Bible Diary for July 11th – 17th

July 11th

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. Benedict

1st Reading: Am 7: 12-15:
Amaziah then said to Amos, “Off with you, seer, go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there by prophesying. But never again prophesy at Bethel for it is a king’s Sanctuary and a national shrine.” Amos replied to Amaziah, “I am not a prophet or one of the fellow-prophets. I am a breeder of sheep and a dresser of sycamore trees. But Yahweh took me from shepherding the flock and said to me: Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”

2nd Reading: Eph 1: 3-14:
Blessed be God, the Father of Christ Jesus our Lord, who in Christ has blessed us from heaven with every spiritual blessing. God chose us in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and without sin in his presence. From eternity he destined us in love to be his adopted sons and daughters through Christ Jesus, thus fulfilling his free and generous will. This goal suited him: that his loving-kindness which he granted us in his Beloved might finally receive all glory and praise. For in Christ we obtain freedom, sealed by his blood, and have the forgiveness of sins. In this appears the greatness of his grace, which he lavished on us.

In all wisdom and understanding, God has made known to us his mysterious design, in accordance with his loving-kindness in Christ. In him and under him God wanted to unite, when the fullness of time had come, everything in heaven and on earth. By a decree of Him who disposes all things according to his own plan and decision we, the Jews, have been chosen and called and we were awaiting the Messiah, for the praise of his glory. You, on hearing the word of truth, the Gospel that saves you, have believed in him. And, as promised, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit, the first pledge of what we shall receive, on the way to our deliverance as a people of God, for the praise of his glory.

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.

We see a facet of Jesus’ character shining through this gospel snapshot. First, He equips His disciples with the necessary power and authority so they may do their task with confidence. Secondly, He asked them to bring only the essentials in their mission work. Everything else can be foregone without any slight effect on the mission work. Thirdly, they need not grope in the dark. He gave them a manual to follow so they would know what to do in given circumstances. He did not scrimp on the provisions He prepared for them.

They may have been travelling light in earthly goods, but surely had heavy weight provisions from Jesus’ own largesse. Being in control and the one who decides my own faith is a good thing. It means taking responsibility over my own life course. But there are moments when I have to step back and give way to God’s gentle promptings. But have I ever been courageous enough to let go of the control button for God?

Perhaps today, I will allow God to take over my actions and decisions and do what He wants me to do with enthusiasm and joy. Lord, oftentimes, I make my presence larger than life in the control room. I don’t want to let go of the push button. How many times have I overridden Your gentle suggestions and extended help to make me feel that I am truly in control? Help me to realize that with You helping me navigate my life’s journey, I will never go wrong. Amen.

July 12th

1st Reading: Ex 1: 8-14, 22:
Then a new king who had not known Joseph came to power and said to his people, “The Israelites are more numerous and stronger than we are. Let us deal warily with them lest they increase still more and, in case of war, side with our enemy, fight against us and escape from the land.” So they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. In that way they built the storage towns of Pithom and Rameses.

But the more they oppressed the Hebrews the more they increased and spread, until the Egyptians dreaded the Israelites and became ruthless in making them work. They made life bitter for them in hard labor with bricks and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields. In all their work the Egyptians treated them harshly. Pharaoh then gave this order to all the people: “Every infant boy born to the Hebrews must be thrown into the Nile, but every girl may live.”

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 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 come after me is not worthy of me. One who wants to benefit from his life will lose it; one who 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 a disciple of mine, 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.

The family is a beautiful institution, one of the pearls of God’s creation. And so, the love of one’s family is certainly a good and beautiful thing—in fact, God made it one of the ten commandments when he said, “Honor your father and your mother” (Ex 20:12). However, love for one’s family, like anything human, can be distorted into something ugly. Some people place their family above everything else, even their conscience. Examples of this are numerous.

Nepotism is one of them. When a person gives a position of responsibility to an incompetent or dishonest relative just because he or she is a relative, that person places love of family above love of God and neighbor. When a person sides with a relative in a quarrel while knowing perfectly well that the relative is in the wrong, that person loves his or her family more than truth and justice. When families pressure two young people themselves above the respect of these young people’s freedom and happiness: they sin against God and man. Here we must examine our consciences most carefully.

July 13th

St. Henry

1st Reading: Ex 2:1-15a:
A certain man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, who conceived and bore a son. Seeing that he was a goodly child, she hid him for three months. When she could hide him no longer, she took a papyrus basket, daubed it with bitumen and pitch, and putting the child in it, placed it among the reeds on the river bank. His sister stationed herself at a distance to find out what would happen to him. Pharaoh’s daughter came down to the river to bathe, while her maids walked along the river bank. Noticing the basket among the reeds, she sent her handmaid to fetch it. On opening it, she looked, and lo, there was a baby boy, crying!

She was moved with pity for him and said, “It is one of the Hebrews’ children.” Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call one of the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” “Yes, do so,” she answered. So the maiden went and called the child’s own mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will repay you.” The woman therefore took the child and nursed it. When the child grew, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, who adopted him as her son and called him Moses; for she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

On one occasion, after Moses had grown up, when he visited his kinsmen and witnessed their forced labor, he saw an Egyptian striking a Hebrew, one of his own kinsmen. Looking about and seeing no one, he slew the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. The next day he went out again, and now two Hebrews were fighting! So he asked the culprit, “Why are you striking your fellow Hebrew?” But the culprit replied, “Who has appointed you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses became afraid and thought, “The affair must certainly be known.” Pharaoh, too, heard of the affair and sought to put Moses to death. But Moses fled from him and stayed in the land of Midian.

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 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 taken place 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.”

Contrary to popular belief, miracles do not automatically produce faith (because faith results from an essentially free decision), but it is rather faith that produces miracles. Let us consider these two ideas in turn. The first idea is perfectly illustrated by Jesus’ comparison between, on the one hand, Tyre and Sidon (the traditional archetypes of impiety—cf. Is. 23; Ez 26—28) and, on the other hand, the lake towns of Chorazin and Bethsaida. The latter had witnessed many miracles of Jesus, yet had refused to believe in him. Jesus compares Tyre and Sidon to them favorably because their evil deeds resulted more from ignorance than from sheer malice.

The second idea is constantly illustrated by Jesus’ response to people who ask him to perform a miracle: “Let it be done to you according to your faith” (Cf. Mt 8:13; 9:29; Lk 7:50…). At Lourdes (France) people witness the same miracles, yet some believe and some do not. Nothing can force faith—not even God, who respects our freedom too much to do that. The mindset of some basically honest and decent people is sometimes so conditioned (by a secular education, years of atheistic propaganda, etc.) that these people simply cannot make the leap of faith. Let us not look down on them. Maybe they would be better Christians than we are if they had experienced all that we have…

July 14th

St. Kateri Tekakwitha

1st Reading: Ex 3: 1-6, 9-12:
Moses pastured the sheep of Jethro, his father in-law, priest of Midian. One day he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the Mountain of God. The angel of Yahweh appeared to him by means of a flame of fire in the middle of a bush. Moses saw that although the bush was on fire it did not burn up. Moses thought, “I will go and see this amazing sight, why is the bush not burning up?” Yahweh saw that Moses was drawing near to look, and God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!” He replied, “Here I am.” Yahweh said to him, “Do not come near; take off your sandals because the place where you are standing is holy ground.”

And God continued, “I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. The cry of the sons of Israel has reached me and I have seen how the Egyptians oppress them. Go now! I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.” Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the people of Israel out of Egypt?” God replied, “I will be with you and this will be the sign that I have sent you. When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.

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.”

Most people find questionable the practice of marrying someone because that someone is rich. And they are quite right. Marriage should unite for life two people who love each other enough to embrace the hardships which are an integral part of the married life. Only real love can sustain a real marriage. There is something incongruous in the idea of “buying” or “selling” married life. Likewise, since God is pure love by definition (1 Jn 4:8, 16), the only way to meet him in depth is through the gift of one’s heart, not through an intellectual, analytical study of his nature. Such an approach is unsuited for a deep relationship with God.

It is too cold, impersonal, detached and ultimately foreign to God’s infinite humility—a humility which inspired him to give himself to us through his Son made man. God will always resist attempts to “comprehend” (i.e. to intellectually seize him) by an effort of the mind. He gives himself to those who are humble enough to approach him with their hearts instead of only their minds. Here one is reminded of Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), that mathematical genius who discovered this “heart approach” in the course of a burning mystical experience, and after that, wrote that “the heart has its reason which reason knows nothing of.”

July 15th

St. Bonaventure

1st Reading: Ex 3: 13-20:
Moses answered God, “If I go to the Israelites and say to them: ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ they will ask me: ‘What is his name?’ What shall I answer them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO AM. This is what you will say to the sons of Israel: ‘I AM sent me to you.” God then said to Moses, “You will say to the Israelites: ‘YAHWEH, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, has sent me.’ That will be my name forever, and by this name they shall call upon me for all generations to come.

“Go! Call together the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘Yahweh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob appeared to me and said: I have seen and taken account of how the Egyptians have treated you, and I mean to bring you out of all this oppression in Egypt and take you to the land of the Canaanites, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ The elders of Israel will listen to you and, with them, you shall go to the palace of the king of Egypt and say to him: ‘The God of the Hebrews, Yahweh, has met with us. Now let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness to sacrifice to Yahweh our God.’ I well know that the king of the Egyptians will not allow you to go unless he is forced to do so. I will therefore stretch out my hand and strike Egypt in extraordinary ways, after which he will let you go.”

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.”

In this modern, hectic, complicated and haste-addicted world (think only of this new phenomenon called “multi-tasking”!), it is very easy to lose one’s peace of mind and begin to panic under the pressure of our many obligations and commitments. Those who have what has been called the “Type A Personality,” (translate: the doers, the earth shakers, the perfectionists, the competitive high-achievers) are easily victimized by their desire to “please everyone in every way” (1 Cor 10:33)—surely an impossible task for the ordinary person—and end up being psychologically all tied up in knots.

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus reveals to us a priceless insight, nay, more than that. He gives us a principle of spiritual discernment which should be a source of liberation for all his overly zealous followers: “My burden is light.” If you feel that Christian life has become a joyless round of duties, a tedious grind, a drag, a drudgery—then something is wrong. A lot, if the weight pulling you down, does not come from your Christian duties because “my burden is light.” Maybe it is time for you to drop a few items from your bursting-at-the-seams agenda?

July 16th

Foundation Day of the Claretian Missionaries
Our Lady of Mount Carmel

1st Reading: Ex 11:10—12:14:
Although Moses and Aaron performed various wonders in Pharaoh’s presence, the Lord made Pharaoh obstinate, and he would not let the children of Israel leave his land. The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall stand at the head of your calendar; you shall reckon it the first month of the year. Tell the whole community of Israel:  On the tenth of this month every one of your families must procure for itself a lamb, one apiece for each household. If a family is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join the nearest household in procuring one and shall share in the lamb in proportion to the number of persons who partake of it.

“The lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish. You may take it from either the sheep or the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, and then, with the whole assembly of Israel present, it shall be slaughtered during the evening twilight. They shall take some of its blood and apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel of every house in which they partake of the lamb. That same night they shall eat its roasted flesh with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. It shall not be eaten raw or boiled, but roasted whole, with its head and shanks and inner organs. None of it must be kept beyond the next morning; whatever is left over in the morning shall be burned up.

“This is how you are to eat it: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you shall eat like those who are in flight. It is the Passover of the Lord. For on this same night I will go through Egypt, striking down every first born of the land, both man and beast, and executing judgment on all the gods of Egypt—I, the Lord! But the blood will mark the houses where you are. Seeing the blood, I will pass over you; thus, when I strike the land of Egypt, no destructive blow will come upon you. This day shall be a memorial feast for you, which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the Lord, as a perpetual institution.”

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.”

One of the ten commandments given by God to Moses runs like this: “No work must be done (on the sabbath)” (Ex 20:10). But what did God mean by “work?” In the course of the centuries the Jewish scribes or specialists of the Law had tried to answer that question by specifying what types of activities could be classified as “work.” Harvesting was obviously one of those. But the Pharisees, who were over scrupulous observers of the Law, believed that plucking heads of wheat while crossing a field was “harvesting” and, therefore, work. Hence their reproach to Jesus in today’s gospel reading. Naturally, Jesus does not agree with this nit-picking approach to the Law.

However, on this particular occasion he decides to humor the Pharisees by saying something like this: “Suppose you are right in your definition of what “work” is. But, even so, every rule has its exception, don’t you think?” Then he goes on to point to an occasion when the famous Kind David (one of God’s favorites) broke the Law for a good reason (hunger) and was not blamed by God for doing so. Priests also break the Law, Jesus then adds, by “working” on the Sabbath. Even good and wise rules must sometimes be broken when their application in particular set of circumstances becomes nonsensical.

July 17th

1st Reading: Ex 12: 37-42:
The Israelites left Rameses for Succoth, about six hundred thousand of them on the march, counting the men only, and not the children. A great number of other people of all descriptions went with them, as well as sheep and cattle in droves. With the dough they had brought with them from Egypt, they made cakes of unleavened bread.

It had not risen, for when they were driven from Egypt they could not delay and had not even provided themselves with food. The Israelites had been in Egypt for four hundred and thirty years. It was at the end of these four hundred and thirty years to the very day that the armies of Yahweh left Egypt. This is the watch for Yahweh who brought Israel out of Egypt. This night is for Yahweh, and all the Israelites are also to keep vigil on this night, year after year, for all time.

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.

A reed is a tall plant which grows in swamps and shallow water and has a jointed hollow stalk. Compared to any tree, a reed is weak and fragile. It can easily be damaged or bruised if a person does not handle it most carefully. On the other hand, when the wick of a candle starts smoldering, this means that it will soon become extinguished if nothing is done to rekindle it. In today’s gospel reading, Matthew describes Jesus’ behavior towards the spiritually weak by borrowing a description of the future Messiah as provided by the prophet Isaiah.

According to the latter, the future Messiah will deal most gently with the spiritually weak who will not crush the already bruised reed nor snuff out the smoldering wick. And indeed Jesus himself reassures us on this score as he solemnly states at one point: “I will not reject anyone who comes to me” (Jn 6:37). Who among us has not been bruised by life? If so, let us go to Jesus. He will always welcome us with a warm embrace, whatever our spiritual state.