Bible Diary for July 19th – 25th

July 19th

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

1st Reading: Wis 12:13,16–19:
For there is no other god besides you, one who cares for everyone, who could ask you to justify your judgments; your strength is the source of your justice and because you are the Lord of all, you can be merciful to everyone. To those who doubt your sovereign power you show your strength and you confound the insolence of those who ignore it. But you, the Lord of strength, judge with prudence and govern us with great patience, because you are able to do anything at the time you want. In this way you have taught your people that a righteous person must love his human fellows; you have also given your people cause for hope by prompting them to repent of their sin.

2nd Reading: Rom 8:26–27:
Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes for us, without words, as if with groans. And he, who sees inner secrets, knows the desires of the Spirit, for he asks for the holy ones, what is pleasing to God.

Gospel: Mt 13:24–43:
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.’”

Jesus offered them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is smaller than all other seeds, but once it is fully grown, it is bigger than any garden plant; like a tree, the birds come and rest in its branches.” He told them another parable, “The kingdom of heaven is like the yeast that a woman took, and hid in three measures of fl our, until the whole mass of dough began to rise.” Jesus taught all these things to the crowds by means of parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. This fulfilled what was spoken by the Prophet: I will speak in parables. I will proclaim things kept secret since the beginning of the world.

Then he sent the crowds away and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” Jesus answered them, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world; the good seed are the people of the kingdom; the weeds are those who follow the evil one. The enemy who sows the weeds is the devil; the harvest is the end of time, and the workers are the angels. Just as the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so will it be at the end of time. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom all that is scandalous and all who do evil. And these will be thrown into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the just will shine, like the sun, in the kingdom of their Father. If you have ears, then hear.

The good and the bad, the sacred and the profane tend to live side by side. It is as if they could not exist without the other. The more renowned the place as a center of holiness, the more commercialism and consumerism is attracted around it giving rise to many commercial pursuits in support of the holy activities going on. It is thus with a certain dose of realism that Jesus told the parable of the good sower whose work is sabotaged by the enemy who sowed weeds among the wheat. It happens in the real world that we live in. It is present in the hearts of each and every one of us. In this regard Jesus counsels patience and allows the process of the wheat and the weeds to finish.

It is only during harvest time that the two could be safely separated. We too should have the patience to live in a world of contrasts. Meanwhile let us strive to make our wheat outgrow our weeds within. How do I behave amidst the differences that I have with others? Do I fit in or do I insist on doing things my own way by removing their uniqueness and individuality and insisting that they be a clone of me? Today, I will try to integrate myself amidst the diversity that I find in my environment. I will allow them to grow with me and let time teach us to pull the weeds of differences that hinder our friendship instead.

July 20th

St. Apollinaris

1st Reading: Mic 6:1–4, 6–8:
Listen to what Yahweh said to me, “Stand up, let the mountains hear your claim, and the hills listen to your plea.” Hear, O mountains, Yahweh’s complaint! Foundations of the earth, pay attention! For Yahweh has a case against his people, and will argue it with Israel. “O my people, what have I done to you? In what way have I been a burden to you? Answer me. I brought you out of Egypt; I rescued you from the land of bondage; I sent Moses, Aaron and Miriam to lead you.

“What shall I bring when I come to Yahweh and bow down before God the most high? Shall I come with burnt offerings, with sacrifices of yearling calves? Will Yahweh be pleased with thousands of rams, with an overabundance of oil libations? Should I offer my firstborn for my sins, the fruit of my body for my wrongdoing? You have been told, O man, what is good and what Yahweh requires of you: to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

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.”

Signs are confirmatory by nature. We ask them from time to time to assure ourselves that we are on the right track. Some teachers of the Law and Pharisees asked the Lord for a sign. Perhaps they want to rest their doubts and be sure of their decisions before committing themselves to the Lord. Perhaps they just want to trap Him and disregard any signs He may make since their minds were set on a negative course of action. Whatever their frame of mind, Jesus was vexed with them. He had been performing countless signs of miracles and wonders in front of them for a period of time already. If it did not convince them, one more would not make a dent on their unbelief.

July 21st

St. Lawrence of Brindisi

1st Reading: Mic 7:14-15, 18-20:
Shepherd your people with your staff, shepherd the flock of your inheritance that dwells alone in the scrub, in the midst of a fertile land. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in the days of old, in the days when you went out of Egypt. Who is a God like you, who takes away guilt and pardons crime for the remnant of his inheritance? Who is like you whose anger does not last? For you delight in merciful forgiveness. Once again you will show us your loving kindness and trample on our wrongs, casting all our sins into the depths of the sea. Show faithfulness to Jacob, mercy to Abraham, as you have sworn to our ancestors from the days of old.

Gospel: Mt 12:46-50:
While Jesus was 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.”

Some people are like elephants. They have a very long memory. If you have wronged them, they might forgive you after you have begged them to do so. But they will never forget what you did to them. As the expression goes about “burying the hatchet” (making peace, reconciling), they did accept to bury the hatchet, but they remember exactly where they buried it. Because of this, such people can hardly believe that God can “forgive and forget.” In their eyes that would be just too good to be true.

Yet, in many parts of the Bible God assures us that, once he forgives our sins, he forgets them forever. For example, we hear God say in the Book of Jeremiah: “I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more” (Jer 31:34–quoted in Heb 8:12 and 10:17). The same idea is expressed in today’s first reading, where we hear the prophet Micah describing God as “casting all our sins into the depths of the sea.” That is the kind of God our God is. When he buries the hatchet, he throws it where it can never be found!

July 22nd

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, “Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned, and said to him, “Rabboni!”—which means Master. Jesus said to her, “Do not touch me, because 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.”

Today we celebrate the feast of Mary of Magdala, the woman who earned a distinction of being one of the followers of Jesus who did not abandon Him even at the lowest moment of her Lord’s life. Little is known about her and the persistent caricature of her as a sinful woman is altogether false. But she figured prominently in the resurrection event. She was the first to see the Risen Lord and announce the good news to the still hesitant, fearful disciples. Henceforth she will be called “apostle to the apostles”–an honor she earned through her constant unwavering adherence to Jesus even in moments when hope was nowhere in sight.

July 23rd

St. Bridget of Sweden

1st Reading: Jer 2:1–3, 7–8, 12–13:
A word of Yahweh came to me, Go and shout this in the hearing of Jerusalem. This is Yahweh’s word: I remember your kindness as a youth, the love of your bridal days, when you followed me in the wilderness, through a land not sown. Israel was holy to Yahweh, the first fruits of his harvest. All who ate of it had to pay and misfortune fell on them—it is Yahweh who speaks. I brought you to a fertile land to eat of the choicest fruit. As soon as you came you defiled my land and dishonored my heritage!

The priests did not ask, “Where is Yahweh?” The masters of my teaching did not know me; the pastors of my people betrayed me; the prophets followed worthless idols and spoke in the name of Baal. Be aghast at that, O heavens! Shudder, be utterly appalled—it is Yahweh who speaks—for my people have done two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, to dig for themselves leaking cisterns that hold no water!

Gospel: Mt 13:10–17:
Then his disciples came to him and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but not to these people. For the one who has will be given more; and he will have in abundance. But the one who does not have will be deprived of even what he has. That is why I speak to them in parables; because they look and do not see; they hear; but they do not listen or understand. In them, the words of the prophet Isaiah are fulfilled: However much you hear, you do not understand; however much you see, you do not perceive.

For the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears hardly hear and their eyes dare not see. If they were to see with their eyes, hear with their ears and understand with their heart, they would turn back, and I would heal them. But blessed are your eyes, be cause they see; and your ears, because they hear. For I tell you, many prophets and righteous people have longed to see the things you see, but they did not see them; and to hear the things you hear, but they did not hear them.

The Kingdom of God is revealed in parables. It is not accessible to eyes and ears that cannot leave behind the usual and literal. It is a language that is finer than our coarse, obvious and ordinary human discourse. That is why faith is a condition to savor its wealth of meanings. Faith opens our eyes to the wonders of God’s love revealed to us in symbolic discourse. What was once arcane and incomprehensible becomes accessible to our human understanding. Perhaps it cannot be helped. The Kingdom is a divine reality that human words heave and groan to contain its meaning.

July 24th

St. Sharbel Makhlúf

1st Reading: Jer 3:14–17:
Come back, faithless people – it is Yahweh who speaks – for I am your master. I will select one from a city and two from a family and bring you to Zion. Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and prudence. And when you have increased and multiplied in the land in those days – it is Yahweh who speaks – people will no longer speak of the ark of the covenant of Yahweh; it will not be remembered or missed, nor shall it be made again! Then they will call Jerusalem ‘The Throne of Yahweh’ and all the nations will gather there to honor the name of Yahweh and no longer will they follow the stubbornness of their wicked hearts.

Gospel: Mt 13:18–23:
Jesus said to his disciples, “Now listen to the parable of the sower. When a person hears the message of the Kingdom but without taking it to himself, 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 this fickle and has no roots. 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 bears fruit and produces a hundred, or sixty, or thirty times more.”

No amount of physical suffering can ruin life unless we allow it to do so. But loss of faith in dark times, the refusal to trust that God is with us in it, can sour the soul and crush our spirit.

July 25th

St. James the Apostle

1st Reading: 2 Cor 4:7–15:
However, we carry this treasure in vessels of clay, so that this all surpassing power may not be seen as ours, but as God’s. Trials of every sort come to us, but we are not discouraged. We are left without answer, but do not despair; persecuted but not abandoned, knocked down but not crushed. At any moment, we carry, in our person, the death of Jesus, so, that, the life of Jesus may also be manifested in us. For we, the living, are given up continually to death, for the sake of Jesus, so, that, the life of Jesus may appear in our mortal existence.

And as death is at work in us, life comes to you. We have received the same spirit of faith referred to in Scripture, that says: I believed and so I spoke. We also believe, and so we speak. We know that he, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us, with Jesus, and bring us, with you, into his presence. Finally, everything is for your good, so that grace will come more abundantly upon you, and great will be the thanksgiving for the glory of God.

Gospel: Mt 20:20–28:
Then the mother of James and John came to Jesus with her sons, and she knelt down, to ask a favor. Jesus said to her, “What do you want?” And she answered, “Here, you have my two sons. Grant, that they may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus said to the brothers, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They answered, “We can.” Jesus replied, “You will indeed drink my cup; but to sit at my right or at my left is not for me to grant. That will be for those, for whom my Father has prepared it.”

The other ten heard all this, and were angry with the two brothers. Then Jesus called them to him and said, “You know, that the rulers of nations behave like tyrants, and the powerful oppress them. It shall not be so among you: whoever wants to be great in your community, let him minister to the community. And if you want to be the first of all, make yourself the servant of all. Be like the Son of Man, who came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life to redeem many.”

Great powers entail great responsibilities. That’s why one has to be ready to wield power responsibly. James and John desire power with Jesus. It is a legitimate desire. Jesus Himself did not rebuke them. However there are conditions in obtaining such power. Although the brothers believed that they could fulfill the requirements, still Jesus told them that it was not He but the Father who appointed. They just had to be ready. The ten got angry at such audacity but it is more because the brothers acted faster than them. They too had the same desire. Jesus is not yet finished with them. He will have a long way to go in purifying the intentions of His disciples.