Bible Diary for January 22nd – January 28th

January 22nd

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

1st Reading: Is 8:23–9:3:
Yet, where there was but anguish, darkness will disappear. He has just afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali; but in the future he will confer glory on the way of the sea, on the land beyond the Jordan—the pagans’ Galilee. 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.

2nd Reading: 1 Cor 1:10-13, 17:
I beg of you, brothers, in the name of Christ Jesus, our Lord, to agree among yourselves, and do away with divisions; please be perfectly united, with one mind and one judgment.” For I heard from people, of Cloe’s house, about your rivalries. What I mean is this: some say, “I am for Paul,” and others: “I am for Apollos,” or “I am for Peter,” or “I am for Christ.” For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to proclaim his gospel. And not with beautiful words! That would be like getting rid of the cross of Christ.

Gospel: Mt 4:12-23:
When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum, a town by the lake of Galilee, at the border of Zebulun and Naphtali. In this way, the word of the prophet Isaiah was fulfilled: Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, crossed by the Road of the Sea; and you, who live beyond the Jordan, Galilee, land of pagans: The people who lived in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in the land of the shadow of death, a light has shone. From that time on, Jesus began to proclaim his message, “Change your ways: the kingdom of heaven is near.”

As Jesus walked by the lake of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come, follow me; and I will make you fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. He went on from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John, in a boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. Jesus called them. At once, they left the boat, and their father, and followed him. Jesus went around all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing all kinds of sickness and disease among the people.

God takes away the anguish and darkness from amidst the people of Israel. Paul begs of Corinthians to get rid of their rivalries in the name of Christ. Jesus invites people to conversion of heart. He calls apostles to share in his ministry. Anguish, divisions, rivalries, darkness, and shadow of death are realities of human life. We cannot get over them by our own singular efforts. It is God’s grace that heals us of our brokenness and effects conversion of hearts. Having received such grace, we are called upon to collaborate with God to bring His grace into the lives of others. Lord, make me a channel of your grace. Share your Christ-experience with someone who seems to be in darkness.

January 23rd

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

1st Reading: Heb 9:15, 24-28:
So, Christ is the mediator of a new Covenant, or testament. His death made atonement for the sins committed under the Old Testament, and the promise is handed over, to all who are called to the everlasting inheritance. Christ did not enter some sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself. He is now in the presence of God, on our behalf. He had not to offer himself many times, as the high priest does: he, who, may return every year, because the blood is not his own.

Otherwise, he would have suffered many times, from the creation of the world. But no; he manifested himself only now, at the end of the ages, to take away sin by sacrifice, and, as humans die only once, and afterward are judged, in the same way, Christ sacrificed himself, once to take away the sins of the multitude. There will be no further question of sin, when he comes again, to save those waiting for him.

Gospel: Mk 3:22-30:
Meanwhile, the teachers of the law, who had come from Jerusalem, said, “He is in the power of Beelzebul: the chief of the demons helps him to drive out demons.” Jesus called them to him, and began teaching them by means of stories, or parables. “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a nation is divided by civil war, that nation cannot stand. If a family divides itself into groups, that family will not survive.

In the same way, if Satan has risen against himself and is divided, he will not stand; he is finished. No one can break into the house of a strong man in order to plunder his goods, unless he first ties up the strong man. Then indeed, he can plunder his house. Truly, I say to you, every sin will be forgiven humankind, even insults to God, however numerous. But whoever slanders the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. He carries the guilt of his sin forever.” This was their sin when they said, “He has an unclean spirit in him.”

Since last week we have been reading from the letter to Hebrews that spoke of Jesus as the High Priest of the New Covenant. As priest of the New Covenant he offered a sacrifice, once for all, for the forgiveness of sins. Yet our Gospel speaks today of the “unforgivable sin!” What is this sin that is beyond the power of the sacrifice of Jesus? Jesus speaks of this sin as the “sin against the Holy Spirit.”

What is this sin? It is the refusal to accept the forgiveness that Jesus offers! The teachers of the law in our Gospel today refused to acknowledge Jesus. They refused to accept the power of Jesus to forgive sins. They refused to accept Jesus as their Lord. Even the Lord cannot forgive us if we refuse his offer of forgiveness! Though we may sin often, yet must we always have the humility and the courage to return to Jesus and beg for his forgiveness! May we never doubt the unfathomable mercy of God!

January 24th

St. Francis de Sales

1st Reading: Heb 10:1-10:
The religion of the law is only a shadow of the good things to come; it has the patterns but not the realities. So, year after year, the same sacrifices are offered, without bringing the worshipers to what is the end. If they had been cleansed once and for all, they would no longer have felt guilt, and would have stopped offering the same sacrifices. But no, year after year their sacrifices witness to their sins, and never, will the blood of bulls and goats take away these sins.

This is why, on entering the world, Christ says: You did not desire sacrifice and offering; you were not pleased with burnt offerings and sin offerings. Then I said: “Here I am. It was written of me in the scroll. I will do your will, O God.” First he says: Sacrifice, offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire nor were you pleased with them—although they were required by the law. Then he says: Here I am to do your will. This is enough to nullify the first will and establish the new. Now, by this will of God, we are sanctified, once, and for all, by the sacrifice of the body of Christ Jesus.

Gospel: Mk 3:31-35:
Then his mother and his brothers came. As they stood outside, they sent someone to call him. The crowd sitting around Jesus told him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside asking for you.“ He replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers” And looking around at those who sat there, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of God is brother and sister and mother to me.”

The family of Jesus in today’s Gospel wanted to have an audience with him. When Jesus is informed of this he teaches his disciples who is his real family! It is they who do the will of the Father! Obedience to the will of the Father is the gene that runs in the blood of the family of Jesus. Like the Blessed Mother we must be able to say “be it done to me according to your word.” If we are family we will always have to pray “Father, may your will be done on earth as in heaven.”

How can we know the Father’s will? St. Francis de Sales teaches us in his beautiful work “Introduction to the Devout Life” that the path to holiness is about being faithful to our particular vocations. Priest and religious do the will of God when they are faithful to their vows and charisms. The married do the will of God when they are true and faithful to their own vows and duties as parents. When we obey our lawful superiors and leaders we do the will of the Father. Do you have the right DNA to be considered family of Jesus?

January 25th

Conversion of St. Paul

1st Reading: Acts 22:3-16 (or Acts 9:1-22):
“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 about noon, a great light from the 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.”

In St. Paul we see the power of the Grace of Christ, who forgives even the worst of sinners! St. Paul testifies (1 Tim 1:1516): “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” The conversion of St. Paul clearly illustrates to us that God’s offer of mercy is infinite! No sinner may claim “I am beyond the mercy of God!”

It is such a great consolation to know that we can all become Saints! Of great importance as well is that God sends us chosen instruments who can assist us on our way towards conversion. Saul was sent to Ananias. Though at first fearful, Ananias reached out to Saul and brought back his sight–both physical and more importantly, spiritual! May we likewise be like Ananias today and search out for sinners who can become saints some day!

January 26th

Sts. Timothy and Titus

1st Reading: 2 Tim 1:1-8 (or Ti 1:1-5):
From Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God, for the sake of his promise of eternal life, in Christ Jesus, to my dear son Timothy. May grace, mercy and peace be with you, from God, the Father, and Christ Jesus our Lord. I give thanks to God, whom I serve with a clear conscience, the way my ancestors did, as I remember you constantly, day and night, in my prayers. I recall your tears, and I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy.

I am reminded of your sincere faith, so like the faith of your grandmother Lois and of your mother Eunice, which I am sure you have inherited. For this reason, I invite you to fan into a flame, the gift of God you received, through the laying on of my hands. For God did not confer on us a spirit of fearfulness, but of strength, love and good judgment. Do not be ashamed of testifying to our Lord, nor of seeing me in chains. On the contrary, do your share in laboring for the gospel, with the strength of God.

Gospel: Mk 4:21-25:
Jesus also said to them, “When the light comes, is it put under a basket or a bed? Surely it is put on a lamp stand. Whatever is hidden will be disclosed, and whatever is kept secret will be brought to light. Listen then, if you have ears!” And he also said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear. In the measure you give, so shall you receive, and still more will be given to you. For to the one who produces something, more will be given; and from him who does not produce anything, even what he has will be taken away from him.”

God had revealed to Ananias in yesterday’s reading that Saul of Tarsus was hand-picked by the Lord to become his apostle to the gentiles. Now we celebrate the memorial of two of St. Paul’s “sons in the faith”–St. Timothy and St. Titus! St. Paul was like a light on the lampstand that the Gospel speaks of today. St. Paul went around testifying to the powerful love of Christ. Along the way he had to organize the communities he had evangelized. He scouted and formed leaders in the churches he formed. He encouraged the young Timothy to be brave.

He told Titus to follow in his example in the care for the churches. St. Paul knew the importance of what we call today “succession planning!” We are reminded today that the success story in the apostolate is tested by generating or inspiring others to follow after us and continue the apostolate. We must be able to find others who will come after us to continue the mission. We must pass on the light of faith to the next generation. Like St. Paul we also must have “sons and daughters” in the faith like Timothy and Titus!

January 27th

St. Angela Merici

1st Reading: Heb 10:32-39:
Remember the first days, when you were enlightened. You had to undergo a hard struggle in the face of suffering. Publicly, you were exposed to humiliations and trials, and had to share the sufferings of others who were similarly treated. You showed solidarity with those in prison; you were dispossessed of your goods, and accepted it gladly, for you knew, you were acquiring a much better and more durable possession.

Do not now throw away your confidence, that will be handsomely rewarded. Be patient in doing the will of God, and the promise will be yours: A little, a little longer—says Scripture—and he who is coming will come; he will not delay. My righteous one will live if he believes; but if he distrusts, I will no longer look kindly on him. We are not among those who withdraw and perish, but among those who believe, and win personal salvation.

Gospel: Mk 4:26-34:
Jesus also said, “In the kingdom of God it is like this: a man scatters seed upon the soil. Whether he is asleep or awake, be it day or night, the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The soil produces of itself; first, the blade; then, the ear; then the full grain in the ear. And when it is ripe for harvesting, they take the sickle for the cutting: the time for the harvest has come.”

Jesus also said, “What is the kingdom of God like? To what shall we compare it? It is like a mustard seed which, when sown, is the smallest of all the seeds scattered upon the soil. But once sown, it grows up and becomes the largest of the plants in the garden; and even grows branches so big, that the birds of the air can take shelter in its shade.” Jesus used many such stories, in order to proclaim the word to them in a way that they would be able to understand. He would not teach them without parables; but privately, to his disciples, he explained everything.

St. Paul and his co-workers, St. Timothy and St. Titus, worked hard in the vineyard of the Lord. St. Paul tells us in his letters the many hardships he had to endure in his missionary journeys. The author of the letter to the Hebrews counsels us to be patient and not to give us when we have to endure trials and difficulties in the apostolate. We are like the man in the Gospel who scatters the seed upon the soil but it is the Lord who makes our labors bear fruit! The fruits of our labors are sometimes not immediately seen. At times we may not even see the fruits of our labors.

We have to patiently wait. In fact many “big things in the Church” have rather “small beginnings!” Our small contributions in building our communities are investments that over time can grow and appreciate. Just like the mustard seed that, though the smallest of seeds, becomes at the end such a big tree. St. Angela Merici, our Saint of the day, did her own little share in building the kingdom of God. She was a pioneer in the apostolate for women. The group that she organized, now known as the Ursuline sisters, gave women the opportunity for education that in the 16th century was unheard of. From a small beginning of about 12 volunteers they now number more than 20,000 worldwide!

January 28th

St. Thomas Aquinas

1st Reading: Heb 11:1-2, 8-19:
Faith is the assurance of what we hope for, being certain of what we cannot see. Because of their faith, our ancestors were approved. It was by faith, that Abraham, called by God, set out for a country that would be given to him as an inheritance; for he parted without knowing where he was going. By faith, he lived as a stranger in that promised land. There, he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, beneficiaries of the same promise. Indeed, he looked forward to that city of solid foundation, of which God is the architect and builder. By faith, Sarah, herself, received power to become a mother, in spite of her advanced age; since she believed that, he, who had made the promise, would be faithful.

Therefore, from an almost impotent man, were born descendants, as numerous as the stars of heaven, as many as the grains of sand on the seashore. Death found all these people strong in their faith. They had not received what was promised, but they had looked ahead, and had rejoiced in it, from afar, saying that they were foreigners and travelers on earth. Those who speak in this way prove, that they are looking for their own country.

For, if they had longed for the land they had left, it would have been easy for them to return, but no, they aspired to a better city, that is, a supernatural one; so God, who prepared the city for them, is not ashamed of being called their God. By faith, Abraham went to offer Isaac, when God tested him. And so, he, who had received the promise of God, offered his only son, although God had told him: Isaac’s descendants will bear your name. Abraham reasoned, that God is capable even of raising the dead, and he received back his son, which has a figurative meaning.

Gospel: Mk 4:35-41:
On that same day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them, “Let’s go across to the other side of the lake.” So they left the crowd, and took him along in the boat he had been sitting in, and other boats set out with him. Then a storm gathered and it began to blow a gale. The waves spilled over into the boat, so that it was soon filled with water. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.

They woke him up, and said, “Master, don’t you care if we drown?” And rising up, Jesus rebuked the wind, and ordered the sea, “Quiet now! Be still!” The wind dropped, and there was a great calm. Then Jesus said to them, “Why are you so frightened? Do you still have no faith?” But they were terrified, and they said to one another, “Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him!”

Our parade of Saints this week concludes with a very important Saint, the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas! And our readings for today are most apropos for our Saint! The first reading speaks of the Faith of our Fathers that we have received and that we have to understand and live by. We owe so much to this great Saint of the Church. His Summa Theologica is a very good summary of the meaning of our Faith. He had the extraordinary gift of explaining the great mysteries of our Faith. From medieval times to the present, those who seek to know and understand the Faith turn to St. Thomas as an authority.

But Faith is not merely an intellectual pursuit, an academic study. St. Thomas himself, after his mystical experience of God considered all his brilliant work as “rubbish!” For Faith, in the end is the Encounter with our God who is beyond our human intellectual categories. Faith is Jesus telling the distraught disciples in the stormy sea “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” It is Jesus telling us that even in our darkest moments he is there, he is the Emmanuel who will not leave us alone! Do you have that Faith?