Bible Diary for July 18th – 24th

July 18th

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. Camillus de Lellis

1st Reading: Jer 23:1-6:
“Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” This is the message of Yahweh, God of Israel, to the shepherds in charge of my people, “You have scattered my sheep and driven them away instead of caring for them. Now I will deal with you because of your evil deeds. I will gather the remnant of my sheep from every land to which I have driven them and I will bring them back to the grasslands. They will be fruitful and increase in number. I will appoint shepherds who will take care of them. No longer will they fear or be terrified. No one will be lost.”

Yahweh further says, “The day is coming when I will raise up a king who is David’s righteous successor. He will rule wisely and govern with justice and righteousness. That will be a grandiose era when Judah will enjoy peace and Israel will live in safety. He will be called Yahweh-our-justice!”

2nd Reading: Eph 2:13-18:
But now, in Christ Jesus and by his blood, you who were once far off have come near. For Christ is our peace, he who has made the two peoples one, destroying in his own flesh the wall—the hatred—which separated us. He abolished the Law with its commands and precepts. He made peace in uniting the two peoples in him, creating out of the two one New Man. He destroyed hatred and reconciled us both to God through the cross, making the two one body. He came to proclaim peace; peace to you who were far off, peace to the Jews who were near. Through him we—the two peoples—approach the Father in one Spirit.

Gospel: Mk 6:30-34:
The apostles returned and reported to Jesus all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, “Go off by yourselves to 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.

Quiet moments are needed after a hard day’s work. There are things to be thought about, actions and responses to be deciphered in peace and an assessment of one’s personal environment after the work is done. Jesus knew the magic of taking time off from work. He Himself went to a quiet place every now and then to commune with His Father and with Himself. And so He wanted His disciples to taste the refreshing power of rest. But life is not a neat puzzle that can be ordered as wanted. The people whose hopes and dreams were rekindled when the disciples let loose the good news of Jesus didn’t have the luxury of time to rest. So they imposed themselves to Jesus’ group.

And here shone one of the reasons why the disciples never hesitated to follow Jesus. He did not merely command. He took over when His disciples were already spent and continues to do so until today. Do I believe in the healing power of rest, or do I equate fruitfulness with continued activity? When was the last time that I truly rested and not merely went on vacation to take stock of my life? Today is a good day to rest and recharge. Today, I will allow the Lord to take over while I enjoy my quiet moment. Lord help me to see that action and inaction are merely two sides of the same coin. May I learn to profit from both whichever of the two is at hand and allow You to take over from time to time so that I may enjoy my rest. Amen.

July 19th

1st Reading: Ex 14:5-18:
When it was reported to the king of Egypt that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his servants changed their minds about them. They exclaimed, “What have we done! Why, we have released Israel from our service!” So Pharaoh made his chariots ready and mustered his soldiers six hundred first-class chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt, with warriors on them all. So obstinate had the Lord made Pharaoh that he pursued the children of Israel even while they were marching away in triumph. The Egyptians, then, pursued them; Pharaoh’s whole army, his horses, chariots and charioteers, caught up with them as they lay encamped by the sea, at Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.

Pharaoh was already near when the children of Israel looked up and saw that the Egyptians were on the march in pursuit of them. In great fright they cried out to the Lord. And they complained to Moses, “Were there no burial places in Egypt that you had to bring us out here to die in the desert? Why did you do this to us? Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Did we not tell you this in Egypt, when we said, ‘Leave us alone. Let us serve the Egyptians’? Far better for us to be the slaves of the Egyptians than to die in the desert.” But Moses answered the people, “Fear not! Stand your ground, and you will see the victory the Lord will win for you today. These Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again. The Lord himself will fight for you; you have only to keep still.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. And you, lift up your staff and, with hand outstretched over the sea, split the sea in two, that the children of Israel may pass through it on dry land. But I will make the Egyptians so obstinate that they will go in after them. Then I will receive glory through Pharaoh and all his army, his chariots and charioteers. The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I receive glory through Pharaoh and his chariots and charioteers.”

Gospel: Mt 12:38-42:
Then some teachers of the law and some Pharisees spoke up, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” Jesus answered them, “An evil and unfaithful people want a sign; but no sign will be given, them except the sign of the prophet Jonah. In the same way, as Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of Man spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. “At the judgment, the people of Nineveh will rise with this generation, and condemn it; because they reformed their lives at the preaching of Jonah, and here, there is greater than Jonah. At the judgment, the Queen of the South will stand up and condemn you. She came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and here, there is greater than Solomon. “

We, the people of the 21st century, are dazzled by the extraordinary achievements of technology. Practically every day we witness that some new advanced gadget has invaded the market: from ipads to microwave ovens and from the self-driving car to the unmanned drone (or robot plane). But are we any wiser for all that? Is there more peace among the peoples of the earth? Is there more happiness in our hearts? Are we becoming better humans? The answer to these questions is obvious: we grow technological savvy but we are dolefully lacking in wisdom.

In fact, the word “wisdom” has become almost quaint and archaic. Yet, as today’s gospel reading tells us, the Queen of the South “came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon.” Would we be willing to exert such an effort? Yet, if our civilization to survive, we must build the future on Christ’s wisdom. In this we have been solemnly warned by the Second Vatican Council: “Our era needs… wisdom more than bygone ages if the discoveries made by man are to be further humanized. For the future of the world stands in peril unless wiser men and women are forthcoming” (GS, n.15).

July 20th

St. Apollinaris

1st Reading: Ex 14:21 – 15:1:
Moses stretched his hand over the sea and Yahweh made a strong east wind blow all night and dry up the sea. The waters divided and the sons of Israel went on dry ground through the middle of the sea, with the waters forming a wall to their right and to their left. The Egyptians followed them and all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots and horsemen moved forward in the middle of the sea. It happened that in the morning watch, Yahweh in the pillar of cloud and fire, looked towards the Egyptian camp and threw it into confusion. He so clogged their chariot wheels that they could hardly move. Then the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from the Israelites for Yahweh is fighting for them against Egypt.”

Then Yahweh said to Moses, “Stretch your hand over the sea and let the waters come back over the Egyptians, over their chariots and horsemen.” Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. At daybreak the sea returned to its place. As the Egyptians tried to flee, Yahweh swept them into the sea. The waters flowed back and engulfed the chariots and horsemen of the whole army of Pharaoh that had followed Israel into the sea. Not one of them escaped. As for the Israelites they went forward on dry ground in the middle of the sea, the waters forming a wall on their right and their left.

On that day Yahweh delivered Israel from the power of the Egyptians and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the seashore. They understood what wonders Yahweh had done for them against Egypt, and the people feared Yahweh. They believed in Yahweh and in Moses, his servant. Then Moses and the people sang this song to Yahweh: I will sing to Yahweh, the glorious one, horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.

Gospel: Mt 12:46-50:
While Jesus was still talking to the people, his mother and his brothers wanted to speak to him and they waited outside. So someone said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside; they want to speak with you.” Jesus answered, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look! Here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

It is always amusing to hear two sweethearts debate on how exactly they will spend their evening together. Will they watch a movie, go to a basketball game, attend a rock concert, walk in the park? Each of the lovers want to please the other without any regard for personal preferences. In substance, they are always saying: your will, not mine. Such is the nature of authentic love. It always seeks union of the wills, those sacred places in which our freedom is rooted. Jesus, who understands human nature better than anyone, knows this perfectly. That is why he insists so much on our loving him by obeying his will: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15).

In today’s gospel reading Jesus does not deny the value of family ties. He knows very well that, as the saying goes “blood is thicker than water.” In other words, family ties are stronger than the ties binding classmates, business associates, countrymen, co-workers, teammates and even close friends. But at the same time he affirms the primacy of spiritual ties in the new community founded by him. In other words, doing his Father’s will created ties thicker than blood!

July 21st

St. Lawrence of Brindisi

1st Reading: Ex 16:1-5, 9-15:
The Israelites left Elim and the entire community reached the desert of Sin, between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after leaving Egypt. In the desert the whole community of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron and said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of Yahweh in Egypt when we sat down to caldrons of meat and ate all the bread we wanted, whereas you have brought us to this desert to let the whole assembly die of starvation!“

Yahweh then said to Moses, “Now I am going to rain down bread from heaven for you. Each day the people are to gather what is needed for that day. In this way I will test them to see if they will follow my Teaching or not. On the sixth day when they prepare what they have brought in, they will find that there is twice as much as they gather each day.” Then Moses directed Aaron to say to the whole community of Israel, “Draw near to Yahweh for he has heard your complaints.”

It happened that as Aaron was speaking to the full assembly of Israel, they turned towards the desert and saw the Glory of Yahweh in the midst of the cloud. Then Yahweh spoke to Moses, “I have heard the complaints of Israel. Speak to them and say: Between the two evenings you will eat meat, and in the morning you will have bread to your heart’s content; then you shall know that I am Yahweh, your God!”

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp. And in the morning, dew had fallen around the camp. When the dew lifted, there was on the surface of the desert a thin crust like hoarfrost. The people of Israel upon seeing it said to one another, “What is it?” for they didn’t know what it was. Moses told them, “It is the bread that Yahweh has given you to eat.”

Gospel: Mt 13:1-9:
That same day, Jesus left the house and sat down by the lakeside. Many people gathered around him. So he got into a boat, and sat down, while the crowds stood on the shore; and he spoke to them in parables about many things.

Jesus said, “The sower went out to sow; and, as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path; and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil, and the seeds sprouted quickly, because the soil was not deep But as soon as the sun rose, the plants were scorched; and they withered, because they had no roots. Again, other seeds fell among thistles; and the thistles grew and choked the plants. Still, other seeds fell on good soil and produced a crop: some a hundredfold, others sixty, and others thirty. If you have ears, then hear!“

In his ministry of teaching, Jesus liberally used parables so that even ordinary people can easily understand his message. In this parable the farmer is Jesus himself. The seed is the word of God. The path, rock, thorns and good soil are the hearts of those who hear God’s word. As the seed’s fruitfulness depends upon the seedbed into which the seed falls, so the fruitfulness of God’s word depends on the kind of heart into which it falls. It follows then that if the word of God is not fruitful in our lives, it is not the fault of the word. There is something wrong with our heart and how we have been receiving God’s gift.

Thus, it is indispensable that we periodically examine whether or not our hearts are a “good soil“ for the Word of God to grow and bear much fruit. We need to find out what is it that prevents the Word from taking root and consequently bring a bountiful harvest. At the same time, we have to be grateful to the Lord because in spite of the fact that sometimes the Word is not received properly, he does not tire out nor does he give up sowing the seed. Christians are expected to show the same patience and zeal in the work of renewed evangelization.

July 22nd

St. Mary Magdalene

1st Reading: Song 3:1-4b:
On my bed at night I looked for the one I love, I sought him without finding him; I called him and he did not answer. I will rise and go about the city, through the streets and the squares; I will seek the love of my heart…I sought him without finding him; the watchmen came upon me, those who patrol the city. “Have you seen the love of my heart?” As soon as I left them, I found the love of my heart. I held him and would not let him go till I had brought him to my mother’s house to the room of her who conceived me.

Gospel: Jn 20:1-2, 11-18:
Now, on the first day after the Sabbath, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark and she saw that the stone blocking the tomb had been moved away. She ran to Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved. And she said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have laid him.” Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she bent down to look inside; she saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, and the other at the feet. They said, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She answered, “Because they have taken my Lord and I don’t know where they have put him.”

As she said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not recognize him. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and answered him, “Lord, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him, “Rabboni” – which means, Master. Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me; you see I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them: I am ascending to my Father, who is your Father, to my God, who is your God.” So Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord, and this is what he said to me.”

Perhaps no other woman in history has been more maligned and unjustly vilified than Mary Magdalene. (Incidentally, Magdalene means “from Magdalas,” a town situated on the Western shore of the Sea of Galilee). For various reasons (v.g. there are six Marys mentioned in the New Testament), she was wrongly identified with the nameless, “sinful” woman, who anointed the feet of Jesus (cf. Lk 7:36-50). Thus Mary Magdalene was for centuries thought to have been a reformed prostitute. This error was first spread by Gregory the Great in the 16th century—a typical example of male chauvinism—and was finally corrected only by the Roman Calendar of 1969, where she is no longer called a “penitent.”

Since then at least seven highly scholarly works by female exegetes have set the record straight once and for all. Male chauvinism is slowly being eroded in the West (it is still rampant in many cultures and religions in the East) but remains an ugly blot on humankind. We should all examine our thinking and our behavior in this respect—women as well as men, for some women “introject” that prejudice and accept it unconsciously. Let us look at Jesus’ unconditional acceptance of women disciples. He made of Mary Magdalene, in the words of the Byzantine liturgy, “apostle to the apostle.”

July 23rd

St. Bridget of Sweden

1st Reading: Ex 20:1-17:
In those days: God delivered all these commandments: “I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall not have other gods besides me. You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them. For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their fathers’ wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation; but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth generation on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain. For the Lord will not leave unpunished him who takes his name in vain. “Remember to keep holy the sabbath day. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord, your God. No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your beast, or by the alien who lives with you. In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

“Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you. “You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass, nor anything else that belongs to him.”

Gospel: Mt 13:18-23:
Now listen to the parable of the sower. When a person hears the message of the kingdom, but does not take it seriously, the devil comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed that fell along the footpath. The seed that fell on rocky ground stands for the one who hears the word, and accepts it at once with joy. But such a person has no roots, and endures only for a while. No sooner is he harassed or persecuted because of the word, than he gives up. The seed that fell among the thistles is the one who hears the word; but then, the worries of this life and the love of money choke the word; and it does not bear fruit. As for the seed that fell on good soil, it is the one who hears the word and understands it; this seed bears fruit and produces a hundred, or sixty, or thirty times more.

There are three types of bad listeners of the Word of God in today’s gospel reading. Let us focus our attention on the third type, the one in whom “the worries of this life and the love of money choke the word, and it does not bear fruit.” What kind of listeners are they? They are busy bodies, fanatics of success, thrusters. Always on the move. They have a head full of wonderful projects aimed at ensuring their success. Are they good Christians? They sincerely believe they are. Do they not attend Mass every Sunday? Do they not give to charities? Do they not place their children in a denominational school?

However, they would have to admit deep within themselves that they are doing all this merely out of a sense of duty. What really matters for them is not so much to place God at the center of their family and professional life, as rather to have a brilliant career, to make a name for themselves, to fatten their bank account. This could be transposed on the spiritual level. There is a way of busying oneself with the things of God which is closely akin to this frantic activism. Yet, nothing can substitute for listening to the word of God.

July 24th

St. Sharbel Makhlúf

1st Reading: Ex 24:3-8:
Moses came and told the people all the words of Yahweh and all his laws. The people replied with one voice: “Everything that Yahweh has said, we shall do.” Moses wrote down all the words of Yahweh, then rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve raised stones for the twelve tribes of Israel. He then sent young men from among the sons of Israel to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice bullocks as peace offerings to Yahweh.

And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins; and with the other half of the blood he sprinkled the altar. He then took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. They said, “All that Yahweh said we shall do and obey.“ Moses then took the blood and sprinkled it on the people saying, “Here is the blood of the Covenant that Yahweh has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Gospel: Mt 13:24-30:
Jesus told the people another parable, “The kingdom of heaven can be compared to a man, who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. When the plants sprouted and produced grain, the weeds also appeared. Then, the servants of the owner came, and said to him, ‘Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?’ He answered them, ‘This is the work of an enemy.’ They asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?’ He told them, ‘No, when you pull up the weeds, you might uproot the wheat with them. Let them grow together, until harvest; and, at harvest time, I will say to the workers: Pull up the weeds first, tie them in bundles and burn them; then gather the wheat into my barn.’”

Evil is in opposition to God. Its primary intent is to destroy the good that God has made: everything that bears God’s love, anything that expresses his goodness. Jesus recognizes and identifies the existence of evil in the world and its capacity to wield destructive power within the created order. He is aware of its power to inflict suffering and pain. The evil one is out there simply to destroy God’s beautiful creation, humans and nonhumans alike; and his main agent of destruction is humanity itself.

Just as we can be instruments of God’s goodness, so too can we become means of unleashing this evil power. The evil one’s focus of ruination is “relationships”. Relationship is a basic element within creation. Human society, family, friendship collapse, when relationship breaks down. The environment, the natural world, decline, when human relationship with them is characterized by alienation. What are the forms and manner that the evil one uses to ruin relationships?