God. In our times, who could be the Satan that plucks the word of God out of our hearts — would it be the love of money, prestige, power? What are our roots — good family life, religious education, fidelity in prayer? What are the thorns that choke up the life of the seed — worries about our loss of power, loss of material things? Then there is the good soil.

What makes soil good? Could it be radical openness to what the word demands from us? Could it be fidelity to this word amid temptations, challenges, difficulties, suffering and misery? Could it be nourishment through prayer, sacrifice and service to people? Lord, please give me first of all the gift of listening with the ear of my heart. Help me to understand what your word is telling me at the moment. Give me the courage to do what you are asking from me in spite of obstacles and difficulties. And finally, grant that when the seed grows in me and bears fruit, help me to share it with others in compassion and love. Amen.

January 25th

Conversion of St. Paul

1st Reading: Acts 22:3-16:
Paul addressed the people in these words: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city. At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated strictly in our ancestral law and was zealous for God, just as all of you are today. I persecuted this Way to death, binding both men and women and delivering them to prison. Even the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify on my behalf. For from them I even received letters to the brothers and set out for Damascus to bring back to Jerusalem in chains for punishment those there as well.

“On that journey as I drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.’ My companions saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who spoke to me. I asked, ‘What shall I do, sir?’ The Lord answered me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told about everything appointed for you to do.’

“Since I could see nothing because of the brightness of that light, I was led by hand by my companions and entered Damascus. “A certain Ananias, a devout observer of the law, and highly spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me and stood there and said, ‘Saul, my brother, regain your sight.’ And at that very moment I regained my sight and saw him. Then he said, ‘The God of our ancestors designated you to know his will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of his voice; for you will be his witness before all to what you have seen and heard. Now, why delay? Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away, calling upon his name.'”

Gospel: Mk 16:15-18:
Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

It seems strange to speak of Paul’s “conversion.” Why? Because, when we refer to a person as having “converted,” we usually mean to say that such person once led a life of sinful depravity and is now leading a virtuous life. Thus we speak of St. Augustine’s “conversion.” But the case of Paul does not fit that stereotype. For he never led a depraved life. As he states about himself in today’s first reading, “I was dedicated to God’s service.” In fact, he was about as strict a Pharisee as you could find. And so, why speak of conversion?

Here we do well to analyze the word “conversion.” It means basically an about-face, a turning towards. In Paul’s case, it simply meant that, like the proverbial stupid soccer player who is unknowingly trying to score against his own team, Paul was running in the wrong direction. He was fervent to a fault, but he was unknowingly spending all his energy fighting Christ instead of serving him. His “conversion” finally sets him on the right course. With an honest person, that is always possible. Once set on this right course, Paul heroically ran to his Goal, Jesus Christ, and died for him.

January 26th

Sts. Timothy and Titus

1st Reading: 2 Tm 1:1-8:
Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God for the promise of life in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, my dear child: grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I am grateful to God, whom I worship with a clear conscience as my ancestors did, as I remember you constantly in my prayers, night and day. I yearn to see you again, recalling your tears, so that I may be filled with joy, as I recall your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and that I am confident lives also in you. For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.

Gospel: Mk 4:26-34:
Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the Kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.” He said, “To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

Driving through stretches of agricultural land, I saw modern farms yielding hectares of fruits and vegetables that will eventually make their way to supermarkets. It made me wonder if people who buy them are aware of the journey of the little seed that ends up on their tables as food. The farmer in Mark’s Gospel does not know how the seeds grow. All he does is prepare the soil and sow the seeds. Today farming is a science meant to produce high yields. This includes using high technology in the process of preparing, planting, and calculating the amount of yield.

But the kingdom of God is not like that. The growth of the kingdom cannot be controlled and calculated in a scientific way. The biblical farmer simply “scatters” the seeds across the land trusting that at a proper time, the full grains come and can be harvested. Like the littlest mustard seed that grows into the largest plant, our Christian faith when it takes hold of us grows in a mysterious way, making us fruitful in the service of God and others. The greatest mystery is that God does his work in us without any help from us.

January 27th

St. Angela Merici

1st Reading: 2 Sm 12:1-7a, 10-17:
The Lord sent Nathan to David, and when he came to him, Nathan said: “Judge this case for me! In a certain town there were two men, one rich, the other poor. The rich man had flocks and herds in great numbers. But the poor man had nothing at all except one little ewe lamb that he had bought. He nourished her, and she grew up with him and his children. She shared the little food he had and drank from his cup and slept in his bosom. She was like a daughter to him. Now, the rich man received a visitor, but he would not take from his own flocks and herds to prepare a meal for the wayfarer who had come to him. Instead he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and made a meal of it for his visitor.”

David grew very angry with that man and said to him: “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this merits death! He shall restore the ewe lamb fourfold because he has done this and has had no pity.” Then Nathan said to David: “You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah to be your wife.’ Thus says the Lord: ‘I will bring evil upon you out of your own house. I will take your wives while you live to see it, and will give them to your neighbor. He shall lie with your wives in broad daylight. You have done this deed in secret, but I will bring it about in the presence of all Israel, and with the sun looking down.'” Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

Nathan answered David: “The Lord on his part has forgiven your sin: you shall not die. But since you have utterly spurned the Lord by this deed, the child born to you must surely die.” Then Nathan returned to his house. The Lord struck the child that the wife of Uriah had borne to David, and it became desperately ill. David besought God for the child. He kept a fast, retiring for the night to lie on the ground clothed in sackcloth. The elders of his house stood beside him urging him to rise from the ground; but he would not, nor would he take food with them.

Gospel: Mk 4:35-41:
On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples: “Let us cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

Having grown up on an island, sea travel was the only way we could go places. This was before low-cost air travel was available. On one occasion we were caught in a sudden storm. All the lights went off as our boat was being tossed violently to and fro by the raging waves. Children were crying in fear while adults in their quiet dread were trying to calm them. In terror my sister and I were clinging to one another while praying for God’s help. We were relieved when the captain found a cove where we hid to weather the storm.

I can’t help recall this experience as I read this narrative of Jesus calming the storm. In life, there are situations that leave us feeling anxious and fearful, powerless and out of control, almost as if we are in a boat on a stormy sea. The predicament of the disciples is ours too. We tend to be overwhelmed by many problems and concerns, making us forget that Jesus is already with us if only we call upon him. These are moments when we realize our faith in Jesus is still inadequate. It needs strengthening and deepening through prayer.