Bible Diary for June 30th – July 6th

June 30th

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Martyrs of the Roman Church

1st Reading: Wis 1:13-15; 2:23-24:
God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being; and the creatures of the world are wholesome, and there is not a destructive drug among them nor any domain of the netherworld on earth, for justice is undying. For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it.

2nd Reading: 2 Cor 8:7, 9, 13-15:
Brothers and sisters: As you excel in every respect, in faith, discourse, knowledge, all earnestness, and in the love we have for you, may you excel in this gracious act also. For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. Not that others should have relief while you are burdened, but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their needs, so that their abundance may also supply your needs, that there may be equality. As it is written: Whoever had much did not have more, and whoever had little did not have less.

Gospel: Mk 5:21-43:
When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he stayed close to the sea. One of the synagogue officials, named Jairus, came forward. Seeing him he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, “My daughter is at the point of death. Please, come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live.” He went off with him, and a large crowd followed him and pressed upon him. There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet she was not helped but only grew worse. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.”

Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Jesus, aware at once that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who has touched my clothes?” But his disciples said to Jesus, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, ‘Who touched me?'” And he looked around to see who had done it. The woman, realizing what had happened to her, approached in fear and trembling. She fell down before Jesus and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” While he was still speaking, people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?” Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”

He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. So he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded. He gave strict orders that no one should know this and said that she should be given 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.

July 1st

St. Junipero Serra

1st Reading: Am 2:6-10, 13-16:
Thus says the Lord: For three crimes of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke my word; Because they sell the just man for silver, and the poor man for a pair of sandals. They trample the heads of the weak into the dust of the earth, and force the lowly out of the way. Son and father go to the same prostitute, profaning my holy name. Upon garments taken in pledge they recline beside any altar; And the wine of those who have been fined they drink in the house of their god. Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorites before them, who were as tall as the cedars, and as strong as the oak trees.

I destroyed their fruit above, and their roots beneath. It was I who brought you up from the land of Egypt, and who led you through the desert for forty years, to occupy the land of the Amorites. Beware, I will crush you into the ground as a wagon crushes when laden with sheaves. Flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong man shall not retain his strength; The warrior shall not save his life, nor the bowman stand his ground; The swift of foot shall not escape, nor the horseman save his life. And the most stouthearted of warriors shall flee naked on that day, says the Lord.

Gospel: Mt 8:18-22:
When Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other shore. A scribe approached and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Another of his disciples said to him, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But Jesus answered him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their 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.

July 2nd

1st Reading: AM 3:1-8; 4:11-12:
Hear this word, O children of Israel, that the Lord pronounces over you, over the whole family that I brought up from the land of Egypt: You alone have I favored, more than all the families of the earth; Therefore I will punish you for all your crimes.Do two walk together unless they have agreed? Does a lion roar in the forest when it has no prey? Does a young lion cry out from its den unless it has seized something? Is a bird brought to earth by a snare when there is no lure for it? Does a snare spring up from the ground without catching anything? If the trumpet sounds in a city, will the people not be frightened?

If evil befalls a city, has not the Lord caused it? Indeed, the Lord God does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants, the prophets.The lion roars– who will not be afraid! The Lord God speaks– who will not prophesy! I brought upon you such upheaval as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah: you were like a brand plucked from the fire; Yet you returned not to me, says the Lord. So now I will deal with you in my own way, O Israel! and since I will deal thus with you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel.

Gospel: MT 8:23-27:
As Jesus got into a boat, his disciples followed him. Suddenly a violent storm came up on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by waves; but he was asleep. They came and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm. The men were amazed and said, “What sort of man is this, whom even the winds and the sea obey?”

The story about Jesus calming the storm at sea reminds us of an important truth. Following Jesus does not guarantee a life that is free from crises or “storms“. Nevertheless, we are assured that Jesus Our Lord is present in the various storms of our lives. More often than not we interpret the crises, difficulties or problems we face as manifestations of God’s disfavor. What the Gospel tells us can give us a lot of comfort: He is neither absent nor uncaring; the Lord Jesus is with us right in the middle of the storm. He will not allow us to perish. He has all the power to calm the storms of our lives if we approach Him in faith, seeking his divine assistance. The boat is often taken as a symbol of the Church that is tossed about by the waves of crises. But, as he promised to Simon Peter, the Lord Jesus is always with his Church. Even when he seems asleep, he “will never allow the powers of evil to prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18)

July 3rd

St. Thomas the Apostle

1st Reading: EPH 2:19-22:
Brothers and sisters: You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

Gospel: JN 20:24-29:
Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

It is a pity and quite unfair that the nickname “Doubting Thomas“ will forever be stuck with the apostle whose feast we celebrate today. Such a moniker has glossed over his heroism in bringing Christianity to many places as far as Kerala in southern India (according to an old tradition). In another sense, however, there is also a good side to that. Thomas makes the apostles seem more real, more human like the rest of us. His experience tells us that it is normal to have doubts, once in a while. Thomas was just being honest when he expressed his hesitations and fears. Going back to his experience will certainly help us in moments of uncertainty, in moments when we lose our self-confidence, in moments of suffering, disappointment, failure or even the loss of a loved one.

At such moments Thomas is a comfort to us because his experience is an acknowledgment that believing is no easy task. It is a risky venture which demands a lot of courage and trust because we hardly have any evidence that what we believe in is true. We can see ourselves in Thomas the skeptic and cynic. His personal encounter with the Risen Lord, however, transformed him. His doubts, fears and uncertainties disappeared. We may not encounter the Risen Lord in exactly the same manner that Thomas and the other apostles did but we do encounter him in various ways especially through the sacraments. Unlocking our hearts to him would allow us to receive the gift of faith that would drive away our fears, doubts and uncertainties.

July 4th

Independence Day
St. Elizabeth of Portugal

1st Reading: Am 7:10-17:
Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent word to Jeroboam, king of Israel: “Amos has conspired against you here within Israel; the country cannot endure all his words. For this is what Amos says: Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be exiled from its land.” To Amos, Amaziah said: “Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah! There earn your bread by prophesying, but never again prophesy in Bethel; for it is the king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.”

Amos answered Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor have I belonged to a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. The Lord took me from following the flock, and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ Now hear the word of the Lord!” You say: prophesy not against Israel, preach not against the house of Isaac. Now thus says the Lord: Your wife shall be made a harlot in the city, and your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword; Your land shall be divided by measuring line, and you yourself shall die in an unclean land; Israel shall be exiled far from its land.

Gospel: Mt 9:1-8:
After entering a boat, Jesus made the crossing, and came into his own town. And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.” At that, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why do you harbor evil thoughts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”– he then said to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” He rose and went home. When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to men.

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 5th

St. Anthony Zaccaria

1st Reading: Am 8:4-6, 9-12:
Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land! “When will the new moon be over,” you ask, “that we may sell our grain, and the sabbath, that we may display the wheat?” We will diminish the containers for measuring, add to the weights, and fix our scales for cheating! We will buy the lowly man for silver, and the poor man for a pair of sandals; even the refuse of the wheat we will sell!”

On that day, says the Lord God, I will make the sun set at midday and cover the earth with darkness in broad daylight. I will turn your feasts into mourning and all your songs into lamentations. I will cover the loins of all with sackcloth and make every head bald. I will make them mourn as for an only son, and bring their day to a bitter end. Yes, days are coming, says the Lord God, when I will send famine upon the land: Not a famine of bread, or thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the Lord. Then shall they wander from sea to sea and rove from the north to the east In search of the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.

Gospel: Mt 9:9-13:
As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire 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 6th

St. Maria Goretti

1st Reading: AM 9:11-15:
Thus says the Lord: On that day I will raise up the fallen hut of David; I will wall up its breaches, raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old, That they may conquer what is left of Edom and all the nations that shall bear my name, say I, the Lord, who will do this. Yes, days are coming, says the Lord, When the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the vintager, him who sows the seed; The juice of grapes shall drip down the mountains, and all the hills shall run with it. I will bring about the restoration of my people Israel; they shall rebuild and inhabit their ruined cities, Plant vineyards and drink the wine, set out gardens and eat the fruits. I will plant them upon their own ground; never again shall they be plucked From the land I have given them, say I, the Lord, your God.

Gospel: MT 9:14-17:
The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one patches an old cloak with a piece of unshrunken cloth, for its fullness pulls away from the cloak and the tear gets worse. People do not put new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. Rather, they pour new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.”

John’s disciples were puzzled by the fact that Jesus and his disciples did not observe the laws of fasting in order to hasten the coming of the Kingdom of God. Little did they realize that the coming of Jesus marked the beginning of a new era in Israel. The longed-for Messiah has finally arrived. Fasting as a sign of hungering and preparing for his coming has become superfluous. It was no longer necessary. Now is the time of rejoicing. Jesus’ statement about “new wine in new wineskins“ is equally puzzling. While the literal meaning is obvious, the symbolic is not.

It seems that by this expression the Lord asks his disciples to forsake their worldly ways and live by the Spirit of Truth. The “old wineskin“ of their sinful past is incompatible with the newness and vitality of their life in Christ. The new life they have received in Christ is what the Lord describes in the gospel as “new wine“-a precious gift freely and generously given. Jesus’ disciples are to leave behind their old way of sin and embrace their new identity as children of the Heavenly Father.