Bible Diary for July 3rd – 9th

July 3rd

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. Thomas the Apostle

1st Reading: Is 66:10-14c:
“Rejoice for Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her. Be glad with her, rejoice with her, all you who were in grief over her, that you may suck of the milk from her comforting breasts, that you may drink deeply from the abundance of her glory.” For this is what Yahweh says: I will send her peace, overflowing like a river; and the nations’ wealth, rushing like a torrent towards her. And you will be nursed and carried in her arms and fondled upon her lap. As a son comforted by his mother, so will I comfort you. At the sight of this, your heart will rejoice; like grass, your bones will flourish. For it shall be known that Yahweh’s hand is with his servant

2nd Reading: Gal 6:14-18:
For me, I do not wish to take pride in anything, except in the cross of Christ Jesus, our Lord. Through him, the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Let us no longer speak of the circumcised and of non-Jews, but of a new creation. Let those who live according to this rule receive peace and mercy: they are the Israel of God! Let no one trouble me any longer: for my part, I bear in my body the marks of Jesus. May the grace of Christ Jesus our Lord be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.

Gospel: Lk 10:1-12, 17-20:
After this, the Lord appointed seventy-two other disciples, and sent them, two by two, ahead of him, to every town and place, where he himself was to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. So you must ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers to his harvest. Courage! I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Set off without purse or bag or sandals; and do not stop at the homes of those you know. Whatever house you enter, first bless them, saying, ‘Peace to this house!’ If a friend of peace lives there, the peace shall rest upon that person.

“But if not, the blessing will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking at their table, for the worker deserves to be paid. Do not move from house to house. When they welcome you to any town, eat what they offer you. Heal the sick who are there, and say to them: ‘The kingdom of God has drawn near to you.’ But in any town where you are not welcome, go to the marketplace and proclaim: ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off and leave with you. But know for a certainty that the kingdom of God has drawn near to you.’ I tell you, that on the Day of Judgment it will be better for Sodom than for this town. The seventy-two disciples returned full of joy.

They said, “Lord, even the demons obeyed us when we called on your name.” Then Jesus replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. You see, I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the Enemy, so that nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, don’t rejoice because the evil spirits submit to you; rejoice, rather, that your names are written in heaven.”

The noun “world” (kosmos in Greek) has several different meanings in the New Testament, and it is of vital importance to carefully distinguish those meanings. Basically, the noun “world” is used either in a cosmological sense or, more frequently, in a theological sense. In a cosmological sense, the noun “world” refers to the visible universe (Jn 1: 10; Acts 17: 24), to the dwelling place of humans (Mt 4: 8; 26: 13) or to mankind (Mt 5: 14). In a theological sense, the noun “world” refers to mankind as fallen and as hostile to God and Christ (1 Cor 2: 12; 1: 20-28; 3: 19; Rom 3: 6). However, God is not hostile to the world (2 Cor 5: 19; Rom 15). In fact, he has sent his son into the world to save it (Jn 3: 16-17).

Christians must not live as if they belonged to the world and shared its values. As Paul says in today’s second reading, as a Christian “the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” In the end, just as Jesus says on the eve of his death, “I have overcome the world” (Jn 16: 33) by his supreme act of love on the cross. So, too, Christians must overcome the hostility of the world by their love–and only by their love! Let us ask for the grace of spiritual discernment so as to judge the world around us as Christ would. Today let us examine our behavior: is there anything in our lives which would grieve Christ?

July 4th

St. Elizabeth of Portugal

1st Reading: Hos 2:16, 17c-18, 21-22:
So I am going to allure her, lead her once more into the desert, where I can speak to her tenderly. There, she will answer me, as in her youth, as when she came out of the land of Egypt. On that day, Yahweh says, you will call me my husband, and never again: my Baal. You will be my spouse forever, betrothed in justice and integrity; we will be united in love and tenderness. I will espouse you in faithfulness; and you will come to know Yahweh.

Gospel: Mt 9:18-26:
While Jesus was speaking to them, an official of the synagogue came up to him, bowed before him and said, “My daughter has just died, but come and place your hands on her, and she will live.” Jesus stood up and followed him with his disciples. Then a woman, who had suffered from a severe bleeding for twelve years, came up from behind and touched the edge of his cloak; for she thought, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”

 Jesus turned, saw her and said, “Courage, my daughter, your faith has saved you.” And from that moment, the woman was cured. When Jesus arrived at the official’s house and saw the flute players and the excited crowd, he said, “Get out of here! The girl is not dead. She is only sleeping!” And they laughed at him. But once the crowd had been turned out, Jesus went in and took the girl by the hand, and she stood up. The news of this spread through the whole area.

By a strange (and welcome) coincidence, everything in today’s liturgy is about women: the people of Israel seen as God’s spouse, the bleeding woman with so much faith in Jesus, and the dear little girl raised up by Jesus. But, apart from these female figures, we are also remembering a great woman saint: Elizabeth of Portugal. Elizabeth was born of high Spanish nobility in 1270; and at 12 years old she married King Denis of Portugal. They had two children, Alfonso, and a daughter Constance. But King Denis was a womanizer of the worst kind and had several illegitimate children.

Elizabeth bore her husband’s infidelities with loving patience and even raised his illegitimate children as her own. She devoted a lot of her time and energy to the care of the poor. But perhaps her greatest achievement was to maintain peace between the members of her extended family, especially between her husband and their rebellious son Alfonso. In fact, she died of exhaustion on her way to prevent an all-out war between Alfonso and her nephew, Alfonso XI of Castile. Dissolving family tensions and preventing potential conflicts is one of the greatest services a wife and mother can render.

July 5th

St. Anthony Zaccaria

1st Reading: Hos 8:4-7, 11-13:
Without my approval they set up kings and without my blessing appointed leaders. With their silver and gold they fashioned idols to their own ruin. To me, Samaria, your calf is loathsome; and my anger blazes against you. How long will you remain defiled? The calf is yours, Israel, a craftsman has made it; it is not God and will be broken into pieces. As they sow the wind, they will reap the whirlwind. Stalk without flower, it will never yield flower, or if they do, foreigners will devour it.

Ephraim built many altars; but his altars made him more guilty. I wrote out for him the numerous precepts of my law; but they look on them as coming from foreigners. They offer sacrifices to me because they are those who eat the meat; but Yahweh does not accept their sacrifices, for he is mindful of their sin and remembers their wickedness. They will return to Egypt.

Gospel: Mt 9:32-38:
As they were going away, some people brought to Jesus a man who was dumb, because he was possessed by a demon. When the demon was driven out, the dumb man began to speak. The crowds were astonished and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “He drives away demons with the help of the prince of demons.” Jesus went around all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom; and he cured every sickness and disease. When he saw the crowds, he was moved with pity; for they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are only few. Ask the master of the harvest to send workers to gather his harvest.”

One striking feature of Jesus’ healing activity was that he healed everyone who came to him. This characteristic emerges especially in Matthew’s gospel, with 5 explicit mentions of universal healings (4:23-24; 8:16; 9:35; 12:15; 14:36) and 3 implicit mentions (15:31; 19:2; 21:14). Luke also has one mention of universal healing (6:19). And so, at least on 9 different occasions evangelists tell us that Jesus was a universal healer. This is important because it tells us something about the relationship God-sickness. For not once does Jesus say to someone: “I am really sorry, but I cannot heal your (blindness, leprosy, paralysis, etc.), because it has been sent to you by my Father as a punishment for your sins” or “as a test to make you grow in trust and patience.”

This being the case, why on earth do so many Christians entertain similar superstitious thoughts and insist on connecting a typhoon, an earthquake, a volcanic eruption or any other natural disaster with someone’s sinful conduct? God is not like that. What loving father would inflict such terrible hardships on his children? On the contrary, Jesus tells us that God sends rain and sunshine on good and bad alike (Mt 5:45).

July 6th

St. Maria Goretti

1st Reading: Hos 10:1-3, 7-8, 12:
Israel was a spreading vine, rich in fruit. The more his fruit increased, the more altars he built; the more his land prospered, the more he adorned his sacred stones. Their heart is divided! They shall pay for it. Their altars will be thrown down and their sacred stones broken to pieces. Now they say, “We have no king (because we have no fear of God) and what good would a king do us?” As for the king of Samaria, he has been carried off like foam on water. The idolatrous high places—the sin of Israel—will be destroyed. Thorn and thistle will creep over the altars. Then they will say to the mountains: “Cover us,” and to the hills: “Fall on us.” Plow new ground, sow for yourselves justice and reap the harvest of kindness. It is the time to go seeking Yahweh, until he comes to rain salvation on you.

Gospel: Mt 10:1-7:
Jesus called his Twelve disciples to him, and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out, and to heal every disease and sickness. These are the names of the Twelve apostles: first Simon, called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew, the tax collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon, the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, the man who would betray him. Jesus sent these Twelve on mission, with the instructions: “Do not visit pagan territory and do not enter a Samaritan town. Go, instead, to the lost sheep of the people of Israel. Go, and proclaim this message: The kingdom of heaven is near.

In many subtle (and not so subtle) ways, the mass media are actively campaigning to convince teenagers that esteem for virginity is a medieval concept and that a girl should get rid of her virginity as soon as possible. In fact, we often hear and see on television, say, a sixteen-year-old girl deplore the fact that she is still a virgin—as though virginity were some kind of disease! This loss of appreciation for virginity in so-called “Christian” countries is all the more lamentable when we compare the care with which virginity is guarded among Muslim populations.

Well, the saint we remember today, Maria Goretti, chose to die in resisting a rapist. Although only 12 years old, she sustained fourteen stab wounds in order to preserve her virginity. Why is virginity important? Because, as Paul reminds us, our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit and our entire being, body and soul, has been bought by Christ’s blood. Our bodies are holy and deserve our deepest respect. But, in order to protect this treasure from desecration, we must be willing to adopt a certain lifestyle involving prayer and self-discipline. Are we ready for this?

July 7th

1st Reading: Hos 11:1-4, 8e-9:
I loved Israel when he was a child; out of Egypt I called my son. But the more I have called, the further have they gone from me—sacrificing to the Baals, burning incense to the idols. Yet, it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; yet, little did they realize that it was I who cared for them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with leading strings of love, and I became for them as one who eases the yoke upon their neck and stoops down to feed them. My heart is troubled within me and I am moved with compassion. I will not give vent to my great anger; I will not return to destroy Ephraim, for I am God and not human. I am the Holy One in your midst; and I do not want to come to you in anger.

Gospel: Mt 10:7-15:
Go, and proclaim this message: The kingdom of heaven is near. Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons. Freely have you received, freely give. Do not carry any gold or silver or money in your purses. Do not take a traveling bag, or an extra shirt, or sandals, or a walking stick: workers deserve to be compensated. When you come to a town or a village, look for a worthy person, and stay there until you leave.

When you enter the house, wish it peace. If the people are worthy people, your peace will rest on them; if they are not worthy people, your blessing will come back to you. And if you are not welcomed, and your words are not listened to, leave that house or that town, and shake the dust off your feet. I assure you, it will go easier for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment, than it will for the people of that town.

It is almost unbelievable that so many superstitious Christians associate God and punishment, God and natural disasters, God and sickness as a test of one’s virtue, God and death. Both of today’s readings insist that the reality is quite the opposite. “Out of Egypt I called my Son” (i.e. Israel). The God of the Old Testament is a liberating God. In fact, his tenderness (“cords of human kindness,” “strings of love,” in the words of the prophet Hosea) is more like that of a mother than that of a father. And, when Jesus sends his disciples into the world, he commissions them to heal, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons.

These disciples’ mission is clearly to give life wherever they go, because the God they serve is the God of life. Furthermore, the services provided by Jesus’ disciples are given for free. There are no strings attached to these services. Why not? Because true love cannot be bought. Let us get rid once and for all of our false notions of God who “sends” illnesses, hardships, death. Our God is a loving Father, loving us far more than our own fathers can. When will we believe this Good News?

July 8th

1st Reading: Hos 14:2-10:
Thus says the Lord: Return, O Israel, to the Lord, your God; you have collapsed through your guilt. Take with you words, and return to the Lord; Say to him, “Forgive all iniquity, and receive what is good, that we may render as offerings the bullocks from our stalls. Assyria will not save us, nor shall we have horses to mount; we shall say no more, ‘Our god,’ to the work of our hands; for in you the orphan finds compassion.” I will heal their defection, says the Lord, I will love them freely; for my wrath is turned away from them. I will be like the dew for Israel: he shall blossom like the lily; He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar, and put forth his shoots.

His splendor shall be like the olive tree and his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar. Again they shall dwell in his shade and raise grain; They shall blossom like the vine, and his fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon. Ephraim! What more has he to do with idols? I have humbled him, but I will prosper him. “I am like a verdant cypress tree”— because of me you bear fruit! Let him who is wise understand these things; let him who is prudent know them. Straight are the paths of the Lord, in them the just walk, but sinners stumble in them.

Gospel: Mt 10:16-23:
Look, I send you out like sheep among wolves. You must be as clever as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard with people, for they will hand you over to their courts, and they will flog you in their synagogues. You will be brought to trial before rulers and kings because of me, so that you may witness to them and the pagans. But when you are arrested, do not worry about what you are to say, or how you are to say it; when the hour comes, you will be given what you are to say.

For it will not be you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father, speaking through you. Brother will hand over his brother to death, and a father his child; children will turn against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of me, but whoever stands firm to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next. I tell you the truth, you will not have passed through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

In the past couple of generations, three men have changed the face of their respective countries for the better because each one of these three men, despite enormous pressures exerted on them, decided to free their enslaved people through purely peaceful means. These three men are Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), who freed India from British colonialism, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), who obtained for the black citizens of America equal rights, and Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), who liberated South Africa from the racial segregation of apartheid.

Two of these three men, Gandhi and King, were assassinated, and the third one, Mandela, was imprisoned for 27 years because of his opposition to his government’s policies. In today’s gospel reading Jesus tells us: “I send you out like sheep among wolves.” That is exactly what Gandhi, King and Mandela were. By relying only on peaceful means, they accepted to be sheep among wolves. And this tactic succeeded. In fact, it always succeeds—provided you are ready to pay the price for it. At the same time, we are told to be “clever as snakes,” namely, to use prudence, wisdom, reflection. While being innocent as doves, we must not be naive.

July 9th

St. Augustine Zhao Rong and Companions

1st Reading: Is 6:1-8:
In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted; the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: two to cover the face, two to cover the feet, and two to fly with. They were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is Yahweh Sabaoth. All the earth is filled with his glory!” At the sound of their voices the foundations of the threshold shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

I said, “Poor me! I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips living among a people of unclean lips, and yet I have seen the King, Yahweh Sabaoth.” Then one of the seraphs flew to me; in his hands was a live coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” I answered, “Here I am. Send me!”

Gospel: Mt 10:24-33:
A student is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. A student should be content to become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If the head of the household has been called Beelzebul, how much more, those of his household! So, do not be afraid of them! There is nothing covered that will not be uncovered. There is nothing hidden that will not be made known. What I am telling you in the dark, you must speak in the light. What you hear in private, proclaim from the housetops. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but have no power to kill the soul.

Rather, be afraid of him who can destroy both body and soul in hell. For a few cents you can buy two sparrows. Yet not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father knowing. As for you, every hair of your head has been counted. Do not be afraid: you are worth more than many sparrows! Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven. Whoever rejects me before others, I will reject before my Father in heaven.

Fear plays a great part in our lives. We fear so many things (most of which will never happen!) such as accidents, the death of a loved one, sickness, theft, rumors against our reputation, unemployment, marriage break-up, old age, bankruptcy, failures, being late, missing a favorite TV program, losing a pet, making a bad impression, wearing the wrong clothes, flunking an exam, having pimples, etc. The list is endless. Yet, what is the worst thing that can happen to us? In the opinion of most people, that would be the fact of dying, the supreme calamity in human terms.

But, as we see from today’s gospel reading, Jesus disagrees. Referring to the dangers of persecution, he says, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body.” For the true believer, death is not a calamity, since it is not to be feared. In fact, death is seen by faith as a going home after a long period of exile. The only thing to fear, Jesus tells us, is to turn away from the direction homeward by sinning against God and thus exposing ourselves to lose God forever. But this will not happen if we always give him top priority in our lives.