Bible Diary for May 30th – June 5th

May 30th

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
St. Joan of Arc

1st Reading: Dt 4:32-34, 39-40:
Ask of the times past. Inquire from the day when God created man on earth. Ask from one end of the world to the other: Has there ever been anything as extraordinary as this? Has anything like this been heard of before? Has there ever been a people who remained alive after hearing as you did the voice of the living God from the midst of the fire? Never has there been a God who went out to look for a people and take them out from among the other nations by the strength of trials and signs, by wonders and by war, with a firm hand and an outstretched arm.

Never has there been any deed as tremendous as those done for you by Yahweh in Egypt, which you saw with your own eyes. Therefore, try to be convinced that Yahweh is the only God of heaven and earth, and that there is no other. Observe the laws and the commandments that I command you today and everything will be well with you and your children after you. So you will live long in the land which Yahweh, your God, gives you forever.

2nd Reading: Rom 8:14-17:
All those who walk in the Spirit of God are sons and daughters of God. Then, no more fear: you did not receive a spirit of slavery, but the spirit that makes you sons and daughters, and every time, we cry, “Abba! (this is Dad!) Father!“ the Spirit assures our spirit, that we are sons and daughters of God. If we are children, we are heirs, too. Ours will be the inheritance of God, and we will share it with Christ; for, if we now suffer with him, we will also share glory with him.

Gospel: Mt 28:16-20:
As for the eleven disciples, they went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw Jesus, they bowed before him, although some doubted. “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations. Baptize them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all that I have commanded you. I am with you always, even to the end of the world.“

Christianity is not monotheistic; it is Trinitarian, in fact. Our God is One, but within this oneness is the mystery of the Trinity, a community of three Persons who share in the one nature. This mystery cannot be comprehended by our minds; but it can be experienced through our living such Trinitarian communities of loving and sharing with our brothers and sisters on earth. No Christian can walk alone the path of his faith; he can only walk together in a community, reaching out to others holding them and being held by them. Pray for a Trinitarian heart that longs to connect with people around. Choose two other people, and together with them, spend some 30 minutes in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.

May 31st

Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

1st Reading: Zep 3:14-18a:
Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The LORD has removed the judgment against you, he has turned away your enemies; the King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear. On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem: fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, He will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.

Gospel: Lk 1:39-56:
Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name. He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever.”

Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

Mary visited Elizabeth upon learning that the latter was pregnant. And yet, it is the Lord who has visited both Mary and Elizabeth. Elizabeth, barren all her life, would have been considered accursed by her people, as barrenness led to the decimation of the clan. In her advanced years, the Lord visited her and blessed her and Zechariah with a son, John. Mary was a maiden from a small and insignificant town of Nazareth. And yet the Lord visited her and chose her to bear our Savior, Jesus. In what ways has the Lord visited us, too, with his compassion?

June 1st

St. Justin

1st Reading: Tb 2:9–14:
That same night of (Pentecost), after I had buried the body, I returned home. I washed myself and went out into the courtyard to sleep against the wall; my face was uncovered because of the heat. I did not see that there were sparrows on the wall of the courtyard and, as my eyes were open, the hot droppings from the sparrows fell into my eyes and formed a white film on my eyes. I went to find doctors to attend to me for medical treatment but the more ointments they smeared on my eyes, the more blind I became because of the film. Finally I became totally blind. I suffered from blindness for four years. All my brothers were burdened because of me.

Ahikar kept me for two years before he departed for Elymiade. My wife Anna worked hard at a woman’s task, weaving. On the seventh day of the month of March she cut the cloth and delivered it to her employers. They paid her wages and gave her, over and above, a young goat for food. When she returned home the kid began to cry. I said to her, “Where does the little kid come from? Did you steal it? Return it to its owners for we are not allowed to eat anything that is stolen.” But she said, “It is a gift which has been given to me in addition to my wages.” “I don’t believe it. I tell you to return it to its owners.” I was ashamed of her. She replied, “What about your own almsgiving and your good deeds? I have to put up with all this from you.”

Gospel: Mk 12:13–17:
They sent to Jesus some Pharisees with members of Herod’s party, with the purpose of trapping him by his own words. They came and said to Jesus, “Master, we know that you are truthful; you are not influenced by anyone, and your answers do not vary according to who is listening to you, but you truly teach God’s way. Tell us, is it against the Law to pay taxes to Caesar? Should we pay them or not?” But Jesus saw through their trick and answered, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a silver coin and let me see it.” They brought him one and Jesus asked, “Whose image is this, and whose name?” They answered, “Caesar’s.” Then Jesus said, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” And they were greatly astonished.

Undaunted allegiance to what is true demands nobility and courage. Noblesse oblige. Noble ancestry constrains to honorable behavior; privilege entails to responsibility. (Oxford English Dictionary). At first glance, the Pharisees looked as if they are in favor of Jesus. Perhaps, they were soliciting him to condemn the Roman Empire and its unjust rule of Palestine. But a closer scrutiny shows otherwise; it reveals their hypocrisy. Jesus’ answer exposed their evil intent. Since the Jews are under the Roman sovereignty, the rule requiring paying taxes must be observed. But he also gave a never-heard-before teaching.

In his answer Jesus wants to teach also that giving to Caesar what is his due is noble and demanded of every law abiding Hebrew. Though this obligation to the emperor can be an honor to God, it is never equated with worship. Some people remark that they always pay their tax, never defrauded anyone and robbed anything, why still call on God? Civil obligation is for the “City of Men,” love of God belongs to heaven. While keeping one’s feet on the ground, one needs to fix his eyes to heaven. “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the Emperor.” (1 P 2:13-17)

June 2nd

Sts. Marcellinus and Peter

1st Reading: Tb 3:1-11a, 16-17a:
Grief-stricken in spirit, I, Tobit, groaned and wept aloud. Then with sobs I began to pray: “You are righteous, O Lord, and all your deeds are just; all your ways are mercy and truth; you are the judge of the world. And now, O Lord, may you be mindful of me, and look with favor upon me. Punish me not for my sins, nor for my inadvertent offenses, nor for those of my ancestors. “We sinned against you, and disobeyed your commandments. So you handed us over to plundering, exile, and death, till you made us the talk and reproach of all the nations among whom you had dispersed us. “Yes, your judgments are many and true in dealing with me as my sins and those of my ancestors deserve.

“For we have not kept your commandments, nor have we trodden the paths of truth before you. So now, deal with me as you please, and command my life breath to be taken from me, that I may go from the face of the earth into dust. It is better for me to die than to live, because I have heard insulting calumnies, and I am overwhelmed with grief. “Lord, command me to be delivered from such anguish; let me go to the everlasting abode; Lord, refuse me not. For it is better for me to die than to endure so much misery in life, and to hear these insults!”

On the same day, at Ecbatana in Media, it so happened that Raguel’s daughter Sarah also had to listen to abuse, from one of her father’s maids. For she had been married to seven husbands, but the wicked demon Asmodeus killed them off before they could have intercourse with her, as it is prescribed for wives. So the maid said to her: “You are the one who strangles your husbands! Look at you! You have already been married seven times, but you have had no joy with any one of your husbands. Why do you beat us? Is it on account of your seven husbands, Because they are dead? May we never see a son or daughter of yours!”

The girl was deeply saddened that day, and she went into an upper chamber of her house, where she planned to hang herself. But she reconsidered, saying to herself: “No! People would level this insult against my father: ‘You had only one beloved daughter, but she hanged herself because of ill fortune!’ And thus would I cause my father in his old age to go down to the nether world laden with sorrow. It is far better for me not to hang myself, but to beg the Lord to have me die, so that I need no longer live to hear such insults.”

At that time, then, she spread out her hands, and facing the window, poured out her prayer: “Blessed are you, O Lord, merciful God, and blessed is your holy and honorable name. Blessed are you in all your works for ever!” At that very time, the prayer of these two suppliants was heard in the glorious presence of Almighty God. So Raphael was sent to heal them both: to remove the cataracts from Tobit’s eyes, so that he might again see God’s sunlight; and to marry Raguel’s daughter Sarah to Tobit’s son Tobiah, and then drive the wicked demon Asmodeus from her.

Gospel: Mk 12:18–27:
The Sadducees came to Jesus. Since they claim that there is no resurrection, they questioned him in this way, “Master, in the Scriptures Moses gave us this law: If anyone dies and leaves a wife but no children, his brother must take the woman, and with her have a baby, who will be considered the child of his deceased brother. Now, there were seven brothers. The first married a wife, but he died without leaving any children. The second took the wife, and he also died leaving no children. The same thing happened to the third. In fact, all seven brothers died, leaving no children. Last of all the woman died. Now, in the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife? For all seven brothers had her as wife.”

Jesus replied, “Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God? When they rise from the dead, men and women do not marry, but are like the angels in heaven. Now, about the resurrection of the dead, have you never had thoughts about the burning bush in the book of Moses? God said to Moses: I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. He is the God not of the dead but of the living. You are totally wrong.”

The Sadducees were aristocrats and more political than religious. They favored the Roman rule, because they received favors and money. Though they did not believe in the resurrection, it seemed at first that their question was in favor of the resurrection. They used this belief hypocritically to further their own agenda. Levirate marriage in Judaism is mandated by Torah (Dt 25:5-10) by which the brother of a man who died without children has an obligation to marry the widow. This is also a common tradition among the Huns, Mongols and Tibetans. The intent of the law is continuation of the family and financial security of the widow.

The Sadducees’ question presented subtleties, but more so their ignorance about God. If there is no resurrection, dead men don’t rise, there is no remarrying in heaven, therefore, God is not of the living, but of nothingness. Henri Nouwen said, “Unceasing prayer moves us from a self-centered monologue to a God-centered dialogue.” When learned theologians and wise men pray, they think about God and not with God. God becomes a theological disputation, an abstraction, not a living person. God in this sense is scrutinized, almost a nobody, an object of discussion.

June 3rd

Sts. Charles Lwanga and Companions
St. Kevin of Glendalough

1st Reading: Tb 6:10-11; 7:1bcde, 9-17; 8:4-9a:
When the angel Raphael and Tobiah had entered Media  and were getting close to Ecbatana, Raphael said to the boy, “Tobiah, my brother!” He replied: “Here I am!” He said: “Tonight we must stay with Raguel, who is a relative of yours. He has a daughter named Sarah.” So he brought him to the house of Raguel, whom they found seated by his courtyard gate. They greeted him first. He said to them, “Greetings to you too, brothers! Good health to you, and welcome!” And he brought them into his home. Raguel slaughtered a ram from the flock and gave them a cordial reception. When they had bathed and reclined to eat, Tobiah said to Raphael, “Brother Azariah, ask Raguel to let me marry my kinswoman Sarah.”

Raguel overheard the words; so he said to the boy: “Eat and drink and be merry tonight, for no man is more entitled to marry my daughter Sarah than you, brother. Besides, not even I have the right to give her to anyone but you, because you are my closest relative. But I will explain the situation to you very frankly. I have given her in marriage to seven men, all of whom were kinsmen of ours, and all died on the very night they approached her. But now, son, eat and drink. I am sure the Lord will look after you both.” Tobiah answered, “I will eat or drink nothing until you set aside what belongs to me.”

Raguel said to him: “I will do it. She is yours according to the decree of the Book of Moses. Your marriage to her has been decided in heaven! Take your kinswoman; from now on you are her love, and she is your beloved. She is yours today and ever after. And tonight, son, may the Lord of heaven prosper you both. May he grant you mercy and peace.”  Then Raguel called his daughter Sarah, and she came to him. He took her by the hand and gave her to Tobiah with the words: “Take her according to the law. According to the decree written in the Book of Moses she is your wife. Take her and bring her back safely to your father. And may the God of heaven grant both of you peace and prosperity.”

Raguel then called Sarah’s mother and told her to bring a scroll, so that he might draw up a marriage contract stating that he gave Sarah to Tobiah as his wife according to the decree of the Mosaic law. Her mother brought the scroll, and Raguel drew up the contract, to which they affixed their seals. Afterward they began to eat and drink. Later Raguel called his wife Edna and said, “My love, prepare the other bedroom and bring the girl there.” She went and made the bed in the room, as she was told, and brought the girl there. After she had cried over her, she wiped away the tears and said: “Be brave, my daughter. May the Lord grant you joy in place of your grief. Courage, my daughter.”

Then she left. When the girl’s parents left the bedroom and closed the door behind them, Tobiah arose from bed and said to his wife, “My love, get up. Let us pray and beg our Lord to have mercy on us and to grant us deliverance.” She got up, and they started to pray and beg that deliverance might be theirs. And they began to say: “Blessed are you, O God of our fathers, praised be your name forever and ever. Let the heavens and all your creation praise you forever.

“You made Adam and you gave him his wife Eve to be his help and support; and from these two the human race descended. You said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; let us make him a partner like himself.’ Now, Lord, you know that I take this wife of mine not because of lust, but for a noble purpose. Call down your mercy on me and on her, and allow us to live together to a happy old age.” They said together, “Amen, amen,” and went to bed for the night.

Gospel: Mk 12:28–34:
A teacher of the Law had been listening to this discussion and admired how Jesus answered them. So he came up and asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is: Hear, Israel! The Lord, our God, is One Lord; and you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. And after this comes a second commandment: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these two.”

The teacher of the Law said to him, “Well spoken, Master; you are right when you say that he is one, and there is no other besides him. To love him with all our heart, with all our understanding and with all our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves is more important than any burnt offering or sacrifice.” Jesus approved this answer and said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Added to Halakhah (Jewish Law) that comes from the Torah (d’oraita) and numbers six hundred thirteen, there are laws from the rabbis (d’rabbanan) and another from long-standing customs (minhag). With such enormous quantity there is an ample room for pros and cons among the rabbis as to which one is the most important. The love of God includes not only exclusion of false gods but also love of neighbor and nature, living expressions of God’s love. Man is the living image who participates in God’s dignity in the perfection of the divine model. (St. Gregory of Nyssa, De Hominis Opificio, 4: PG 44,136).

Sins committed against one’s neighbor and rampant destruction of ecological balance are conclusively a desecration of God’s image. If one cannot respect a fellowman, nothing would prevent that person from disrespecting the beauty of God’s imprint in creation. Man’s authority over creation is not “absolute, but ministerial: it is a real reflection of the unique and infinite lordship of God. Hence man must exercise it with wisdom and love, sharing in the boundless wisdom and love of God.” (Evangelium Vitae, No. 52) Otherwise, “the flower-bed” (Dante Alighieri’s Paradiso, XXII, 151) would be transformed into a catastrophic abyss.

June 4th

1st Reading: Tb 11:5-17:
Anna sat watching the road by which her son was to come. When she saw him coming, she exclaimed to his father, “Tobit, your son is coming, and the man who traveled with him!” Raphael said to Tobiah before he reached his father: “I am certain that his eyes will be opened. Smear the fish gall on them. This medicine will make the cataracts shrink and peel off from his eyes; then your father will again be able to see the light of day.” Then Anna ran up to her son, threw her arms around him, and said to him,  “Now that I have seen you again, son, I am ready to die!” And she sobbed aloud. Tobit got up and stumbled out through the courtyard gate.

Tobiah went up to him with the fish gall in his hand, and holding him firmly, blew into his eyes. “Courage, father,” he said. Next he smeared the medicine on his eyes, and it made them smart. Then, beginning at the corners of Tobit’s eyes, Tobiah used both hands to peel off the cataracts. When Tobit saw his son, he threw his arms around him and wept. He exclaimed, “I can see you, son, the light of my eyes!” Then he said: “Blessed be God, and praised be his great name, and blessed be all his holy angels. May his holy name be praised throughout all the ages, because it was he who scourged me, and it is he who has had mercy on me. Behold, I now see my son Tobiah!”

Then Tobit went back in, rejoicing and praising God with full voice for everything that had happened. Tobiah told his father that the Lord God had granted him a successful journey; that he had brought back the money; and that he had married Raguel’s daughter Sarah, who would arrive shortly, or she was approaching the gate of Nineveh. Tobit and Anna rejoiced and went out to the gate of Nineveh to meet their daughter-in-law. When the people of Nineveh saw Tobit walking along briskly, with no one leading him by the hand, they were amazed.

Before them all Tobit proclaimed how God had mercifully restored sight to his eyes. When Tobit reached Sarah, the wife of his son Tobiah, he greeted her: “Welcome, my daughter! Blessed be your God for bringing you to us, daughter! Blessed is your father, and blessed is my son Tobiah, and blessed are you, daughter! Welcome to your home with blessing and joy. Come in, daughter!” That day there was joy for all the Jews who lived in Nineveh.

Gospel: Mk 12:35–37:
As Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, “The teachers of the Law say that the Messiah is the son of David. How can that be? For David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, declared: The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet!’ If David himself calls him Lord, in what way can he be his son?” Many people came to Jesus, and listened to him gladly.

The rabbis accepted the Book of Psalms as written by David, but later recounted that because of its messianic interpretation. This unmasked their ignorance of the natures of Jesus. The term “Christology from above” holds the view that starts with the divinity and pre-existence of Christ as the Logos. It became popular in the ancient Church, starting with Ignatius of Antioch. The term “Christology from below” refers to the view that begins with the human life and the ministry of Jesus. It is the dominant approach to Catholic Christology from the Synoptic Gospels to medieval period Vatican II and popular among liberation theologians.

Both liberals, who favor Christ’s humanity over his divinity, and conservatives who side with its opposite view, are hampering and thwarting the Incarnation. One wants a Christ with less divinity, the other desires only the divine nature. “Christ is all in all.” (Col 3:11). This is also the episcopal motto of my former bishop. Christ is undivided in natures, he is not either-or. The Synoptics and John presented a multifaceted Person of Christ that suits their individual community. Their presentation is not meant to “divide” Christ but a way to wholly meet him according to individual needs.

June 5th

St. Boniface

1st Reading: Tb 12:1, 5-15, 20:
Tobit called his son Tobiah and said to him, “Son, see to it that you give what is due to the man who made the journey with you; give him a bonus too.” So he called Raphael and said, “Take as your wages half of all that you have brought back, and go in peace.” Raphael called the two men aside privately and said to them: “Thank God! Give him the praise and the glory. Before all the living, acknowledge the many good things he has done for you, by blessing and extolling his name in song. Honor and proclaim God’s deeds, and do not be slack in praising him. A king’s secret it is prudent to keep, but the works of God are to be declared and made known.

“Praise them with due honor. Do good, and evil will not find its way to you. Prayer and fasting are good, but better than either is almsgiving accompanied by righteousness. A little with righteousness is better than abundance with wickedness. It is better to give alms than to store up gold; for almsgiving saves one from death and expiates every sin. Those who regularly give alms shall enjoy a full life; but those habitually guilty of sin are their own worst enemies. I will now tell you the whole truth; I will conceal nothing at all from you. I have already said to you, ‘A king’s secret it is prudent to keep, but the works of God are to be made known with due honor.’

“I can now tell you that when you, Tobit, and Sarah prayed,  it was I who presented and read the record of your prayer before the Glory of the Lord; and I did the same thing when you used to bury the dead. When you did not hesitate to get up and leave your dinner in order to go and bury the dead, I was sent to put you to the test. At the same time, however, God commissioned me to heal you and your daughter-in-law Sarah. I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord.”

“So now get up from the ground and praise God. Behold, I am about to ascend to him who sent me; write down all these things that have happened to you.”

Gospel: Mk 12:38–44:
As he was teaching, Jesus said to them, “Beware of those teachers of the Law, who enjoy walking around in long robes and being greeted in the marketplace, and who like to occupy reserved seats in the synagogues, and the first places at feasts. They even devour the widow’s and the orphan’s goods while making a show of long prayers. How severe a sentence they will receive!”

Jesus sat down opposite the temple treasury, and watched the people dropping money into the treasury box; and many rich people put in large offerings. But a poor widow also came and dropped in two small coins. Then Jesus called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all those who gave offerings. For all of them gave from their plenty, but she gave from her poverty, and put in everything she had, her very living.”

“It is the quality of our work which will please God and not the quantity.” (Gandhi) The poor widow was praised for her qualitatively and generously little offering more than any of the worshippers who gave quantitatively. God looks more into the inward disposition more than the external. It’s not the number of years lived that counts much, but the kind of life. It would have been better to live up to exemplary hundred years which doesn’t always happen, because the good dies young and hierba mala nunca muere (Bad grass never dies).

God is never outdone in his generosity. “The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry.” (1 K 17:14) “The stingy are eager to get rich and are unaware that poverty awaits them.” (Pro 28:22) “Soren Kierkegaard tells the story of “The Man Who Walked Backwards.” When a man walks away from someone and finds a method of turning his face towards the one he is walking away, he gets farther and farther away by walking backwards. Such a man is rich in good intentions, but retreats backwards farther and farther from the intentions. It’s not qualitative living.