Bible Diary for November 28th – December 4th
1st Sunday of Advent
1st Reading: Jer 33:14-16:
“The days are coming when I shall fulfill the promise that I made in favor of Israel and Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause to sprout the shoot of righteousness from David’s line; he will practice justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will experience salvation and Jerusalem will live in safety. He will be called Yahweh-Our-Righteousness.”
2nd Reading: 1 Thes 3:12—4:2:
May the Lord increase more and more your love for each other and for all people, as he increases our love for you. May he strengthen you internally to be holy and blameless before God, our Father, on the day that Jesus, our Lord, will come with all his saints. For the rest, brothers, we ask you in the name of Jesus, the Lord, and we urge you to live in a way that pleases God, just as you have learned from us. This you do, but try to do still more. You know the instructions we gave you on behalf of the Lord Jesus.
Gospel: Lk 21:25-28, 34-36:
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.”
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.”
The Bible employs a lot of symbolic language in its presentation of spiritual truths. Ordinary words and literal meanings cannot fully grasp the meaning of and adequately describe the rich landscape of the things of the spirit. Thus to unpack the layers of meanings of symbolic language one needs to spend time in prayer, reflection and meditation. This is vexing to those who are in search for a quick fix of ready and available explanations. Thus enter the charlatans who exploit this need to have answers at once. Their weapon is literal interpretation. Their message is fear and exclusive salvation for those who will believe them. The end time is not just about cataclysm and calamities visiting the earth.
It is also the second coming of the Lord. If we are truly His own, we need not fear. He comes not to punish but to gather His faithful. We need to exert effort to understand our faith. For it is not just about feelings and emotions. It also has a cognitive content. Perhaps we need to think more about the possibility of enrolling ourselves in the various faith formation programs of our parishes. Or perhaps I can invest in good books that talk about my faith. Father in heaven, help me to nourish the intellectual dimension of my faith. Make me delight in discovering new facets of what I believe. May I always thirst for the truth that comes from you. Amen.
Anniversary of Dorothy Day’s death
1st Reading: Is 2:1-5:
This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it; many peoples shall come and say: “Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.” For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!
Gospel: Mt 8:5-11:
When Jesus entered Capernaum, an army captain approached him, to ask his help, “Sir, my servant lies sick at home. He is paralyzed and suffers terribly.” Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” The captain answered, “I am not worthy to have you under my roof. Just give an order and my boy will be healed. For I myself, a junior officer, give orders to my soldiers. And if I say to one, ‘Go!‘ he goes; and if I say to another, ‘Come!‘ he comes; and if I say to my servant, ‘Do this!‘ he does it.“ When Jesus heard this, he was astonished; and said to those who were following him, “I tell you, I have not found such faith in Israel. I say to you, many will come from east and west and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of heaven.”
The person asking for help is a centurion, a soldier and presumably not a Jew. Yet he has great faith in Jesus. He asks Jesus to cure a servant who has become paralyzed. Jesus immediately responds that he will go and cure him. “No, no,” replies the centurion. “I am not worthy that you should come to my house. Just say the word and my servant will be healed.” Jesus is astonished at the faith of this pagan: “Nowhere in Israel have I found faith like this!” The faith that Jesus expects is not an acceptance of doctrines and laws. It is rather a gesture of total trust and surrender to the power of God – in the power of God in Jesus.
Christ asks for this faith especially when he works his miracles, which are acts of mercy and signs of his mission and witnessing to the kingdom. Faith in Jesus is the first condition for healing to take place. For many of Jesus‘ hearers who could not see God‘s presence in Jesus, lacking was the act of faith that puts God at the center of one‘s heart. Even the disciples were slow to believe. In the book, The Crucified God, Jurgens Moltmann writes: “Our faith must be born where it is abandoned by all tangible reality; it must be born of nothingness, it must taste this nothingness and be given it to taste in a way no philosophy of nihilism can imagine.“
1st Reading: Rom 10:9-18:
You are saved if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and in your heart you believe that God raised him from the dead. By believing from the heart, you obtain true righteousness; by confessing the faith with your lips you are saved. For Scripture says: No one who believes in him will be ashamed. Here there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; all have the same Lord, who is very generous with whoever calls on him. Truly, all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call upon the name of the Lord without having believed in him? And how can they believe in him without having first heard about him?
And how will they hear about him if no one preaches about him? And how will they preach about him if no one sends them? As Scripture says: How beautiful are the feet of the messenger of good news. Although not everyone obeyed the good news, as Isaiah said: Lord, who has believed in our preaching? So, faith comes from preaching, and preaching is rooted in the word of Christ. I ask: Have the Jews not heard? But of course they have. Because the voice of those preaching resounded all over the earth and their voice was heard to the ends of the world.
Gospel: Mt 4:18-22:
As Jesus walked by the lake of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. He went on from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John in a boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. Jesus called them. At once they left the boat and their father and followed him.
In the New Testament we find two complementary narratives of Andrew’s vocation. In Matthew, Simon (Peter) and Andrew, brothers, are fishermen in the lake of Galilee and are called by Jesus. In the Gospel of John, Andrew appears as disciple of John the Baptist. He heard his testimony and was with Jesus a complete day. Early in the next morning he looked for his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” and brought Simon to Jesus (Jn 1: 37-42). So we can approach this apostle under two aspects: as a fisherman and as a disciple of John the Baptist. We are before a rich personality, though discrete in the rest of the Gospel.
In fact, he appears only in the multiplication of bread and fish (Jn 6: 8) and in the entry of Jesus to Jerusalem (Jn 12: 22). He preached the Gospel in Asia Minor and Greece, and was crucified in Patras. Andrew is venerated not only as the Patron of Constantinople, but also of Scotland and Russia. We see Andrew recognizing in Jesus the Messiah through the witness of John and his own experience. And we admire his solicitude immediately calling his brother Peter. We also realize his promptness in leaving his family and job and following Jesus. Andrew is for us a model of availability and perseverance in the call of the Lord.
1st Reading: Is 25:6-10a:
On this mountain Yahweh Sabaoth will prepare for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, meat full of marrow, fine wine strained. On this mountain he will destroy the pall cast over all peoples, this very shroud spread over all nations, and death will be no more. The Lord Yahweh will wipe away the tears from all cheeks and eyes; he will take away the humiliation of his people all over the world: For Yahweh has spoken. On that day you will say: This is our God. We have waited for him to save us, let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. For on this mountain the hand of Yahweh rests.
Gospel: Mt 15:29-37:
From there, Jesus went to the shore of Lake Galilee, and then went up into the hills, where he sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing the dumb, the blind, the lame, the crippled, and many with other infirmities. The people carried them to the feet of Jesus, and he healed them. All were astonished when they saw the dumb speaking, the lame walking, the crippled healed and the blind able to see; so they glorified the God of Israel. Jesus called his disciples and said to them, “I am filled with compassion for these people; they have already followed me for three days and now have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away fasting, or they may faint on the way.”
His disciples said to him, “And where shall we find enough bread in this wilderness to feed such a crowd?” Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They answered, “Seven, and a few small fish.” Jesus ordered the people to sit on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the small fish and gave thanks to God. He broke them and gave them to his disciples, who distributed them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the leftover broken pieces filled seven wicker baskets.
Two miles west of Capernaum near the Sea of Galilee there is a place of springs called Taghba. In a Byzantine monastery we can see a nice mosaic with a basket of bread and two fishes. It is the memorial of an important moment in the public life of Jesus: the multiplication of bread in a desert place. Let us contemplate today the compassion of Jesus, first to all kind of illnesses that the suffering people offer to him, but after, let us consider his compassionate observation of this crowd.
It is necessary to provide them with sufficient food. He is available to use his power to do it. The scene is wonderful and the gratitude of the people is overflowing. This is a clear sign of the messiahship of Jesus, but for us is the security that the heart of Jesus is the same in the face of all our needs and deceases. Let us be confident in faith and hope. The multiplication of Jesus’ signs of compassion will arrive throughout our lives.
1st Reading: Is 26:1-6:
On that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city, he himself has set up walls and fortifications to protect us. Open the gates! Let the righteous nation enter, she who is firm in faithfulness. You keep in perfect peace the one of steadfast mind, the one who trusts in you. Trust in Yahweh forever, for Yahweh is an everlasting Rock. He brought down those who dwell on high, he laid low the lofty city, he razed it to the ground, leveled it to the dust, now it is trampled the poor and the lowly tread upon it.
Gospel: Mt 7:21, 24-27:
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my heavenly Father. “Therefore, anyone who hears these words of mine, and acts according to them, is like a wise man, who built his house on rock. The rain poured down, the rivers flooded, and the wind blew and struck that house. But it did not collapse, because it was built on rock. But anyone who hears these words of mine, and does not act accordingly, is like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain poured, the rivers flooded, and the wind blew and struck that house; it collapsed, and what a terrible collapse that was!”
Today’s first reading tells us of the solidness of a city from a community perspective. On the other hand, the Gospel tells us of personal firmness. The image of the “rock” is always in the background. Let us question ourselves about our Christian building. In fact, to build a house throughout life is a very biblical metaphor. Day by day, stone by stone we are preparing our eternal mansion. How can it be sound? What wise counsel do we follow for its soundness? The proposition of Jesus is simple and clear: hear his words and act accordingly.
This should be enough to construct on rock. “No one can lay a foundation other than the one which is already laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Cor 3:11). Yes, in Him, our dwelling takes the strength of eternity. Rain, rivers and wind, i.e. all kind of temptations and struggles can strike that house, but it will not collapse. Paul uses the image of fire. The conclusion is always the same. We must build not on sand but on rock. Not with wood, bamboo or straw, but with silver and precious stones. That should be the temple of the Holy Spirit within us so it will last forever.
St. Francis Xavier
1st Reading: Is 29:17-24:
In a very short time, Lebanon will become a fruitful field and the fruitful field will be as a forest. On that day the deaf will hear the words of the book, and out of the dark and obscurity the eyes of the blind will see. The meek will find joy and the poor among men will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. For the tyrant will be no more and the scoffers gone forever, and all who plan to do evil will be cut down—those who by a word make you guilty, those who for a bribe can lay a snare and send home the just empty-handed.
Therefore Yahweh, Abraham’s redeemer, speaks concerning the people of Jacob: No longer will Jacob be ashamed; no longer will his face grow pale. When he sees the work of my hands, his children again in his midst, they will sanctify my name, they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and stand in awe of the God of Israel. Those who err in spirit will understand; those who murmur will learn.
Gospel: Mt 9:27-31:
As Jesus moved on from there, two blind men followed him, shouting, “Son of David, help us!” When he was about to enter the house, the blind men caught up with him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do what you want?” They answered, “Yes, sir!” Then Jesus touched their eyes and said, “As you have believed, so let it be.” And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus gave them a stern warning, “Be careful and let no one know about this.” But as soon as they went away, they spread the news about him through the whole area.
In the Gospel of today we find three persons: on the one hand the two blind people, and on the other, Jesus. In these two blind persons we stress their perseverance in asking for sight, entering even into the house, their faith in the “Son of David” and his power of healing, and finally their joy in spreading the miracle, against the prescription of Jesus. These are the attitudes to imitate in our petitions to the Lord. In Jesus we admire his prudence: before fulfilling the cure, he puts a crucial question: “Do you believe that I am able to do what you want?”
This is the required mind-set that lies deep in the heart. We observe also the gesture of Jesus: he touched their eyes. This direct contact is so human and prefigures the sacraments, in which the grace is conveyed by physical contact. The formula of Jesus is also prudent: “As you have believed, so let it be.” The faith is then the measure of the gift. Finally, we point out the modesty of Jesus asking for absolute discretion. Aren’t these the true signs of the true prophets and ministers of the Lord?
St. John Damascene
1st Reading: Is 30:19-21, 23-26:
O people of Zion, who dwell in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. When you cry, he will listen; when he hears, he will answer. When the Lord has given you the bread of anguish and the water of distress, he, your teacher will hide no longer. Your own eyes will see him, and your ear will listen to his words behind you: “This is the way, walk in it.” He will then give rain for the seed you sow and make the harvest abundant from the crops you grow.
On that day your cattle will graze in wide pastures. Your beasts of burden will eat silage tossed to them with pitchfork and shovel. For on the day of the great slaughter, when fortresses fall, streams of water will flow on every mountain and lofty hill. The light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun seven times greater, like the light of seven days, when Yahweh binds up the wounds of his people and heals the bruises inflicted by his blows.
Gospel: Mt 9:35—10:1, 5a, 6-8:
Jesus went around all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom, and he cured every sickness and disease. When he saw the crowds he was moved with pity, for they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the workers are only few. Ask the master of the harvest to send workers to gather his harvest.”
Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority over the unclean spirits to drive them out and to heal every disease and sickness. Jesus sent these twelve on mission with the instruction: Go instead to the lost sheep of the people of Israel. Go and proclaim this message: The kingdom of heaven is near. Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons. Freely have you received, freely give.
Let us follow the pedagogy of Jesus spreading the good news of the Kingdom. We realize two images: sheep and shepherds, and harvest and workers. Jesus appears extremely generous in his ministry, teaching and healing. People were plentifully confident, and he was moved with pity. So, he compares this harassed and helpless crowd with the sheep without shepherd. Yes, in Jesus’ love for the people and the apostles is the model of the good shepherd, always attentive to the needs of the sheep. But the other comparison is also touching: harvest and workers.
How often were his parables taken from the farmers’ life. He points to the good will of the crowd as well as in the abundance of their presence. His recommendation is however exemplary: ask the master of the fields. Do we understand here the importance of prayer for vocations? Then, we have Jesus’ first advice to the twelve apostles. While now their mission is to Israel, later on it will be the world. They have to proclaim the proximity of the Kingdom, to make signs and to set free from demons. The last recommendation is truly precious: do everything for free. This is the framework of Christian apostolate in the Church and for the world.