Bible Diary for November 17th – 23rd

November 17th

St. Elizabeth of Hungary

1st Reading: Mal 3:19-20a:
The day already comes, flaming as a furnace. On that day, all the proud and evildoers will be burned, like straw in the fire. They will be left without branches or roots. On the other hand, the sun of justice will shine upon you who respect my name and bring health in its rays. You will come out leaping, like fattened calves.

2nd Reading: 2 Thes 3:7-12:
You know, how you ought to follow our example: we worked while we were with you. Day and night, we labored and toiled so as not to be a burden to any of you. We had the right to act otherwise, but we wanted to give you an example. Besides, while we were with you, we said clearly: If anyone is not willing to work, neither should that one eat. However, we heard that some among you live in idleness—busybodies, doing no work. In the name of Christ Jesus, our Lord, we command these people to work and earn their own living.

Gospel: Lk 21:5-19:
While some people were talking about the Temple, remarking that it was adorned with fine stonework and rich gifts, Jesus said to them, “The days will come when there shall not be left one stone upon another of all that you now admire; all will be torn down.” And they asked him, “Master, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” Jesus then said, “Take care not to be deceived, for many will come claiming my title and saying: ‘I am he, the Messiah; the time is at hand.’ Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and troubled times, don’t be frightened; for all this must happen first, even though the end is not so soon.”

And Jesus said, “Nations will fight each other and kingdom will oppose kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and plagues; in many places strange and terrifying signs from heaven will be seen. Before all this happens, people will lay their hands on you and persecute you; you will be delivered to the Jewish courts and put in prison, and for my sake you will be brought before kings and governors. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. So keep this in mind: do not worry in advance about what to answer, for I will give you words and wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, and brothers, by relatives and friends, and some of you will be put to death. But even though you are hated by all for my name’s sake, not a hair of your head will perish. By your patient endurance you will save your souls.

Every day comes with occasions to test our faith. Every day comes with an opportunity for us to give witness to Christ. The coming of the end of time will not be different. Perhaps the difference is in the intensity of the challenge. But the intention is the same. We need to prove our substance to the Lord until the end. We should be able to show enough grounds that we are worthy of welcome at his judgment. We should not be caught just hanging around doing nothing but diligently making our life productive for the Lord. Lord, make me see always what truly matters in life.

November 18th

Dedication of the Basilicas of Peter & Paul
St. Rose Philippine Duchesne

1st Reading: 1 Mc 1:10-15, 41-43, 54-57, 62-63:
[From the descendants of Alexander’s officers] there sprang a sinful offshoot, Antiochus Epiphanes, son of King Antiochus, once a hostage at Rome. He became king in the year one hundred and thirty seven of the kingdom of the Greeks.

In those days there appeared in Israel men who were breakers of the law, and they seduced many people, saying: “Let us go and make an alliance with the Gentiles all around us; since we separated from them, many evils have come upon us.” The proposal was agreeable; some from among the people promptly went to the king, and he authorized them to introduce the way of living of the Gentiles. Thereupon they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem according to the Gentile custom. They covered over the mark of their circumcision and abandoned the holy covenant; they allied themselves with the Gentiles and sold themselves to wrongdoing.

Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, each abandoning his particular customs. All the Gentiles conformed to the command of the king, and many children of Israel were in favor of his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the Sabbath.

On the fifteenth day of the month Chislev, in the year one hundred and forty-five, the king erected the horrible abomination upon the altar of burnt offerings and in the surrounding cities of Judah they built pagan altars. They also burned incense at the doors of the houses and in the streets. Any scrolls of the law which they found they tore up and burnt.

Whoever was found with a scroll of the covenant, and whoever observed the law, was condemned to death by royal decree. But many in Israel were determined and resolved in their hearts not to eat anything unclean; they preferred to die rather than to be defiled with unclean food or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die. Terrible affliction was upon Israel.

Gospel: Lk 18:35-43:
When Jesus drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the road, begging. As he heard the crowd passing by, he inquired what was happening, and they told him that Jesus of Nazareth was going by. Then he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The people in front of him scolded him. “Be quiet!” they said, but he cried out all the more, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus stopped, and ordered the blind man to be brought to him; and when he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the man said, “Lord, that I may see!” Jesus said, “Receive your sight, your faith has saved you.” At once the blind man was able to see, and he followed Jesus, giving praise to God. And all the people who were there also praised God.

Blindness can either be physical or spiritual. And there are many people around us who are afflicted with it. What Jesus did to the blind man in the gospel is something we all need to learn. To those who are physically blind, perhaps we can be more generous by giving alms to them since many of them do not have the means to earn. We can also extend other forms of material assistance. Even doing something as easy as giving physical directions may already be an act of benevolence to the blind. This is not difficult to do.

Only a little determination is needed. We who are well on the road of life should not play unaffected by their condition. To those who are spiritually blind, perhaps we who are spiritually healthy can be more attentive to their plight and become God’s agents for their recovery. These are the people who are totally sightless of things that really matter in life and who are fainthearted in their religious perspectives. These people need guidance and enlightenment to see the light of Christ who alone can restore vibrancy to their spiritual vision. Here, more determination is necessary.

November 19th

1st Reading: 2 Mc 6:18-31
Eleazar, one of the foremost scribes, a man of advanced age and noble appearance, was being forced to open his mouth to eat pork. But preferring a glorious death to a life of defilement, he spat out the meat, and went forward of his own accord to the instrument of torture, as people ought to do who have the courage to reject the food which it is unlawful to taste even for love of life.

Those in charge of that unlawful ritual meal took the man aside privately, because of their long acquaintance with him, and urged him to bring meat of his own providing, such as he could legitimately eat, and to pretend to be eating some of the meat of the sacrifice prescribed by the king; in this way he would escape the death penalty, and be treated kindly because of their old friendship with him. But Eleazar made up his mind in a noble manner, worthy of his years, the dignity of his advanced age, the merited distinction of his gray hair, and of the admirable life he had lived from childhood; and so he declared that above all he would be loyal to the holy laws given by God.

He told them to send him at once to the abode of the dead, explaining: “At our age it would be unbecoming to make such a pretense; many young people would think the ninety-year-old Eleazar had gone over to an alien religion. Should I thus pretend for the sake of a brief moment of life, they would be led astray by me, while I would bring shame and dishonor on my old age. Even if, for the time being, I avoid the punishment of men, I shall never, whether alive or dead, escape the hands of the Almighty. Therefore, by manfully giving up my life now, I will prove myself worthy of my old age, and I will leave to the young a noble example of how to die willingly and generously for the revered and holy laws.”

Eleazar spoke thus, and went immediately to the instrument of torture. Those who shortly before had been kindly disposed, now became hostile toward him because what he had said seemed to them utter madness. When he was about to die under the blows, he groaned and said: “The Lord in his holy knowledge knows full well that, although I could have escaped death, I am not only enduring terrible pain in my body from this scourging, but also suffering it with joy in my soul because of my devotion to him.” This is how he died, leaving in his death a model of courage and an unforgettable example of virtue not only for the young but for the whole nation.

Gospel: Lk 19:1-10
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man named Zaccheus lived there. He was a tax collector and a wealthy man. He wanted to see what Jesus was like, but he was a short man and could not see him because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree. From there he would be able to see Jesus, who was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, come down quickly, for I must stay at your house today.”

So Zaccheus climbed down and received him joyfully. All the people who saw it began to grumble, and said, “He has gone as a guest to the house of a sinner.” But Zaccheus spoke to Jesus, “Half of what I own, Lord, I will give to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay him back four times as much.” Looking at him Jesus said, “Salvation has come to this house today, for he is also a true son of Abraham. The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”

In the course of ministry as a priest I have blessed many houses. In many cases, the houses that I blessed were newly constructed. The owners wanted that the place be blessed before they occupy it. But there were also not so new houses which I blessed. The owners, surprisingly have a different reason. The house is disturbed, meaning, they sensed some negative and evil energies residing with them. And notably these have menacingly bothered the family. In other words, they asked for a house blessing to drive away evil spirits.

I have therefore developed a habit of asking the family before the prayer for blessing: What do you ask for in this blessing? To make the devil come out? Or to make Jesus come in? The family is usually, but not always, thanks be to God, divided in their answer. And so I always offer a quick catechesis. To have the house blessed is to consecrate the house to God and to pray for God to take over and have control over the whole household. If we pray only to drive evils out, that’s only one benefit. But if we pray for Jesus to come in, that’s a basketful of benefits. We don’t only ride the house of disturbance, we also invite in more blessings, guidance, and protection for the family.

November 20th

1st Reading: 2 Mc 7:1, 20-31:
It happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested and tortured with whips and scourges by the king, to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law. Most admirable and worthy of everlasting remembrance was the mother, who saw her seven sons perish in a single day, yet bore it courageously because of her hope in the Lord.

Filled with a noble spirit that stirred her womanly heart with manly courage, she exhorted each of them in the language of their ancestors with these words: “I do not know how you came into existence in my womb; it was not I who gave you the breath of life, nor was it I who set in order the elements of which each of you is composed. Therefore, since it is the Creator of the universe who shapes each man’s beginning, as he brings about the origin of everything, he, in his mercy, will give you back both breath and life, because you now disregard yourselves for the sake of his law.”

Antiochus, suspecting insult in her words, thought he was being ridiculed. As the youngest brother was still alive, the king appealed to him, not with mere words, but with promises on oath, to make him rich and happy if he would abandon his ancestral customs: he would make him his Friend and entrust him with high office. When the youth paid no attention to him at all, the king appealed to the mother, urging her to advise her boy to save his life. After he had urged her for a long time, she went through the motions of persuading her son.

In derision of the cruel tyrant, she leaned over close to her son and said in their native language: “Son, have pity on me, who carried you in my womb for nine months, nursed you for three years, brought you up, educated and supported you to your present age. I beg you, child, to look at the heavens and the earth and see all that is in them; then you will know that God did not make them out of existing things; and in the same way the human race came into existence. Do not be afraid of this executioner, but be worthy of your brothers and accept death, so that in the time of mercy I may receive you again with them.”

She had scarcely finished speaking when the youth said: “What are you waiting for? I will not obey the king’s command. I obey the command of the law given to our fathers through Moses. But you, who have contrived every kind of affliction for the Hebrews, will not escape the hands of God.”

Gospel: Lk 19:11-28:
(…) Jesus went on to tell them a parable. He said, “A man of noble birth went to a distant place to have himself appointed king of his own people, after which he would return. Before he left, he summoned ten of his servants and gave them ten pounds. He said: ‘Put this money to work until I get back.’ (…) He returned, however, appointed as king. At once he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, to find out what profit each had made. The first came in and reported: ‘Sir, your pound has earned ten more.’ The master replied: ‘Well done, my good servant. Since you have proved yourself capable in a small matter, I can trust you to take charge of ten cities.’ The second reported, ‘Sir, your pound and silver earned five more pounds of silver. The master replied, And you take charge of five cities.”

The third came in and said: Sir, here is your money which I hid for safekeeping. I was afraid of you for you are an exacting person; you take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow.’ ”The master replied: ‘You worthless servant, I will judge you by your own words. (…) ”Then the master said to those standing by: ‘Take from him that pound, and give it to the one with ten pounds.’ (…) ‘I tell you: everyone who has will be given more; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. (…)

One cannot help but think highly, with tears, of the courage of the mother and her seven sons in the First Reading. Theirs was an ordeal extremely difficult to bear. But they possessed a faith so strong to bend. Even with the promise of safety and friendship benefits, they were not swayed. The mother even faced the persecution with joy. What happened? They faced a test of allegiance. They faced a test of friendship. Either they please the earthly king and displease the heavenly king, or either they obey the earthly king and disobey the heavenly king.

But the mother knew and she told her sons that only to the Creator of life should they submit their obedience. So they chose the heavenly king, to make him happy and to make him proud. The gospel parable is instructive of the same. The king in the parable is God, the heavenly king. We must please him. We must make him happy and proud but this time by making use of the treasures he entrusted to us. May we have the same resolve as the mother and her seven sons and the good servants to please God above all and in everything that we do in life.

November 21st

Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

1st Reading: 1 Mc 2:15-29:
The officers of the king in charge of enforcing the apostasy came to the city of Modein to organize the sacrifices. Many of Israel joined them, but Mattathias and his sons gathered in a group apart. Then the officers of the king addressed Mattathias: “You are a leader, an honorable and great man in this city, supported by sons and kin. Come now, be the first to obey the king’s command, as all the Gentiles and the men of Judah and those who are left in Jerusalem have done. Then you and your sons shall be numbered among the King’s Friends, and shall be enriched with silver and gold and many gifts.”

But Mattathias answered in a loud voice: “Although all the Gentiles in the king’s realm obey him, so that each forsakes the religion of his fathers and consents to the king’s orders, yet I and my sons and my kin will keep to the covenant of our fathers. God forbid that we should forsake the law and the commandments. We will not obey the words of the king nor depart from our religion in the slightest degree.”

As he finished saying these words, a certain Jew came forward in the sight of all to offer sacrifice on the altar in Modein according to the king’s order. When Mattathias saw him, he was filled with zeal; his heart was moved and his just fury was aroused; he sprang forward and killed him upon the altar. At the same time, he also killed the messenger of the king who was forcing them to sacrifice, and he tore down the altar. Thus he showed his zeal for the law, just as Phinehas did with Zimri, son of Salu.

Then Mattathias went through the city shouting, “Let everyone who is zealous for the law and who stands by the covenant follow after me!” Thereupon he fled to the mountains with his sons, leaving behind in the city all their possessions. Many who sought to live according to righteousness and religious custom went out into the desert to settle there.

Gospel: Lk 19:41-44:
When Jesus had come in sight of Jerusalem, he wept over it and said, “If only today you knew the ways of peace! But now your eyes are held from seeing. Yet days will come upon you when your enemies will surround you with barricades and shut you in and press on you from every side. And they will dash you to the ground and your children with you, and leave not a stone within you, for you did not recognize the time and the visitation of your God.”

The presentation of Mary at age 3 was a fulfillment of the promise her mother Anne made when she was still childless. Although the source of the story is a dubious account, the so-called Protoevangelium of James, this has been celebrated since the 6th century and was adopted by the whole church 10 centuries later. Rev. Alban Butler wrote that the presentation paved the way for Mary to spend her youth in holy retirement and to the exercises of a religious and interior life.

Through the act of presentation then, the Blessed Mother was introduced early into a life of holiness. And her holiness, seen in her obedience to God, she kept until the completion of her life on earth. We keep this practice even in our times with us being initiated young into the sacraments of baptism and confirmation. But keeping our holiness, our closeness with God, is something many of us miss to keep. Let it be our prayer that this commemoration of the presentation of Mary rekindle our own interior life.

November 23rd

St. Cecilia

1st Reading: 1 Mc 4:3-37, 52-59:
Judas and his brothers said, “Now that our enemies have been crushed, let us go up to purify the sanctuary and rededicate it.” So the whole army assembled, and went up to Mount Zion. Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, that is, the month of Chislev, in the year one hundred and forty-eight, they arose and offered sacrifice according to the law on the new altar of burnt offerings that they had made. On the anniversary of the day on which the Gentiles had defiled it, on that very day it was reconsecrated with songs, harps, flutes, and cymbals. All the people prostrated themselves and adored and praised Heaven, who had given them success.

For eight days they celebrated the dedication of the altar and joyfully offered burnt offerings and sacrifices of deliverance and praise. They ornamented the facade of the temple with gold crowns and shields; they repaired the gates and the priests’ chambers and furnished them with doors. There was great joy among the people now that the disgrace of the Gentiles was removed. Then Judas and his brothers and the entire congregation of Israel decreed that the days of the dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness on the anniversary every year for eight days, from the twenty-fifth day of the month Chislev.

Gospel: Lk 19:45-48:
Jesus entered the temple area and began to drive out the merchants. And he said to them, “God says in the Scriptures, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have turned it into a den of robbers!” Jesus was teaching every day in the temple. The chief priests and teachers of the law wanted to kill him, and the elders of the Jews as well, but they were unable to do anything, for all the people were listening to him and hanging on his words.

St. Cecilia was born to a noble family in the 2nd century and is one of the most venerated saints in Christian antiquity. She converted Valerianus her husband to Christianity and later his brother Tiburcius. They lived at the time of Christian persecution, but the three of them remained courageous children of the faith. They served the poor and took responsibility of burying the bodies of Christians who were persecuted and killed for their faith. Both Valerianus and Tiburcius also met martyrdom and not long after, Cecilia by a miraculous beheading kept her head attached to her neck.

Nothing in the life account of St. Cecilia mentioned about her connection to music. At best, this must have come from the line of a 5th century document about her martyrdom which states that “while the musicians played at her wedding, she sang in her heart to God.” Her being patroness of music was further strengthened when the Academy of Music in Rome was opened in 1548 where she was made its patroness. On the whole, this one outstanding woman of faith we should ask to inspire us courage in our own life of faith.

November 23rd

St. Clement I
St. Columban
Bl. Miguel Augustín Pro

1st Reading: 1 Mc 6:1-13:
As King Antiochus was traversing the inland provinces, he heard that in Persia there was a city called Elymais, famous for its wealth in silver and gold, and that its temple was very rich, containing gold helmets, breastplates, and weapons left there by Alexander, son of Philip, king of Macedon, the first king of the Greeks. He went therefore and tried to capture and pillage the city. But he could not do so, because his plan became known to the people of the city who rose up in battle against him. So he retreated and in great dismay withdrew from there to return to Babylon.

While he was in Persia, a messenger brought him news that the armies sent into the land of Judah had been put to flight; that Lysias had gone at first with a strong army and been driven back by the children of Israel; that they had grown strong by reason of the arms, men, and abundant possessions taken from the armies they had destroyed; that they had pulled down the Abomination which he had built upon the altar in Jerusalem; and that they had surrounded with high walls both the sanctuary, as it had been before, and his city of Beth-zur.

When the king heard this news, he was struck with fear and very much shaken. Sick with grief because his designs had failed, he took to his bed. There he remained many days, overwhelmed with sorrow, for he knew he was going to die.

So he called in all his Friends and said to them: “Sleep has departed from my eyes, for my heart is sinking with anxiety. I said to myself: ‘Into what tribulation have I come, and in what floods of sorrow am I now! Yet I was kindly and beloved in my rule.’ But I now recall the evils I did in Jerusalem, when I carried away all the vessels of gold and silver that were in it, and for no cause gave orders that the inhabitants of Judah be destroyed. I know that this is why these evils have overtaken me; and now I am dying, in bitter grief, in a foreign land.”

Gospel: Lk 20:27-40:
Then some Sadducees arrived. (…) and they asked Jesus this question, “Master, in the Scripture Moses told us: ‘If anyone dies leaving a wife but no children, his brother must take the wife, and the child to be born will be regarded as the child of the deceased man.’ Now, there were seven brothers; the first married a wife, but he died without children; and the second and the third took the wife; in fact all seven died leaving no children. Last of all the woman died. On the day of the resurrection, to which of them will the woman be wife? For all seven had her as a wife.”

And Jesus replied, “Taking husband or wife is proper to people of this world, but for those who are considered worthy of the world to come and of resurrection from the dead, there is no more marriage. (…) Yes, the dead will be raised, and even Moses implied it in the passage about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. For he is God of the living and not of the dead, and for him all are alive.” Some teachers of the Law then agreed with Jesus, “Master, you have spoken well.” (…)

The Sadducees represent one of the two prominent factions in the time of Jesus. The other one is the group known as the Pharisees. While they share religious fervor and adherence to the Jewish faith, they differ in doctrinal matters. The Sadducees believed only in the things found in the writings of Moses, namely, the Torah. The Pharisees on the other hand believed in the Torah and other beliefs coming from oral tradition, which includes faith in the resurrection and the angels. In the gospel, the inquiring Sadducees must have felt scorned by the response of Jesus: there is a resurrection and angels exist.

The resurrection is the firm assurance of our hope in the life to come. Many of us are scared of “passing away” because it seems to point to vanishing and disappearance. But the God of life, Jesus, consistently points to our “passing on” from this life to the next. Of course it’s not a continuation of earthly life (e.g. those who are married here will not be husbands and wives there) but a new and fuller life. Jesus affirms the existence of angels, too. We will be like angels, with life not threatened by death anymore. But we will not become angels.