Bible Diary for November 29th – December 5th

November 29th

1st Sunday of Advent

1st Reading: Is 63:16b–17; 64:2–7:
For you are our Father, whereas Abraham does not know us nor has Israel any knowledge of us. But you, O Yahweh, are our Father, from the beginning, you are our redeemer: this is your name. Why have you made us stray from your ways? Why have you let our heart become hard so that we do not fear you? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your inheritance. Let them witness your stunning deeds. No one has ever heard or perceived, no eye has ever seen a God besides you who works for those who trust in him.

You have confounded those who acted righteously and who joyfully kept your ways in mind. But you are angry with our sins, yet conceal them and we shall be saved. All of us have become like the unclean; all our good deeds are like polluted garments; we have all withered like leaves, blown away by our iniquities. There is no one who calls upon your name, no one who rouses himself to lay hold of you. For you have hidden your face, you have given us up to the power of our evil acts. And yet, Yahweh, you are our Father; we are the clay and you are our potter; we are the work of your hand.

2nd Reading: 1 Cor 1:3–9:
Receive grace, and peace from God, our Father, and Christ Jesus, our Lord. I give thanks, constantly, to my God, for you, and for the grace of God given to you, in Christ Jesus. For you have been fully enriched, in him, with words, as well as with knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you. You do not lack any spiritual gift and only await the glorious coming of Christ Jesus, our Lord. He will keep you steadfast to the end, and you will be without reproach, on the day of the coming of our Lord Jesus. The faithful God will not fail you, after calling you to this fellowship with his Son, Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Gospel: Mk 13:33–37:
Be alert and watch, for you don’t know when the time will come. When a man goes abroad and leaves his home, he puts his servants in charge, giving to each one some responsibility; and he orders the doorkeeper to stay awake. So stay awake, for you don’t know when the Lord of the house will come, in the evening or at midnight, when the cock crows or before dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him catch you asleep. And what I say to you, I say to all: “Stay awake!”

Vigilance makes us ready for anything. We will not be caught surprised and unaware. This is the admonition of the Lord to all His followers. In this world there are many temptations to slacken or even relax our principles drawn from the gospel. So many philosophies of life compete with the teachings of the Lord. They are seductive, very tempting and pleasing to our senses. It is only with the greatest vigilance that we can tear ourselves away sometimes from their hypnotic spell.

We have to keep our gaze firmly on the Lord who will come. Meanwhile, we prepare. May the Lord see us awake when He comes again in His glory. Have I been vigilant in my work? Am I mindful and aware of what I do? This can be seen in the quality of my work output. Perhaps today, I will try to be more aware and mindful with what I do, and put heart and soul into it, no matter how small my work seem. Those who will benefit will find it delightful.

November 30th

St. Andrew

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.

What is the mission of a disciple? Simply put, it is to bring people to Christ. Andrew excels in this role. Wherever we find him in the gospel according to John, he is bringing people to Christ. When John the Baptist pointed out Jesus as the Lamb of God, Andrew left John, stayed with Jesus, and became convinced that Jesus was the Messiah. What did he do then? “The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus” (Jn 1:41-42).

Later, when the disciples were disheartened as to how they could feed the multitude, Andrew spotted a boy with five barley loaves and two fish, and brought him to Jesus, though he wasn’t sure how it would all add up (Jn 6:9). When the Greeks came looking for Jesus, they went to Philip and Andrew, who in turn informed Jesus about the desire of the Greeks (Jn 12:20).

December 1st

1st Reading: Is 11:1–10:
From the stump of Jesse a shoot will come forth; from his roots a branch will grow and bear fruit. The spirit of the Lord will rest upon him—a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and power, a spirit of knowledge and fear of Yahweh. Not by appearances will he judge, nor by what is said must he decide, but with justice he will judge the poor and with righteousness decide for the meek. Like a rod, his word will strike the oppressor, and the breath of his lips slay the wicked. Justice will be the girdle of his waist, truth the girdle of his loins.

The wolf will dwell with the lamb, the leopard will rest beside the kid, the calf and the lion cub will feed together and a little child will lead them. Befriending each other, the cow and the bear will see their young ones lie down together. Like cattle, the lion will eat hay. By the cobra’s den the infant will play. The child will put his hand into the viper’s lair. No one will harm or destroy over my holy mountain, for as water fills the sea the earth will be filled with the knowledge of Yahweh. On that day the “Root of Jesse” will be raised as a signal for the nations. The people will come in search of him, thus making his dwelling place glorious.

Gospel: Lk 10:21–24:
At that time, Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and made them known to little ones. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. I have been given all things by my Father, so that no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son, and he to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said to them privately, “Fortunate are you to see what you see, for I tell you, that many prophets and kings would have liked to see what you see, but did not see it; and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”

Spontaneous joy is a beauty to behold. It moves us to thanksgiving to the Ultimate Source of our joy, God Himself. Jesus’ joy is not for Himself. It is for the little ones to whom the Father has revealed the things kept from the wise and the learned. It is for His disciples who have seen and heard what the great kings and prophets of old had yearned for but were not able to. In short, the locus of Jesus’ joy is not the self but the others. This invites us to take genuine joy at the blessings others receive. It is to rejoice with them for their blessing is a testimony that God still walks in our land. To be genuinely happy for the good fortune of others is to show our contentment with our own blessings received from the same God.

December 2nd

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, fi ne 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. 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; and 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 pieces filled seven wicker baskets.

This is a beautiful episode of healing and feeding. Jesus was not only concerned with their physical infirmities and hunger, He also dealt with their spiritual maladies and want. Thus He is not a social worker dealing with earthly problems, nor a spiritual leader concerned only with the spiritual being of those around Him but the Lord and Savior who comes to bring wholeness and completeness to persons. The disciples didn’t know this yet. They are still at a loss with regard to their Master’s mission. Thus they continuously misunderstand Him. It is only through the Lord’s patient mentoring that the disciples will understand that what Jesus does here on earth anticipates the things that will come in the future.

December 3rd

St. Francis Xavier

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. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not speak in your name? Did we not cast out devils and perform many miracles in your name?’ Then I will tell them openly, ‘I have never known you; away from me, you evil people!’

“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!”

It is not what we profess but what we do based on what we believe that matters. For words bereft of action are empty words, like sterile seeds that can never germinate and bear fruit. But even though action speaks louder than words, it will still be open to misinterpretation if we do not explain our actions through the spoken words. It is because of this that both have a role to play in having a clear solid faith. But a faith-based action is not easy. It is painstaking labor like putting up the house together brick by brick. It gains solidity only as we do the will of the Father one at a time. Storms will come but every time we hold on, we gain strength in doing what is right until it becomes part of our being.

December 4th

St. John Damascene

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 that no one knows about this.” But as soon as they went away, they spread the news about him through the whole area.

There are prayers that need effort on our part before they can be fulfilled. Just like the two blind men who had to run after Jesus groping their way towards Him, shouting His name until they finally reached Him just before He entered the house. Even then, they had to demonstrate their faith to Him before healing could take place. This reminds us that prayer is a spiritual demonstration of the strength of our faith.

The stronger we are, the bigger our capacity to wait and believe that everything will fall into place in God’s own time. And so, as much as we are preoccupied with building up physical strength, the more investment in time and effort we must do developing those spiritual muscles that keep us going even though it is hard to play catch up with God.

December 5th

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 sent these Twelve on mission, with the instructions: “Do not visit pagan territory and do not enter a Samaritan town. 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.

Projects succeed when there is focus and depth. This is the lesson we can glean from the Gospel today. Jesus saw the overwhelming need of the people. He knew He could not do it alone. He therefore empowered His disciples to replicate what He had been doing and entrusted them with responsibilities that would amplify His reach to people in need. But He cautioned them to limit themselves first to the lost sheep of Israel. They had to focus on what was possible to do. This ensures that little by little, the Kingdom of God expands day by day, slowly but surely.