Bible Diary for July 10th – 16th

July 10th

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

1st Reading: Dt 30:10-14:
For you shall turn to Yahweh, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul, and observe his commandments and norms, in a word, everything written in this book of the law. These commandments that I give you today are neither too high nor too remote for you. They are not in heaven that you should say: “Who will go up to heaven to get these commandments that we may hear them and put them into practice.” Neither are they at the other side of the sea for you to say: “Who will cross to the other side and bring them to us, that we may hear them and put them into practice.” On the contrary, my word is very near you; it is already in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can put it into practice.

2nd Reading: Col 1:15-20:
He is the image of the unseen God, and for all creation, he is the firstborn, for, in him, all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible: thrones, rulers, authorities, powers… All was made through him and for him. He is before all and all things hold together, in him. And he is the head of the body, that is the Church, for he is the first, the first raised from the dead, that he may be the first in everything, for God was pleased to let fullness dwell in him. Through him, God willed to reconcile all things to himself, and through him, through his blood shed on the cross, God establishes peace, on earth as in heaven.

Gospel: Lk 10:25-37:
Then a teacher of the law came and began putting Jesus to the test. And he said, “Master, what shall I do to receive eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What is written in the law? How do you understand it?” The man answered, “It is written: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus replied, “What a good answer! Do this and you shall live.” The man wanted to justify his question, so he asked, “Who is my neighbor?”

Jesus then said, “There was a man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him and went off, leaving him half-dead. It happened that a priest was going along that road and saw the man, but passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite saw the man, and passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan also was going that way; and when he came upon the man, he was moved with compassion. He went over to him, and cleaned his wounds with oil and wine, and wrapped them in bandages. Then he put him on his own mount, and brought him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day, he had to set off; but he gave two silver coins to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him, and whatever you spend on him, I will repay when I return.’”

Jesus then asked, “Which of these three, do you think, made himself neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The teacher of the law answered, “The one who had mercy on him.” And Jesus said, “Then go and do the same.”

The time of Jesus the Pharisees and the Essenes considered that only the one belonging to their sect was a “neighbor”. The more liberal-minded Jews would extend the concept of “neighbor” to proselytes (converted Gentiles) or even to “God-fearers” (Gentile sympathizers of Judaism). In this way of thinking, a Jew, taking himself as the center, would look around to see who is nearer to him in terms of nationality, religion, social background, etc. This allowed him to draw concentric circles increasingly distant from him, with a progressively weakened concept of the “neighbor.” But in the parable told by Jesus in today’s gospel reading, after mentioning the Samaritan’s compassion, the text adds: “He went over to him…” This move is capital.

It is because the Samaritan drew near to the unfortunate that he showed himself a neighbor. (The word neighbor comes from the old English nigh, which means “near,” and bur, which means “dweller”). Hence Jesus’ question: “Which of these three… made himself neighbor…?” I can never say that unfortunate persons are too far to be my neighbors. They are no longer far if I draw near to them. Let us ask the Lord to give us a compassionate heart. Today we will draw near to a person in need of compassion and we will help him or her.

July 11th

St. Benedict

1st Reading: Is 1:10-17:
Hear the warning of Yahweh, rulers of Sodom. Listen to the word of God, people of Gomorrah. “What do I care,” says Yahweh “for your endless sacrifices? I am fed up with your burnt offerings, and the fat of your bulls. The blood of fatlings, and lambs and he-goats I abhor, when you come before me and trample on my courts. Who asked you to visit me? I am fed up with your oblations. I grow sick with your incense. Your New Moons, Sabbaths and meetings, evil with holy assemblies, I can no longer bear. I hate your New Moons and appointed feasts… Wash and make yourselves clean. Remove from my sight the evil of your deeds. Put an end to your wickedness and learn to do good. Seek justice and keep in line the abusers; give the fatherless their rights and defend the widow.”

Gospel: Mt 10:34–11:1:
Do not think that I have come to establish peace on earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Each one will have as enemies, those of one’s own family. Whoever loves father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me. And whoever loves son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take up his cross and follow me, is not worthy of me.

Whoever finds his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life, for my sake, will find it. Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me, welcomes him who sent me. The one who welcomes a prophet, as a prophet, will receive the reward of a prophet; the one who welcomes a just man, because he is a just man, will receive the reward of a just man. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones, because he is my disciple, I assure you, he will not go unrewarded.” When Jesus had finished giving his twelve disciples these instructions, he went on from there, to teach and to proclaim his message in their towns.

More things are piled up on the shoulders of those who choose to follow Jesus. It is as if pressures are calibrated to keep pace with our growing strengths. There seems to be no end in sight to all possible discomfort and pain one must be willing to take in order to be a disciple of Jesus. These probably are told in advance so that there will be no blaming afterwards when the going gets rough on the road to discipleship. Jesus wants His disciples to be wide- eyes with what they are signing into. He does not promise a life on a bed of roses. What He promises is a victorious glorious life in the end. He or she who desires that life must be ready to pay for what will happen in between.

July 12th

1st Reading: Is 7:1-9:
When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, king Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah, king of Israel, laid siege to Jerusalem but they were unable to capture it. When the news reached the house of David, “Aram’s troops are encamped in Ephraim,” the heart of the king and the hearts of the people trembled as the trees of the forest tremble before the wind.

Yahweh then said to Isaiah: “Go with your son A-remnantwill-return, and meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washer man’s Field. Say to him, Stay calm and fear not; do not lose courage before these two stumps of smoldering firebrands—the fierce anger of Rezin the Aramean and the blazing fury of the son of Remaliah. You know that Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted against Judah, saying: Let us invade and scare it, let us seize it and put the son of Tabeel king over it. But the Lord Yahweh says: It shall not be so; it shall not come to pass.

For Damascus is only the head of Aram and Rezin the lord of Damascus. Samaria is only the head of Ephraim and Remaliah’s son is only the lord of Samaria. Within fifty-six years, Ephraim will be shattered and will no longer be a people. But if you do not stand firm in faith, you, too, will not stand at all.”

Gospel: Mt 11:20-24:
Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which he had performed most of his miracles, because the people there did not change their ways. “Alas for you Chorazin and Bethsaida! If the miracles worked in you had taken place in Tyre and Sidon, the people there would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I assure you, for Tyre and Sidon; it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to heaven? You will be thrown down to the place of the dead! For if the miracles which were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would still be there today! But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

In the gospel the relationship between faith and miracles, miracles and faith is a complex one. Maybe we could say two things in this connection. The first thing is that, ideally speaking, a strong faith produces miracles. That is why we often see Jesus asking people before he performs a miracle, “Do you believe that I can do this?” (Mt 9:28) or “as you have believed, let this be done to you” (Mt 8:13; 9:29) or affirming “your faith saved you” (Mt 19:22; Lk 17:19).

The second thing to be said is that, after a miracle has been performed, the person of good will should believe on the strength of the miracle itself. This idea is often found in John’s gospel. For example, Jesus says to his skeptical critics, referring to his miracles as “works”: “If you do not believe me, (at least) believe the works” (Jn 10:18). And in today’s gospel reading we hear Jesus using the same reasoning: since he performed so many miracles in Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum, they should have believed in him, at least because of those miracles. How strong is our own faith in Jesus? Could our faith produce a miracle? Do we need miracles to believe in him?

July 13th

St. Henry

1st Reading: Is 10:5-7, 13b-16:
Woe to Assyria, the rod of my anger, the staff of my fury! Against a godless nation I send him, against a people who provoke my wrath I dispatch him, to plunder and pillage, to tread them down like mud in the streets. But the mind of his king is far from this, his heart harbors other thoughts; what he wants is to destroy, to make an end of all nations. “By my own strength I have done this and by my own wisdom, for I am clever. I have moved the frontiers of people, I have plundered treasures, I have brought inhabitants down to the dust, I have toppled kings from their thrones. As one reaches into a nest, so my hands have reached into nations’ wealth. As one gathers deserted eggs, so have I gathered the riches of the earth. No one flapped a wing or opened its mouth to chirp a protest.”

Does the ax claim more credit than the man who wields it? Does the saw magnify itself more than the one who uses it? This would be like a rod wielding the man who lifts it up; will those not made of wood, be controlled by the cudgel? This is why Yahweh Sabaoth, is ready to send a wasting sickness upon the king’s sturdy warriors. Beneath his plenty, a flame will burn like a consuming fire.

Gospel: Mt 11:25-27:
On that occasion, Jesus said, “Father, Lord of heaven and earth, I praise you; because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to simple people. Yes, Father, this was your gracious will. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father; and no one knows the Father except the Son, and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him

The great French Christian philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) claimed that reality is divided into three “orders” graded in ascending value. First is the Order of Bodies, to which belong physical strength and beauty, military power, political power, wealth, fame, etc. Second is the Order of the Mind, to which belong intelligence, knowledge, artistic achievements, scientific discoveries, etc. This second Order is infinitely above the first and in complete discontinuity with it. The third is the Order of Charity, to which belong virtue, holiness, love of God and neighbor. It surpasses infinitely the first two order and is in complete discontinuity with them.

In today’s gospel reading Jesus seems to speak in a similar vein, for he clearly opposes “the wise and learned” (Pascal’s Order of the Mind) to “the simple people” to whom God reveals his secrets (Pascal’s Order of Charity). Common observation seems to confirm all this. We all know people who have Ph.D.s and an I.Q. of 170, but who are monsters of conceit and selfishness. And we all know simple, ignorant people, who live only for God, family and neighbor. We can guess who are God’s favorites.

July 14th

St. Kateri Tekakwitha

1st Reading: Is 26:7-9, 11, 16-19:
Let the righteous walk in righteousness. You make smooth the path of the just, and we only seek the way of your laws, O Yahweh. Your name and your memory are the desire of our hearts. My soul yearns for you in the night; for you my spirit keeps vigil. When your judgments come to earth, the world’s inhabitants learn to be upright. Yahweh, your hand is lifted up, but they fail to see that. Let them see your zeal for your people, that they may be put to shame. Let your enemies be burned in the fire of your anger. For they sought you in distress, they cried out to you in the time of their punishment.

As a woman in travail moans and writhes in pain, so are we now in your presence. We conceived, we had labor pains, but we gave birth to the wind. We have not brought salvation to the land; the inhabitants of a new world have not been born. Your dead will live! Their corpses will rise! Awake and sing, you who lie in the dust! For you will grow like plants drenched with the morning dew, and the earth will bring forth its dead spirits.

Gospel: Mt 11:28-30:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest. For my yoke is easy; and my burden is light.”

Progressing Christians are those Christians who, after many struggles (against their laziness, pride, sensuality, selfishness, etc.), have finally shaken off their youthful weaknesses and have resolutely opted for Christ once and for all. What they want with their whole heart is to please God in everything. Sin has lost all attraction in their eyes. They do sin occasionally, of course, but out of tiredness, surprise, weakness. Because sin does not interest these good Christians any more, the Evil Spirit will have to tempt them with good and virtuous actions, but which are not suited to their circumstances: fasts, volunteer work, hospital visits, pilgrimages, etc.

Now, since these inner temptations are all about good things, the inexperienced Christians will think that they are divine inspiration and will try their best to implement them— only to discover after a while that they are exhausted, irritable, neglecting more important duties, and thoroughly miserable. This is why what Jesus tells us in today’s gospel reading is such a priceless principle of the spiritual life: “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Any pious inspiration which does not make my life easy and light does not come from him but comes from the Evil Spirit.

July 15th

St. Bonaventure

1st Reading: Is 38:1-6, 21-22, 7-8:
In those days Hezekiah fell mortally ill and the prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz, went to him with a message from Yahweh, “Put your house in order for you shall die; you shall not live.” Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to Yahweh, “Ah Yahweh! Remember how I have walked before you in truth and wholeheartedly, and done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Then the word of Yahweh came to Isaiah, “Go and tell Hezekiah what Yahweh, the God of his father David, says: I have heard your prayer and I have seen your tears. See! I am adding fifteen years to your life and I will save you and this city from the power of the king of Assyria. I will defend it for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.

Isaiah then said, “Bring a fig cake to rub on the ulcer and let Hezekiah be cured!” Hezekiah asked, “What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of Yahweh?” Isaiah answered, “This shall be for you a sign from Yahweh, that he will do what he has promised. See! I shall make the shadow descending on the stairway of Ahaz go back ten steps.” So the sunlight went back the ten steps it had covered on the stairway.

Gospel: Mt 12:1-8:
It happened that, Jesus was walking through the wheat fields on a Sabbath. His disciples were hungry; and they began to pick some heads of wheat, to crush and to eat the grain. When the Pharisees noticed this, they said to Jesus, “Look at your disciples! They are doing what is prohibited on the Sabbath!”
Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did, when he and his men were hungry? He went into the House of God, and they ate the bread offered to God, though neither he nor his men had the right to eat it, but only the priests. And have you not read in the law, how, on the Sabbath, the priests in the temple desecrate the Sabbath, yet they are not guilty? I tell you, there is greater than the temple here. If you really knew the meaning of the words: It is mercy I want, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the innocent. Besides, the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

A hundred times a day, parents are bombarded by requests from their children. Some of these requests are entirely reasonable, and parents are glad to grant them. Some of these requests are clearly unreasonable, and parents have no problem refusing them. But some of these requests are border-line cases: half-reasonable, half-unreasonable. If their child has been quite naughty of late, they might refuse such requests—which in normal circumstances they would grant. Now, if their child starts crying with heartrending sobs, some parents might relent when their child’s weeping hits a particularly tender chord in their hearts…

In today’s first reading we witness how God first decrees the death of King Hezekiah (a very good king) and how, upon hearing Hezekiah weeping with heart-rending sobs, God relents and grants him another 15 years of life. And he even guarantees his favorable response by a miracle! We call God “our Father in heaven.” And he is really our Father. So he can change his mind about what he plans to give us, when we fervently ask him to do so. Like any parent, some things we do can hit a tender chord in his heart.

July 16th

1st Reading: Mic 2:1-5:
Woe to those who plot wickedness and plan evil even on their beds! When morning comes they do it, as soon as it is within their reach. If they covet fields, they seize them. Do they like houses? They take them. They seize the owner and his household; both, the man and his property. This is why Yahweh speaks, “I am plotting evil against this whole brood, from which your necks cannot escape. No more shall you walk with head held high, for it will be an evil time.”

On that day, they will sing a taunting song against you; and a bitter lamentation will be heard, “We have been stripped of our property in our homeland. Who will free us from the wicked who allots our fields.” Truly, no one will be found in the assembly of Yahweh to keep a field for you.

Gospel: Mt 12:14-21:
Then the Pharisees went out, and made plans to get rid of Jesus. As Jesus was aware of their plans, he left that place. Many people followed him, and he cured all who were sick. But he gave them strict orders not to make him known. In this way, Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled: Here is my servant, whom I have chosen; the one I love, and with whom I am pleased. I will put my spirit upon him; and he will announce my judgment to the nations. He will not argue or shout, nor will his voice be heard in the streets. The bruised reed he will not crush, nor snuff out the smoldering wick until he brings justice to victory, and in him, all the nations will put their hope.

Today’s gospel reading contains two striking images, that of the bruised reed and that of the smoldering wick. In both cases we are dealing with something which either has suffered abuse (reeds do not bruise themselves but are bruised by some outside force) or for some reason or other is not working properly, is malfunctioning. And the text says that the promised still-to-come Servant of God, will treat kindly and gently the bruised reed and the smoldering wick. In this context it is clear that the reed and the wick are metaphors representing people.

Consequently, in a very consoling poem considered the first of the four Suffering Servant songs (all found in the anonymous prophet called Second-Isaiah), we are promised that the future Messiah would be a kind Messiah, a Messiah who will gently handle the half-broken people we all are. And that is exactly what Jesus proved to be. “Come to me,” he tells us, “and I will give you rest…for I am gentle and humble of heart.” Many, if not all of us, are bruised reeds or smoldering wicks. Let us not fear to go to Jesus. We will never regret it.