Bible Diary for July 25th – 31st

July 25th

St. James

1st Reading: 2 Kgs 4: 42-44:
A man came from Baal-shalishad bringing bread and wheat to the man of God. These were from the first part of the harvest, twenty loaves of barley and wheat. Elisha told him, “Give the loaves to these men that they may eat.” His servant said to him, “How am I to divide these loaves among one hundred men?” Elisha insisted, “Give them to the men that they may eat, for Yahweh says: They shall eat and have some left over.” So the man set it before them; and they ate and had some left, as Yahweh had said.

2nd Reading: Eph 4: 1-6:
Therefore I, the prisoner of Christ, invite you to live the vocation you have received. Be humble, kind, patient, and bear with one another in love. Make every effort to keep among you the unity of Spirit through bonds of peace. Let there be one body and one Spirit, just as one hope is the goal of your calling by God. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God, the Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Gospel: Jn 6: 1-15:
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, near Tiberias, and large crowds followed him because of the miraculous signs they saw when he healed the sick. So he went up into the hills and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Then lifting up his eyes, Jesus saw the crowds that were coming to him and said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread so that these people may eat?” He said this to test Philip, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred silver coins would not buy enough bread for each of them to have a piece.”

Then one of Jesus’ disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there so the people, about five thousand men, sat down. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks and distributed them to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish and gave them as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten enough, he told his disciples, “Gather up the pieces left over, that nothing may be lost.”

So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with bread, that is with pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. When the people saw the miracle which Jesus had performed, they said, “This is really the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” Jesus realized that they would come and take him by force to make him king; so he fled to the hills by himself.

If we respond to people’s needs and desires, they will naturally have a feeling of affinity and closeness to us. They might admire us, think of us as God’s answer to their prayers, or their way out from their undesirable situation now. We become the avatar of the heroes they longed to come to save them. This admiration and praise is healthy or unhealthy depending on who receives it. Jesus had His share of such hero worship. This gospel episode is but a snapshot of the countless other times that people were ready to use force in order to place Jesus as their head and leader.

But He would not nor would He ever. He remained true to His fundamental mission in life. No matter how alluring the alternatives were, He kept true to His purpose. Such extraordinary strength of will is much more admirable than the countless miracles He performed in His life time. What is truly awesome is how He conquered Himself. How do I respond to praise and admiration? Do I have the graciousness to thank those who praise and admire me, and at the same time the humility to understand that I am nothing but an instrument of God’s wonderful love to His people?

And because of this, all praise and admiration must point back to God, the source of all the good I am capable of. Father, make me ever ready to do good to others, and if this results in something wonderful, may I have the grace to handle it in ways that will bring You greater glory the way Jesus always did. I ask this in the mighty name of Your Son, Amen.

July 26th

Sts. Joachim and Anne

1st Reading: Ex 32: 15-24, 30-34:
Moses then returned and came down from the mountain carrying in his hands the two tablets of the Testimony, tablets written on both sides, back and front. These tablets were the work of God and the writing graven on the tablets was the writing of God. When Joshua heard the noise of the people who were shouting he said to Moses, “There is a sound of war in the camp.” But Moses answered, “It is not a victory song, nor the cry of defeat that I hear, but the sound of singing.” When he drew near to the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burst forth and he threw down the tablets he was holding, shattering them at the foot of the mountain.

Then he seized the calf they had made and burned it in the fire, grinding it into a powder that he scattered over the surface of the water, and this he made the Israelites drink. Moses said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you that you brought such a great sin on them?” And Aaron said, “Don’t let your anger be roused. You know this people and how evil they are. They said to me: ‘Make us gods to go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ I then said to them that whoever had gold was to give it over to me. I threw it in the fire and out came this calf!

The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a very grave sin, but now I am going up to Yahweh; perhaps I will obtain pardon for your sin.” So Moses went towards Yahweh and said, “Ah! This people has committed a very great sin; they made a god out of gold. And now please forgive their sin if not, blot me out of the book you have written.” Yahweh said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot him out from my book. Go now! Lead the people where I told you. My Angel will walk before you and on the day of punishment I will punish them for their sin.”

Gospel: Mt 13: 31-35:
Jesus offered the crowd 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 flour, 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.

Saint Jerome writes: “Predicatio evangelii minima est omnibus disciplinis.” He is quiet right: the preaching of the Gospel is the most modest of all intellectual subjects. First of all because of its content. It rests mainly on statements which are a scandal to human reason: a God who becomes man, a God who lets himself be crucified, a corpse which rises from the dead. In its presentation also the Gospel lacks sophistication; the least illiterate can understand its message, so simple is its formulation. In this respect too, in comparison with quantum physics, psychopathology, sociology and all the other branches of modern science, the Gospel plays the part of the poor relative.

It is truly the mustard seed among human disciplines. And yet only this mustard seed can become the great tree offering a shelter to all the people of the earth. Immunology and radio genetics may succeed in promoting the life of human beings; but only the Gospel can give a meaning to that life. Left to itself the dough is completely inert. It needs the leaven to transform it. Without Christ in my life, I am an inert dough. With him as the ferment of my deeper self, I become a nourishing bread offered to all.

July 27th

1st Reading: Ex 33: 7-11; 34: 5b-9, 28:
Moses then took the Tent and pitched it for himself outside the camp, at a distance from it, and called it the Tent of Meeting. Whoever sought Yahweh would go out to the Tent of Meeting outside the camp. And when Moses went to the tent all the people would stand, each one at the entrance to his tent and keep looking towards Moses until he entered the tent. Now, as soon as Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and remain at the entrance to the tent, while Yahweh spoke with Moses. When all the people saw the pillar of cloud at the entrance to the tent, they would arise and worship, each one at the entrance to his own tent.

Then Yahweh would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his neighbor, and then Moses would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua, son of Nun, would not leave the tent. And Yahweh came down in a cloud and stood there with him, and Moses called on the name of Yahweh. Then Yahweh passed in front of him and cried out, “Yahweh, Yahweh is a God full of pity and mercy, slow to anger and abounding in truth and loving-kindness. He shows loving-kindness to the thousandth generation and forgives wickedness, rebellion and sin; yet he does not leave the guilty without punishment, even punishing the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”

Moses hastened to bow down to the ground and worshiped. He then said, “If you really look kindly on me, my Lord, please come and walk in our midst and even though we are a stiff-necked people, pardon our wickedness and our sin and make us yours. Moses remained there with Yahweh forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. He wrote on the tablets the words of the Covenant—the Ten Commandments.

Gospel: Mt 13: 36-43:
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.”

In today’s gospel reading Jesus warns us that “the field is the world” and that those fighting in it are divided into two camps, “the sons of the Kingdom” and “the sons of the Evil One.” Actually we could complete the thought of Jesus by transposing it from the level of general history to that of the individual conscience, and by saying, “the field is the human heart.” For, in reality, no human heart is totally good or totally evil. It too is sown with wheat and weeds in varying proportions, and it too is the theater of a gigantic struggle between God and Satan.

These two protagonists endeavor in every way to secure our adherence to their respective Kingdoms. And each one of our moral decisions favors at one time one of these two Kingdoms, at another time the other one. In this prodigious combat, things are not settled once and for all as long as we still have a breath of life left in us. At the last moment, the mere act of looking up to God with repentance can transform in the twinkling of an eye the barren field of our heart into a sea of beautiful stalks.

July 28th

1st Reading: Ex 34: 29-35:
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the Testament in his hands, he was not aware that the skin of his face was radiant after speaking with Yahweh. Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw that Moses’ face was radiant and they were afraid to go near him. But Moses called them, and Aaron with all the leaders of the community drew near, and Moses spoke to them. Afterwards all the Israelites came near and he told them all that Yahweh had commanded him on Mount Sinai.

When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. Whenever Moses went before Yahweh to speak with him, he took off the veil until he came out again. And when he came out and told them what he had been commanded, the Israelites saw that his face was radiant. Moses would then replace the veil over his face until he went again to speak with Yahweh.

Gospel: Mt 13:44-46:
The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure, hidden in a field. The one who finds it, buries it again; and so happy is he, that he goes and sells everything he has, in order to buy that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a trader, who is looking for fine pearls. Once he has found a pearl of exceptional quality, he goes away, sells everything he has and buys it.

The following scenario is a typical success story of our times. Our hero—let us call him Joe—is a young man with a curious mind. He likes to tinker around in the family garage and explore new combinations of electronic wirings and signals. He finds that images can be converted into electrical signals, transmitted electronically, and then reconverted into images. In other words, Joe is aware that he has discovered television. What does he do then? He sells everything he has, borrows all the money he can and builds a television set. Is he crazy? No, he is merely investing all he has into something which will eventually make him fabulously rich.

Christians throughout the ages have behaved like Joe. At some point in their lives they have discovered God. Many of them knew about God, but had never known him directly through a personal spiritual experience. But now that they know God, they want to know him infinitely more. And they gladly sacrifice all their belongings to this end. Are they crazy? No, Jesus tells us in today’s gospel reading. They are only shrewd investors. They know that any sacrifice made for God always pays off handsomely.

July 29th

St. Martha

Ex 40:16-21, 34-38:
Moses did exactly as the Lord had commanded him. On the first day of the first month of the second year the Dwelling was erected. It was Moses who erected the Dwelling. He placed its pedestals, set up its boards, put in its bars, and set up its columns. He spread the tent over the Dwelling and put the covering on top of the tent, as the Lord had commanded him. He took the commandments and put them in the ark; he placed poles alongside the ark and set the propitiatory upon it. He brought the ark into the Dwelling and hung the curtain veil, thus screening off the ark of the commandments, as the Lord had commanded him.

Then the cloud covered the meeting tent, and the glory of the Lord filled the Dwelling. Moses could not enter the meeting tent, because the cloud settled down upon it and the glory of the Lord filled the Dwelling. Whenever the cloud rose from the Dwelling, the children of Israel would set out on their journey. But if the cloud did not lift, they would not go forward; only when it lifted did they go forward. In the daytime the cloud of the Lord was seen over the Dwelling; whereas at night, fire was seen in the cloud by the whole house of Israel in all the stages of their journey.

Gospel: Jn 11: 19-27:
Many Jews had come to Martha and Mary after the death of their brother, to comfort them. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him while Mary remained sitting in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”

Jesus said, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha replied, “I know that he will rise in the resurrection, at the last day.” But Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection; whoever believes in me, though he die, shall live. Whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Martha then answered, “Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.”

In today’s gospel reading notice Martha’s answer to the question of Jesus. Jesus asks her, “Do you believe this?” That is: do you accept as true that whoever believes in me will have life and will not even die? Jesus questions Martha about something, about her certainty of a continued life. Martha gives an answer which bears on the person of Jesus. She does not answer, “Yes, I believe that I shall not die,” but rather “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God.” This shows that the Christian faith is not a faith in things, be it a world restored to its primal innocence, but a faith in the person of Jesus Christ, Son of God. Faith in Jesus himself is absolutely first; all the rest comes after.

Notice, too, that Martha’s profession of faith is almost identical to that of Peter at Caesarea Philippi (Mt 16:16), whose profession of faith has been endlessly celebrated across the centuries as an extraordinary spiritual breakthrough. But no one mentions that our simple Martha uttered the same profession of faith in practically the same words. How can we explain this one-sidedness? Is it because Martha is a “mere” woman and not an apostle?

July 30th

St. Peter Chrysologus

Lv 23:1, 4-11, 15-16, 27, 34b-37:
The Lord said to Moses, “These are the festivals of the Lord which you shall celebrate at their proper time with a sacred assembly. The Passover of the Lord falls on the fourteenth day of the first month, at the evening twilight. The fifteenth day of this month is the Lord’s feast of Unleavened Bread. For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first of these days you shall hold a sacred assembly and do no sort of work. On each of the seven days you shall offer an oblation to the Lord. Then on the seventh day you shall again hold a sacred assembly and do no sort of work.”

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the children of Israel and tell them: When you come into the land which I am giving you, and reap your harvest, you shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest, who shall wave the sheaf before the Lord that it may be acceptable for you. On the day after the sabbath the priest shall do this. Beginning with the day after the sabbath, the day on which you bring the wave-offering sheaf, you shall count seven full weeks, and then on the day after the seventh week, the fiftieth day, you shall present the new cereal offering to the Lord.

“The tenth of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement, when you shall hold a sacred assembly and mortify yourselves and offer an oblation to the Lord. The fifteenth day of this seventh month is the Lord’s feast of Booths, which shall continue for seven days. On the first day there shall be a sacred assembly, and you shall do no sort of work.

“For seven days you shall offer an oblation to the Lord, and on the eighth day you shall again hold a sacred assembly and offer an oblation to the Lord. On that solemn closing you shall do no sort of work. These, therefore, are the festivals of the Lord on which you shall proclaim a sacred assembly, and offer as an oblation to the Lord burnt offerings and cereal offerings, sacrifices and libations, as prescribed for each day.”

Gospel: Mt 13: 54-58:
He [Jesus] went to his hometown and taught the people in their synagogue. They were amazed and said, “Where did he get this wisdom and these special powers? Isn’t he the carpenter’s son? Isn’t Mary his mother and aren’t James, Joseph, Simon and Judas his brothers? Aren’t all his sisters living here? How did he get all these things?” And so they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, “The only place where prophets are not welcome is his hometown and in his own family.” And he did not perform many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

In various languages we come across proverbs which say that a great man’s greatness is not always recognized by the people who live with the great man. In this connection the French say, “Nul n’est un grand home pour son valet de chambre” (No one is a great man in the eyes of his butler) and the English say, “Familiarity breeds contempt,” that is, people do not respect someone they know well enough to be aware of his or her faults. In today’s gospel reading we see how the relatives of Jesus react when Jesus begins his public ministry. Because of their closeness to Jesus, they cannot see him clearly. He is simply too familiar to them.

They cannot bring themselves to believe that their local carpenter is a great man. And so they ask nothing of him—which in turn makes him powerless, for he never imposes himself on people. Jesus experience misunderstanding and rejection. When we suffer similar experiences, let us turn to him for comfort, knowing that he will understand us perfectly and, therefore, be able to sympathize with us and give us the strength needed to bear our trial serenely.

July 31st

St. Ignatius of Loyola

1st Reading: Lv 25: 1, 8-17:
Yahweh spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai: When seven sabbaths of years have passed, that is, seven times seven years, there shall be the time of the seven weeks of years, that is forty-nine years. Then on the tenth day of the seventh month sound the trumpet loudly. On this Day of Atonement sound the trumpet all through the land. Keep holy the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom for all the inhabitants of the land. It shall be a jubilation year for you when each one shall recover his property and go back to his family. In this fiftieth year, your year of Jubilee, you shall neither sow nor reap the aftergrowth, nor gather the grapes from the uncultivated vines.

This Jubilee year shall be holy for you, and you shall eat what the field yields of itself without cultivation. In this year of Jubilee each of you shall recover his own property. When you sell something to your neighbor or buy something from him, do not wrong one another. According to the number of years after the Jubilee, you shall buy it from your neighbor and according to the number of years left for harvesting crops he shall sell to you. When the years are many the price shall be greater and when the years are few the price shall be less, for it is the number of crops that he is selling to you. So you shall not wrong one another but you shall fear your God, for I am Yahweh, your God.

Gospel: Mt 14: 1-12:
At that time, the reports about Jesus reached king Herod, and he said to his servants, “This man is John the Baptist. John has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in John.” Herod had, in fact, ordered that John be arrested, bound in chains and put in prison, because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. For John had said to Herod, “It is not right for you to have her as your wife.” Herod wanted to kill him but he did not dare, because he feared the people, who regarded John as a prophet. On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced among the guests; she so delighted Herod that he promised under oath to give her anything she asked for.

The girl, following the advice of her mother, said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist, here, on a dish.” The king was very displeased, but because he had made his promise under oath, in the presence of his guests, he ordered it to be given to her. So he had John beheaded in prison, and his head brought on a dish and given to the girl. The girl then took it to her mother. Then John’s disciples came, took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.

We often hear about how, say, an act of kindness prompted a generous response which in turn produced another good unexpected result—and this can go on almost forever. As the old scholastic (i.e. medieval-philosophical) saying goes: “bonum est diffusivum sui,” that is, “goodness tends to spread.” And God is the supreme exemplar of this: being absolute goodness, he creates finite beings and, each time, declares them good (Gen 1). Unfortunately, this law also applies to evil, for evil acts have a tendency to generate other evil acts, and this can continue indefinitely, as we can see in the case of Herod, as related in today’s gospel reading.

It all starts with mere lust, which brings him to steal his sister-in-law from his brother Philip and to take her as his wife. Then this leads to a sin of pride: Herod does not want to lose face in the presence of his guests by reneging on his foolish promise to Herodias’ daughter. And thus pride leads him to murder an innocent man, indeed a great man of God. Evil also tends to propagate itself in ever widening circles: and thus lust can easily lead to murder. Innocent sexcapades? There is no such thing as innocent sin.