Bible Diary for June 19th – 25th
1st Reading: Gen 14:18-20:
Then Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought bread and wine; he was a priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth! And blessed be God Most High who has delivered your enemies into your hands!” And Abram gave him a tenth part of everything.
2nd Reading: 1 Cor 11:23-26:
This is the tradition of the Lord that I received, and, that, in my turn, I have handed on to you; the Lord Jesus, on the night that he was delivered up, took bread and, after giving thanks, broke it, saying, “This is my body which is broken for you; do this in memory of me.” In the same manner, taking the cup after the supper, he said, “This cup is the new Covenant, in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do it in memory of me.” So, then, whenever you eat of this bread and drink from this cup, you are proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he comes.
Gospel: Lk 9:11b-17:
So he welcomed them, and began speaking about the kingdom of God, curing those who needed healing. The day was drawing to a close, and the Twelve drew near to tell him, “Send the crowd away, and let them go into the villages and farms around, to find lodging and food, for we are here in a lonely place.” But Jesus replied, “You, yourselves, give them something to eat.” They answered, “We have only five loaves and two fish. Do you want us to go and buy food for all this crowd?” for there were about five thousand men.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of fifty.” So they made all of them sit down. Jesus then took the five loaves and two fish, and, raising his eyes to heaven, pronounced a blessing over them; he broke them, and gave them to the disciples to distribute to the crowd. They ate and everyone had enough; and when they gathered up what was left, twelve baskets were filled with broken pieces.
Today’s solemnity can be related to two fundamental and complementary aspects of the Eucharist: Christ as food, and Christ as presence. The first aspect is heavily and deservedly highlighted in all today’s liturgical texts. For example, in today’s gospel reading about the miraculous feeding of the crowds according to Luke’s version, the action of Jesus (he took the bread… blessed… broke… gave) are strictly parallel to his actions at the Last Supper (Lk 9: 16-22, 19), reminding us that the Eucharist is essentially a feeding of Christian crowds, a meal. Well and good. But there is a second aspect, much more modest and secondary, to the Eucharist. And it is that of presence.
Between Masses, the Eucharist is preserved in our tabernacles throughout the world. The liturgical purists try to underplay this by relegating the Eucharist to a side altar or a less prominent place in the sanctuary. But the people of God does not care too much about the theological and historical niceties involved in these matters. They just come and visit the Blessed Sacrament and there find solace, strength, comfort. The Blessed Sacrament or the Real Presence of Christ in our midst is the Church’s greatest treasure, let us not forget this. The living presence of Christ in our midst is our greatest treasure. Let us thank him for the gift of the Eucharist. Let us receive Holy Communion today with a special fervor and thankfulness for such a gift.
1st Reading: 2 Kgs 17:5-8, 13-15a, 18:
The army of the king of Asshur subjected the whole of Israel, coming to Samaria and laying siege to it for three years. In the ninth year of the reign of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, exiled the Israelites to Asshur and made them settle in Halah, at the banks of Habor, the river of Gozan, as well as in the cities of the Medes. This happened because children of Israel had sinned against Yahweh, their God, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, where they were subject to Pharaoh. But they had turned back to other gods. They followed the customs of the nations which Yahweh had driven out before them.
Yahweh warned Israel and Judah through the mouth of every prophet and seer, saying: “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and precepts according to the laws which I commanded your fathers and which I have sent to you by my servants, the prophets.” But they did not listen and refused, as did their fathers, who did not believe in Yahweh, their God. They despised his statutes and the Covenant he had made with their fathers, and the warnings he had given them. They went after worthless idols and they themselves became worthless, following the nations which surrounded them, in spite of what Yahweh had said, “Do not do as they do.” So Yahweh became indignant with Israel and cast them far away from his presence, leaving only the tribe of Judah.
Gospel: Mt 7:1-5:
Do not judge; and you will not be judged. In the same way you judge others, you will be judged; and the measure you use for others will be used for you. Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, and not see the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Come, let me take the speck from your eye,’ as long as that plank is in your own? Hypocrite, remove the plank out of your own eye; then, you will see clearly, to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.
In today’s gospel reading we hear Jesus warn us, “Do not judge and you shall not be judge.” Judged by whom? By God, the experts tell us because often in the Bible, when the passive voice is used and no actor is mentioned, then we are indirectly referring to God. So this question of judging other people is serious business, since it involves the judgment or condemnation of God. But here the practical application of the prohibition to judge others raises acute problems. Is it always possible not to judge when we have to hire or fire employees, evaluate performances, assign duties, etc. In fact, is it desirable not to judge when we have to discipline children, rebuke subordinates, correct abuses?
The solution to this problem lies in the distinction between action and person (or the heart in biblical terms). One’s actions are not always an adequate expression of one’s heart: some people perform good actions for the wrong motives (v.g. the Pharisees), and some people perform objectively wrong actions but with the best intentions (the apostle Paul before his conversion). And so, we can judge a person’s actions, but only God can judge a person’s heart because only God can see the depths of the human heart.
St. Aloysius Gonzaga
1st Reading: 2 Kgs 19:9b-11, 14-21, 31-35a, 36:
Sennacherib, king of Assyria, sent envoys to Hezekiah with this message: “Thus shall you say to Hezekiah, king of Judah: ‘Do not let your God on whom you rely deceive you by saying that Jerusalem will not be handed over to the king of Assyria. You have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all other countries: they doomed them! Will you, then, be saved?’” Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; then he went up to the temple of the Lord, and spreading it out before him, he prayed in the Lord’s presence:
“O Lord, God of Israel, enthroned upon the cherubim! You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made the heavens and the earth. Incline your ear, O Lord, and listen! Open your eyes, O Lord, and see! Hear the words of Sennacherib which he sent to taunt the living God. Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, and cast their gods into the fire; they destroyed them because they were not gods, but the work of human hands, wood and stone. Therefore, O Lord, our God, save us from the power of this man, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God.”
Then Isaiah, son of Amoz, sent this message to Hezekiah: “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, in answer to your prayer for help against Sennacherib, king of Assyria: I have listened! This is the word the Lord has spoken concerning him: “‘She despises you, laughs you to scorn, the virgin daughter Zion! Behind you she wags her head, daughter Jerusalem. For out of Jerusalem shall come a remnant, and from Mount Zion, survivors. The zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this.’
“Therefore, thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: ‘He shall not reach this city, nor shoot an arrow at it, nor come before it with a shield, nor cast up siege-works against it. He shall return by the same way he came, without entering the city, says the Lord. I will shield and save this city for my own sake, and for the sake of my servant David.’” That night the angel of the Lord went forth and struck down one hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. So Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, broke camp, and went back home to Nineveh.
Gospel: Mt 7:6, 12-14:
Do not give what is holy to the dogs, or throw your pearls before pigs. They might trample on them, and then turn on you and tear you to pieces. So, do to others whatever you would that others do to you: there, you have the law and the prophets. Enter through the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the road, that leads to destruction, and many go that way. How narrow is the gate that leads to life; and how rough, the road; few there are, who find it.
According to the dictionaries, a nonconformist is “a person who does not conform to generally accepted patterns of behavior or thought” (Collins). Teenagers tend to be nonconformists in many ways. They have their own way of dressing, their music, their way of thinking and acting. This nonconformism can be a good thing if it consists in rejecting vice, but it can also be a bad thing if it consists in resisting virtue. The saint we are remembering today was proclaimed “Patron of Youth” by Pope Benedict XIII, not only because he died at 23 but because he was a holy nonconformist.
The son of a high dignitary of the Spanish court, Aloysius fell in love with Christ humiliated and crucified when he was still a child. At age 16 he gave up his hereditary right to be prince of Mantua, in Italy. Despite the strong opposition of his father, he joined the Jesuits in 1587. Four years later the plague broke out in Rome where he was studying theology. Aloysius volunteered to serve the sick, whom he visited and nursed in their home. He did not catch the disease but he eventually died from sheer exhaustion on this day in 1591. For the nonconformist youth of today, he is a great model to follow.
St. Paulinus of Nola
Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More
1st Reading: 2 Kgs 22:8-13; 23:1-3:
At that moment Hilkiah, the high priest, said to Shaphan, the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of Yahweh.” And he entrusted the Book to Shaphan who read it. Then Shaphan went to the king and said, “We have gathered the money in the house, and this has been turned over to the caretakers of the house to make the repairs.” And Shaphan added, “The priest Hilkiah has turned over a book to me.” And Shaphan read the book to the king.
When the king heard the contents of the book, he tore his clothes and commanded Hilkiah, Ahikam, Achbor, the secretary Shaphan, and Asaiah, his minister, to do the following, “Go and consult Yahweh about the threats in this book which you have found. Consult him for me, for the people and for the whole of Judah, since our fathers did not listen to what this book says nor to its ordinances. This is why the anger of Yahweh is ready to burn against us.” The king summoned to his side all the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem. Then he went up to the house of Yahweh, followed by all the people of Judah and Jerusalem.
The priests with the prophets and all the people went with him, from the youngest to the oldest. When all were gathered, he read to them the Book of the Law found in the house of Yahweh. The king stood by the pillar; he made a Covenant in the presence of Yahweh, promising to follow him, to keep his commandments and laws, and to respect his ordinances. He promised to keep this Covenant according to what was written in the book with all his heart and with all his soul. And all the people promised with him.
Gospel: Mt 7:15-20:
Beware of false prophets: they come to you in sheep’s clothing; but inside, they are voracious wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Do you ever pick grapes from thorn bushes; or figs, from thistles? A good tree always produces good fruit. A rotten tree produces bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit; and a rotten tree cannot bear good fruit. Any tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruit.
Among the three saints we are remembering today, Thomas More stands out as particularly interesting, especially for lay people. Born in 1477 of a middle class family, he was educated at Oxford, became a lawyer, married and had four children. He also frequented humanists such as Erasmus, took an interest in literature, published a famous work of fiction entitled Utopia (1516), while making his mark as a lawyer. Eventually King Henry VIII noticed him and made him one of his counselors, knighted him in 1521 and made him Lord Chancellor of England in 1529.
Meanwhile Henry VIII was seeking to divorce his wife, Catherine of Aragon, with the permission of the Pope. The latter refused to grant the divorce and the king severed all connections with Rome, declaring himself the Head on earth of the Church of England. More sided with the Pope and was arrested in 1534, tried for treason, and executed by decapitation on July 6, 1535. He died after joking merrily with his executioner, affirming that he died “the king’s good servant, but God’s first.” St. Thomas More exemplifies the well-educated layman who combined learning, sense of humor, and profound spirituality.
Feast of the Birth of St. John the Baptist
1st Reading: Is 49:1-6:
Hear me, O coastlands, listen, O distant peoples. The Lord called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name. He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm. He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me. You are my servant, he said to me, Israel, through whom I show my glory. Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God.
For now the Lord has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb, that Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him; and I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord, and my God is now my strength! It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.
2nd Reading: Acts 13:22-26:
In those days, Paul said: “God raised up David as king; of him God testified, I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will carry out my every wish. From this man’s descendants God, according to his promise, has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus. John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.’ My brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those others among you who are God-fearing, to us this word of salvation has been sent.”
Gospel: Lk 1:57-66, 80:
When the time came for Elizabeth, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the merciful Lord had done a wonderful thing for her, and they rejoiced with her. When, on the eighth day, they came to attend the circumcision of the child, they wanted to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “Not so; he shall be called John.” They said to her, “But no one in your family has that name!” and they made signs to his father for the name he wanted to give him. Zechariah asked for a writing tablet, and wrote on it, “His name is John;” and they were very surprised.
Immediately, Zechariah could speak again, and his first words were in praise of God. A holy fear came on all in the neighborhood, and throughout the hill country of Judea the people talked about these events. All who heard of it, pondered in their minds, and wondered, “What will this child be?” For they understood that the hand of the Lord was with him. As the child grew up, he was seen to be strong in the Spirit; and he lived in the desert, until the day when he appeared openly in Israel.
Today we are celebrating the birth of one of the holiest and greatest men of history. This is a remarkable thing in itself, because we usually celebrate the day on which saints die, not the day they were born. The only births we celebrate in the liturgy are those of Jesus, Mary, and John. And this is entirely fitting, for all three were born without original sin (Lk 1:15). All this is very interesting, but what about us? We are not great saints—or even small ones for that matter. What does the birth of John the Baptist tell us? The first reading provides an answer to this quite legitimate question.
It says: “Yahweh called me from my mother’s womb; he pronounced my name before I was born… I am important in the sight of Yahweh.” Do we believe that we are, each one of us, important in the sight God? How could we not be important in the sight of God when he sent his Son to live and die for each one of us? Jesus assures us that even all the hairs of our head are counted (Mt 10:30) because each one of us is so terribly important in the eyes of our heavenly Father. Once we believe this truth, we can face life with a quiet heart.
Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
1st Reading: Ez 34:11-16:
Thus says the Lord God: I myself will look after and tend my sheep. As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend my sheep. I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark. I will lead them out from among the peoples
and gather them from the foreign lands; I will bring them back to their own country and pasture them upon the mountains of Israel in the land’s ravines and all its inhabited places.
In good pastures will I pasture them, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing ground. There they shall lie down on good grazing ground, and in rich pastures shall they be pastured on the mountains of Israel. I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest, says the Lord God. The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy, shepherding them rightly.
2nd Reading: Rom 5:5b-11:
Brothers and sisters:
The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For Christ, while we were still helpless, died at the appointed time for the ungodly. Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. How much more then, since we are now justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath. Indeed, if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by his life. Not only that, but we also boast of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Gospel: Lk 15:3-7:
So Jesus told them this parable: “Who among you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, will not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and seek the lost one till he finds it? And finding it, will he not joyfully carry it home on his shoulders? Then he will call his friends and neighbors together, and say, ‘Celebrate with me, for I have found my lost sheep!’ I tell you, in the same way, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner, than over ninety-nine decent people, who do not need to repent.
Jesus presents the predicament of God when a person cannot be found in his fold. He seeks him. He cannot afford to lose anyone. Everyone is valuable to him. Sin separates us from God. We are considered lost when we become independent from God, when we live as if he does not exist. When we consider ourselves the center of our lives, not God, we are lost, and we look for happiness in material things and not in him. Seeking guidance from the godless and those who have no spiritual values is a sign of being lost.
Now when one of us sinners is found, there is so much joy. One is found when he or she returns to God. The person repents from sin and lives in God’s fold. We repent when we realize how miserable we have been without God. We repent to gain back what we have lost when we were looking for meaning at wrong places, wrong times and wrong persons. When we are found, not only God will rejoice, but also heaven, our neighbors and ourselves. Together we celebrate. We eat and drink and share the joy of being home and complete.
Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary
1st Reading: Lam 2:2, 10-14, 18-19:
The Lord has consumed without pity all the dwellings of Jacob; He has torn down in his anger the fortresses of daughter Judah; He has brought to the ground in dishonor her king and her princes. On the ground in silence sit the old men of daughter Zion; They strew dust on their heads and gird themselves with sackcloth; The maidens of Jerusalem bow their heads to the ground. Worn out from weeping are my eyes, within me all is in ferment; My gall is poured out on the ground because of the downfall of the daughter of my people, As child and infant faint away in the open spaces of the town.
In vain they ask their mothers, “Where is the grain?” As they faint away like the wounded in the streets of the city, And breathe their last in their mothers’ arms. To what can I liken or compare you, O daughter Jerusalem? What example can I show you for your comfort, virgin daughter Zion? For great as the sea is your downfall; who can heal you? Your prophets had for you false and specious visions; they did not lay bare your guilt, to avert your fate; they beheld for you in vision false and misleading portents.
Cry out to the Lord; moan, O daughter Zion! Let your tears flow like a torrent day and night; Let there be no respite for you, no repose for your eyes. Rise up, shrill in the night, at the beginning of every watch; Pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord; Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your little ones Who faint from hunger at the corner of every street.
Gospel: Lk 2:41-51:
Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.
The Immaculate Heart of Mary is intertwined with her Immaculate Conception. Doctrinally, the Church proclaims that at the moment of her conception, she was spared from the stains of original sin. This implies that God preserved in her what was lost in us due to original sin — the state of sanctifying grace or original justice. For us who have lost sanctifying grace, we experience and battle concupiscence, the attraction to sin. For Mary, in whom sanctifying grace was preserved, was wholly oriented in mind, heart and will to God. Thus, we honor her and emulate her Immaculate Heart.