Bible Diary for June 30th – July 6th

June 30th

First Martyrs of the Roman Church

1st Reading: 1 Kgs 19:16b, 19-21:
You shall also anoint Jehu, son of Nimshi, as king over Israel. And Elisha, son of Shaphat, from Abel Meholah, you shall anoint as prophet in your place. Elijah left. He found Elisha, son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen; he was following the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak over him.

Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah and said, “Let me say goodbye to my father and mother; then I will follow you.” Elijah said to him, “Return if you want, don’t worry about what I did.” However, Elisha turned back, took the yoke of oxen and slew them. He roasted their meat on the pieces of the yoke and gave it to his people who ate of it. After this, he followed Elijah and began ministering to him.

2nd Reading: Gal 5:1, 13-18:
Christ freed us, to make us really free. So remain firm, and do not submit, again, to the yoke of slavery. You, brothers and sisters, were called to enjoy freedom; I am not speaking of that freedom which gives free rein to the desires of the flesh, but of that which makes you slaves of one another through love. For the whole law is summed up in this sentence: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

But if you bite and tear each other to pieces, be careful lest you all perish. Therefore, I say to you: walk according to the Spirit and do not give way to the desires of the flesh! For the desires of the flesh war against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are opposed to the flesh. Both are in conflict with each other, so that you cannot do everything you would like. But when you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law.

Gospel: Lk 9:51-62:
As the time drew near when Jesus would be taken up to heaven, he made up his mind to go to Jerusalem. He sent ahead of him some messengers, who entered a Samaritan village to prepare a lodging for him. But the people would not receive him, because he was on his way to Jerusalem. Seeing this, James and John, his disciples, said, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to reduce them to ashes?” Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went on to another village. As they went on their way, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another, Jesus said, “Follow me!” But he answered, “Let me go back now, for, first, I want to bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their dead; as for you, leave them, and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said to him, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say goodbye to my family.” And Jesus said to him, “Whoever has put his hand to the plow, and looks back, is not fit for the kingdom of God.”

Think about yourself as a follower of Christ. What kind of follower are you? Are you trying to grasp Christ’s frame of mind? If you think everything is alright with you, there are no hassles when you practice your religion, think again. Something might be wrong. You must experience discomfort if you follow Christ. Lord, help me to follow you. Purify my motivation in trying to share in your ministry. Help me to become a true follower of yours. Set me free from all that prevent me from giving myself totally to you.

July 1st

St. Junipero Serra

1st Reading: Gen 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 Jesus saw the crowd pressing around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 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 “Lord, let me go and bury my father first.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.”

Jesus’ reply to the scribe, the teacher of the law, and to the disciple brings to the fore the nature of following him. Following him is characterized by surrender, urgency and priority. To the scribe, Jesus’ response is a challenge to give up those things that provide him comfort and security. And to the disciple, Jesus’ response is a question of priority. It would seem Jesus is insensitive and unsympathetic to the situation of the disciple.

But the point of Jesus’ response is that priority needs to be accorded to the demands of following him and that it needs to be taken as urgent. The demands of the reign of God and of Jesus’ call to follow him are definite and urgent. In the mind of Jesus they take precedence over other things we may consider important. They put us into situations where it is necessary and essential to give up something and take radical action. These giving up and taking action cannot be delayed to a future time because Jesus’ call is in the ‘now’.

July 2nd

1st Reading: Gen 19:15-29:
As dawn was breaking, the angels urged Lot on, saying, “On your way! Take with you your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of Sodom.” When he hesitated, the men, by the Lord’s mercy, seized his hand and the hands of his wife and his two daughters and led them to safety outside the city. As soon as they had been brought outside, he was told: “Flee for your life! Don’t look back or stop anywhere on the Plain. Get off to the hills at once, or you will be swept away.”

“Oh, no, my lord!” Lot replied, “You have already thought enough of your servant to do me the great kindness of intervening to save my life. But I cannot flee to the hills to keep the disaster from overtaking me, and so I shall die. Look, this town ahead is near enough to escape to. It’s only a small place. Let me flee there–it’s a small place, is it not?–that my life may be saved.” “Well, then,” he replied, “I will also grant you the favor you now ask. I will not overthrow the town you speak of.  Hurry, escape there! I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” That is why the town is called Zoar.

The sun was just rising over the earth as Lot arrived in Zoar; at the same time the Lord rained down sulphurous fire upon Sodom and Gomorrah from the Lord out of heaven. He overthrew those cities and the whole Plain, together with the inhabitants of the cities and the produce of the soil. But Lot’s wife looked back, and she was turned into a pillar of salt.

Early the next morning Abraham went to the place where he had stood in the Lord’s presence. As he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and the whole region of the Plain, he saw dense smoke over the land rising like fumes from a furnace. Thus it came to pass: when God destroyed the Cities of the Plain, he was mindful of Abraham by sending Lot away from the upheaval by which God overthrew the cities where Lot had been living.

Gospel: Mt 8:23-27:
Jesus got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a fierce storm burst upon the lake, with waves sweeping the boat. But Jesus was asleep. The disciples woke him up and cried, “Lord save us! We are lost!” But Jesus answered, “Why are you so afraid, you of little faith?” Then he stood up and rebuked the wind and sea; and it became completely calm. The disciples were astonished. They said, “What kind of man is he? Even the winds and the sea obey him.”

Among other things, two things stand out in this gospel episode, namely: (1) Jesus is revealed as Lord and Savior; and, (2) the disciples forget that Jesus is with them. These are crucial in their life of faith. What happen to the disciples on the boat sets an opportunity for the revelation of who Jesus is. It also indicates, on the one hand, that forgetfulness of the presence of Jesus brings fear, anxiety, and a perception of the uncertain; while the recognition of Jesus presence, on the other hand, is re-assuring and brings calm confidence.

The presence of Jesus is one thing they/we cannot afford to miss because Jesus presence is revelatory. It reveals primarily who he is, but it also reveals who we are before him. That is why Jesus presence is confronting. His presence them/ helps us see and confront those things in us that are uncharitable, unkind and selfish. Jesus presence is forgiving. And because it is so, His presence heals and comforts. Jesus’ presence is awe-inspiring. It strengthens and propels the human spirit. All these are revelations of Jesus as bringer of the kingdom of God.

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, 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.”

This gospel passage demonstrates an ‘unparalleled expression of faith’ that began with disbelief and doubt (Bredan Byrne). We have here another instance revealing Jesus identity. Two things are made clear in this gospel reading: one explicitly declares that Jesus is God and the other implicitly admits that God is love. Thomas confesses that Jesus is God. But before this personal pronouncement (the use of “my”), Thomas named the conditions that might lead him to believe, namely: he wanted to see the print of the nails, and put his fingers in the marks and in Jesus’ side.

Is it merely the sight and touch of the marks on Jesus’ hands, or the sight of Jesus himself, that moved him to believe? It could probably be the profound realization of the power and greatness of God’s love embodied in Jesus; it could be the experience of such love at that very moment of touching the mark of nails and the side of Jesus, a love that is able to send Jesus for the whole world and that is able to accept and face a gruesome death on the cross. The touch on the marks of nails and side of Jesus is an experience of the pure and unconditional love of God.

July 4th

St. Elizabeth of Portugal

1st Reading: Gen 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 to him a paralyzed man, 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 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.

Yesterday’s gospel reading is implicit in announcing that God is love embodied in Jesus and that Jesus is the embodiment of this love. In today’s reading, a dimension of the love of God in Jesus is revealed, that is forgiveness. Jesus is not only able to forgive sins, but He is the embodiment, the bringer of the forgiving love of God. He is forgiveness sent to the world, made present in the world. The reign of God is a condition wherein forgiveness fills the heart of humanity. It is not difficult to see if forgiveness pervades the human community.

And we can easily determine its presence or absence; we only have to observe and be attentive. A test of love, kindness and gentleness is forgiveness. It can never be absent in love, kindness and gentleness; it is a function of these three. The presence of forgiveness heals the deepest of wounds, and its absence inflames the slightest hurt. Forgiveness reconciles; it reconnects. While it breaks human barriers, it also rebuilds and recreates. It brings peace to the mind and heart.

July 5th

St. Anthony Zaccaria

1st Reading: Gen 23:1-4, 19; 24:1-8, 62-67:
The span of Sarah’s life was one hundred and twenty-seven years. She died in Kiriatharba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham performed the customary mourning rites for her. Then he left the side of his dead one and addressed the Hittites: “Although I am a resident alien among you, sell me from your holdings a piece of property for a burial ground, that I may bury my dead wife.”

After the transaction, Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave of the field of Machpelah, facing Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. Abraham had now reached a ripe old age, and the Lord had blessed him in every way. Abraham said to the senior servant of his household, who had charge of all his possessions: “Put your hand under my thigh, and I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not procure a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I live, but that you will go to my own land and to my kindred to get a wife for my son Isaac.”

The servant asked him: “What if the woman is unwilling to follow me to this land? Should I then take your son back to the land from which you migrated?” “Never take my son back there for any reason,” Abraham told him. “The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and the land of my kin, and who confirmed by oath the promise he then made to me, ‘I will give this land to your descendants’–he will send his messenger before you, and you will obtain a wife for my son there. If the woman is unwilling to follow you, you will be released from this oath. But never take my son back there!”

A long time later, Isaac went to live in the region of the Negeb. One day toward evening he went out . . . in the field, and as he looked around, he noticed that camels were approaching. Rebekah, too, was looking about, and when she saw him, she alighted from her camel and asked the servant, “Who is the man out there, walking through the fields toward us?” “That is my master,” replied the servant. Then she covered herself with her veil. The servant recounted to Isaac all the things he had done. Then Isaac took Rebekah into his tent; he married her, and thus she became his wife. In his love for her, Isaac found solace after the death of his mother Sarah.

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.”

The celebration at the table in Matthew’s house expresses a foretaste of the celebration that happens in the kingdom of God. The welcoming and bringing together of people, sinners or righteous, is a joyous celebration in the kingdom. And the reconciliation of individuals with their Maker is one thing to celebrate. Even before Jesus said to Matthew “Follow me!” he already looked at him with mercy. The words “Follow me!” carry in them the merciful love of Jesus, from which forgiveness springs. It is mercy that Jesus brings and offers; it is also what He desires.

Mercy characterizes in a concrete way the ministry of Jesus. It is a mark of the reign of God that Jesus ushered in, a mark of the Church, and a mark of a Christian. Mercy allows us to understand, forgive and welcome. That is why there is a celebration at the house of Matthew. That is why in the celebration of the Eucharist everyone may participate. This same mercy, which allowed reconciliation with God and our fellow humans, calls us to extend to others our experience of Jesus’ merciful love to others.

July 6th

St. Maria Goretti

1st Reading: Gen 27:1-5, 15-29:
When Isaac was so old that his eyesight had failed him, he called his older son Esau and said to him, “Son!” “Yes father!” he replied. Isaac then said, “As you can see, I am so old that I may now die at any time. Take your gear, therefore–your quiver and bow–and go out into the country to hunt some game for me. With your catch prepare an appetizing dish for me, such as I like, and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my special blessing before I die.”

Rebekah had been listening while Isaac was speaking to his son Esau. So, when Esau went out into the country to hunt some game for his father, Rebekah [then] took the best clothes of her older son Esau
that she had in the house, and gave them to her younger son Jacob to wear; and with the skins of the kids she covered up his hands and the hairless parts of his neck. Then she handed her son Jacob the appetizing dish and the bread she had prepared.

Bringing them to his father, Jacob said, “Father!” “Yes?” replied Isaac.  “Which of my sons are you?” Jacob answered his father: “I am Esau, your first-born. I did as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your special blessing.” But Isaac asked, “How did you succeed so quickly, son?” He answered, “The Lord, your God, let things turn out well with me.” Isaac then said to Jacob, “Come closer, son, that I may feel you, to learn whether you really are my son Esau or not.” So Jacob moved up closer to his father.

When Isaac felt him, he said, “Although the voice is Jacob’s, the hands are Esau’s.” (He failed to identify him because his hands were hairy, like those of his brother Esau; so in the end he gave him his blessing.) Again he asked Jacob, “Are you really my son Esau?” “Certainly,” Jacob replied. Then Isaac said, “Serve me your game, son, that I may eat of it and then give you my blessing.” Jacob served it to him, and Isaac ate; he brought him wine, and he drank.

Finally his father Isaac said to Jacob, “Come closer, son, and kiss me.” As Jacob went up and kissed him, Isaac smelled the fragrance of his clothes. With that, he blessed him saying, “Ah, the fragrance of my son is like the fragrance of a field that the Lord has blessed! May God give to you of the dew of the heavens and of the fertility of the earth abundance of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations pay you homage; be master of your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be those who curse you, and blessed be those who bless you.”

Gospel: Mt 9:14-17:
Then the disciples of John came to him with the question, “How is it, that we and the Pharisees fast on many occasions, but not your disciples?” Jesus answered them, “How can you expect wedding guests to mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The time will come, when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then, they will fast. No one patches an old coat with a piece of unshrunken cloth, for the patch will shrink and tear an even bigger hole in the coat. In the same way, you don’t put new wine into old wine skins. If you do, the wine skins will burst and the wine will be spilt. No, you put new wine into fresh skins; then both are preserved.”

At play in this gospel passage is the tension between too fast and not too fast. However, the main point here is the identity of Jesus. The disciples of John advanced the surface issue of fasting, but Jesus redirected their focus to a deeper concern, that is, His identity as the “bridegroom,” as the Messiah. As the one who calls for repentance and grants forgiveness of sins, Jesus celebrates when one is reconciled back to God, as in the case of Matthew, the other tax collectors and sinners who gathered in his house.

Having repented and having been forgiven and reconciled to God are a definitive reason for Jesus to celebrate. In this way, the inauguration of the kingdom of God in Jesus public ministry has brought a radically new dimension to the religious practices of John’s disciples and the other Jewish groups at that time. Fasting needs to be maintained, together with the celebration of God’s mercy that Jesus brought while awaiting his return (Brendan Byrne). By introducing this, Jesus transformed an understanding of fasting or mourning that is now able to accommodate the celebration of God’s mercy.