Bible Diary for July 4th – 10th

July 4th

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

1st Reading: Ezk 2:2-5:
A spirit came upon me as he spoke and kept me standing; and then I heard him speak, “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a people who have rebelled against me; they and their fathers have sinned against me to this day. Now I am sending you to these defiant and stubborn people to tell them ‘this is the Lord Yahweh’s word.‘ “So, whether they listen or not, this set of rebels will know there is a prophet among them.“

2nd Reading: 2 Cor 12:7-10:
However, I better give up lest somebody think more of me than what is seen in me or heard from me. Lest I become proud after so many and extraordinary revelations, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a true messenger of Satan, to slap me in the face. Three times I prayed to the Lord that it leave me, but he answered, “My grace is enough for you; my great strength is revealed in weakness.” Gladly, then, will I boast of my weakness that the strength of Christ may be mine. So I rejoice when I suffer infirmities, humiliations, want, persecutions: all for Christ! For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Gospel: Mk 6:1-6:
Leaving that place, Jesus returned to his own country, and his disciples followed him. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and most of those who heard him were astonished. But they said, “How did this come to him? What kind of wisdom has been given to him, that he also performs such miracles? Who is he but the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here among us?” So they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “Prophets are despised only in their own country, among their relatives, and in their own family.” And he could work no miracles there, but only healed a few sick people, by laying his hands on them. Jesus himself was astounded at their unbelief.

Not all is well in the mission of Jesus. He has His own share of setbacks and failures. What is more galling about His failures is that they came from His very own townsfolk, His fellow Israelites, the religious and intellectual classes, and even some of His disciples. They may seem to be failures but they are not from a broader perspective. They showed us that Jesus’ humanity is not an afterthought or a forced addition to His being. He is fully human as well as fully divine, and this wonderful humanity with its limits and frailty shines through in His experiences of failures and defeats. This made His sacrifices on our behalf all the more awesome and wonderful to believe.

A God who consented to be limited by a nature is worth believing because He invested so much for what He did. There are moments when I am asked to invest more than the usual token actions and words of piety for what I believed in. I am called to be inconvenienced by the truth that I profess. So when was the last time I really walked the extra mile for my faith? Perhaps this is a good day to put substance to my belief and do something that is more than the usual for it. Lord, inconvenience me from time to time so that I may remain awake to the truth that my faith is a gift and a task. Amen.

July 5th

St. Anthony Zaccaria
St. Elizabeth of Portugal

1st Reading: Gn 28:10-22a:
Jacob departed from Beer-sheba and proceeded toward Haran. When he came upon a certain shrine, as the sun had already set, he stopped there for the night. Taking one of the stones at the shrine, he put it under his headand lay down to sleep at that spot. Then he had a dream: a stairway rested on the ground, with its top reaching to the heavens; and God’s messengers were going up and down on it. And there was the Lord standing beside him and saying: “I, the Lord, am the God of your forefather Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you are lying I will give to you and your descendants. These shall be as plentiful as the dust of the earth, and through them you shall spread out east and west, north and south. In you and your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing. Know that I am with you; I will protect you wherever you go, and bring you back to this land. I will never leave you until I have done what I promised you.”

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he exclaimed, “Truly, the Lord is in this spot, although I did not know it!” In solemn wonder he cried out: “How awesome is this shrine! This is nothing else but an abode of God, and that is the gateway to heaven!” Early the next morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head, set it up as a memorial stone, and poured oil on top of it. He called the site Bethel, whereas the former name of the town had been Luz. Jacob then made this vow: “If God remains with me, to protect me on this journey I am making and to give me enough bread to eat and clothing to wear, and I come back safe to my father’s house, the Lord shall be my God. This stone that I have set up as a memorial stone shall be God’s abode.”

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.

Radioactivity is “the spontaneous emission of radiation from atomic nuclei” (Collins Dictionary). It is a form of energy, invisible to the eye, but which a specialized instrument such as a Geiger counter can detect and measure. We are all familiar with radioactivity, physical radioactivity, that is. But, in a manner of speaking, we could say that there exists an emotional radioactivity as well. That is the reason for keepsakes, souvenirs, mementos: we consider that an object which has once belonged to a lost loved one can somehow enable us to renew our contact with that loved one, that it “radiates” the loved one’s presence. In like manner, we could speak of a spiritual radioactivity.

Objects closely associated with a holy person are often perceived as radiating some of the saint’s power to heal, strengthen, comfort, console, etc. For instance, the Bible shows that some apostles emitted that kind of spiritual radioactivity capable of healing: Paul’s accessories (Acts 19:12), Peter’s shadow (Acts 5:15). The Catholic use of saints’ relics for healing purposes is based on these solid biblical data, and not on some vague superstition. In today’s gospel reading the bleeding woman likewise sees Jesus as the source of a spiritual radioactivity capable of being communicated through his cloak. And she is right. Approaching Jesus in faith is always a healing experience.

July 6th

St. Maria Goretti

1st Reading: Gen 32:23-33:
That same night, Jacob got up and taking his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons, crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream and likewise everything he had. And Jacob was left alone. Then a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he could not get the better of Jacob, he struck him in the socket of his hip and dislocated it as he wrestled with him. The man said, “Let me go, for day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go until you have given me your blessing.” The man then said, “What is your name?” “Jacob” was the reply.

He answered, “You will no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have been strong-with-God as you have been with men and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “What is your name?” He answered, “Why do you ask my name?” And he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Penuel, saying, “I have seen God face to face and survived.” The sun rose as he passed through Penuel, limping because of his hip. That is why to this day the Israelites do not eat the sciatic nerve which is in the hip socket because the sciatic nerve in Jacob’s hip had been touched.

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.”

“He cured every sickness and disease.” A Statement like this one is found eight times in Matthew’s gospel alone (4:24, 8:16, 9:35, 12:15, 14:36, 15:31, 19:2, 21:14). And the other gospels agree with him (v.g. Lk 6:19). According to them, Jesus was a universalist healer and never excluded anyone from his therapeutic ministry. Not once did he say to someone: “I am really sorry, but I cannot remove your sickness (blindness, leprosy, paralysis, lameness, etc.) because it has been sent to you by my Father (as a punishment for your sins, a test for your faith, a means to make you grow in holiness, etc.).

Obviously Jesus is convinced that illness is never sent by his Father, otherwise he would not routinely “cure every sickness and disease.” Not only that, but he commissions his disciples to do the same (universalist healing, cf. Mt 10:1), and the Acts of the Apostles present the Apostles as doing precisely that (Acts 5:16). This being the case, why on earth do a great number of Christians believe the opposite and blame God for their illnesses? What caring father would want his child to be sick? And God is the most loving Father one can imagine. Is there no end to our silliness?

July 7th

1st Reading: Gn 41:55-57; 42:5-7a, 17-24a:
When hunger came to be felt throughout the land of Egypt and the people cried to Pharaoh for bread, Pharaoh directed all the Egyptians to go to Joseph and do whatever he told them. When the famine had spread throughout the land, Joseph opened all the cities that had grain and rationed it to the Egyptians, since the famine had gripped the land of Egypt. In fact, all the world came to Joseph to obtain rations of grain, for famine had gripped the whole world. The sons of Israel were among those who came to procure rations.

It was Joseph, as governor of the country, who dispensed the rations to all the people. When Joseph’s brothers came and knelt down before him with their faces to the ground, he recognized them as soon as he saw them. But Joseph concealed his own identity from them and spoke sternly to them. With that, he locked them up in the guardhouse for three days. On the third day Joseph said to his brothers: “Do this, and you shall live; for I am a God-fearing man. If you have been honest, only one of your brothers need be confined in this prison, while the rest of you may go and take home provisions for your starving families. But you must come back to me with your youngest brother. Your words will thus be verified, and you will not die.”

To this they agreed. To one another, however, they said: “Alas, we are being punished because of our brother. We saw the anguish of his heart when he pleaded with us, yet we paid no heed; that is why this anguish has now come upon us.” Reuben broke in, “Did I not tell you not to do wrong to the boy? But you would not listen!  Now comes the reckoning for his blood.” The brothers did not know, of course, that Joseph understood what they said, since he spoke with them through an interpreter. But turning away from them, he wept.

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 instruction: “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.

“He gave them authority… to heal every disease and sickness.” As we saw yesterday, Jesus was a universal healer. And today we see that he expects his disciples (you and me) to do the same. Now obviously we are not talking here of only physical disease but of any kind of disease, of any kind of affliction, of any kind of ill-being. And that covers a lot of territory! In other words, Jesus wants us to do what he was doing all the time during his earthly ministry. We are as it were, an extension of his healing hands, of his healing presence, of his healing words.

We are his Body amplified through time and space—throughout the whole universe and until the end of time. We are Christ Multiplied, nothing less. Are we aware of our awesome obligation to the world? We are all ambassadors of the King of kings. What an honor—but also what a responsibility! A Christian is a Christ-person. Willy-nilly, the moment we claim the title of Christian, we automatically commit ourselves to continue Christ’s healing ministry. This means that everywhere we go, we must bring healing (of hearts and souls, mostly), peace, comfort, consolation, joy.

July 8th

1st Reading: Gn 44:18-21, 23b-29; 45:1-5:
Judah approached Joseph and said: “I beg you, my lord, let your servant speak earnestly to my lord, and do not become angry with your servant, for you are the equal of Pharaoh. My lord asked your servants, ‘Have you a father, or another brother?’ So we said to my lord, ‘We have an aged father, and a young brother, the child of his old age. This one’s full brother is dead, and since he is the only one by that mother who is left, his father dotes on him.’ Then you told your servants, ‘Bring him down to me that my eyes may look on him. Unless your youngest brother comes back with you, you shall not come into my presence again.’ When we returned to your servant our father, we reported to him the words of my lord.

“Later, our father told us to come back and buy some food for the family. So we reminded him, ‘We cannot go down there; only if our youngest brother is with us can we go, for we may not see the man if our youngest brother is not with us.’ Then your servant our father said to us, ‘As you know, my wife bore me two sons. One of them, however, disappeared, and I had to conclude that he must have been torn to pieces by wild beasts; I have not seen him since. If you now take this one away from me, too, and some disaster befalls him, you will send my white head down to the nether world in grief.’“

Joseph could no longer control himself in the presence of all his attendants, so he cried out, “Have everyone withdraw from me!” Thus no one else was about when he made himself known to his brothers. But his sobs were so loud that the Egyptians heard him, and so the news reached Pharaoh’s palace. “I am Joseph,” he said to his brothers. “Is my father still in good health?”

But his brothers could give him no answer, so dumbfounded were they at him. “Come closer to me,” he told his brothers. When they had done so, he said: “I am your brother Joseph, whom you once sold into Egypt. But now do not be distressed, and do not reproach yourselves for having sold me here. It was really for the sake of saving lives that God sent me here ahead of you.”

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.

“Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons.” Such are the marching orders Jesus gives to his disciples (and consequently to us) in today’s gospel reading. They are as comprehensive as anyone can wish—but also quite daunting. Of course, since we all have different gifts or charisms, none of us is expected to do all that Jesus mandates his Church to do. We are meant to “specialize” in our service of our brothers and sisters, according to our natural talents and capacities.

Now a lot of Christians are not at all deterred by the formidable task confronting them—nothing less than continuing the healing ministry of Christ himself! Their problem-solving mentality, their super active temperament and their challenge loving personality spur them on to action. But when they encounter problems which have no solutions, they falter. Yet, what is often the greatest service they can then render is their silent, loving presence. Yes as many psychologists tell us, often enough the most healing action we can perform for a person in pain is simply to sit silently with that person and to share that person’s pain.

July 9th

St. Augustine Zhao Rong and Companions

1st Reading: Gen 46:1-7, 28-30:
Israel left with all he owned and reached Beersheba where he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. God spoke to Israel in visions that he had during the night, “Jacob! Jacob!” “Here I am,” he said. “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I will go with you to Egypt and I will bring you back again and Joseph’s hand will close your eyes.” Jacob left Beersheba and the sons of Israel carried Jacob their father with their little children and their wives in the wagons that Joseph had sent to fetch him. They also took their flocks and all that they had acquired in Canaan.

And so it was that Jacob came to Egypt and with him all his family, his sons and his grandsons, his daughters and his granddaughters, in short all his children he took with him to Egypt. Jacob sent Judah ahead to let Joseph know he was coming and that he would soon arrive in the land of Goshen. Joseph got his chariot ready in order to meet Israel his father in Goshen. He presented himself, threw his arms around his father and wept on his shoulder for a long time. Israel said to Joseph, “Now I can die, for I have seen your face and know you are alive.

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.

Traditionally, since the time of St. Augustine (354-430) who developed what has subsequently been called the “just was theory”, the Catholic Church has accepted the notion that, when certain rigorous conditions are met, Christians may take part in a defensive war. These conditions are spelled out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 2309) (Cf. also nn. 2307-2317). However, one can respectfully criticize this position of the Magesterium as not being really Christian. For Christ commands us to love our enemies (Mt 5:44). Presumably, this order implies that we do not kill them, not even in self-defense! Today’s gospel reading confirms this: “I send you like sheep among wolves.”

And we never see Jesus having recourse to violence. Even his cleansing of the Temple consisted only in shooting away a few animals. And, when arrested, he never defended himself violently, although he could have disposed of twelve legions of angels to do so (Mt 26:53). The first generations of Christians, up to at least the years 170-180, preached and practiced absolute pacifism. Can we simply imagine Jesus toting a machine gun and mowing down rows of extreme Islamists? In our daily lives, do we adopt the violent tactics of the wolves—or do we solve our conflicts with the peaceful ways of the sheep?

July 10th

1st Reading: Gn 49:29-32; 50:15-26a:
Jacob gave his sons this charge: “Since I am about to be taken to my people, bury me with my fathers in the cave that lies in the field of Ephron the Hittite, the cave in the field of Machpelah, facing on Mamre, in the land of Canaan, the field that Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite for a burial ground. There Abraham and his wife Sarah are buried, and so are Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and there, too, I buried Leah–the field and the cave in it that had been purchased from the Hittites.”

Now that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers became fearful and thought, “Suppose Joseph has been nursing a grudge against us and now plans to pay us back in full for all the wrong we did him!” So they approached Joseph and said: “Before your father died, he gave us these instructions: ‘You shall say to Joseph, Jacob begs you to forgive the criminal wrongdoing of your brothers, who treated you so cruelly.’ Please, therefore, forgive the crime that we, the servants of your father’s God, committed.”

When they spoke these words to him, Joseph broke into tears. Then his brothers proceeded to fling themselves down before him and said, “Let us be your slaves!” But Joseph replied to them: “Have no fear.  Can I take the place of God? Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve his present end, the survival of many people. Therefore have no fear. I will provide for you and for your children.” By thus speaking kindly to them, he reassured them. Joseph remained in Egypt, together with his father’s family. He lived a hundred and ten years. He saw Ephraim’s children to the third generation, and the children of Manasseh’s son Machir were also born on Joseph’s knees.

Joseph said to his brothers: “I am about to die. God will surely take care of you and lead you out of this land to the land that he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Then, putting the sons of Israel under oath, he continued, “When God thus takes care of you, you must bring my bones up with you from this place.” Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten.

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. “No one is to pursue

If I am a free agent, I can always choose to do very bad actions. I can choose to hurt other people, to rob them, to kill them. Why does God allow this to happen? Because he wants me to be free. When he made me a man and not an animal, he made me free. And he respects my freedom so much that he will not strike me dead when I decide to use my freedom by choosing to do bad actions. This explains in part why people suffer so much, why there are martyrs. Why does God not intervene and protect them from death? Because he respects human freedom, the freedom of those who freely choose to kill Christians.

Yet this is not the whole story. This is only half of the story. It deals with our life in this world. But the story continues after our death. Then freedom of choice ceases and God takes over. The one who suffered from the persecutor’s evil choice is made happy forever, whereas the persecutor is punished. That is why Jesus tells us not to fear persecution. Sure, he says, if things come to the worst, you might die. But God is present at your death and will eventually compensate it surpassingly.