Bible Diary for November 20th – November 26th

November 20th

34th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Christ the King

1st Reading: 2 S 5:1-3
All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “We are your bone and flesh. In the past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led Israel. And Yahweh said to you, ‘You shall be the shepherd of my people Israel and you shall be commander over Israel.’” Before Yahweh, king David made an agreement with the elders of Israel who came to him at Hebron, and they anointed him king of Israel.

2nd Reading: Col 1:12-20:
Constantly give thanks to the Father, who has empowered us to receive our share in the inheritance of the saints, in his kingdom of light. He rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son. In him, we are redeemed and forgiven. He is the image of the unseen God and for all creation, he is the firstborn, for, in him, all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible: thrones, rulers, authorities, powers…

All was made through him and for him. He is before all and all things hold together, in him. And he is the head of the body, that is the Church, for he is the first, the first raised from the dead, that he may be the first in everything, for God was pleased to let fullness dwell in him. Through him, God willed to reconcile all things to himself, and through him, through his blood shed on the cross, God establishes peace, on earth as in heaven.

Gospel: Lk 23:35-43:
The people stood by, watching. As for the rulers, they jeered at him, saying to one another, “Let the man who saved others now save himself, for he is the Messiah, the chosen one of God!” The soldiers also mocked him and, when they drew near to offer him bitter wine, they said, “So you are the King of the Jews? Save yourself!” Above Jesus there was an inscription in Greek, Latin and Hebrew, which read, “This is the King of the Jews.”

One of the criminals hanging with Jesus insulted him, “So you are the Messiah? Save yourself, and us as well!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Have you no fear of God, you who received the same sentence as he did? For us it is just: this is payment for what we have done. But this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied, “In truth I tell you, today, you will be with me today in paradise.”

The scene described in today’s gospel reading is built on a great paradox, that is, in the words of the dictionary, “a seemingly absurd statement… that is… true” (Collins) The paradox lies in a detail of the scene. That detail is the inscription placed on the cross over Jesus’ head and which reads: “This is the King of the Jews.” Naturally those who composed the inscription wanted to make a joke at the expense of Jesus. How could Jesus be a King in his present condition? He is considered as a criminal and has been condemned to death. He is nailed to a cross. He is mocked by the leadership of the Jews.

None of his supporters have stood by him, except a handful of women. And so, to call him a real king would be the height of folly, for he is obviously not a king. To state that he is one is to ridicule him. Yet, to come back to our definition of a paradox, that “seemingly absurd statement… is true.” It is true because Christ is really a king, not only of the Jews but of the whole universe. But he is a king of love. Let us tell the crucified Christ that we want no other King but him. Today buy yourself a small ornamental cross and wear it proudly.

November 21st

Presentation of Blessed Mary the Virgin

1st Reading: Rev 14:1-3, 4b-5:
I was given another vision: The Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, surrounded by one hundred and forty-four thousand people, who had his name, and his Father’s name, written on their foreheads. A sound reverberated in heaven, like the sound of the roaring of waves, or deafening thunder; it was like a chorus of singers, accompanied by their harps.

They sing a new song before the throne, in the presence of the four living creatures and the elders, a song, which no one can learn, except the hundred and forty-four thousand, who have been taken from the earth. They are the first taken from humankind, who are already of God and the Lamb. No deceit has been found in them; they are faultless.

Gospel: Lk 21:1-4:
Jesus looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury of the temple. He also saw a poor widow, who dropped in two small coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow put in more than all of them. For all of them gave an offering from their plenty; but she, out of her poverty, gave all she had to live on.”

It is a striking fact that, according to a lot of fund-raisers, the largest proportion of the money they raise comes in the form of small donations, not big ones. In fact, they will tell you, the big donations are few and far between. And these big donations are often enough the result of assiduous personal solicitings, not spontaneous offerings. As a rule, the poor are more generous than the rich—not in terms of absolute quantities, of course, but in terms of proportionate quantities (the size of the amount given in proportion to the means of the donor).

Now why is this? Why is the widow in today’s gospel reading so much more generous with her tiny donation than everybody else? No one has ever been able to explain this phenomenon satisfactorily, so we are left to our own devices to find an explanation. One guess is to associate wealth with the habit of grasping, coveting, scheming, etc. , which is the very opposite of giving. Maybe, if you have long been trying to gain money all your life, you have lost the reflex of giving it away in charity. Anyhow, what is of decisive importance here is the motivation, the heart with which you give.

November 22nd

St. Cecilia

1st Reading: Rev 14:14-19:
Then, I had this vision. I saw a white cloud, and the one sitting on it, like a son of man, wearing a golden crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. An angel came out of the Sanctuary, calling loudly, to the one sitting on the cloud, “Put in your sickle and reap, for harvest time has come, and the harvest of the earth is ripe.” He, who was sitting on the cloud, swung his sickle at the earth and reaped the harvest.

Then, another angel, who also had a sharp sickle, came out of the heavenly Sanctuary. Still, another angel, the one who has charge of the altar fire, emerged, and shouted to the first, who held the sharp sickle, “Swing your sharp sickle, and reap the bunches of the vine of the earth, for they are fully ripe.” So, the angel swung his sickle and gathered in the vintage, throwing all the grapes into the great wine press of the anger of God.

Gospel: Lk 21:5-11:
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 said, “Take care not to be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he; the time is near at hand!’

Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and troubled times, don’t be frightened; for all these things 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.

W. Somerset Maugham once said that “Nothing in this world is permanent.” Indeed, everything will pass away, as Jesus prophesied (Luke 21:33). Yes, even the most powerful kingdom, as we have heard in the first reading, will crumble into pieces. Even the most grandiose temple of Jerusalem, as the gospel has mentioned, will be torn down. And what remains is the Kingdom of God, a kingdom which was inaugurated by Jesus never to be destroyed.

In the first reading we see the destruction of the earthly kingdoms and the establishment of a new Kingdom by God as the prophecy concerning the coming of God‘s Kingdom to be established by Jesus. The destruction of the temple described in the gospel reading marks the inauguration of God‘s kingdom and its sacrament which is the Church by Jesus. The readings remind us that nothing is permanent in this world. Only God is permanent, and His kingdom. Let us thank God for establishing his Kingdom on earth and for inviting us to be part of this Kingdom. Let us then be active and faithful members of His kingdom.

November 23rd

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

1st Reading: Rev 15:1-4:
Then, I saw another great and marvelous sign in the heavens: seven angels brought seven plagues, which are the last, for with these, the wrath of God will end. There was a sea of crystal, mingled with fire, and the conquerors of the beast, of its name and the mark of its name stood by it. They had been given the celestial harps, and they sang the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb:

Great and marvelous are your works, O Lord, God and Master of the universe. Justice and truth guide your steps, O King of the nations. Lord, who will not give honor and glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All the nations will come and bow before you, for they have now seen your judgments.

Gospel: Lk 21:12-19:
Before all these things happen, people will lay their hands on you and persecute you; you will be delivered to the synagogues 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 say, 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, because of my name, you will be hated by everyone, not a hair of your head will perish. By your patient endurance you will save your souls.

A lot of leaders, especially political leaders, attract followers by making all kinds of promises involving a golden future, with all problems solved as if by magic. They thus succeed in making themselves popular and acclaimed. And why not? Who doesn’t like to think of the future in glowing terms? In that respect, Jesus is strikingly different from such incurable optimists. His honesty is brutal. Far from promising a path of roses to his followers, he promises them contradictions, persecutions, betrayals on the part of loved ones, and even death.

It is difficult for anyone to be more plain-spoken in announcing hardships of every kind, including martyrdom. Yet, in the very act of doing this, he remains strangely serene, as if the outcome of all he announces will eventually turn out to be entirely positive. He even says something apparently contradictory: that some will die, and yet not a hair of their head will perish. He probably means that some will lose a lot more than their hair, but that eventually they will regain hair and lives in an eternity of glory. And this, of course, is well worth a few hairs…

November 24th

Sts. Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions

1st Reading: Rev 18: 1-2, 21-23; 19:1-3, 9a:
After this, I saw another angel, coming down from heaven. So great was his authority, that the whole earth was lit up with his glory. In a strong voice he cried out: “Fallen is Babylon the great! Fallen! She has become a haunt of demons, a lodge for every unclean spirit, a nest for any filthy and disgusting bird. A powerful angel picked up a boulder, the size of a large millstone, and threw it into the sea, saying:

“With such violence will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down, never again to be seen. Never again, will tunes of harpists, minstrels, trumpeters and flutists be heard in you. Never again, will an artisan of any trade, be found in you. Never again, will the noise of the mill be heard. Never again, will the light of a lamp shine in you. The voice of bridegroom and bride will never, again, be heard in you. Because your traders were the world’s great, and you led the nations astray by your magic spell. After this, I heard what sounded like the loud singing of a great assembly in heaven.

Gospel: Lk 21:20-28:
When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that the time has come when it will be reduced to a wasteland. If you are in Judea, flee to the mountains! If you are in Jerusalem, leave! If you are outside the city, don’t enter it! For these will be the days of its punishment, and all that was announced in the Scriptures will be fulfilled. How hard will it be for pregnant women, and for mothers with babies at the breast! For a great calamity will come upon the land, and wrath upon this people.

They will be put to death by the sword, or taken as slaves to other nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled upon by the pagans, until the time of the pagans is fulfilled. Then there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth anguish of nations, perplexed when they hear the roaring of the sea and its waves. People will faint with fear at the mere thought of what is to come upon the world, for the forces of the universe will be shaken. Then, at that time, they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. So, when you see things begin to happen, stand erect and lift up your heads, for your deliverance is drawing near.

Jesus continues his warnings of what is to come. He is pointing to the cause of such events – the corruption and greed of so many for which destruction was the inescapable outcome. So he calls them the “days of retribution” or the “time of punishment”, not indicating God‘s revenge but the result human choice to do evil. Jesus speaks of various cataclysmic and apocalyptic signs to signal the end of time. They are typical biblical phenomena and not meant to be taken as exact foretelling of events. It is not intended to fill people with fear and trembling, except perhaps those who have chosen to make their lives miserable. But for the disciples, it is a time to reap what has been a life of service to others.

Sufferings and rejections are part and parcel of living the Christian life and being purified in the process. There is no conversion without the fire of suffering and sacrifice. Living the way of Jesus is a ‘sign of contradiction‘, a beacon of light to many and to others a threat to their way of life. But for those who have tried to live by the vision and values of the Gospel, for those who have tried to seek and find Jesus in daily events of their lives, who have spent hours doing good to others, it is the time to feel and witness God‘s redeeming love to the full.

November 25th

St. Catherine of Alexandria

1st Reading: Rev 20:1-4, 11–21:2:
Then, an angel came down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the Abyss, and a huge chain. He seized the monster, the ancient serpent, namely Satan or the devil, and chained him for a thousand years. He threw him into the abyss, and closed its gate with the key, then secured it with locks, that he might not deceive the nations in the future, until the thousand years have passed. Then, he will be released for a little while. There were thrones, and seated on them were those with the power to judge. I, then, saw the spirits of those who had been beheaded, for having held the teachings of Jesus, and on account of the word of God.

I saw all those, who had refused to worship the beast, or its image, or receive its mark on the forehead, or on the hand. They returned to life, and reigned with the Messiah for a thousand years. This is the first resurrection. After that, I saw a great and splendid throne, and the one seated upon it. At once, heaven and earth disappeared, leaving no trace. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before the throne, while books were opened. Another book, the book of life, was also opened. Then, the dead were judged, according to the records of these books, that is, each one according to his works.

The sea gave up the dead it had kept, as did death and the netherworld, so that all might be judged, according to their works. Then, death and the netherworld, were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. All who were not recorded in the book of life were thrown into the lake of fire. Then, I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and no longer was there any sea. I saw the new Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down from God, out of heaven, adorned as a bride prepared for her husband.

Gospel: Lk 21:29-33:
And Jesus added this comparison, “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as their buds sprout, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I tell you, this generation will not pass away, until all this has happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Some Christians are disturbed when they hear such statements of Jesus as the one we just heard in today’s gospel reading: “This generation will not pass away, until all this has happened.” We know that this is not literally true. Consequently, must we conclude that Jesus was wrong about the timing of the end of the world? And, if he was wrong about such an important thing, can he be trusted about anything else? These are honest and quite logical questions—only if we take Jesus literally. But this would lead us into all kinds of difficulties.

We can avoid these altogether by interpreting Jesus, not literally but literarily, namely by understanding the kind of literature Jesus was using. And what was that? The prophecy of doom, which needs to use the limited time frame of one generation in order to effectively move people into action. This type of literature is used nowadays by Marxists, the proponents of the Green Revolution, those who predict a nuclear Holocaust, the alarmists of Global Warming, etc. All use the time frame of a generation or so: a shorter time frame would only generate panic and a longer one would leave people indifferent.

November 26th

1st Reading: Rev 22:1-7:
Then, he showed me the river of life, clear as crystal, gushing from the throne of God, and of the Lamb. In the middle of the city, on both sides of the river, are the trees of life, producing fruit twelve times, once each month, the leaves of which are for healing the nations. No longer will there be a curse; the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and God’s servants will live in his presence. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.

There will be no more night. They will not need the light of lamp, or sun, for God, himself, will be their light, and they will reign forever. Then, the angel said to me, “These words are sure and true; the Lord God, who inspires the prophets, has sent his angel, to show his servants what must happen soon.” “I am coming soon! Happy are those who keep the prophetic words of this book.”

Gospel: Lk 21:34-36:
Be on your guard: don’t immerse yourselves in a life of pleasure, drunkenness and worldly cares, lest that day catch you unaware, like a trap! For, like a snare, will that day come upon all the inhabitants of the earth. But watch at all times and pray, that you may be able to escape all that is going to happen, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Every now and then some wild-eyed pseudo-prophet announces the end of the world either in the very near future or on a specific date. This happens so often (practically once a year worldwide), that very few people, apart from some unbalanced minds, take these prophecies seriously. We know, of course, that our planet Earth will eventually be destroyed by a passing meteor or the freezing of the Sun or some other phenomenon.

But by then we might have moved to another solar system. So, in practical terms the prospect of an end of the world is pretty worthless if we want to use it, for example, as a motive to reform our lives. Yet, the warning of Jesus in today’s gospel reading, “Be on your guard,” is still quite relevant, independently of the prospect of a near end of the world. Why? Because we will die sooner or later, some of us quite sooner than we expect. Which means that the end of our world can happen at any time: heart attack, car accident, terrorist bomb, earthquake or other natural disaster. Because of that, should we not heed Jesus’ warning and be prepared to meet our Maker at any moment?