Bible Diary for January 28th – February 3rd
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. Thomas Aquinas
1st Reading: Dt 18:15-20:
Moses spoke to all the people, saying: “A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among your own kin; to him you shall listen. This is exactly what you requested of the Lord, your God, at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let us not again hear the voice of the Lord, our God, nor see this great fire any more, lest we die.’ And the Lord said to me, ‘This was well said. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kin, and will put my words into his mouth; he shall tell them all that I command him. Whoever will not listen to my words which he speaks in my name, I myself will make him answer for it. But if a prophet presumes to speak in my name an oracle that I have not commanded him to speak, or speaks in the name of other gods, he shall die.'”
2nd Reading: 1 Cor 7:32-35:
Brothers and sisters: I should like you to be free of anxieties. An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided. An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy in both body and spirit. A married woman, on the other hand, is anxious about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. I am telling you this for your own benefit, not to impose a restraint upon you, but for the sake of propriety and adherence to the Lord without distraction.
Gospel: Mk 1:21-28:
Then they came to Capernaum, and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.
Jesus, our best example as a prophet, continues to order the evil spirit to come out from us through our brothers and sisters who admonish us to become good and those who are denouncing evil. How do we exercise our role as “prophets” today? Do we nurture the culture of truth amidst corruption and politicking? Father, teach me to live this prophetic role that I am sharing with your begotten Son.
Let me speak the truth even when it hurts; let me sow peace when there is violence or division; let me sow love as you fill me with your love and understanding. Amen Live with genuine concern for others, expressing care, and showing to people that they are valued, loved and appreciated for who they are. Say to your parents or children: I love you!
1st Reading: 2 Sm 15:13-14, 30; 16:5-13:
An informant came to David with the report, “The children of Israel have transferred their loyalty to Absalom.” At this, David said to all his servants who were with him in Jerusalem: “Up! Let us take flight, or none of us will escape from Absalom. Leave quickly, lest he hurry and overtake us, then visit disaster upon us and put the city to the sword.” As David went up the Mount of Olives, he wept without ceasing. His head was covered, and he was walking barefoot. All those who were with him also had their heads covered and were weeping as they went. As David was approaching Bahurim, a man named Shimei, the son of Gera of the same clan as Saul’s family, was coming out of the place, cursing as he came.
He threw stones at David and at all the king’s officers, even though all the soldiers, including the royal guard, were on David’s right and on his left. Shimei was saying as he cursed: “Away, away, you murderous and wicked man! The Lord has requited you for all the bloodshed in the family of Saul, in whose stead you became king, and the Lord has given over the kingdom to your son Absalom. And now you suffer ruin because you are a murderer.” Abishai, son of Zeruiah, said to the king: “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over, please, and lop off his head.”
But the king replied: “What business is it of mine or of yours, sons of Zeruiah, that he curses? Suppose the Lord has told him to curse David; who then will dare to say, ‘Why are you doing this?'” Then the king said to Abishai and to all his servants: “If my own son, who came forth from my loins, is seeking my life, how much more might this Benjaminite do so? Let him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. Perhaps the Lord will look upon my affliction and make it up to me with benefits for the curses he is uttering this day.” David and his men continued on the road, while Shimei kept abreast of them on the hillside, all the while cursing and throwing stones and dirt as he went.
Gospel: Mk 5:1-20:
Jesus and his disciples came to the other side of the sea, to the territory of the Gerasenes. When he got out of the boat, at once a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met him. The man had been dwelling among the tombs, and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain. In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains, but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones. Catching sight of Jesus from a distance, he ran up and prostrated himself before him, crying out in a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me!” (He had been saying to him, “Unclean spirit, come out of the man!”)
He asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “Legion is my name. There are many of us.” And he pleaded earnestly with him not to drive them away from that territory. Now a large herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside. And they pleaded with him, “Send us into the swine. Let us enter them.” And he let them, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine. The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea, where they were drowned. The swineherds ran away and reported the incident in the town and throughout the countryside. And people came out to see what had happened.
As they approached Jesus, they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion, sitting there clothed and in his right mind. And they were seized with fear. Those who witnessed the incident explained to them what had happened to the possessed man and to the swine. Then they began to beg him to leave their district. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him. But Jesus would not permit him but told him instead, “Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you.” Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.
A retreat master once made us do an exercise. He said: Take a piece of paper and on the left hand column, list down all the negative things that happened in your life and on the right hand column, list all the good things that happened in your life. When we discussed and compared our lists, we found out that all of us without exception had a much longer list on the right hand column of our paper. There were many more good things that happened in our lives than negative ones. Indeed the Lord has done great things for us. If we begin with our own existence, out of the many possible beings, why were we the ones that were called to be born?
If we look at our bodies, we have the most sophisticated and efficient system in the world including all possible computers. If we think of our family and friends, how much joy and support they have given us. And the opportunities that came to our life — material as well as spiritual — we cannot but exclaim: Thanks be to God. Even negative events can prove to be blessings. Many cancer survivors have shared with me their gratitude in finding God after being diagnosed with cancer. And many more. So we can really sing with Mary in the Magnificat: GOD HAS DONE GREAT THINGS TO ME AND HOLY IS GOD‘S NAME!
1st Reading: 2 Sm18:9-10, 14b, 24-25a, 30–19:3:
Absalom unexpectedly came up against David’s servants. He was mounted on a mule, and, as the mule passed under the branches of a large terebinth, his hair caught fast in the tree. He hung between heaven and earth while the mule he had been riding ran off. Someone saw this and reported to Joab that he had seen Absalom hanging from a terebinth. And taking three pikes in hand, he thrust for the heart of Absalom, still hanging from the tree alive. Now David was sitting between the two gates, and a lookout went up to the roof of the gate above the city wall, where he looked about and saw a man running all alone. The lookout shouted to inform the king, who said, “If he is alone, he has good news to report.”
The king said, “Step aside and remain in attendance here.” So he stepped aside and remained there. When the Cushite messenger came in, he said, “Let my lord the king receive the good news that this day the Lord has taken your part, freeing you from the grasp of all who rebelled against you.” But the king asked the Cushite, “Is young Absalom safe?” The Cushite replied, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rebel against you with evil intent be as that young man!” The king was shaken, and went up to the room over the city gate to weep. He said as he wept, “My son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you, Absalom, my son, my son!” Joab was told that the king was weeping and mourning for Absalom; and that day’s victory was turned into mourning for the whole army when they heard that the king was grieving for his son.
Gospel: Mk 5:21-43:
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea. One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, “My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.” He went off with him and a large crowd followed him. There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”
Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?” But his disciples said to him, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, Who touched me?” And he looked around to see who had done it. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”
He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. So he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded. He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given something to eat.
Jesus taught us that he defeated death. He won life over death! Our God is a God of life! However, life sometimes seems to be in complete ruin because of wickedness, addiction or seeming experience of death. Do we give up in despair thinking that recovery is impossible? Shouldn’t we too open our ears and listen to Jesus telling us: “Do not be afraid, only have faith?” Lord of life and healer of our sickness and pains, we come to you full of trust that you can heal us of our physical ailments and psycho-emotional pains. We offer to you our pains and sufferings and ask you to grant us perseverance and endurance. Amen. Visit the sick and donate something for the needy.
St. John Bosco
1st Reading: 2 Sm 24:2, 9-17:
King David said to Joab and the leaders of the army who were with him, “Tour all the tribes in Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba and register the people, that I may know their number.” Joab then reported to the king the number of people registered: in Israel, eight hundred thousand men fit for military service; in Judah, five hundred thousand. Afterward, however, David regretted having numbered the people, and said to the Lord: “I have sinned grievously in what I have done. But now, Lord, forgive the guilt of your servant, for I have been very foolish.” When David rose in the morning, the Lord had spoken to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying: “Go and say to David, ‘This is what the Lord says: I offer you three alternatives; choose one of them, and I will inflict it on you.'”
Gad then went to David to inform him. He asked: “Do you want a three years’ famine to come upon your land, or to flee from your enemy three months while he pursues you, or to have a three days’ pestilence in your land? Now consider and decide what I must reply to him who sent me.” David answered Gad: “I am in very serious difficulty. Let us fall by the hand of God, for he is most merciful; but let me not fall by the hand of man.” Thus David chose the pestilence. Now it was the time of the wheat harvest when the plague broke out among the people. The Lord then sent a pestilence over Israel from morning until the time appointed, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beer-sheba died.
But when the angel stretched forth his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord regretted the calamity and said to the angel causing the destruction among the people, “Enough now! Stay your hand.” The angel of the Lord was then standing at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. When David saw the angel who was striking the people, he said to the Lord: “It is I who have sinned; it is I, the shepherd, who have done wrong. But these are sheep; what have they done? Punish me and my kindred.”
Gospel: Mk 6:1-6:
Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples. When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.
When people are successful in their chosen endeavor and become known for their expertise, it is quite normal that the first ones they would like to benefit from their expertise would be their own family, relatives, and townspeople. Jesus perhaps had this in mind when he returned to his hometown and began teaching in the synagogue. Yet, what is confounding is the reaction of people who heard and witnessed his wisdom and power. They saw, yet they did not believe. They could not believe his transformation from an ordinary boy who grew up before their eyes to someone exuding with wisdom and power.
They did not doubt his power, but they rejected it anyway. It is very easy to reject God’s work because it does not come according to our expectations, and because our vision can be clouded by prejudice and preconceptions. Rejection can be communicated in many ways: by ignoring the person, by doubting the person’s capacities, by giving negative and unhelpful criticisms, or by simply being distrustful of the person. God is inviting us to approach every person and every experience with a discerning attitude, looking beyond the surface and to the heart of what God is doing.
Blessed Claretian Martyrs
1st Reading: 1 Kgs 2:1-4, 10-12:
When the time of David’s death drew near, he gave these instructions to his son Solomon: “I am going the way of all flesh. Take courage and be a man. Keep the mandate of the Lord, your God, following his ways and observing his statutes, commands, ordinances, and decrees as they are written in the law of Moses, that you may succeed in whatever you do, wherever you turn, and the Lord may fulfill the promise he made on my behalf when he said, ‘If your sons so conduct themselves that they remain faithful to me with their whole heart and with their whole soul, you shall always have someone of your line on the throne of Israel.'” David rested with his ancestors and was buried in the City of David. The length of David’s reign over Israel was forty years: he reigned seven years in Hebron and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. Solomon was seated on the throne of his father David, with his sovereignty firmly established.
Gospel: Mk 6:7-13:
Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick –no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic. He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave from there. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.” So they went off and preached repentance. The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
Today what is being promoted as a more effective way of teaching is to provide experiences for the learners so that they can gain knowledge from them. This was how Jesus taught. His disciples had listened to his teachings and watched him do his mission as they accompanied him wherever he went. But this was incomplete. They needed to be sent out on a trial run of sorts in doing the mission. The practicum in the mission was supposed to be part of their formation as disciples. The instructions Jesus gave are not the kind today’s trainees would get for their preparation.
Today the emphasis is on self-reliance, resourcefulness, and financial preparedness. Today’s trainees are told to bring enough provisions and all they need for the on-the-job training. But Jesus told the twelve the exact opposite: not to carry provisions but to travel light with an empty pocket, and put themselves completely dependent on the hospitality of their hosts. Dependency on God and others is the key to their preparation and thus also to ours. Only when we are able to trust and be open to others are we fit for the mission of building a community of faith.
Presentation of the Lord
1st Reading: Mal 3:1-4:
Thus says the Lord God: Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; And suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek, And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye. He will sit refining and purifying silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi, Refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the Lord. Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem will please the Lord, as in the days of old, as in years gone by.
2nd Reading: Heb 2:14-18:
Since the children share in blood and flesh, Jesus likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the Devil, and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life. Surely he did not help angels but rather the descendants of Abraham; therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.
Gospel: Lk 2:22-40:
When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord. Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.
He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted —and you yourself a sword will pierce— so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
In today’s fast-paced life, people find waiting difficult. They tend to get impatient, bored, and intolerant when things do not happen on schedule or when forced to wait. Yet waiting is a natural part of being human. All of nature waits for the cycle of life to take its course. We learn to wait when there is something worth waiting for. The process forces our patience to develop and our faith to grow. Today’s gospel tells us about waiting as part of our Christian faith. It is not an empty waiting, but a waiting in hope, a hope that unites the longing for something and the anticipation of receiving it.
Like an old couple waiting for the day when they would see their first grandchild, the prophets Anna and Simeon personified what it means to wait in hope. Both had a lifetime of waiting. Yet, they never lost hope and their sights were focused on the Child Jesus as the fulfillment of the long-awaited promise of salvation. Can the same be said of us? Are we able to wait for God in our lives? Can we recognize Christ’s presence and love manifested in the events of our everyday lives?
1st Reading: 1 Kgs 3:4-13:
Solomon went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, because that was the most renowned high place. Upon its altar Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings. In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night. God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” Solomon answered: “You have shown great favor to your servant, my father David, because he behaved faithfully toward you, with justice and an upright heart; and you have continued this great favor toward him, even today, seating a son of his on his throne. O Lord, my God, you have made me, your servant, king to succeed my father David; but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act. I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted.
“Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong. For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?” The Lord was pleased that Solomon made this request. So God said to him: “Because you have asked for this– not for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies, but for understanding so that you may know what is right– I do as you requested. I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you. In addition, I give you what you have not asked for, such riches and glory that among kings there is not your like.”
Gospel: Mk 6:30-34:
The Apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place. People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them. When Jesus disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
To develop skills in life, nothing can replace experience as the best teacher. What we learn from work experience may remain only on the superficial level, if we do not take the time to internalize it. There is the danger of becoming workaholics, a temptation to which people can give in to prove their worth or to gain approval from others. In today’s gospel, after the apostles returned from their first work assignment in the mission, Jesus invites them to “go off by yourselves to a remote place and have some rest.” Jesus knew the demands of the mission were so great that the apostles did not even have time to eat. The invitation is also meant for us as an antidote to the danger of overwork when we can break under the weight of a burnout. We need to go to a quiet place where there are no distractions so we can rest in God and listen to what our experiences are teaching us. If we do not give ourselves rest, then we will not be able to take care of others. If we do not slow down, we will be of no use to anyone, especially God.