Bible Diary for November 21st – 27th

November 21st

34th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Solemnity of Christ the King
Presentation of Blessed Mary the Virgin

1st Reading: Dn 7:13-14:
I continued watching the nocturnal vision: One like a son of man came on the clouds of heaven. He faced the One of Great Age and was brought into his presence. Dominion, honor and kingship were given him, and all the peoples and nations of every language served him. His dominion is eternal and shall never pass away; his kingdom will never be destroyed.

2nd Reading: Rev 1:5-8:
And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has washed away our sins with his own blood, making us a kingdom and priests for God his Father, to him be the glory and power for ever and ever. Amen. See he comes with the clouds and everyone will see him, even those who pierced him; on his account all the nations of the earth will beat his breast. Yes. It will be so. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, he who is, who was and who is to come: the Master of the universe.”

Gospel: Jn 18:33b-37:
Pilate then entered the court again, called Jesus and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “Are you saying this on your own initiative; or have others told you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingship does not come from this world. If I were king like those of this world, my servants would have fought to save me from being handed over to the Jews. But my kingship is not of this world.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” And Jesus answered, “Just as you say, I am a king. For this I was born and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is on the side of truth hears my voice.”

Many have misunderstood Jesus throughout the ages. This led to a false understanding of who Jesus is and what He is for us men and women. It led to division, wars and even ongoing hostilities until now. It also showed the all-too-human flaws of the various groups and their leaders who claimed Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Perhaps it is because Jesus Himself is too “large” to fit into neat orderly categories. He is a prophet but more than a prophet. A messiah but not a human messiah only. He is both human and divine messiah. He is a king but not according to the notion of the world. That is why Pilate could not grasp exactly who He is. Even the apostles could not quite grasp the enigma of His being.

He could never fit into the box of our making. That is why He has to suffer. To know Jesus better, we need to have a relationship with Him. We need to spend time and make an effort to nourish this relationship and allow it to grow into one that is loving. This love allows us to glimpse the mystery of His being, to have a better grasp of who He is. So, how is my relationship with the Lord lately? Perhaps a quiet moment with Him today should be tabled in my activity and I can spend some time in a loving conversation with Him just to touch base and reconnect in a purposeful way. Lord, disturb me when I am drifting away. Call me back to You; never allow me to stray that far. Give me that thirst to be with You until I am totally for You. Amen.

November 22nd

St. Cecilia

1st Reading: Dn 1:1-6, 8-20:
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came and laid siege to Jerusalem. The Lord handed over to him Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and some of the vessels of the temple of God; he carried them off to the land of Shinar, and placed the vessels in the temple treasury of his god. The king told Ashpenaz, his chief chamberlain, to bring in some of the children of Israel of royal blood and of the nobility, young men without any defect, handsome, intelligent and wise, quick to learn, and prudent in judgment, such as could take their place in the king’s palace; they were to be taught the language and literature of the Chaldeans; after three years’ training they were to enter the king’s service.

The king allotted them a daily portion of food and wine from the royal table. Among these were men of Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. But Daniel was resolved not to defile himself with the king’s food or wine; so he begged the chief chamberlain to spare him this defilement. Though God had given Daniel the favor and sympathy of the chief chamberlain, he nevertheless said to Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king; it is he who allotted your food and drink. If he sees that you look wretched by comparison with the other young men of your age, you will endanger my life with the king.”

Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief chamberlain had put in charge of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days. Give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then see how we look in comparison with the other young men who eat from the royal table, and treat your servants according to what you see.” He acceded to this request, and tested them for ten days; after ten days they looked healthier and better fed than any of the young men who ate from the royal table. So the steward continued to take away the food and wine they were to receive, and gave them vegetables.

To these four young men God gave knowledge and proficiency in all literature and science, and to Daniel the understanding of all visions and dreams. At the end of the time the king had specified for their preparation, the chief chamberlain brought them before Nebuchadnezzar. When the king had spoken with all of them, none was found equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; and so they entered the king’s service. In any question of wisdom or prudence which the king put to them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his kingdom.

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

In our society today we are judged according to the criteria of economics Quantity takes advantage over quality. Statistics give us income and deficit. Families, schools, associations and governments thoroughly calculate their budgets. Money has become the true measure of life. The comment of Jesus in front of the treasure box of the temple is striking indeed. We can guess that priests, Pharisees and scribes were attentive to the big sums and rejoiced thereof. The Lord instead pays attention to the widow’s insignificant alms.

He praises her. He knows the heart and the intention. In these two small coins there was true worship of God, real sacrifice in humility. It is a lesson for the apostles. The widow didn’t hear the words of Jesus, but her soul was blessed by the Lord’s grace. Isn’t this a constant claim for our criteria and appreciation? How easily we join the worldly judgment of our society and even publically praise only the rich people who put their gifts in our congregations, institutions and works. However, around us truly pious widows are not lacking.

November 23rd

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

1st Reading: Dn 2:31-45:
Daniel said to Nebuchadnezzar: “In your vision, O king, you saw a statue, very large and exceedingly bright, terrifying in appearance as it stood before you. The head of the statue was pure gold, its chest and arms were silver, its belly and thighs bronze, the legs iron, its feet partly iron and partly tile. While you looked at the statue, a stone which was hewn from a mountain without a hand being put to it, struck its iron and tile feet, breaking them in pieces. The iron, tile, bronze, silver, and gold all crumbled at once, fine as the chaff on the threshing floor in summer, and the wind blew them away without leaving a trace. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

“This was the dream; the interpretation we shall also give in the king’s presence. You, O king, are the king of kings; to you the God of heaven has given dominion and strength, power and glory; men, wild beasts, and birds of the air, wherever they may dwell, he has handed over to you, making you ruler over them all; you are the head of gold. Another kingdom shall take your place, inferior to yours, then a third kingdom, of bronze, which shall rule over the whole earth. There shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron; it shall break in pieces and subdue all these others, just as iron breaks in pieces and crushes everything else.

“The feet and toes you saw, partly of potter’s tile and partly of iron, mean that it shall be a divided kingdom, but yet have some of the hardness of iron. As you saw the iron mixed with clay tile, and the toes partly iron and partly tile, the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. The iron mixed with clay tile means that they shall seal their alliances by intermarriage, but they shall not stay united, any more than iron mixes with clay. In the lifetime of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people; rather, it shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and put an end to them, and it shall stand forever.

“That is the meaning of the stone you saw hewn from the mountain without a hand being put to it, which broke in pieces the tile, iron, bronze, silver, and gold. The great God has revealed to the king what shall be in the future; this is exactly what you dreamed, and its meaning is sure.”

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 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.

At the time of Jesus, the temple of Jerusalem was really wonderful. It had been rebuilt by Herod the Great during 46 years (Jn 2:20). It was the pride of Israel. That is why the prophecy of Jesus was terrible indeed, but was literally accomplished in the year 70 AD. About the signs announcing this destruction, Jesus is extremely prudent, especially with the claim to be the Messiah.

During Christian history and until now we have this kind of false prophets. We decidedly have to resist, even if some personalities seem attractive and the institutions powerful. Even the wars and natural catastrophes could be very numerous. But we do not know the end. This is another easy temptation of today, since these natural disasters multiply and wars are never failing on our earth. For us the Gospel of Jesus and the communion to his risen body must be the source of an unshakable hope forever.

November 24th

Sts. Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions

1st Reading: Dn 5:1-6, 13-14, 16-17, 23-28:
King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his lords, with whom he drank. Under the influence of the wine, he ordered the gold and silver vessels which Nebuchadnezzar, his father, had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, to be brought in so that the king, his lords, his wives and his entertainers might drink from them. When the gold and silver vessels taken from the house of God in Jerusalem had been brought in, and while the king, his lords, his wives and his entertainers were drinking wine from them, they praised their gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone.

Suddenly, opposite the lampstand, the fingers of a human hand appeared, writing on the plaster of the wall in the king’s palace. When the king saw the wrist and hand that wrote, his face blanched; his thoughts terrified him, his hip joints shook, and his knees knocked. Then Daniel was brought into the presence of the king. The king asked him, “Are you the Daniel, the Jewish exile, whom my father, the king, brought from Judah? I have heard that the Spirit of God is in you, that you possess brilliant knowledge and extraordinary wisdom. I have heard that you can interpret dreams and solve difficulties; if you are able to read the writing and tell me what it means, you shall be clothed in purple, wear a gold collar about your neck, and be third in the government of the kingdom.”

Daniel answered the king: “You may keep your gifts, or give your presents to someone else; but the writing I will read for you, O king, and tell you what it means. You have rebelled against the Lord of heaven. You had the vessels of his temple brought before you, so that you and your nobles, your wives and your entertainers, might drink wine from them; and you praised the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, that neither see nor hear nor have intelligence. But the God in whose hand is your life breath and the whole course of your life, you did not glorify. By him were the wrist and hand sent, and the writing set down.

“This is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, TEKEL, and PERES. These words mean: MENE, God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it; TEKEL, you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting; PERES, your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

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.

The words of Jesus are clearly prophetic. In the history of the first evangelization of different countries and cultures normally we find martyrs. Remember: Jerusalem with Stephen, Rome with Peter and Paul, France with Irenaeus, Spain with Vincent, Germany with Boniface, the Czech Republic with Wenceslas, and Africa with Cyprian. And the same arrive in America – Canadian martyrs, in Africa – Uganda Martyrs – and in some countries of Asia: Japan, Korea, China, Vietnam, Philippines… Yes, when the Gospel arrives, the first generation becomes a living witness of Christ’s Passion. And always anew the words of Jesus become true: the wisdom of Christians in trials is irresistible.

Why does the name of Jesus provoke hate? Is the faith in Him a new mind and lifestyle that deeply shocks families and societies? Is the effusion of blood the sign of communion with the Cross? “There is not forgiveness without shedding of blood” (Heb 9:22). Will it be our vocation in the future? Nevertheless, the Providence of the Father is absolute – not one hair of ours will perish – and our triumph shall be perseverance through his grace with much thanksgiving.

November 25th

St. Catherine of Alexandria

1st Reading: Dn 6:12-28:
Some men rushed into the upper chamber of Daniel’s home and found him praying and pleading before his God. Then they went to remind the king about the prohibition: “Did you not decree, O king, that no one is to address a petition to god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king; otherwise he shall be cast into a den of lions?” The king answered them, “The decree is absolute, irrevocable under the Mede and Persian law.” To this they replied, “Daniel, the Jewish exile, has paid no attention to you, O king, or to the decree you issued; three times a day he offers his prayer.”

The king was deeply grieved at this news and he made up his mind to save Daniel; he worked till sunset to rescue him. But these men insisted. They said, “Keep in mind, O king, that under the Mede and Persian law every royal prohibition or decree is irrevocable.” So the king ordered Daniel to be brought and cast into the lions’ den. To Daniel he said, “May your God, whom you serve so constantly, save you.” To forestall any tampering, the king sealed with his own ring and the rings of the lords the stone that had been brought to block the opening of the den. Then the king returned to his palace for the night; he refused to eat and he dismissed the entertainers.

Since sleep was impossible for him, the king rose very early the next morning and hastened to the lions’ den. As he drew near, he cried out to Daniel sorrowfully, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has the God whom you serve so constantly been able to save you from the lions?” Daniel answered the king: “O king, live forever!  My God has sent his angel and closed the lions’ mouths so that they have not hurt me. For I have been found innocent before him; neither to you have I done any harm, O king!” This gave the king great joy. At his order Daniel was removed from the den, unhurt because he trusted in his God. The king then ordered the men who had accused Daniel, along with their children and their wives, to be cast into the lions’ den.

Before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones. Then King Darius wrote to the nations and peoples of every language, wherever they dwell on the earth:  “All peace to you! I decree that throughout my royal domain the God of Daniel is to be reverenced and feared: “For he is the living God, enduring forever; his Kingdom shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be without end. He is a deliverer and savior, working signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, and he delivered Daniel from the lions’ power.”

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 the pagans will trample upon Jerusalem, 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.”

At the end of the liturgical year and around the feast of Christ the King, the Church invites us to reflect on the last events of the History of Salvation. Jesus gives us first the description of the end of Jerusalem by the Roman troupes, with special compassion toward pregnant women and mothers with babies. Flavius Josephus, a Hebrew historian who witnessed the terrible siege of the city, has written about the horror of those days.

In fact Jerusalem was defiled and the Temple was destroyed by pagans in 70 A.D. with abomination idols installed there after 135. But this pagan period seems to be provisory: “until the time of the pagans is fulfilled.” Jesus opens his eyes to the end of the Salvation History with cosmic signs; then should be the judgment of the world and the solemn coming of the Son of Man in majesty with power and glory. Jesus however invites us to stand erect and lift up our hearts, because our final deliverance is at hand. Isn’t that an invitation to the holy fear of God and deep confidence in his salvation?

November 26th

1st Reading: Dn 7:2-14:
In a vision I, Daniel, saw during the night, the four winds of heaven stirred up the great sea, and four great beasts, each one different from the other, came out of the sea. The first was like a lion with eagle’s wings. As I looked at it, its wings were torn off. It was lifted up from the ground, stood up on its feet like a man, and was given a human heart. The second was a beast like a bear; it was raised up on one side and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told: Go and devour much flesh. I went on looking and saw another beast like a leopard with four wings on its back; it had four heads and dominion was given to it. I continued seeing my visions of the night and saw a terrible fourth beast.

It was fearful and extraordinarily strong; it had great iron teeth; it ate, tore into pieces, and crushed underfoot whatever remained. It was different from the previous beasts and had ten horns. I was looking at the horns, when another small horn sprang among them, and three of the first horns were pulled out by the roots to make way for the new. It had eyes like human eyes and a mouth that uttered insolent words. I looked and saw the following: Some thrones were set in place and One of Great Age took his seat. His robe was white as snow, his hair white as washed wool. His throne was flames of fire with wheels of blazing fire. A river of fire sprang forth and flowed before him.

Thousands upon thousands served him and a countless multitude stood before him. Those in the tribunal took their seats and opened the book. But as I remembered the haughty words of the horn with human eyes and mouth which I had seen before, this animal was killed before my eyes, and its body destroyed and cast into the fire. Dominion was taken from the other animals, though they were allowed to stay alive for a time, until the fixed time. I continued watching the nocturnal vision: One like a son of man came on the clouds of heaven. He faced the One of Great Age and was brought into his presence. Dominion, honor and kingship were given him, and all the peoples and nations of every language served him. His dominion is eternal and shall never pass away; his kingdom will never be destroyed.

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 already near. In the same way, as soon as you see these things happening, you 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.

In a familiar homily, Pope Francis pointed to the “signs of the times” with gifted expressions: “The Lord wants us to understand what is happening in my heart, what is happening in my life, what is happening in the world, in history. These are the ‘signs of the times’, and he puts this attitude in contrast with the spirit of the world. “The spirit of the world does not want us to ask ourselves before God: ‘But why this, why that, why does it happen?’” That can be an excellent application of the Gospel of today, in which the Lord reminds us that the buds sprouting from the fig tree are a sign of the summer.

The moral lesson then is an admonition for the last events: the destruction of Jerusalem and the final coming of the Kingdom of God. Yes, following the pope we must be attentive to all kinds of signs God sends us, both internal and external; and following Jesus we must be especially careful with the preparation of the end of the History. In fact, like the words of Jesus which were accomplished in the destruction of Jerusalem, these words will be fulfilled at his second coming. With the pope let us ask “for the grace to read the signs of the times.”

November 27th

1st Reading: Dn 7:15-27:
I, Daniel, was deeply troubled, since these visions terrified me. I approached one of those who were standing there, and asked him to tell me what all this meant. He answered me and gave me the interpretation of these things: “These four beasts are four kings who will rise from the earth. But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom to possess it eternally, forever and ever.” Then I wanted to know the meaning of the fourth beast, different from the others, extraordinarily terrifying, with iron teeth and bronze claws, that ate, tore into pieces and crushed underfoot whatever remained.

I also wanted to know about the ten horns it had on its head, and about the other horn which had sprung up, and the three first horns that fell, and about this horn with eyes and a mouth that spoke with arrogance, and that looked greater than the other horns. As I looked, this horn waged war against the holy ones and was subduing them until the One of Great Age came to do justice for the holy ones of the Most High, and the time came for the holy ones to take possession of the kingdom.

Then I was told: “The fourth animal shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, different from all the kingdoms. It will devour the earth, crush it and destroy it. The ten horns are ten kings who shall rise from this kingdom. Another one will rise up after them and destroy three kings. This king shall insult the Most High and persecute the holy ones of the Most High. He shall try to change the feasts and the laws. The holy ones shall be handed over to his power for a time, two times, and half a time.

“But judgment will come and dominion will be taken from him; he shall be destroyed and utterly wiped out. The kingship, dominion and leadership of all the kingdoms of the world shall be given to the people of the holy ones of God Most High: his kingdom will be without end. All the kingdoms shall serve him and be subject to him.”

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.

These are the final words of Jesus in his discourse about the last things according to Luke. The recommendations of the Lord are basic and always applicable. First is to be careful with the distractions the present life offers us in abundance, especially in our stridently noisy civilization. We are weighed down in our hearts, especially with pleasure, drunkenness and worldly concerns. These, in fact, are sometimes so heavy that they obscure any other hope and love. Our interior horizon is reduced to these worldly values. But the “day” can arrive suddenly, and in our times often we see how this becomes an unexpected end of many lives.

The Christian attitude is doubled: to watch and to pray. The vigilance is against slumber in a moral sense. Prayer is the basic recollection of our spirit before the Lord, with frequent sighs of love and hope, and with regular moments totally for the Lord. Even the apostles were incapable of this during the passion, but Jesus keeps telling us to be conscious of our ultimate goal. Every night there should be a little recollection of it. Thus can we escape all that is bound to happen and to stand before the Son of Man forever.