Bible Diary for June 27th – July 3rd

June 27th

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. Cyril of Alexandria

1st Reading: Wis 1:13–15; 2:23–24:
God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. Since he has created everything, all creatures of the universe are for our good; there is no deadly poison in them and the netherworld has no dominion over the earth, because justice is immortal. Indeed God created man to be immortal in the likeness of his own nature, but the envy of the devil brought death to the world, and those who take his side shall experience death.

2nd Reading: 2 Cor 8:7-9, 13–15:
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.

I do not mean that others should be at ease and you burdened. Strive for equality; at present give from your abundance what they are short of, and in some way they also will give from their abundance what you lack. Then you will be equal and what Scripture says shall come true: To the one who had much, nothing was in excess; to the one who had little, nothing was lacking.

Gospel: Mk 5:21–43:
Jesus then crossed to the other side of the lake, and while he was still on the shore, a large crowd gathered around him. Jairus, an official of the synagogue, came up and, seeing Jesus, threw himself at his feet, and begged him earnestly, “My little daughter is at the point of  death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may get well and live.” Jesus went with him, and many people followed, pressing around him. Among the crowd was a woman, who had suffered from bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a lot at the hands of many doctors, and had spent everything she had, but instead of getting better, she was worse.

Because she had heard about Jesus, this woman came up behind him and touched his cloak, thinking, “If I just touch his clothing, I shall get well.” Her flow of blood dried up at once, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her complaint. But Jesus was conscious that healing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd, and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” His disciples answered, “You see how the people are crowding around you. Why do you ask who touched you?” But he kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, aware of what had happened, came forward trembling and afraid. She knelt before him, and told him the whole truth.

Then Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be free of this illness.” While Jesus was still speaking, some people arrived from the official’s house to inform him, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Master any further?” But Jesus ignored what they said, and told the official, “Do not fear, just believe.” And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they arrived at the house, Jesus saw a great commotion, with people weeping and wailing loudly.

Jesus entered, and said to them, “Why all this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead, but asleep.” They laughed at him. So Jesus sent them outside, and went with the child’s father and mother and his companions into the room, where the child lay. Taking her by the hand, he said to her, “Talitha kumi!” which means, “Little girl, get up!” The girl got up at once and began to walk around. (She was twelve years old.) The parents were amazed, greatly amazed. Jesus strictly ordered them not to let anyone know about it; and he told them to give her something to eat.

Jesus taught us that he defeated death. He won life over death! Our God is a God of life! However, life sometimes seems to be in complete ruin because of wickedness, addiction or seeming experience of death. Do we give up in despair thinking that recovery is impossible? Shouldn’t we too open our ears and listen to Jesus telling us: “Do not be afraid, only have faith?” Lord of life and healer of our sickness and pains, we come to you full of trust that you can heal us of our physical ailments and psycho-emotional pains. We offer to you our pains and sufferings and ask you to grant us perseverance and endurance. Amen. Visit the sick and donate something for the needy.

June 28th

St. Irenaeus of Lyons

1st Reading: Gn 18:16-33:
Abraham and the men who had visited him by the Terebinth of Mamre set out from there and looked down toward Sodom; Abraham was walking with them, to see them on their way. The Lord reflected: “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, now that he is to become a great and populous nation, and all the nations of the earth are to find blessing in him? Indeed, I have singled him out that he may direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord may carry into effect for Abraham the promises he made about him.”

Then the Lord said: “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave, that I must go down and see whether or not their actions fully correspond to the cry against them that comes to me. I mean to find out.” While the two men walked on farther toward Sodom, the Lord remained standing before Abraham. Then Abraham drew nearer to him and said: “Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty? Suppose there were fifty innocent people in the city; would you wipe out the place, rather than spare it for the sake of the fifty innocent people within it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to make the innocent die with the guilty, so that the innocent and the guilty would be treated alike! Should not the judge of all the world act with justice?”

The Lord replied, “If I find fifty innocent people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” Abraham spoke up again: “See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord, though I am but dust and ashes! What if there are five less than fifty innocent people? Will you destroy the whole city because of those five?” He answered, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” But Abraham persisted, saying, “What if only forty are found there?” He replied, “I will forbear doing it for the sake of forty.” Then Abraham said, “Let not my Lord grow impatient if I go on. What if only thirty are found there?”

He replied, “I will forbear doing it if I can find but thirty there.” Still Abraham went on, “Since I have thus dared to speak to my Lord, what if there are no more than twenty?” He answered, “I will not destroy it for the sake of the twenty.” But he still persisted: “Please, let not my Lord grow angry if I speak up this last time. What if there are at least ten there?” He replied, “For the sake of those ten, I will not destroy it.” The Lord departed as soon as he had finished speaking with Abraham, and Abraham returned home.

Gospel: Mt 8:18–22:
When he saw the crowd press around him, Jesus gave orders to cross to the other shore. A teacher of the Law approached him and said, “Master, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another disciple said to him, “Lord, let me go and bury my father first.” But Jesus answered him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

Last Friday, the gospel placed before us a leper who “came forward” before Jesus and asked for healing. During Jesus’s time, no leper would normally dare to come forward before others, but this leper did. Today we are told Abraham “went forward” before God asking God to change His mind regarding the punishment planned for Sodom and Gomorrah. No one would dare to stand before God and ask for a reversal of plans. But Abraham did.

Abraham and the leper showed uncommon courage before God, courage that emerged from deep faith and trust in God’s goodness, and in Abraham’s case, a certain friendly familiarity with God. They went forth because they believed they would be listened to. And we find God obliging in both cases. Can we change God’s Will? Evidently we can, when we approach God in faith, hope, and love. Theological virtues can move not only mountains, but God Himself.

June 29th

Sts. Peter and Paul

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 Tm 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:
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.”

Mediterranean culture is “dyadic,” it’s “other-oriented.” Their concern was how significant others thought of them, not how they thought of themselves. (Malina & Rohrbaugh Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels).The quest for Jesus and his identity has gone on for so many centuries. Usually the quest is conditioned by cultural values, intentions of the seekers and situated within the diverse ways of hearing the question. History has presented different portraits of Jesus,as apocalyptic, wonder-worker, radical revolutionary, liberator or pacifist. In light of these various presentations of who is Jesus, how can one be certain of his identity?

His question, “Who do you say I am,” is more about our faith and how our responses impact our life. If we believe in Jesus Christ as the Savior, one’s faith sheds light on our religious identity and purpose in life. Jesus Christ gives meaning to our earthly journey, to our successes and failures. His question goes profoundly to the very basic meaning of human existence. Jesus Christ is Jewish, but he has a million faces, and it’s up to the individual culture and person to respond accordingly with, “Who am I (me)?” to Jesus asking us, “Who do you say I am?”

June 30th

First Martyrs of the Roman Church

1st Reading: Gen 21: 5,8-20a:
Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. The child grew and on the day Isaac was weaned, Abraham held a great feast. Sarah saw the child that Hagar, the Egyptian had borne to Abraham, mocking her son and she said to Abraham, “Send this slave girl and her son away; the child of this slave must not share the inheritance with my son, Isaac.” This matter distressed Abraham because it concerned his son, but God said to him, “Don’t be worried about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to Sarah and do whatever she says, because the race, which is called by your name, will spring from Isaac. But from the son of your servant I will also form a nation, for he too is your offspring.”

Abraham rose early next morning and gave bread and a skin bag of water to Hagar. He put the child on her back and sent her away. She went off and wandered in the desert of Beersheba. When there was no more water in the skin, she pushed the boy under one of the bushes, and then went and sat down about a hundred yards away, for she thought, “I cannot bear to see my son die.” But as she sat there, the child began to wail.

God heard him and the Angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said, “What is the matter, Hagar? Don’t be afraid. God has heard the boy crying. Get up, pick the boy up and hold him safely, for I will make him into a great nation.” God then opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went and filled the skin and gave the boy a drink. God was with the boy.

Gospel: Mt 8: 28-34:
When Jesus reached Gadara, on the other side, he was met by two men, possessed by devils, who came out from the tombs. They were so fierce that no one dared to pass that way. They cried out, “Son of God, leave us alone! Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Some distance away there was a large herd of pigs feeding. So the demons begged him, “If you drive us out, send us into that herd of pigs.”

Jesus ordered them, “Go!” So the demons left the men and went into the pigs. The whole herd rushed down the cliff into the lake and was drowned. The men in charge of the pigs ran off to the town, where they told the whole story; and also what had happened to the men possessed with the demons. The whole town went out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region.

Picture a vicious dog, barking and snarling at you, pouncing at you on its most ferocious “attack mode”—but securely chained to an iron ring. This means, of course, that as long as you do not come within reach of it, you are perfectly safe, and it is completely powerless to harm you. Satan and his minions are like chained dogs. In fact, the Bible tells us in symbolic language that Satan is indeed “tied up for a thousand years” (Rev 20:2), that is, until practically the end of the world, except for a short period of freedom then.

But, for the time being, he and his minions are powerless over us, as long as we keep away from them (no dabbling in the occult, no séances with a medium, no Ouija board, no tarot cards—all of which are an invitation to evil spirits) and stay close to Jesus. For they are mortally afraid of Jesus, as we can see in today’s gospel reading. Their power is no match for his. A single word for his, “Go!” and they scamper away in panic. All this shows that, contrary to popular belief, Satan is in no way the counterpart or analog of God in the spiritual world, because he is only a creature, a fallen angel. His real counterpart is the archangel Michael who, as the Bible describes it, kicks Satan out of Heaven (Rev 2:7-9). A comforting thought.

July 1st

St. Junipero Serra

1st Reading: Gn 22:1b-19:
God put Abraham to the test. He called to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said: “Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a burnt offering on a height that I will point out to you.” Early the next morning Abraham saddled his donkey, took with him his son Isaac, and two of his servants as well, and with the wood that he had cut for the burnt offering, set out for the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham got sight of the place from afar. Then he said to his servants: “Both of you stay here with the donkey, while the boy and I go on over yonder. We will worship and then come back to you.” 

Thereupon Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two walked on together, Isaac spoke to his father Abraham: “Father!” he said. “Yes, son,” he replied. Isaac continued, “Here are the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?” “Son,” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the sheep for the burnt offering.” Then the two continued going forward. When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. Next he tied up his son Isaac, and put him on top of the wood on the altar.

Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the Lord’s messenger called to him from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham!” “Here I am,” he answered. “Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the messenger. “Do not do the least thing to him. I know now how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.” As Abraham looked about, he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. So he went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering in place of his son. Abraham named the site Yahweh-yireh; hence people now say, “On the mountain the Lord will see.”

Again the Lord’s messenger called to Abraham from heaven and said: “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved son, I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants shall take possession of the gates of their enemies, and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing — all this because you obeyed my command.” Abraham then returned to his servants, and they set out together for Beer-sheba, where Abraham made his home.

Gospel: Mt 9: 1-8:
Jesus got back into the boat, crossed the lake again, and came to his hometown. Here they brought a paralyzed man to him, lying on a bed. Jesus saw their faith and said to the paralytic, “Courage, my son! Your sins are forgiven.” Some teachers of the Law said within themselves, “This man insults God.” Jesus was aware of what they were thinking, and said, “Why have you such evil thoughts? Which is easier to say: ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins.” He then said to the paralyzed man, “Stand up! Take your stretcher and go home.” The man got up, and went home. When the crowds saw this, they were filled with awe and praised God for giving such power to human beings.

Psychosomatic medicine has made us aware of the profound unity existing between body and soul. It tells us that practically all our mental states (stress, worry, anger, lust, hate, boredom, jealousy, etc.) have repercussions on our bodies, from the rising of our blood pressure to ulcers, insomnia, backache and indigestion. Even total paralysis of the body, according to psychopathology, can result from a mental disorder such as, for example, an excessive fear of responsibility, a morbid need for attention or a masochistic desire for punishment.

Today’s gospel reading presents Jesus as reacting strangely when asked to heal a paralyzed man. He first forgives the man’s sins, instead of immediately healing his paralysis. Was it because the man’s previous lifestyle was deeply disordered and had brought about his state of paralysis as a sort of unconscious censorship? We shall never know.

But this gospel episode suggests that Jesus was aware that our sins affect our bodies as well as our souls in some mysterious way. The present high incidence of venereal diseases such as AIDS and STDs should serve as a salutary reminder of this fact. So much for lust. But gluttony can also partially explain a lot of cases of obesity. And what about our frenzied pursuit of money, power, popularity? Can it not explain a good number of heart attacks and untimely deaths?

July 2nd

1st Reading: Gen 23:1-4, 19; 24:1-8, 62-67:
Sarah lived a hundred and twenty-seven years. She died at Kiriatharba—that is Hebron—in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went in to weep and mourn for Sarah. Abraham left his dead one and spoke to the Hittites, “I am only a stranger among you; give me a burial place among you, so that I may bury my dead.” After this Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave of Machpelah. Abraham was now old and well on in years, and Yahweh had blessed him in every way. Abraham said to his senior servant, who was his steward, “Put your hand under my thigh and you will swear to me by Yahweh, God of heaven and earth, that you will not choose a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom we live; rather it is to my country and my kinsfolk that you will go to choose a wife for my son, Isaac.”

The servant said to him, “Perhaps the woman will not want to follow me to this country. In that case should I take your son to the country you came from?” Abraham said to him, “In no way will you take my son back. For Yahweh, God of heaven and God of earth, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my birth, spoke to me and swore to me that he would give this country to my race. He will send his angel before you, that you may find a wife for my son. But if the woman is unwilling to follow you, you will be free of this oath. In any case you are not to take my son down there.” Now Isaac had come from the well of Lahai-roi, for he was living in the Negeb.

As Isaac went out in the early evening to meditate in the field, he looked up and saw camels coming. Rebekah also looked up and when she saw Isaac she alighted from her camel and said to the servant, “Who is this man in the field coming to meet us?” He replied, “It is my master!” She then covered her face with her veil. The servant related to Isaac all that he had done and Isaac brought Rebekah into the tent of Sarah, his mother. He made her his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

Gospel: Mt 9:9-13:
As Jesus moved on from there, he saw a man named Matthew, at his seat in the custom-house; and he said to him, “Follow me!“ And Matthew got up and followed him. Now it happened, while Jesus was at table in Matthew‘s house, many tax collectors and sinners joined Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why is it, that your master eats with sinners and tax collectors?” When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people do not need a doctor, but sick people do. Go, and find out what this means: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus’ choice of Matthew as one of his disciples is quite encouraging for all of us. We are all sinners like Matthew. There comes a time when every one of us, no matter how good we are, sin against God. But sinfulness is never an obstacle for those who heed the call to take part in Jesus’ mission of evangelization. However, it is important that we leave behind everything that is incompatible or whatever that impedes us from committing ourselves to this mission. This is what Matthew did when he, upon hearing Jesus’ invitation, “Follow me!,” immediately got up and followed Him, leaving behind his family and his customs post which symbolized his sinful lifestyle.

The meal, in the Jewish perspective, was an important occasion and a sign of fellowship. Hence the fact that Jesus openly shared meals with tax collectors and sinners was considered scandalous behavior. Jesus’ presence and fellowship with sinners was not a sign of approval of their sinful lifestyle but a manifestation of his non-condemnatory attitude. It was his way of saying that he does not give up on sinners. He believes that they can turn their life around especially after having experienced the mercy and compassion of God.

July 3rd

St. Thomas the Apostle

1st Reading: Eph 2:19-22:
Now you are no longer strangers or guests, but fellow citizens of the holy people: you are of the household of God. You are the house whose foundations are the apostles and prophets, and whose cornerstone is Christ Jesus. In him the whole structure is joined together and rises to be a holy temple in the Lord. In him you too are being built to become the spiritual Sanctuary of God.

Gospel: Jn 20: 24-29:
Thomas, the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he replied, “Until I have seen in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” Eight days later, the disciples were again inside the house and Thomas was with them.

Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; stretch out your hand, and put it into my side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe!” Thomas said, “You are my Lord and my God.” Jesus replied, “You believe because you see me, don’t you? Happy are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

There is a quality of the personality that a psychologist like Carl Rogers calls congruence and which pretty much boils down to acting out what you believe. Some people may lack tact and polish when they voice their opinion, but at least we know what they think. They might be irritating at times but they are refreshingly honest. Such was the apostle Thomas. He spoke his mind without beating around the bush. He didn’t hem and haw. Maybe that is why Jesus loved him enough to make him an apostle. Thomas’ expressed skepticism is a thing of beauty. Or at least it is much better than a cowardly fear facing one’s doubts.

Another thing of beauty in today’s gospel reading is the extraordinary graciousness of Jesus. Instead of harshly scolding Thomas for the latter’s lack of faith, he meekly submits to the “test” imposed by Thomas and thus invites him to inspect the marks of his wounds. Such mildness cannot fail to touch even the hardest heart. A third and last thing of beauty is Thomas’ reaction of complete and unconditional surrender. He ends up making the greatest confession of faith contained in the four gospels!