Bible Diary for June 12th – 18th
Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
1st Reading: Prv 8:22-31:
Yahweh created me first, at the beginning of his works. He formed me from of old, from eternity, even before the earth. The abyss did not exist when I was born, the springs of the sea had not gushed forth, the mountains were still not set in their place nor the hills, when I was born before he made the earth or countryside, or the first grains of the world’s dust. I was there when he made the skies and drew the earth’s compass on the abyss, when he formed the clouds above and when the springs of the ocean emerged; when he made the sea with its limits, that it might not overflow. When he laid the foundations of the earth, I was close beside him, the designer of his works, and I was his daily delight, forever playing in his presence, playing throughout the world and delighting to be with humans.
2nd Reading: Rom 5:1-5:
By faith, we have received true righteousness, and we are at peace with God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Through him, we obtain this favor, in which we remain, and we even boast to expect the glory of God. Not only that, we also boast even in trials, knowing that trials produce patience, from patience comes merit; merit is the source of hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because the Holy Spirit has been given to us, pouring into our hearts the love of God.
Gospel: Jn 16:12-15:
I still have many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now. When he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into the whole truth. For he will not speak of his own authority, but will speak what he hears, and he will tell you about the things which are to come. He will take what is mine and make it known to you; in doing this, he will glorify me. All that the Father has is mine; for this reason, I told you that the Spirit will take what is mine, and make it known to you.
For many Christians the revelation that God is a Trinity of Persons seems to add an unnecessary complication to an already complicated religion. “What difference does it make,” they ask, “If God is three Persons instead of just One?” The God they imagine is a solitary figure alone in the empyrium with his thoughts, a sort of eternal bachelor enjoying the solitude of his heavenly pad… Surely it is possible to conceive of such a God. But, fortunately for us, reality is very different. Our God is not an Eternal Solitaire. He is a triple relationship of love. The source of all being, the Father, exists in all his eternal perfection.
But, like any rational being, he knows who he is and he has a perfect Idea of his perfect infinity, an Idea as perfect as he is himself. That Idea of God is the Son. And God loves his Idea of himself with a perfect love. And that love is the Holy Spirit. As St. Augustine already taught in the 5th century, we humans are little trinities in that we are aware of who we are and love who we are. Is all this so mysterious after all? Let us pray the “Glory be…” with a special devotion today. Let us remember today that each person we meet is a living tabernacle containing the Blessed Trinity.
St. Anthony of Padua
1st Reading: 1 Kgs 21:1-16:
Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel next to the palace of Ahab, king of Samaria. Ahab said to Naboth, “Give me your vineyard to be my vegetable garden, since it is close by, next to my house. I will give you a better vineyard in exchange, or, if you prefer, I will give you its value in money.” Naboth answered him, “The Lord forbid that I should give you my ancestral heritage.” Ahab went home disturbed and angry at the answer Naboth the Jezreelite had made to him: “I will not give you my ancestral heritage.” Lying down on his bed, he turned away from food and would not eat.
His wife Jezebel came to him and said to him, “Why are you so angry that you will not eat?” He answered her, “Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, ‘Sell me your vineyard, or, if you prefer, I will give you a vineyard in exchange.’ But he refused to let me have his vineyard.” His wife Jezebel said to him, “A fine ruler over Israel you are indeed! Get up. Eat and be cheerful. I will obtain the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite for you.” So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and, having sealed them with his seal, sent them to the elders and to the nobles who lived in the same city with Naboth.
This is what she wrote in the letters: “Proclaim a fast and set Naboth at the head of the people. Next, get two scoundrels to face him and accuse him of having cursed God and king. Then take him out and stone him to death.” His fellow citizens—the elders and nobles who dwelt in his city— did as Jezebel had ordered them in writing, through the letters she had sent them. They proclaimed a fast and placed Naboth at the head of the people. Two scoundrels came in and confronted him with the accusation, “Naboth has cursed God and king.”
And they led him out of the city and stoned him to death. Then they sent the information to Jezebel that Naboth had been stoned to death. When Jezebel learned that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Go on, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you, because Naboth is not alive, but dead.” On hearing that Naboth was dead, Ahab started off on his way down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.
Gospel: Mt 5:38-42:
You have heard, that it was said: An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you this: do not oppose evil with evil; if someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn and offer the other. If someone sues you in court for your shirt, give him your coat as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give when asked, and do not turn your back on anyone who wants to borrow from you.
On the topic of retaliation, it is interesting to observe how the Bible’s teaching evolved—as on so many other topics, despite the stubborn denials of the fundamentalists who refuse to admit that the Bible corrects itself on many points. At the beginning, retaliation knows no limit. This state of affairs is reflected in a boast of Lamech (of the 8th generation after Adam, according to Gen 5) who says to his wives: “I have killed a man for wounding me, a boy for bruising me” (Gen 4:23). But later the Bible taught that the punishment should not exceed the injury inflicted: “Limb for limb, eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Lev 24:20).
This was obviously a great moral progress. But in today’s gospel reading Jesus goes much beyond all that: not only must his followers give up all idea of retaliation, but they are to be extremely liberal in answering the requests of other people. Naturally we cannot take Jesus’ words literally here because some dishonest people or social parasites would exploit our kindness shamelessly. However, the orientation given is very clear: taking into account our various duties and obligations and responsibilities (i.e. to our immediate family), we must try to be as generous as we reasonably can.
1st Reading: 1 Kgs 21:17-29:
Then Yahweh spoke to Elijah of Tishbe, “Go down to meet Ahab, king of Israel, in Samaria. He is taking possession of the vineyard of Naboth. Say to him: ‘Have you killed and have taken possession at the same time?’ Then give him this word of mine: ‘Dogs shall lick your blood in the very place where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth.’” Ahab then said to Elijah, “Who, better than my enemy, could find me here and now!” Elijah answered, “I have come to you because you have done what Yahweh abhors. This is Yahweh’s word: ‘I will bring disgrace on you. I will sweep you away and cut off every male of your family, from the lowliest to the greatest.
“’Your family will disappear like the families of Jeroboam and Baasa, because you have offended me and have dragged Israel into sin.’ There is another word of Yahweh to Jezebel: ‘The dogs shall devour Jezebel within the territory of Jezreel.’ If anyone of Ahab’s line dies in the city, he shall be devoured by dogs; if in the green country, the birds of the air shall feed on him.” There was no one like Ahab, urged by his wife Jezebel, in doing what Yahweh abhorred.
He did horrible things and ran after unclean idols just as the Amorites had done, from whom Yahweh had taken the land to give it to Israel. On hearing these words, Ahab tore his clothes and put on sackcloth. He fasted as he lay in sackcloth and moved around despondently. Then Yahweh said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself? Because of this I will not bring about the disaster during his reign; during his son’s reign disgrace will fall on his family.”
Gospel: Mt 5:43-48:
You have heard, that it was said: Love your neighbor and do not do good to your enemy. But this I tell you: love your enemies; and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. For he makes his sun rise on both the wicked and the good; and he gives rain to both the just and the unjust. If you love those who love you, what is special about that? Do not even tax collectors do as much? And if you are friendly only to your friends, what is so exceptional about that? Do not even the pagans do as much? As for you, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Jesus’ command to love our enemies is absolutely crucial—for our happiness. Because nothing ruins more a person’s serenity and peace of mind than harboring hateful thoughts all day long. But, in order to obey Christ faithfully, we must be clear about a few basic things. First, Jesus is not asking us here to like our enemies, because that would be psychologically impossible. Liking someone is a spontaneous reaction over which we have no direct control—as also disliking someone.
Loving is very different. It consists essentially of a free decision of the will and any normal person is capable of that. Second, as shown very clearly in the parallel passage in Luke’s gospel (Lk 6:27-36), this decision of the will is directed at doing certain actions in favor of the enemy: do good, bless, pray for, lend money, help in any reasonable way. That is all that is involved here. But, if one billion Christians decide to take Jesus’ teaching seriously, the face of the Earth will be changed forever. But this most desirable result can come about only if you and I decide to love the enemies in our own lives, in our own back yards. How about it?
1st Reading: 2 Kgs 2:1, 6-14:
When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, he and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Please stay here; the Lord has sent me on to the Jordan.” “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you,” Elisha replied. And so the two went on together. Fifty of the guild prophets followed and when the two stopped at the Jordan, they stood facing them at a distance. Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up and struck the water, which divided, and both crossed over on dry ground. When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask for whatever I may do for you, before I am taken from you.”
Elisha answered, “May I receive a double portion of your spirit.” “You have asked something that is not easy,” Elijah replied. “Still, if you see me taken up from you, your wish will be granted; otherwise not.” As they walked on conversing, a flaming chariot and flaming horses came between them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. When Elisha saw it happen he cried out, “My father! my father! Israel’s chariots and drivers!” But when he could no longer see him, Elisha gripped his own garment and tore it in two. Then he picked up Elijah’s mantle that had fallen from him, and went back and stood at the bank of the Jordan. Wielding the mantle that had fallen from Elijah, Elisha struck the water in his turn and said, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” When Elisha struck the water it divided and he crossed over.
Gospel: Mt 6:1-6, 16-18:
Be careful not to make a show of your good deeds before people. If you do so, you do not gain anything from your Father in heaven. When you give something to the poor, do not have it trumpeted before you, as do those who want to be noticed in the synagogues and in the streets, in order to be praised by people. I assure you, they have their reward. If you give something to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your gift remains really secret. Your Father, who sees what is kept secret, will reward you. When you pray, do not be like those who want to be noticed. They love to stand and pray in the synagogues or on street corners, in order to be seen by everyone.
I assure you, they have their reward. When you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father who is with you in secret; and your Father who sees what is kept secret will reward you. When you fast, do not put on a miserable face, as do the hypocrites. They put on a gloomy face, so that people can see they are fasting. I tell you this: they have been paid in full already. When you fast, wash your face and make yourself look cheerful, because you are not fasting for appearances or for people, but for your Father, who sees beyond appearances. And your Father, who sees what is kept secret, will reward you.
In order to determine the morality of an action (i.e whether is it good or bad), one has to take into account three things: the circumstances of the action (which only make it better or worse), the nature of the action and, most importantly, the intention of the one doing the action. This latter condition is so decisive that, if a person does an objectively wrong action (while not knowing it is wrong) but with a right intention, then that person will please God. In today’s gospel reading we hear Jesus zeroing in on the intention of two opposite categories of people.
In the first category, the people do good actions (alms, prayer, fasting) but with the wrong intention: they are acting for the gallery. They act “in order to be praised,” as the text says, or “in order to be seen” or “so that people can see.” The words “in order that” or “so that” clearly refer to their aim, their intention. In the second category, the people do the same good actions but only to please the heavenly Father. And this purity of intention earns them the Father’s warm approval. When we perform a good action, do we act to impress people or do we want to please our heavenly Father?
1st Reading: Sir 48:1-14:
Then came the prophet Elijah, like a fire, his words a burning torch. He brought a famine on the people and in his zealous love had them reduced in number. Speaking in the name of the Lord he closed the heavens, and on three occasions called down fire. How marvelous you were, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds! Who could ever boast of being your equal? By the word of the Most High you brought a dead man back to life; you brought kings to destruction and thrust famous men from their beds. You heard a rebuke at Sinai and sentences of punishment at Horeb; you anointed kings to be avengers and prophets to succeed you.
You were taken up by a whirlwind of flames in a chariot drawn by fiery horses. It was written that you should be the one to calm God’s anger in the future, before it broke out in fury, to turn the hearts of fathers to their sons and to restore the tribes of Jacob. Happy are those who will see you and those who die in love, for we too shall live. Such was Elijah, taken up in a whirlwind, and Elisha was filled with his spirit. During his life no leader could shake him, no one dominated him. Nothing was too difficult for him and even in death his body prophesied. In life he worked wonders, in death his deeds were amazing.
Gospel: Mt 6:7-15:
When you pray, do not use a lot of words, as the pagans do; for they believe that, the more they say, the more chance they have of being heard. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need, even before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray:
Our Father in heaven, holy be your name, your kingdom, come, your will, be done on earth, as in heaven. Give us today, our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we forgive those who are in debt to us. Do not bring us to the test, but deliver us from the evil one. If you forgive others their wrongdoings, your Father in heaven will also forgive yours. If you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive you.
Most Christians misunderstand the Our Father’s first petition, “Holy be your name,” as an indirect exhortation for us to respect God’s name, not to swear, etc. But, if we analyze this petition technically, it refers to God’s action: let your name be made holy by you. But what does this mean? Well, first of all we have to remember that, in Hebrew thought, the name stands for one’s reputation. Secondly, the expression “sanctify the name of God” is exclusively God’s prerogative (humans can do many things to God’s name, but in the Old Testament they never sanctify it!).
So we are praying here that God sanctify his name. But what does that mean? The background for this petition is found in many texts of Ezekiel in which God swears he will sanctify (make holy) his Name, which Israel has profaned; by freeing his exiled people and bring it back to Palestine. In other words, when we ask God to “sanctify his name,” we ask him to act powerfully in our human history, as many times in the past he did so in the history of Israel. Thus the first three petitions of the Our Father express one single request: that God may transform our fallen world into a redeemed, beautiful world.
1st Reading: 2 Kgs 11:1-4, 9-18, 20:
When Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah, saw that her son was dead, she began to kill off the whole royal family. But Jehosheba, daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah, took Joash, his son, and spirited him away, along with his nurse, from the bedroom where the princes were about to be slain. She concealed him from Athaliah, and so he did not die. For six years he remained hidden in the temple of the Lord, while Athaliah ruled the land. But in the seventh year, Jehoiada summoned the captains of the Carians and of the guards. He had them come to him in the temple of the Lord, exacted from them a sworn commitment, and then showed them the king’s son.
The captains did just as Jehoiada the priest commanded. Each one with his men, both those going on duty for the Sabbath and those going off duty that week, came to Jehoiada the priest. He gave the captains King David’s spears and shields, which were in the temple of the Lord. And the guards, with drawn weapons, lined up from the southern to the northern limit of the enclosure, surrounding the altar and the temple on the king’s behalf. Then Jehoiada led out the king’s son and put the crown and the insignia upon him. They proclaimed him king and anointed him, clapping their hands and shouting, “Long live the king!”
Athaliah heard the noise made by the people, and appeared before them in the temple of the Lord. When she saw the king standing by the pillar, as was the custom, and the captains and trumpeters near him, with all the people of the land rejoicing and blowing trumpets, she tore her garments and cried out, “Treason, treason!” Then Jehoiada the priest instructed the captains in command of the force: “Bring her outside through the ranks. If anyone follows her,” he added, “let him die by the sword.” He had given orders that she should not be slain in the temple of the Lord. She was led out forcibly to the horse gate of the royal palace, where she was put to death.
Then Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord as one party and the king and the people as the other, by which they would be the Lord’s people; and another covenant, between the king and the people. Thereupon all the people of the land went to the temple of Baal and demolished it. They shattered its altars and images completely, and slew Mattan, the priest of Baal, before the altars. Jehoiada appointed a detachment for the temple of the Lord. All the people of the land rejoiced and the city was quiet, now that Athaliah had been slain with the sword at the royal palace.
Gospel: Mt 6:19-23:
Do not store up treasures for yourself here, on earth, where moth and rust destroy it; and where thieves can steal it. Store up treasures for yourself with God, where no moth or rust can destroy it, nor thief come and steal it. For where your treasures is, there, also, will your heart be. The lamp of the body is the eye if your eyes are sound, your whole body will be full of light. If your eyes are diseased, your whole body will be full of darkness. If, then, the light in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
Windows exist so that the outside light can flood a room and make everything in it visible. But, if a window is dirty, it will not let much light enter. The dirtier it is, the less light it will let in. In today’s gospel reading Jesus compares our eyes to windows. If they are healthy, they will let the outside light in, and our whole being will be bathing in light. But, if our eyes are diseased, then they will prevent the outside light from entering and our whole body will be in darkness. All this is a metaphor.
The physical eyes here stand for our spiritual eyes, namely, the way we view people and think of them and judge them. Some attitudes of the mind blind us or distort the way we see people. For example, prejudice (about race, color, gender, political affiliation, religion) can blind us about people if we are not careful. Likewise, jealousy distorts our judgments on people. Self-conceit can also completely distort our view of people. The way to insure the health of our spiritual eyes is to ruthlessly examine ourselves regularly on our attitudes towards other people.
1st Reading: 2 Chr 24:17-25:
After the death of Jehoiada, the princes of Judah came and paid homage to King Joash, and the king then listened to them. They forsook the temple of the Lord, the God of their fathers, and began to serve the sacred poles and the idols; and because of this crime of theirs, wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem. Although prophets were sent to them to convert them to the Lord, the people would not listen to their warnings. Then the Spirit of God possessed Zechariah, son of Jehoiada the priest.
He took his stand above the people and said to them: “God says, ‘Why are you transgressing the Lord’s commands, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have abandoned the Lord, he has abandoned you.’” But they conspired against him, and at the king’s order they stoned him to death in the court of the Lord’s temple. Thus King Joash was unmindful of the devotion shown him by Jehoiada, Zechariah’s father, and slew his son. And as Zechariah was dying, he said, “May the Lord see and avenge.” At the turn of the year a force of Arameans came up against Joash. They invaded Judah and Jerusalem, did away with all the princes of the people, and sent all their spoil to the king of Damascus.
Though the Aramean force came with few men, the Lord surrendered a very large force into their power, because Judah had abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers. So punishment was meted out to Joash. After the Arameans had departed from him, leaving him in grievous suffering, his servants conspired against him because of the murder of the son of Jehoiada the priest. He was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.
Gospel: Mt 6:24-34:
No one can serve two masters; for he will either hate one and love the other; or he will be loyal to the first and look down on the second. You cannot, at the same time, serve God and money. Therefore, I tell you, not to be worried about food and drink for yourself, or about clothes for your body. Is not life more important than food; and is not the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow, they do not harvest, and do not store food in barns; and yet, your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not less worthy than they are? Can any of you add a day to your life by worrying about it? Why are you so worried about your clothes? Look at how the flowers in the fields grow.
They do not toil or spin. But I tell you, that not even Solomon, in all his glory, was clothed like one of these. If God so clothes the grass in the field, which blooms today and is to be burned in an oven tomorrow, how much more will he clothe you? What little faith you have! Do not worry, and say: What are we going to eat? What are we going to drink? or: What shall we wear? The pagans busy themselves with such things; but your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. Set your heart, first, on the kingdom and righteousness of God; and all these things will also be given to you. Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
The dictionaries tell us that our English word worry comes from the German wurgen, which means: to choke. In this connection we are reminded of Jesus’ parable of the Sower, in which he tells us that the seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety (i.e. worry) chokes the word and it bears no fruit (Mt 13:22). That is the problem about worry: it chokes not only our psychological lives and prevents us from enjoying life, but more importantly it chokes our spiritual life because, if we are worrying, it is basically because we are fixated on our problems and this chokes our life of faith: we give such a large place for our problems that we simply forget God.
And this is indeed a tragedy because, as Jesus assures us in today’s gospel reading, God is the solution to all our problems. If indeed he takes care of feeding the birds and of clothing the flowers, how much more will he take care of feeding and clothing us, his beloved children. Look at your face in a mirror. How many lines in it are caused by worry? Let us relax and trust God for a change.