Bible Diary for June 23rd – 29th
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:
But the crowd heard of this and caught up with him. 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.
The gospel prefigures the Holy Eucharist which Jesus institutes at the Last Supper. Generations of Christians celebrate the Eucharist to perpetuate the memory of Jesus. Jesus asks his ministers to distribute spiritual food to the crowd. How do you treat the body and blood of Christ? Do you receive Holy Communion? Dear Lord, I fully believe in your real presence in the consecrated bread and wine. I remember what you have instituted at the Last Supper. I thank the priests whom you authorized to consecrate, in your memory. May I always be worthy to receive you. Help me avoid committing grave sins to be worthy of you.
Birth of 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.
Luke the evangelist presents his interpretation of the birth of John the Baptist. Through the rejoicing of Elizabeth’s neighbors and relatives, Luke considers the birth as God’s intervention. God has done a big favor to Elizabeth who once was sterile and already too old for childbearing. There is additional excitement at the naming of the child. Nobody in the neighborhood expected the child to be named John, but Zechariah who was muted for his initial disbelief, insisted that John should be his name. As he wrote his name, Zechariah could speak again, to the surprise of those following the events happening to the couple.
Luke records the contents of his praises in the “Benedictus.” Now the excitement is not only limited to the neighborhood in Ain Kerem, but to the people living throughout the province of Judea. People collectively reflect on the meaning of John’s birth. Luke makes his last interpretation looking at the birth and the reaction of the people. God’s power is with him. John must be very special in the eyes of God. The next child to be born will be more special. It was previously announced that John will prepare for the coming of the Messiah.
1st Reading: Gen 13:2, 5-18:
Abram was very rich in livestock, silver, and gold. Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, so that the land could not support them if they stayed together; their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together. There were quarrels between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and those of Lot’s. (At this time the Canaanites and the Perizzites were occupying the land.)
So Abram said to Lot: “Let there be no strife between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land at your disposal? Please separate from me. If you prefer the left, I will go to the right; if you prefer the right, I will go to the left.” Lot looked about and saw how well watered the whole Jordan Plain was as far as Zoar, like the Lord’s own garden, or like Egypt. (This was before the Lord had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) Lot, therefore, chose for himself the whole Jordan Plain and set out eastward. Thus they separated from each other; Abram stayed in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the Plain, pitching his tents near Sodom. Now the inhabitants of Sodom were very wicked in the sins they committed against the Lord.
After Lot had left, the Lord said to Abram: “Look about you, and from where you are, gaze to the north and south, east and west; all the land that you see I will give to you and your descendants forever. I will make your descendants like the dust of the earth; if anyone could count the dust of the earth, your descendants too might be counted. Set forth and walk about in the land, through its length and breadth, for to you I will give it.” Abram moved his tents and went on to settle near the terebinth of Mamre, which is at Hebron. There he built an altar to the Lord.
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.
Jesus teaches his listeners to observe the Golden Rule. It is also taught by other great religions and cultures in the world. It should be acceptable to the disciples themselves. Jesus formulates it in a positive way. Others formulate it in a negative way, “Do not do unto others…” But they mean the same. The formulation of Jesus encourages his disciples to be proactive. They should take initiatives. Now they can only do this if they are aware of their own existential needs. More important is giving due respect to others.
Whether one is in need or not, everyone deserves respect. The disciples should respect others as they realize the need to be respected. There is no easy way to practice the Golden Rule. The road to it is narrow and rough. It takes effort and skill to do it. The challenge is the same: to respect the other no matter what. That is also the path to gain respect from others. Do you show respect to others? Do others respect you because of your positive attitude towards them? People will talk positively about you when you do good and are respectful to them.
1st Reading: Gen 15:1-12, 17-18:
The word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram! I am your shield; I will make your reward very great.”
But Abram said, “O Lord God, what good will your gifts be, if I keep on being childless and have as my heir the steward of my house, Eliezer?” Abram continued, “See, you have given me no offspring, and so one of my servants will be my heir.” Then the word of the Lord came to him: “No, that one shall not be your heir; your own issue shall be your heir.” He took him outside and said: “Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so,” he added, “shall your descendants be.” Abram put his faith in the Lord, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.
He then said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land as a possession.” “O Lord God,” he asked, “how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He answered him, “Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old she-goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” Abram brought him all these, split them in two, and placed each half opposite the other; but the birds he did not cut up. Birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses, but Abram stayed with them. As the sun was about to set, a trance fell upon Abram, and a deep, terrifying darkness enveloped him.
When the sun had set and it was dark, there appeared a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch, which passed between those pieces. It was on that occasion that the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River the Euphrates.”
Gospel: Mt 7:15-20:
Jesus said to his disciples: “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.“
False prophets are hard to detect. One knows they are false after the fact. A classic example is the struggle between Jeremiah and Hananiah. Both claimed to speak for God. Hananiah was proven wrong and Jeremiah right when Judeah fell into the Babylonians. Jesus warns his followers to be discerning with regard to listening to a prophet and following him. Jesus describes false prophets as nice to look at, very attractive, very credible when they speak, but they are there to sweet-talk the unsuspecting individuals to buy their rotten products or ideas, to destroy their families, the society, the Church and the environment.
False prophets manifest themselves today by spreading false news, false hopes, and false alarms through their false sites in the social media. Each Christian must know that true prophets lead us to love Christ more, to listen to the Church’s teachings, to receive the sacraments and to be charitable and merciful to others. They themselves are seen practicing their faith. Any teacher who teaches and practices otherwise is a false prophet. Christians, beware of them.
St. Cyril of Alexandria
1st Reading: Gen 16:1-12, 15-16:
Abram’s wife Sarai had borne him no children. She had, however, an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar. Sarai said to Abram: “The Lord has kept me from bearing children. Have intercourse, then, with my maid; perhaps I shall have sons through her.” Abram heeded Sarai’s request. Thus, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, his wife Sarai took her maid, Hagar the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his concubine. He had intercourse with her, and she became pregnant. When she became aware of her pregnancy, she looked on her mistress with disdain.
So Sarai said to Abram: “You are responsible for this outrage against me. I myself gave my maid to your embrace; but ever since she became aware of her pregnancy, she has been looking on me with disdain. May the Lord decide between you and me!” Abram told Sarai: “Your maid is in your power. Do to her whatever you please.” Sarai then abused her so much that Hagar ran away from her.
The Lord’s messenger found her by a spring in the wilderness, the spring on the road to Shur, and he asked, “Hagar, maid of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She answered, “I am running away from my mistress, Sarai.” But the Lord’s messenger told her: “Go back to your mistress and submit to her abusive treatment. I will make your descendants so numerous,” added the Lord’s messenger, “that they will be too many to count. Besides,” the Lords messenger said to her:
“You are now pregnant and shall bear a son; you shall name him Ishmael, For the Lord has heard you, God has answered you. This one shall be a wild ass of a man, his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him; In opposition to all his kin shall he encamp.”
Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram named the son whom Hagar bore him Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.
Gospel: Mt 7:21-29:
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my heavenly Father. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not speak in your name? Did we not cast out devils and perform many miracles in your name?’ (…) “Therefore, anyone who hears these words of mine, and acts according to them, is like a wise man, who built his house on rock. The rain poured down, the rivers flooded, and the wind blew and struck that house. But it did not collapse, because it was built on rock.
But anyone who hears these words of mine, and does not act accordingly, is like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain poured, the rivers flooded, and the wind blew and struck that house; it collapsed, and what a terrible collapse that was!” When Jesus had finished this discourse, the crowds were struck by the way he taught, because he taught with authority, unlike their teachers of the law.
Jesus teaches the importance of listening to the Word of God and doing God’s will. Christians are both listeners and doers. Jesus does not like glib talkers. These people love to talk more than listen. They impose themselves on others. They impress others by their eloquence and skills to entertain. They grandstand during meetings and in ordinary conversations. Jesus’ disciples should first of all be listeners. They shut their mouths and open wide their ears to allow more inspiration from God to come in to their minds and hearts. They listen to the Word of God preached to them during liturgical celebrations.
They attend Bible Studies and sharing. They familiarize themselves with the Bible and the teachings of the Church. Because they listen carefully, they do exactly what is expected of them in the church or in the community. The will of God becomes clearer to them, so they do it. They apply it without creating chaos. Jesus appreciates what they are doing. Because they listen to God’s word and do it, they become strong in character and in faith. They are not easily carried away by false teachings. They can withstand crises that come along the way.
Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
St. Irenaeus of Lyons
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.
Sts. Peter and Paul
Immaculate Heart of Mary
1st Reading: Acts 12:1-11:
In those days, King Herod laid hands upon some members of the Church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also. –It was the feast of Unleavened Bread.– He had him taken into custody and put in prison under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. He intended to bring him before the people after Passover. Peter thus was being kept in prison, but prayer by the Church was fervently being made to God on his behalf.
On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter, secured by double chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while outside the door guards kept watch on the prison. Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying, “Get up quickly.” The chains fell from his wrists. The angel said to him, “Put on your belt and your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Put on your cloak and follow me.” So he followed him out, not realizing that what was happening through the angel was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first guard, then the second, and came to the iron gate leading out to the city, which opened for them by itself.
They emerged and made their way down an alley, and suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter recovered his senses and said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people had been expecting.”
2nd Reading: 2 Tim 4:6-8, 17-18:
I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.
The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly Kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Gospel: Mt 16:13-19:
After that, Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They said, “For some of them, you are John the Baptist; for others Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “It is well for you, Simon Barjona, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.
And now I say to you: You are Peter; and on this Rock I will build my Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.”
Peter and Paul are the two great pillars of the Church. Peter was the leader of the 12 apostles. He refused to be silenced by the authorities and thus was imprisoned. Peter was bold to give witness to Christ because he journeyed with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. He rightly identified him when asked. He spoke on behalf of the group. Paul was not one of the 12, but he is considered an apostle. He was also called by God through revelation. Like Peter, Paul felt he was poured out as a libation. He is waiting for his execution for speaking out for Christ. He too could not be silenced by authorities.
For Christians, it is very important to be anchored in Christ. We cannot follow Christ when we have not been with him in prayer and we are disconnected with his Church. Our discipleship entails mission. Here like the two apostles, we suffer for Christ. We are not spared of rejection and death when we boldly open our mouth and proclaim that “Christ is the Son of the Living God” and he is the way to salvation. Do you lean on Jesus like the two pillars of the Church?