Bible Diary for January 31st – February 6th

January 31st

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. John Bosco

1st Reading: Dt 18:15–20:
“He will raise up for you a prophet like myself from among the people, from your brothers, to whom you shall listen. Remember that in Horeb, on the day of the Assembly, you said: ‘I am afraid to die and I do not want to hear the voice of Yahweh again or see again that great fire.’ So Yahweh said to me: ‘They have spoken well. I shall raise up a prophet from their midst, one of their brothers, who will be like you. I will put my words into his mouth and he will tell them all that I command. If someone does not listen to my words when the prophet speaks on my behalf, I myself will call him to account for it. But any prophet who says in my name anything that I did not command, or speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’”

2nd Reading: 1 Cor 7:32–35:
I would like you to be free from anxieties. He who is not married is concerned about the things of the Lord and how to please the Lord. While he who is married is taken up with the things of the world and how to please his wife, and he is divided in his interests. Likewise, the unmarried woman and the virgin are concerned with the service of the Lord, to be holy in body and spirit. The married woman, instead, worries about the things of the world and how to please her husband. I say this for your own good. I do not wish to lay traps for you but to lead you to a beautiful life, entirely united with the Lord.

Gospel: Mk 1:21–28:
Jesus went into the town of Capernaum and Jesus taught in the synagogue on the sabbath day. The people were astonished at the way he taught, for he spoke as one having authority and not like the teachers of the Law. It happened that a man with an evil spirit was in their synagogue, and he shouted, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: you are the Holy One of God.”

Then Jesus faced him and said with authority, “Be silent, and come out of this man!” The evil spirit shook the man violently and, with a loud shriek, came out of him. All the people were astonished, and they wondered, “What is this? With what authority he preaches! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him!” And Jesus’ fame spread throughout all the country 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!

February 1st

Blessed Claretian Martyrs

1st Reading: Heb 11:32-40:
Brothers and sisters: What more shall I say? I have not time to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, did what was righteous, obtained the promises; they closed the mouths of lions, put out raging fires, escaped the devouring sword; out of weakness they were made powerful, became strong in battle, and turned back foreign invaders. Women received back their dead through resurrection. Some were tortured and would not accept deliverance, in order to obtain a better resurrection.

Others endured mockery, scourging, even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, sawed in two, put to death at sword’s point; they went about in skins of sheep or goats, needy, afflicted, tormented. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered about in deserts and on mountains, in caves and in crevices in the earth. Yet all these, though approved because of their faith, did not receive what had been promised. God had foreseen something better for us, so that without us they should not be made perfect.

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. (…) 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!“ (…) 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. (…) 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.

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!

February 2nd

Feast of the 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:
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 2:22-32:
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 firstborn 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.”

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?

February 3rd

St. Blase
St. Ansgar

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. Jesus then went around the villages, teaching.

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.

February 4th

1st Reading: Heb 12:18–19, 21–24:
What you have come to is nothing known to the senses: nor heat of a blazing fire, darkness and gloom and storms, blasts of trumpets or such a voice that the people pleaded that no further word be spoken. The sight was so terrifying that Moses said: I tremble with fear. But you came near to Mount Zion, to the City of the living God, to the heavenly Jerusalem with its innumerable angels. You have come to the solemn feast, the assembly of the firstborn of God, whose names are written in heaven. There is God, Judge of all, with the spirits of the upright brought to perfection. There is Jesus, the mediator of the new Covenant, with the sprinkled blood that cries out more effectively than Abel’s.

Gospel: Mk 6:7–13:
He called the Twelve to him, and began to send them out two by two, giving them authority over evil spirits. And he ordered them to take nothing for the journey, except a staff: no food, no bag, no money in their belts. They were to wear sandals and were not to take an extra tunic. And he added, “In whatever house you are welcomed, stay there until you leave the place. If any place doesn’t receive you, and the people refuse to listen to you, leave after shaking the dust off your feet. It will be a testimony against them.” So they set out to proclaim that this was the time to repent. They drove out many demons and healed many sick people by anointing 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.

February 5th

St. Philip of Jesus
St. Agatha

1st Reading: Heb 13:1–8:
Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels. Be mindful of prisoners as if sharing their imprisonment, and of the ill-treated as of yourselves, for you also are in the body. Let marriage be honored among all and the marriage bed be kept undefiled, for God will judge the immoral and adulterers.

Let your life be free from love of money but be content with what you have, for he has said, I will never forsake you or abandon you. Thus we may say with confidence: The Lord is my helper, and I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me? Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, 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 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.

We often hear the adage that “the truth will set us free, but it will hurt us first.” We know from experience how painful it is to listen to a feedback especially when we know it is true. This is the insight we can glean from today’s gospel. For Herodias, the truth hurt her by bringing the worst out of her, as she reacted to the truth with murderous machinations. For Herod, the truth hurt him by filling his heart with fright, worry, vacillation and resentment towards John, the bearer of the truth. It hurt him by haunting him and making him appear spineless, conflicted and weak to stand up to the truth that he recognized in John.

Although John’s commitment to speak the truth also hurt him, bringing about his execution, it freed him to fulfill his mission of casting away anything that blocks God’s path. Truth is like a two-edged sword; it will hurt as it cuts through our inner spirit revealing areas in our life we find shameful or unacceptable, areas that beg for healing, love and forgiveness. Christ invites us to listen to shepherd’s voice saying, “Everyone who seeks the truth hears my voice.”

February 6th

St. Paul Miki and Companions

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 yourselves 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.

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.