Bible Diary for June 13th – 19th

June 13th

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. Anthony of Padua

1st Reading: Ez 17:22-24:
Thus says Yahweh: “At the top of the cedar I will take one of its uppermost branches, a tender twig and plant it. On a lofty, massive mountain, on a high mountain of Israel I will plant it. It will produce branches and bear fruit and become a magnificent cedar. Birds of all kinds will nest in it and find shelter in its branches. And all the trees of the field shall know that I am Yahweh, I who bring down the lofty tree and make the lowly tree tall. I will make the tree that is full of sap wither and the dry tree bloom. I, Yahweh, have spoken and this will I do.”

2nd Reading: 2 Cor 5:6-10:
So we feel confident always. We know that while living in the body, we are exiled from the Lord, living by faith, without seeing; but we dare to think that we would rather be away from the body to go and live with the Lord. So, whether we have to keep this house or lose it, we only wish to please the Lord. Anyway we all have to appear before the tribunal of Christ for each one to receive what he deserves for his good or evil deeds in the present life.

Gospel: Mk 4:26-34:
Jesus also said, “In the kingdom of God it is like this: a man scatters seed upon the soil. Whether he is asleep or awake, be it day or night, the seed sprouts and grows, he knows not how. The soil produces of itself: first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when it is ripe for harvesting, they take the sickle for the cutting: the time for the harvest has come.”

Jesus also said, “What is the kingdom of God like? To what shall we compare it? It is like a mustard seed which, when sown, is the smallest of all the seeds scattered upon the soil. But once sown, it grows up and becomes the largest of the plants in the garden, and even grows branches so big, that the birds of the air can take shelter in its shade.” Jesus used many such stories, in order to proclaim the word to them in a way that they would be able to understand. He would not teach them without parables; but privately to his disciples he explained everything.

The Kingdom of God grows in the hearts of people amidst all opposing appearances. Remember that the Spirit of the Lord is deep within our hearts. In spite all hardships, the Spirit will continue to inspire us to do what is good and produce good results – however big or little that would be. Often, we are tempted to despise small things; it is easier for us to appreciate and respect big things that easily can be noticed. But again we are being reminded to be truly convinced that we are small seeds ready to disappear underground to give rise to the large tree that is the Kingdom of God. How am I assessing myself now as a small seed?

Lord, as we do our tasks in the ordinariness of life, sometimes we are lost in the immediate pleasure or prestige we gain from the material things that you give us. Inspire us to be more attuned to what are the essentials of our following you, living in community or family where the seed of your love has to be nurtured and allowed to grow amidst apparently unending trials and difficulties. Amen. Identify the little ones in your community or family – those who are taken for granted, rejected, despised or separated. Take time to pray and visit them if possible and share your concern and support for them.

June 14th

1st Reading: 2 Cor 6:1–10:
Being God’s helpers we beg you: let it not be in vain that you received this grace of God. Scripture says: At the favorable time I listened to you, on the day of salvation I helped you. This is the favorable time, this is the day of salvation. We are concerned not to give anyone an occasion to stumble or criticize our mission. Instead we prove we are true ministers of God in every way by our endurance in so many trials, in hardships, afflictions, floggings, imprisonment, riots, fatigue, sleepless nights and days of hunger.

People can notice in our upright life, knowledge, patience and kindness, action of the Holy Spirit, sincere love, words of truth and power of God. So we fight with the weapons of justice, to attack as well as to defend. Sometimes we are honored, at other times insulted; we receive criticism as well as praise. We are regarded as liars although we speak the truth; as unknown though we are well known; as dead and yet we live. Punishments come upon us but we have not, as yet, been put to death. We appear to be afflicted, yet always joyful; we seem to be poor, but we enrich many; we have nothing, but we possess everything!

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.

In today’s Gospel, Matthew built a contrast between the old law — which only regulated one’s outer actions and the new law — which demands a higher standard of morality. According to Matthew, Jesus has now put more constraints on one’s heart and mind than the law put on one’s behavior (Sociorhetorical interpretation of Matthew). The Jewish teachers considered one’s neighbors as members of family, community, country, nation and religion. Jesus teaches that kindness should extend to all. While many render evil for evil, an eye for an eye (oculum pro oculo), it is not Jesus’ way.

Even though the Old Law stipulates that the punishment should not exceed the injury done, Jesus, however, prohibits even this proportionate retaliation. Why is that? If God let the sun shine on both the just and unjust, do we treat others selectively? The lex talionis is not for his followers, because they are not ferocious beasts whose actions are regulated by the law of the jungle, but are translators of God’s love (to paraphrase Benedict XV1’s Holy Thursday Message to Priests, 2012). Jesus’ followers’ love is inclusive, not selective. “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” (Mahatma Gandhi)

June 15th

1st Reading: 2 Cor 8:1–9:
Now I want you to know about a gift of divine grace among the Churches of Macedonia. While they were so afflicted and persecuted, their joy overflowed and their extreme poverty turned into a wealth of generosity. According to their means—even beyond their means—they wanted to share in helping the saints. They asked us for this favor spontaneously and with much insistence and, far beyond anything we expected, they put themselves at the disposal of the Lord and of us by the will of God. Accordingly, I urged Titus to complete among you this work of grace since he began it with you.

You excel in everything: in the gifts of faith, speech and knowledge; you feel concern for every cause and, besides, you are first in my heart. Excel also in this generous service. This is not a command; I make known to you the determination of others to check the sincerity of your fraternal concern. You know well the generosity of Christ Jesus, our Lord. Although he was rich, he made himself poor to make you rich through his poverty.

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.

“If a Jew sees that a Gentile has fallen into the sea, let him by no means lift him out. Of course it is written, ‘Do not rise up against your neighbor’s life.’, but this man is not your neighbor.” (Paraphrase of Tristram, Eastern Customs in Bible Lands, quoted in Sanders, For Believers Only, Enemy came from Latin, hostis, “hostile.” One’s enemy comes in different nationalities and from various places. To take one an enemy is disastrous not only to its object, but more so its subject. Jesus surprised his hearers, because he included love of neighbor, even one’s enemy. It was counter-cultural. Jesus extends the range of Jewish neighborliness.

It is no longer exclusive, but totally unselective to include one and all. Today, the Biblical concept of love has been distorted in language and society. The world equates love with puppy love or love at first sight. Though love comes with emotions, it’s not exclusive. True love, after the teachings of Jesus, is transcendental, selfless, sacrificial and compassionate. Love till it hurts. “I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, but only more love.” (Mother Teresa)

June 16th

1st Reading: 2 Cor 9:6–11:
Remember: the one who sows meagerly will reap meagerly, and there shall be generous harvests for the one who sows generously. Each of you should give as you decided personally, and not reluctantly as if obliged. God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to fill you with every good thing, so that you have enough of everything at all times, and may give abundantly for any good work. Scripture says: He distributed, he gave to the poor, his good works last forever. God who provides the sower with seed will also provide him with the bread he eats. He will multiply the seed for you and also increase the interests of your good works. Become rich in every way, and give abundantly. What you give will become, through us, a thanksgiving to God.

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.

The conduct of the hypocrites is contrasted with the demands of discipleship. To stress the difference between the Christian idea of reward and that of the hypocrites, Matthew employs two different Greek verbs to express the reward of the disciples and that of the hypocrites; for the latter he used the verb apechō, a commercial term for giving a receipt for what has been paid in full. (USCCB) A hypocrite acts virtuous, morally or religiously. Hypocrisy intends to deceive others. In the 4th century BC Athens, Demosthenes ridiculed his opponent who had been a promising actor before switching to politics.

Originally, a hypocrite is one skilled at impersonating characters on stage and it characterized Aeschines as untrustworthy or play-acting. Jesus advised his disciple not to act like the Pharisees, because the latter have already received their reward – undeserving praises. Their sin, which is still true today, is using religion as a camouflage for their depraved character. That’s why Jesus did not mince his words in denouncing the scribes and Pharisees. “You are like whitewashed tombs which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” (Mt 23:27)

June 17th

1st Reading: 2 Cor 11:1–11:
May you bear with me in some little foolishness! But surely you will. I confess that I share the jealousy of God for you, for I have promised you in marriage to Christ, the only spouse, to present you to him as a pure virgin. And this is my fear: the serpent that seduced Eve with cunning could also corrupt your minds and divert you from the Christian sincerity. Someone now comes and preaches another Jesus different from the one we preach, or you are offered a different spirit from the one you have received, with a different Gospel from the one you have accepted—and you agree! I do not see how I am inferior to those super-apostles.

Does my speaking leave much to be desired? Perhaps, but not my knowledge, as I have abundantly shown to you in every way. Perhaps my fault was that I humbled myself in order to uplift you, or that I gave you the Gospel free of charge. I called upon the services of other churches and served you with the support I received from them. When I was with you, although I was in need, I did not become a burden to anyone. The friends from Macedonia gave me what I needed. I have taken care not to be a burden to you in anything and I will continue to do so. By the truth of Christ within me, I will let no one in the land of Achaia stop this boasting of mine. Why? Because I do not love you? God knows that I do!

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.

Jesus is aware of the reality of human needs, but forbids making them the main concern and not to become their slave. The “Our Father” sets the tone about what belongs to God and what pertains to man. Primarily, God’s name is to be hallowed, that God demonstrates his mysterium tremendum et fascinans, his glory and power. His glory is revealed when man’s needs are fulfilled, such as the bodily sustenance, acts of forgiveness and deliverance from all forms of evil. There’s always a tension between the divine and human in pastoral ministry. Some pastors are inclined to stress the divine over what is human, and vice versa.

A missionary was requested by his parishioners to pray for rain to alleviate the drought that affects their crops. The priest happily obliged to ask God. The following Sunday, he was furious. He told the congregation that he petitioned God for rain. To his dismay, they did not bring any umbrellas. Faith in God demands human cooperation. God helps those who help themselves. Spirituality is based on the reciprocity principle (do ut des, I give that you may give). Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus (a sleeping dragon is never to be tickled).

June 18th

1st Reading: 2 Cor 11:18, 21–30:
As some people boast of human advantages, I will do the same. What a shame that I acted so weakly with you! But if others are so bold, I shall also dare, although I may speak like a fool. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I begin to talk like a madman) I am better than they. Better than they with my numerous labors. Better than they with the time spent in prison. The beatings I received are beyond comparison. How many times have I found myself in danger of death! Five times the Jews sentenced me to thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with a rod, once I was stoned.

Three times I was shipwrecked, and once I spent a night and a day adrift on the high seas. I have been continually in hazards of traveling because of rivers, because of bandits, because of my fellow Jews, or because of the pagans; in danger in the city, in the open country, at sea; in danger from false brothers. I have worked and often labored without sleep, I have been hungry and thirsty and starving, cold and without shelter. Besides these and other things, there was my daily concern for all the churches. Who is weak that I do not feel weak as well? Whoever stumbles, am I not on hot bricks? If it is necessary to boast, let me proclaim the occasions on which I was found weak.

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!

Everyone’s desire is to strike a goldmine, divine or material, for comfort and security. Both desires cause anxiety, because of their possible loss. It doesn’t mean that people should not be concerned about earthly things, but that no created thing can replace the heavenly treasure. “The eye refers to motive. When a person wants to do something, he first forms an intention: … if your intention … is directed towards God, your whole body, that is, all your actions, will be sound, sincerely directed towards good.” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on St. Matthew, Mike Harrison)

When there is a short supply or a grand sale of goods, people hoard up. True, one has to worry about hard times. However, a new vision is needed that can look at things unselfishly and communally. One may seek earthly treasure, provided it doesn’t replace the heavenly and is used to love others. Goods can be accumulated, not for their sakes, but to glorify God through love of others. “… To see the world with new eyes – open eyes – loving eyes to choose compassion and understanding – for ourselves, our family, our friends, our community, for the whole world.” (Jonathan Lockwood Huie)

June 19th

St. Romuald

1st Reading: 2 Cor 12:1–10:
It is useless to boast; but if I have to, I will go on to some visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a certain Christian: fourteen years ago he was taken up to the third heaven. Whether in the body or out of the body, I do not know, God knows. But I know that this man, whether in the body or out of the body—I do not know, God knows—was taken up to Paradise where he heard words that cannot be told: things which humans cannot express. Of that man I can indeed boast, but of myself I will not boast except of my weaknesses. If I wanted to boast, it would not be foolish of me, for I would speak the truth.

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: 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 justice 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 lyrics of the opera Nabucco was by Temistocle Solera and music was by Giuseppe Verdi. The latter’s last name signifies the re-unification of Lombardy and an acronym for Vittorio Emmanuele Re d’Italia, King of Italy. After a day of forced labor and resting by the Euphrates River, the Israelites long for their freedom, for their land where there are gentle breezes. They wondered whether Yahweh had abandoned them. Zechariah encouraged them not to worry, but trust in God. Mystics had also their worries and doubts.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta confided in her letters “. . . just that terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing.” For her God seemed oblivious of her sufferings for “the poorest of the poor.” Humans are no exception with regard to worries. People worry about money, job, health and family. Jesus also was terribly worried at Gethsemane to the point that he suffered “hematidrosis” (sweating blood). At Calvary, he asked “My Lord, why have you forsaken me.” In the end, he died with absolute faith in God. Jesus is the Emmanuel, God-with-his-people. He never abandons us, even if we abandon him.