Bible Diary for January 8th – January 14th

January 8th

1st Reading: Is 60:1-6:
Arise, shine, for your light has come. The glory of Yahweh rises upon you. Night still covers the earth and gloomy clouds veil the peoples, but Yahweh now rises and over you his glory appears. Nations will come to your light and kings to the brightness of your dawn.  Lift up your eyes round about and see: they are all gathered and come to you, your sons from afar, your daughters tenderly carried. This sight will make your face radiant, your heart throbbing and full; the riches of the sea will be turned to you, the wealth of the nations will come to you. A multitude of camels will cover you, caravans from Midian and Ephah. Those from Sheba will come, bringing with them gold and incense, all singing in praise of Yahweh.

2nd Reading: Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6:
You may have heard of the graces God bestowed on me, for your sake. By a revelation, he gave me the knowledge of his mysterious design, as I have explained in a few words. This mystery was not made known to past generations, but only now, through revelations, given to holy apostles and prophets, by the Spirit. Now, the non-Jews share the inheritance; in Christ Jesus, the non-Jews are incorporated, and are to enjoy the Promise. This is the Good News.

Gospel: Mt 2:1-12:
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in Judea, during the days of King Herod, wise men from the East arrived in Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw the rising of his star in the East and have come to honor him.” When Herod heard this he was greatly disturbed, and with him all Jerusalem. He immediately called a meeting of all high-ranking priests and teachers of the law, and asked them where the Messiah was to be born.

“In the town of Bethlehem in Judea,“ they told him, “for this is what the prophet wrote: And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, you are by no means the least among the clans of Judah, for from you will come a leader, one who is to shepherd my people Israel.“  Then Herod secretly called the wise men and asked them the precise time the star appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem with these instructions, “Go and get accurate information about the child. As soon as you have found him, report to me, so that I, too, may go and honor him.”

After the meeting with the king, they set out. The star that they had seen in the East went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. The wise men were overjoyed on seeing the star again. They went into the house, and when they saw the child with Mary his mother, they knelt and worshiped him. They opened their bags and offered him their gifts of gold, incense and myrrh. In a dream they were warned not to go back to Herod, so they returned to their home country by another way.

Isaiah speaks of how the light of the Lord transforms a community. Paul attests to the same in his personal life. But the dawn of the light of God darkens the life of Herod leading to his deformation. Our glory is a reflected glory. Paul understood it well. He knew that the graces he received came from God and were meant for others. Herod failed to realize this truth. He mistook his kingship and glory to be his own, and hence, he could not delight in the coming of God’s light and sought to extinguish it. How do you perceive and use the graces of God’s light given to you? Lord, make me a mirror that reflects your light into the lives of others. Make use of one God-given gift of yours to bring God’s light into someone’s life.

January 9th

1st Reading: Is 42:1-4, 6-7:
Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight. I have put my spirit upon him, and he will bring justice to the nations. He does not shout or raise his voice. Proclamations are not heard in the streets. A broken reed he will not crush, nor will he snuff out the light of the wavering wick. He will make justice appear in truth. He will not waver or be broken until he has established justice on earth; the islands are waiting for his law. I, Yahweh, have called you for the sake of justice; I will hold your hand to make you firm; I will make you as a Covenant to the people, and as a light to the nations, to open eyes that do not see, to free captives from prison, to bring out to light those who sit in darkness.

2nd Reading: Acts 10:34-38:
Peter then spoke to them, “Truly, I realize that God does not show partiality, but in all nations he listens to everyone who fears God and does good. And this is the message he has sent to the children of Israel, the good news of peace he has proclaimed, through Jesus Christ, who is the Lord of all. No doubt you have heard of the event that occurred throughout the whole country of the Jews, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism John preached. You know how God anointed Jesus, the Nazorean with the Holy Spirit, and power. He went about doing good, and healing all who were under the devil’s power, because God was with him.

Gospel: Mt 3:13-17:
At that time, Jesus arrived from Galilee and came to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent him, and said, “How is it, you come to me? I should be baptized by you!” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be like that for now; so that we may fulfill the right order.” John agreed. As soon as he was baptized, Jesus came up out of the water. All at once, the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God come down, like a dove, and rest upon him. At the same time, a voice from heaven was heard, “This is my Son, the Beloved; he is my Chosen One.”

John, who introduced Jesus to us last week, now completes his own mission and now ushers Jesus to his own mission. John is quick to tell us that Jesus did not need the baptism of repentance that he was giving as Jesus had no sin to repent of. (John’s baptism is not the same as the Sacrament of Baptism that we now celebrate. John’s baptism was more a rite of admitting one’s sinfulness and desire for forgiveness; whereas, our sacramental baptism actually washes us of all sin and makes of us all adopted children of the Father and members of the body of Christ.)

Jesus insists on being baptized, nonetheless, in order to fulfill the Right Order. What is this “Right Order?” Jesus had come to do the “Order” of the Father. The plan of the Father was for Jesus to make atonement for all sin by becoming the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and thus reconcile all to the Father. The work of reconciliation meant that Jesus had to be numbered amongst sinners and share the lot of all sinners (see 2 Cor 5:21) and then expiate for all sin by his sacrificial death.

Jesus, the beloved Son of the Father, was to fulfill all that had been prophesied of the suffering servant of Yahweh in the book of the Prophet Isaiah. The mystery of the Baptism of the Lord at Jordan is so profound! The readings of this week will unfold the full implication of Jesus’ descent into the waters of the Jordan to undergo the baptism of John the Baptist!

January 10th

1st Reading: Heb 2:5-12:
The angels were not given dominion over the new world of which we are speaking. Instead, someone declared in Scripture: What is man, that you should be mindful of him, what is the son of man that you should care for him? For a while you placed him a little lower than the angels, but you crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over all things. When it is said, that God gave him dominion over all things, nothing is excluded. As it is, we do not yet see his dominion over all things.

But Jesus, who suffered death, and for a little while, was placed lower than the angels, has been crowned with honor and glory. For the merciful plan of God demanded that he experience death, on behalf of everyone. God, from whom all come, and by whom all things exist, wanted to bring many children to glory, and he thought it fitting to make perfect, through suffering, the initiator of their salvation. So, he who gives, and those who receive holiness, are one. He, himself, is not ashamed of calling us brothers and sisters, as we read: Lord, I will proclaim your name to my brothers; I will praise you in the congregation.

Gospel: Mk 1:21-28:
They 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.

The letter to the Hebrews today presents to us the first implication of Jesus’ baptism at the Jordan. Jesus’ immersion into the water of the Jordan that had received the many sinners John had already baptized signified the awesome truth: Jesus has become one of us! The baptism of Jesus was more of a sign or “sacrament” of Jesus’ solidarity with the human race! Now Jesus could call us his “brothers and sisters!” Jesus becomes one of us for a purpose: to save us from the clutches of the evil one.

Thus, on this day after the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord we have the story of the expulsion of Satan from the possessed man who represents all of humanity suffering under the dominion of the devil. For much too long had the devil taken “possession of man.” That is about to end! The expulsion of Satan on the Sabbath sends fearful tremors in the underworld as Satan recognizes the Word that has Authority to drive him away and he trembles! So he shouts: “Jesus of Nazareth have you come to destroy us?” In our hour of need, when we feel the diabolic force upon us, we have but to call on the Holy Name of Jesus! Satan will flee at the Holy Name of Jesus!

January 11th

1st 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: Mk 1:29-39:
On leaving the synagogue, Jesus went to the home of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. As Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with fever, they immediately told him about her. Jesus went to her and, taking her by the hand, raised her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. That evening, at sundown, people brought to Jesus all the sick and those who had evil spirits: the whole town was pressing around the door.

Jesus healed many who had various diseases, and drove out many demons; but he did not let them speak, for they knew who he was. Very early in the morning, before daylight, Jesus went off to a lonely place where he prayed. Simon and the others went out also, searching for him; and when they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Let us go to the nearby villages so that I may preach there too; for that is why I came.” So Jesus set out to preach in all the synagogues throughout Galilee; he also cast out demons.

We continue pushing forward the mystery of the Baptism of the Lord in today’s readings. Jesus’ identification with sinful humanity means Jesus’ embracing of the full consequence of being human–being subject to death! The awesome implication of the mystery of the baptism of Jesus is now revealed! The waters of the Jordan that had received the sins of the so many John had baptized. Jesus descended, as it were, into contaminated water so that He sinless might be contaminated with Sin. Thus, through his baptism at the Jordan Jesus enters into a “sin-solidarity” with humanity.

Jesus, the Incarnate, though sinless, voluntarily shared man’s common lot: sin and its fruit, death! (Rom 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death.”) In yesterday’s Gospel Jesus expelled Satan from the possessed man. Today Jesus strikes at one common sign of our mortality, namely, sickness. Jesus’ curing of the sick mother-in-law of Peter and the subsequent sick who were brought to Jesus for healing clearly indicated that Jesus had come to destroy the root cause of all sickness–sin! And Jesus will bring that good news to all! Later on, when Jesus will send his apostles on mission, he will tell them to preach the good news, drive away evil spirits, and heal the sick. Today would be a good time to pray for the healing of all the sick in our community.

January 12th

1st Reading: Heb 3:7-14:
Listen to what the Holy Spirit says: If only you would hear God’s voice today! Do not be stubborn, as they were in the place called Rebellion, when your ancestors challenged me in the desert, although they had seen my deeds for forty years. That is why I was angry with those people and said: Their hearts are always going astray and they do not understand my ways. I was angry and made a solemn vow: They will never enter my rest. So, brothers, be careful, lest some of you come to have an evil and unbelieving heart, that falls away from the living God. Encourage one another, day by day, as long as it is called today. Let no one become hardened in the deceitful way of sin. We are associated with Christ, provided we hold steadfastly to our initial hope, until the end.

Gospel: Mk 1:40-45:
A leper came to Jesus and begged him, “If you want to, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do want to; be clean.” The leprosy left the man at once and he was made clean. As Jesus sent the man away, he sternly warned him, “Don’t tell anyone about this, but go and show yourself to the priest; and for the cleansing, bring the offering ordered by Moses; in this way, you will give to them your testimony.” However, as soon as the man went out, he began spreading the news everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter any town. But even though he stayed in the rural areas, people came to him from everywhere.

The “Right Order” that Jesus told John to be followed at his baptism in the Jordan also meant the obedience God expected from both John the Baptist and from Jesus, the Servant of Yahweh. “Listen” or “Obey” is a fundamental commandment. Sin essentially is disobedience. Jesus demands obedience, too. The Leper is commanded to go to the priest and offer the sacrifice stipulated in Leviticus 14. The leper presents himself to the priest who certifies that he is clean through the sacrifice of a bird that has its blood sprinkled on the leper. A cedar wood that is likewise dipped in the blood.

One can see a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary! The Gospel interestingly tells us that Jesus “stretched out his hand and touched him (the leper).” To cleanse sinners, Jesus will stretch out his hands on the cross! Thus it becomes even clearer that Jesus, by his solidarity with humanity embraced the cost of being human, death, and that this death will be by way of the cross! We who have been cleansed of leprosy (sins) have to present ourselves to the High Priest, Jesus Christ, and offer the true sacrifice that cleanses our sins, the Eucharist! We must obey the “right order” set by the Father!

January 13th

1st Reading: Heb 4:1-5, 11:
Therefore, let us fear while we are invited to enter the rest of God, lest any of you be left behind. We received the gospel, exactly as they did, but hearing the message did them no good, because they did not share the faith of those who did listen. We are now to enter this rest, because we believed, as it was said: I was angry and made a solemn vow: they will never enter my rest—that is, the rest of God after he created the world. In another part, it was said about the seventh day: And God rested on the seventh day from all his works. But, now, it is said: They will not enter my rest. Let us strive, then, to enter the rest, and not to share the misfortune of those who disobeyed.

Gospel: Mk 2:1-12:
After some days, Jesus returned to Capernaum. As the news spread that he was in the house, so many people gathered, that there was no longer room even outside the door. While Jesus was preaching the word to them, some people brought to him a paralyzed man. The four men who carried him couldn’t get near Jesus because of the crowd, so they opened the roof above the room where Jesus was and, through the hole, lowered the man on his mat. When Jesus saw the faith of these people, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” Now, some teachers of the law, who were sitting there, wondered within themselves, “How can he speak like this, insulting God? Who can forgive sins except God?”

At once, Jesus knew in his spirit what they were thinking, and asked, “Why do you wonder? Is it easier to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your mat and walk?’ But now you shall know, that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” And he said to the paralytic, “Stand up, take up your mat and go home.” The man rose and, in the sight of all those people, he took up his mat and went out. All of them were astonished and praised God, saying, “Never have we seen anything like this!”

“How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven (Ps 32:1a)” Mark continues to present the powerful conquest of Jesus over the “kingdom of Satan” in the next episode: the cure of the paralytic. Sin is very much like a paralysis. One who has been so immersed in sin is paralyzed! Such a person needs the Divine Healer, Jesus. Such is what happens in the Gospel episode today! Yesterday, Jesus cured immediately the leper! This time Jesus does not address the physical illness but instead goes to the root of all evil, sin! Jesus forgives the paralyzed man! And the Pharisees are shocked!

How can a “mere” man forgive sins? Then to prove that he truly could forgive sins, Jesus orders the paralytic to rise! While physical health is important, Jesus today makes us realize that what is more important is spiritual health! For the one whose sins are forgiven enters into the biblical rest of our first reading. It is to be “blessed.”­ How fortunate and indeed “blessed” is the one who would go seeking forgiveness saying “Bless me father for I have sinned.”

January 14th

1st Reading: Heb 4:12-16:
For the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword. It pierces, to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and judges the intentions and thoughts of the heart. All creation is transparent to him; everything is uncovered and laid bare, to the eyes of him, to whom we render account. We have a great high priest, Jesus, the Son of God, who has entered heaven. Let us, then, hold fast to the faith we profess. Our high priest is not indifferent to our weaknesses, for he was tempted, in every way, just as we are, yet, without sinning. Let us, then, with confidence, approach the throne of grace. We will obtain mercy and, through his favor, help in due time.

Gospel: Mk 2:13-17:
When Jesus went out again, beside the lake, a crowd came to him, and he taught them. As he walked along, he saw a tax collector sitting in his office. This was Levi, the son of Alpheus. Jesus said to him, “Follow me!” And Levi got up and followed him. And it so happened that, when Jesus was eating in Levi’s house, tax collectors and sinners sat with him and his disciples; there were a lot of them, and they used to follow Jesus. But Pharisees, men educated in the law, when they saw Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does your master eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?“ Jesus heard them, and answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus is the High Priest! He is one who enters the “sacred sanctuary” and offers the “sacred sacrifice” for the forgiveness of sins as did the High Priest in the Jewish temple worship. But unlike the High Priest of the Old Testament, Jesus does not offer the blood of bulls or lambs; He is himself the sacrifice! Jesus, our High Priest, having been identified as one of us sinners through his baptism in the Jordan, fully understands our human weakness in the face of temptation. Jesus “immersion” experience has made him so compassionate for us sinners.

Thus, Jesus was not ill at ease mingling with tax collectors and sinners, who became his friends! Indeed, from among them he even calls Levi, a tax collector to be his apostle! It scandalizes the “am better than you” self-righteous ones!” But Jesus stands by his “tastes” for He did not come “to call the righteous, but sinners.” What a word of consolation and hope to us poor sinners! Pope Francis himself encountered this Jesus, the merciful High Priest. He became a companion of Jesus for he was “miserando atque eligendo” (lowly but chosen)!