Bible Diary for January 29th – February 4th

January 29th

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

1st Reading: Zep 2:3; 3:12-13:
Seek Yahweh, all you poor of the land, who fulfill his commands, do justice and be meek; and perhaps you will find refuge on the day Yahweh comes to judge. I will leave within you a poor and meek people who seek refuge in God. The remnant of Israel will not act unjustly nor will they speak falsely, nor will deceitful words be found in their mouths. They will eat and rest, with none to threaten them.

2nd Reading: 1 Cor 1:26-31:
Brothers and sisters, look and see whom God has called. Few among you can be said to be cultured or wealthy, and few belong to noble families. Yet God has chosen what the world considers foolish, to shame the wise; he has chosen what the world considers weak, to shame the strong. God has chosen common and unimportant people, making use of what is nothing, to nullify the things that are, so, that, no mortal may boast before God. But, by God’s grace, you are in Christ Jesus, who has become our wisdom from God, and who makes us just and holy and free. Scripture says: Let the one who boasts boast of the Lord.

Gospel: Mt 5:1-12a:
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain. He sat down and his disciples gathered around him. Then he spoke and began to teach them: “Fortunate are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Fortunate are those who mourn; they shall be comforted. Fortunate are the gentle; they shall possess the land. Fortunate are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied. Fortunate are the merciful, for they shall find mercy. Fortunate are those with pure hearts, for they shall see God. Fortunate are those who work for peace; they shall be called children of God. Fortunate are those who are persecuted for the cause of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Fortunate are you, when people insult you and persecute you and speak all kinds of evil against you because you are my followers. Be glad and joyful, for a great reward is kept for you in God. For that is how this people persecuted the prophets who lived before you.”

The remnant of Israel consists of those who are poor and meek, seeking refuge in God. It is such ordinary people that God chooses for extraordinary acts in His Name. Jesus confirms this reality by proclaiming the beatitudes. The way of the Lord do not often correspond to the way of the world. Whereas the world values the big and the powerful, the Lord prizes the small and the weak, who do not count on their own strength, but place their trust in God. Such people are the “blessed” in the Kingdom. Where have you placed your trust? Pray that the beatitudes are realized in you. Pick one of the beatitudes and work towards fulfilling its mandate this week.

January 30th

1st Reading: Heb 11:32-40:
Do I need to say more? There is not enough time to speak of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, as well as Samuel and the prophets. Through faith, they fought and conquered nations, established justice, saw the fulfillment of God’s promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the sword, were healed of their sicknesses; they were weak people, who were given strength, to be brave in battle and repulse foreign invaders. Some women recovered their dead by resurrection, but there were others persecuted and tortured believers—who, for the sake of a better resurrection, refused to do what would have saved them.

Others suffered chains and prison. They were stoned, sawn in two, killed by the sword. They fled, from place to place, with no other clothing than the skins of sheep and goats, lacking everything, afflicted, ill-treated. These people, of whom the world was not worthy, had to wander through wastelands and mountains, and take refuge in the dens of the land. However, although all of them were praised because of their faith, they did not enjoy the promise, because God had us in mind, and saw beyond. And he did not want them to reach perfection, except with us.

Gospel: Mk 5:1-20:
They arrived at the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gerasenes. No sooner did Jesus leave the boat than he was met by a man with evil spirits, who had come from the tombs. The man lived among the tombs, and no one could restrain him, even with a chain. He had often been bound with fetters and chains; but he would pull the chains apart and smash the fetters; and no one had the strength to control him. Night and day he stayed among the tombs on the hillsides, and was continually screaming, and beating himself with stones.

When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell at his feet, and cried with a loud voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? For God’s sake, I beg you, do not torment me!” He said this, because Jesus had commanded, “Evil spirit, come out of the man!” When Jesus asked the evil spirit, “What is your name?” it replied, “Legion is my name, for we are many.” And it kept begging Jesus, not to send them out of that region. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding on the hillside, and the evil spirits begged him, “Send us to the pigs, and let us go into them.” So Jesus let them go. The evil spirits came out of the man and went into the pigs; and immediately, the herd rushed down the cliff; and all were drowned in the lake. The herdsmen fled, and reported this in the town and in the countryside.

So all the people came to see what had happened. They came to Jesus, and saw the man freed of the evil spirits, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind; the same man who had been possessed by the legion. They were afraid. And when those who had seen it, told what had happened to the man and to the pigs, the people begged Jesus to leave their neighborhood. When Jesus was getting into the boat, the man, who had been possessed, begged to stay with him. Jesus would not let him, and said, “Go home to your people, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So he went throughout the country of Decapolis, telling everyone how much Jesus had done for him; and all the people were astonished.

Have you ever witnessed an exorcism? If you have, you could well understand the drama of the Gospel of today. Jesus comes face to face with a possessed man. The devil immediately recognizes that he is before the Holy One! When a priest is summoned for an exorcism the possessed person often becomes violent even before the priest enters the room where the possessed person is. The devil is quick to sense the presence of a holy man! 

Following standard exorcism procedures, Jesus asked the possessed “What is your name?” And the devil answers “Legion!” Then Jesus drives away the devils from the possessed man who then recovers his senses. We, too, are all possessed! Not in the strict literal physical or bodily diabolic possession; but we all suffer from some spiritual-moral form of slavery to sin. We need to “name” or identify our sinful habits and let the Lord exorcise us! It is much easier to change and come to our senses when we can name or identify the sin or sins that enslave us. Remember, the devil prefers being hidden; when exposed, he can be exorcised!

January 31st

St. John Bosco

1st Reading: Heb 12:1-4:
What a cloud of innumerable witnesses surround us! So, let us be rid of every encumbrance, and especially of sin, to persevere in running the race marked out before us. Let us look to Jesus, the founder of our faith, who will bring it to completion. For the sake of the joy reserved for him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and then, sat at the right of the throne of God. Think of Jesus, who suffered so many contradictions from evil people, and you will not be discouraged or grow weary. Have you already shed your blood in the struggle against sin?

Gospel: Mk 5:21-43:
Jesus then crossed to the other side of the lake; and while he was still on the shore, a large crowd gathered around him. Jairus, an official of the synagogue, came up and, seeing Jesus, threw himself at his feet, and begged him earnestly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may get well and live.” Jesus went with him, and many people followed, pressing around him. Among the crowd was a woman, who had suffered from bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a lot at the hands of many doctors and had spent everything she had, but instead of getting better, she was worse. Because she had heard about Jesus, this woman came up behind him and touched his cloak, thinking, “If I just touch his clothing, I shall get well.“ Her flow of blood dried up at once, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her complaint.

But Jesus was conscious that healing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd, and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” His disciples answered, “You see how the people are crowding around you. Why do you ask who touched you?” But he kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, aware of what had happened, came forward, trembling and afraid. She knelt before him, and told him the whole truth. Then Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be free of this illness.”  While Jesus was still speaking, some people arrived from the official’s house to inform him, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Master any further?” But Jesus ignored what they said, and told the official, “Do not fear, just believe.” And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.

When they arrived at the house, Jesus saw a great commotion, with people weeping and wailing loudly. Jesus entered, and said to them, “Why all this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead, but asleep.” They laughed at him. So Jesus sent them outside, and went with the child’s father and mother and his companions into the room, where the child lay. Taking her by the hand, he said to her, “Talitha kumi!” which means, “Little girl, get up!” The girl got up at once and began to walk around. (She was twelve years old.) The parents were amazed, greatly amazed. Jesus strictly ordered them not to let anyone know about it; and he told them to give her something to eat.

Often our Faith is tested and proven true in the face of severe trial. In today’s Gospel we have two persons who had their Faith tested–Jairus and the woman with the “flow of blood.” These two persons were in desperate situations. Jairus was a synagogue official. It would have been unlikely for him to approach the Rabbi from Nazareth who was, from their judgment, a “Sabbath Law breaker.” But he was desperate! The woman with the “hemorrhage” was, in the Jewish culture, unclean. She knew that she should not touch the Holy One lest she render the Holy One unclean!

But she, too, was desperate! Jairus mustered the strength to overcome his bias and so on his knees begged the Lord for a miracle. The hemorrhagic woman broke the Jewish taboo and touched in faith the hem of the robe of Jesus in the hope of a miracle. Both received what they begged for in Faith. Whenever I see simple folks straining to touch the Black Nazarene of Quiapo I cannot but say “here are the Jairuses and the Hemorrhagic women of today.” And I am humbled by the simple faith of our simple people and I pray that I have that same simple faith!

February 1st

Blessed Claretian Martyrs

1st Reading: Heb 12:4-7, 11-15:
Have you already shed your blood in the struggle against sin? Do not forget the comforting words that Wisdom addresses to you as children: My son, pay attention when the Lord corrects you and do not be discouraged when he punishes you. For the Lord corrects those he loves and chastises everyone he accepts as a son. What you endure, is in order to correct you. God treats you like sons, and what son is not corrected by his father?

All correction is painful at the moment, rather than pleasant; later, it brings the fruit of peace, that is, holiness, to those who have been trained by it.  Lift up, then, your drooping hands, and strengthen your trembling knees; make level the ways for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but healed. Strive for peace with all, and strive to be holy, for without holiness, no one will see the Lord. See that no one falls from the grace of God, lest a bitter plant spring up and its poison corrupt many among you.

Gospel: Mk 6:1-6:
Leaving that place, Jesus returned to his own country, and his disciples followed him. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and most of those who heard him were astonished. But they said, “How did this come to him? What kind of wisdom has been given to him, that he also performs such mi­racles? Who is he but the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here among us?“ So they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “Prophets are despised only in their own country, among their relatives, and in their own family.“ And he could work no miracles there, but only healed a few sick people, by laying his hands on them. Jesus himself was astounded at their unbelief.

Our first reading opens with a very challenging question: “Have you already shed your blood in the struggle against sin?” This challenging question comes as a conclusion to the author’s parade of the witnesses of the Faith throughout history beginning with Abraham down to Jesus and the martyrs of the apostolic times. Up to our own time the challenge remains the same. Even Jesus was tested. Severely! Jesus, otherwise popular and well accepted in Galilee, found himself unwelcome in his own hometown!

His rejection at Nazareth, amongst family and friends was perhaps, for Jesus, the bitterest pill to swallow! Sometimes, the greatest oppo­sitionists to our efforts to live the Christian life can be those of our own family. I am reminded of a young boy of 10 whom I found crying one afternoon. I asked him why he was crying. He said that he was beaten by his father. “Did you perhaps do something naughty?” I asked. “No.” he said. “I just told my dad that it was not right for him to make bets in jueteng because gambling is a sin. So he beat me!” I was before a boy who “almost” shed blood in his struggle against sin!

February 2nd

Presentation of the Lord

1st Reading: Mal 3:1-4:
Now I am sending my messenger ahead of me, to clear the way; then, suddenly, the Lord, for whom you long, will enter the Sanctuary. The envoy of the Covenant which you so greatly desire, already comes, says Yahweh of hosts. Who can bear the day of his coming and remain standing when he appears? For he will be like fire in the foundry and like the lye used for bleaching. He will be as a refiner or a fuller. He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them, like gold and silver. So Yahweh will have priests who will present the offering as it should be. Then Yahweh will accept with pleasure the offering of Judah and Jerusalem, as in former days.

2nd Reading: Heb 2:14-18:
And because all those children share one same nature of flesh and blood, Jesus, likewise, had to share this nature. This is why his death destroyed the one holding the power of death, that is the devil, and freed those who remained in bondage all their lifetime, because of the fear of death. Jesus came, to take by the hand, not the angels but the human race. So, he had to be like his brothers and sisters, in every respect, in order to be the high priest, faithful to God and merciful to them, a priest, able to ask pardon, and atone for their sins. Having been tested through suffering, he is able to help those who are tested.

Gospel: Lk 2:22-40:
When the day came for the purification according to the law of Moses, they brought the baby up to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord, as it is written in the law of the Lord: Every first born male shall be consecrated to God. And they offered a sacrifice, as ordered in the law of the Lord: a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. There lived in Jerusalem, at this time, a very upright and devout man named Simeon; the Holy Spirit was in him. He looked forward to the time when the Lord would comfort Israel; and he had been assured, by the Holy Spirit, that he would not die before seeing the Messiah of the Lord. So, he was led into the temple by the Holy Spirit at the time the parents brought the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law.

Simeon took the child in his arms, and blessed God, saying, “Now, O Lord, you can dismiss your servant in peace, for you have fulfilled your word and my eyes have seen your salvation, which you display for all the people to see. Here is the light you will reveal to the nations, and the glory of your people Israel.” His father and mother wondered at what was said about the child. Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary, his mother, “Know this: your son is a sign; a sign established for the falling and rising of many in Israel, a sign of contradiction; and a sword will pierce your own soul, so that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.“ There was also a prophetess named Anna, daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.

After leaving her father’s home, she had been seven years with her husband; and since then, she had been continually about the temple, serving God, as a widow, night and day, in fasting and prayer. She was now eighty-four. Coming up at that time, she gave praise to God, and spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem. When the parents had fulfilled all that was required by the law of the Lord, they returned to their town, Nazareth in Galilee. There, the child grew in stature and strength, and was filled with wisdom: the grace of God was upon him.

One of the most interesting rites of the Jews was the “Rite of Purification” that the mother had to go through (see Lev 12). In this rite, the woman considered unclean goes to the temple to offer sacrifice for her cleansing. She was also to redeem her child by offering a lamb or 2 turtle doves. But what awesome mystery we have here! The Immaculate Mother, who did not need to be purified, goes to the temple, to redeem her firstborn son! She brings her offering-two turtle doves, the offering of the poor.

But the priest does not take the turtle doves! Instead the priest takes her child! Simeon, rejoiced to see before his death the true Lamb! He then prophesies that she would receive back her child for now! But the time will come when the child, the Lamb of God, will be sacrificed! In the fullness of time her own soul shall be pierced when she shall see her son pierced through! Oh Mary, you had to redeem the Redeemer! But you would, in the fullness of time, be united to your son in His sacrifice. Deign to intercede for me that I may appreciate the sacrifice you have made and be willing to be united also to the sacrifice of my Redeemer!

February 3rd

St. Blase
St. Ansgar

1st Reading: Heb 13:1-8:
Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to offer hospitality; you know, that some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember prisoners, as if you were with them in chains, and the same for those who are suffering. Remember, that you also have a body. Marriage must be respected by all, and husband and wife, faithful to each other. God will punish the immoral and the adulterous. Do not depend on money. Be content with having enough for today, for God has said: I will never forsake you or abandon you, and we shall confidently answer: The Lord is my helper, I will not fear; what can man do to me? Remember your leaders, who taught you the word of God. Consider their end, and imitate their faith. Christ Jesus is the same today, as yesterday, and forever.

Gospel: Mk 6:14-29:
King Herod also heard about Jesus, because his name had become well-known. Some people said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.” Others thought, “He is Elijah,” and others, “He is a prophet like the prophets of times past.” When Herod was told of this, he thought, “I had John beheaded; yet, he has risen from the dead!” For this is what had happened: Herod had ordered John to be arrested; and had him bound and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herod had married her; and John had told him, “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.“

So Herodias held a grudge against John and wanted to kill him; but she could not, because Herod respected John. He knew John to be an upright and holy man, and kept him safe. And he liked listening to him; although he became very disturbed whenever he heard him. Herodias had her chance on Herod’s birthday, when he gave a dinner for all the senior government officials, military chiefs, and the leaders of Galilee. On that occasion, the daughter of Herodias came in and danced; and she delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want and I will give it to you.” And he went so far as to say with many oaths, “I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.”

She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” The mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried to the king and made her request, “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist, here and now, on a dish.” The king was very displeased, but he would not refuse in front of his guests because of his oaths. So he sent one of the bodyguards, with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded John in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl. And the girl gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard of this, they came and took his body and buried it.

In very clear and simple words our first reading tells us that “Marriage must be respected by all.” The institution of marriage is not the creation of man but of God. From the “beginning” God willed it so! The letter to the Hebrews also reminds us that “God will punish the immoral and the adulterous!” John the Baptist confronted King Herod who had committed adultery by taking as wife, Herodias, who was the wife of his brother Philip.

He was incarcerated for upholding the sanctity of marriage. And through the instigation of Herodias, John was beheaded. 1500 years later, another defender of the sanctity of marriage will be beheaded–St. Thomas More. He had told King Henry VIII that he could not have a divorce. This teaching of the Church continues to reverberate through the centuries. In this difficult times again, when there are forces at working trying to destroy the integrity and sanctity of marriage we are called upon to remain steadfast in our faith for “Christ Jesus [and his teaching on marriage] is the same today, as yesterday, and forever.”

February 4th

1st Reading: Heb 13:15-17, 20-21:
Let us, then, continually offer, through Jesus, a sacrifice, of praise to God, that is the fruit of lips, celebrating his name. Do not neglect good works and common life, for these are sacrifices pleasing to God. Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are concerned for your souls, and are accountable for them. Let this be a joy for them, rather than a burden, which would be of no advantage for you. May God give you peace, he, who brought back, from among the dead, Jesus our Lord, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, whose blood seals the eternal Covenant. He will train you in every good work, that you may do his will, for it is he who works in us what pleases him, through Jesus Christ, to whom all glory be for ever and ever. Amen!

Gospel: Mk 6:30-34:
The apostles returned and reported to Jesus all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, “Let us go off by ourselves into a remote place and have some rest.“ For there were so many people coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a secluded area by themselves. But people saw them leaving, and many could guess where they were going. So, from all the towns, they hurried there on foot, arriving ahead of them. As Jesus went ashore, he saw a large crowd, and he had compassion on them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.

Everybody looks forward to the weekend! After a busy week a time of rest is most welcome! Jesus and his disciples had also been busy for a number of days. Moreover, Jesus had just learned of the death of his cousin, John the Baptist. He needed time to grieve, too. So he invited his disciples to go to a place where they could have time for themselves. But the rest Jesus and his disciples had been planning didn’t turn out the way they wished. The people figured where they were going and so they rushed ahead to where they were going.

The people were really so eager to hear Jesus more! They just could not have enough of Jesus! Jesus saw their hunger for the Word. He had compassion on the crowd. A weekend is a good time of rest for us, too. It is good to go to the mall and do some shopping and relax. But might the weekend be a time to have more time with the Lord, too? A recollection could be a very good activity on a weekend. Anyone interested in a “Weekend Family Recollection?”