Bible Diary for October 23rd – October 29th

October 23rd

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. John of Capistrano

1st Reading: Sir 35:12-14, 16-18:
The Lord is judge and shows no partiality. He will not disadvantage the poor, he who hears the prayer of the oppressed. He does not disdain the plea of the orphan, nor the complaint of the widow. The one who serves God wholeheartedly will be heard; his petition will reach the clouds. The prayer of the humble person pierces the clouds, and he is not consoled until he has been heard. His prayer will not cease until the Most High has looked down, until justice has been done in favor of the righteous.

2nd Reading: 2 Tim 4:6-8, 16-18:
As for me, I am already poured out as a libation, and the moment of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, with which the Lord, the just judge, will reward me, on that day, and not only me, but all those who have longed for his glorious coming. At my first hearing in court, no one supported me; all deserted me. May the Lord not hold it against them. But the Lord was at my side, giving me strength, to proclaim the word fully, and let all the pagans hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will save me from all evil, bringing me to his heavenly kingdom. Glory to him forever and ever. Amen!

Gospel: Lk 18:9-14:
Jesus told another parable to some people, fully convinced of their own righteousness, who looked down on others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself, and said, ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people, grasping, crooked, adulterous, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and give a tenth of all my income to the temple.’ In the meantime the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’ I tell you, when this man went back to his house, he had been reconciled with God, but not the other. For whoever makes himself out to be great will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be raised up.”

The word “Pharisees” (from the Hebrew perūchīm) means “the separated ones”. And in today’s gospel reading which contains Jesus’ Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, we are told that the Pharisee of this parable “stood by himself,” that is, was standing apart from the congregation. Why? Probably so that he would not accidentally come in contact with the clothes of an unscrupulous Jew and thus contract a ritual uncleanness. We notice that the Pharisee speaks the truth in the description of his conduct. He is indeed a quite respectable fellow. What spoils his prayer is the self-righteous pride which inspires it, along with its contempt for other men.

The tax-collector of the parable is aware of the shamefulness of his profession. Furthermore, conversion is practically impossible for him because he would have to give up his livelihood, and also because he would have to reimburse everyone he has exploited. But how could he ever locate all such individuals? His position is hopeless and he can only ask for God’s mercy. The paradox here is that the Pharisee, who thought he did not need justification, returns home unjustified, whereas the worthless sinner returns home justified. Despising others is a loser’s game. Let us beg Christ “gentle and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29) to help us become humble. Today I will praise the good points and accomplishments of those I meet.

October 24th

St. Anthony Mary Claret (Founder of the Claretians)

1st Reading: Eph 4:32–5:8:
Be good and understanding, forgiving one another, as God forgave you, in Christ. As most beloved children of God, strive to imitate him. Follow the way of love, the example of Christ, who loved you. He gave himself up for us, and became the offering and sacrificial victim, whose fragrance rises to God. And, since you are holy, there must not be among you, even a hint of sexual immorality, or greed, or any kind of impurity: these should not be named among you.

So, too, for scandalous words, nonsense and foolishness, which are not fitting; instead, offer thanksgiving to God. Know this: no depraved, impure, or covetous person, who serves the god ‘Money,’ shall have part in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty arguments, for these are the sins which God is about to condemn in people, who do not obey. Do not associate with such people. You were once darkness, but, now, you are light, in the Lord. Behave as children of light.

Gospel: Lk 13:10-17:
Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the Sabbath, and a crippled woman was there. An evil spirit had kept her bent for eighteen years, so that she could not straighten up at all. On seeing her, Jesus called her and said, “Woman, you are freed from your infirmity.” Then he laid his hands upon her, and immediately she was made straight and praised God. But the ruler of the synagogue was indignant, because Jesus had performed this healing on the Sabbath day, and he said to the people, “There are six days in which to work. Come on those days to be healed, and not on the Sabbath!”

But the Lord replied, “You hypocrites! Everyone of you unties his ox or his donkey on the Sabbath, and leads it out of the barn to give it water. And here you have a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan had bound for eighteen years. Should she not be freed from her bonds on the Sabbath?” When Jesus said this, all his opponents felt ashamed. But the people rejoiced at the many wonderful things that happened because of him.

There are two powerful gospel stories in Luke 7:36-50 and Luke 13: 10-17. The first is the story of a woman who entered the house of a Pharisee, named Simon. He had invited Jesus for a meal; while at table, she began to wash the feet of Jesus with both her tears and ointment. The second is a woman bent over for eighteen years. The two women have something in common – shame, worthlessness and their oppressive exclusion due to their bodies (sin, sickness, bleeding, and deformity). Their wretched bodies make them outsiders in a socio-cultural-religious context which considers them impure, subservient, and invisible. In the narrative, they all break the rules of culture and religious purity and observance.

The first enters the house of Simon without being invited; the second appears before Jesus in the synagogue on the Sabbath. What is so significant about the movement of the two women is reality of the disempowered outsider who initiates the miracle process. The bent-over woman invited Jesus to break the Sabbath in favor of her liberation from years of deformity, suffering, and exclusion. She became part of, and was an active participant in, the Reign of God as well as privileged beneficiary of the miracle and empowerment of Jesus. Faith seeking embodiment shatters any justification to the violence done against women and children today. All bodies are sacred and resist any form of commodification and exclusion.

October 25th

1st Reading: Eph 5:21-33:
Let all kinds of submission to one another, become obedience to Christ. So wives, to their husbands as to the Lord. The husband is the head of his wife, as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of whom he is also the Savior. And as the church submits to Christ, so let a wife submit in everything to her husband. As for you, husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for her. He washed her, and made her holy, by baptism in the word. As he wanted a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any blemish, but holy and blameless, he, himself, had to prepare, and present her to himself.

In the same way, husbands should love their wives, as they love their own bodies. He, who loves his wife, loves himself. And no one has ever hated his body; he feeds and takes care of it. That is just what Christ does for the Church, because we are members of his body. Scripture says: Because of this, a man shall leave his father and mother, to be united with his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a very great mystery, and I refer to Christ and the Church. As for you, let each one love his wife as himself, and let the wife respect her husband.

Gospel: Lk 13:18-21:
And Jesus continued, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? Imagine a person who has taken a mustard seed, and planted it in his garden. The seed has grown, and become like a small tree, so that the birds of the air shelter in its branches.” And Jesus said again, “What is the kingdom of God like? Imagine a woman who has taken yeast, and hidden it in three measures of flour, until it is all leavened.”

In today’s first reading we hear the apostle Paul write that “wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.” Not many women today accept this teaching of Paul, and rightly so. Like all inspired authors of the Bible, Paul belonged to a particular culture and accepted uncritically a lot of his culture’s judgments, values, customs, viewpoints. For example, he never condemned slavery, whereas today slavery is universally condemned. He was hard on gays, because he thought that homosexuality was a free choice, whereas we now know it is not.

He thought it a disgrace for men to wear long hair (1 Cor 11:14). In other words, like all of us he was conditioned by his culture to a large extent—including his views on submissive wives. Fortunately, in his Apostolic Letter The Dignity of Women (August 15, 1988), Pope John Paul II completed Paul’s teaching by stating the following: “All the reasons in favor of the ‘subjection’ of woman to men in marriage must be understood in the sense of a ‘mutual subjection’ of both.” In other words, the husband must be subordinate to his wife just as much as the wife be subordinate to her husband. Paul’s text begins thus: “Be subordinate to one another.”

October 26th

1st Reading: Eph 6:1-9:
Children, obey your parents, for, this is right: Honor your father and your mother. And this is the first commandment that has a promise: that you may be happy and enjoy long life in the land. And you, fathers, do not make rebels of your children, but educate them, by correction and instruction, which the Lord may inspire. Servants, obey your masters of this world with fear and respect, with simplicity of heart, as if obeying Christ.

Do not serve, only when you are watched, or in order to please others, but become servants of Christ, who do God’s will, with all your heart. Work willingly, for the Lord, and not for humans, mindful that the good each one has done, whether servant or free, will be rewarded by the Lord. And you, masters, deal with your servants in the same way, and do not threaten them, since you know that they, and you, have the same Lord, who is in heaven, and he treats all fairly.

Gospel: Lk 13:22-30:
Jesus went through towns and villages teaching, and making his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, is it true that few people will be saved?” And Jesus answered, “Do your best to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has gone inside and locked the door, you will stand outside. Then you will knock at the door, calling, ‘Lord, open to us!’ But he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’

Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets!’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know where you come from. Away from me, all you workers of evil.’ You will weep and grind your teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves left outside. Others will sit at table in the kingdom of God, people coming from east and west, from north and south. Some who are among the last, will be first; and some who are among the first, will be last!”

Today’s first reading, despite contrary appearances, is very relevant to contemporary Christians because now, in contrast with the past of just a few generations ago, about as many Christian women are found in the workplace as Christian men. And so, Paul’s teaching has a more universal application than ever before. Of course Paul couches his teaching in reference to the conditions of his day, and that is to be expected. But we can easily adapt it to our present situation simply by substituting to the pair master-slave the pair boss-employee.

And so, this is as good an occasion as any to examine ourselves in our role as bosses or employees. If I am an employee, do I work only when I am watched by my boss or only to impress my co-workers and earn Brownie points? Or do I work to please the Lord Jesus, who was himself a worker and certainly did his best at all times? On the other hand, if I am the boss, do I bully my employees, humiliate them at every turn, ridicule them? Do I remember that they are my brothers and sisters in Christ? If I were an employee, how would I like to be treated?

October 27th

1st Reading: Eph 6:10-20:
Finally, be strong in the Lord, with his energy and strength. Put on the whole armor of God, to be able to resist the cunning of the devil. Our battle is not against human forces, but against the rulers and authorities and their dark powers, that govern this world. We are struggling against the spirits and supernatural forces of evil. Therefore, put on the whole armor of God, that, in the evil day, you may resist, and stand your ground, making use of all your weapons. Take truth as your belt, justice as your breastplate, and zeal as your shoes, to propagate the gospel of peace.

Always hold in your hand, the shield of faith, to repel the flaming arrows of the devil. Finally, use the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, that is, the word of God. Pray, at all times, as the Spirit inspires you. Keep watch, together with sustained prayer and supplication for all the holy ones. Pray, also, for me, so that when I speak, I may be given words, to proclaim bravely, the mystery of the gospel. Even when in chains, I am an ambassador of God; may he give me the strength to speak as I should.

Gospel: Lk 13:31-35:
At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and gave him this warning, “Leave this place and go on your way, for Herod wants to kill you.” Jesus said to them, “Go and give that fox my answer: ‘I drive out demons, and I heal today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my course!’ Nevertheless, I must go on my way today, and tomorrow, and for a little longer; for it would not be fitting for a prophet to be killed outside Jerusalem. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you slay the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often have I tried to bring together your children, as a bird gathers her young under her wings. But you refused! From now on, you will be left, with your temple. And you will no longer see me until the time when you will say, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Today’s first reading should be an eye-opener for some of us who go through life without being too much aware of what is going on around them—like sots who return home in a drunken stupor, unaware that they nearly got killed when crossing a street on a red light or that they are inadvertently foiling a hold-up or that they miss falling into a manhole. To such Christians the apostle Paul in today’s first reading addresses a wake-up call.

In substance he tells them something like this: “Hey! Our life on earth is not like a stroll in the park! We are involved in a cosmic war between the forces of evil and the forces of good, between Satan and his minions on the one hand and, on the other hand, God and his children. This means that, if we want to resist the forces of evil effectively, we have to be equipped adequately.” If we pay close attention to what Paul says afterwards, we notice that he insists very much on prayer as being of special importance in this war. And it is. Prayer connects us with the Cosmic Energy that moves the galaxies…

October 28th

St. Jude
St. Simon

1st Reading: Eph 2:19-22:
Now, you are no longer strangers or guests, but fellow citizens of the holy people: you are of the household of God. You are the house, whose foundations are the apostles and prophets, and whose cornerstone is Christ Jesus. In him, the whole structure is joined together, and rises, to be a holy temple, in the Lord. In him, you, too, are being built, to become the spiritual Sanctuary of God.

Gospel: Lk 6:12-16:
At this time, Jesus went out into the hills to pray, spending the whole night in prayer with God. When day came, he called his disciples to him, and chose Twelve of them, whom he called ‘apostles’: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew; James and John; Philip and Bartholomew; Matthew and Thomas; James son of Alpheus and Simon called the Zealot; Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who would be the traitor.

When we want to see a good and clear view of a particular area, we go to a higher place. In a similar way, if we want to perform a particular action in an exemplary or commendable manner, we have to go up and see it in a wider view by pausing for a while and reflecting about it. Our Lord, before choosing the Twelve whom he also named apostles, went out into the hills to pray, spending the whole night in prayer with God. This is what he customarily does during the significant moments of his ministry.

Likewise, Christians, before making an important decision/judgment or doing a particular task, must also be prepared not only physically and mentally but also spiritually. Our Lord is our model par excellence of this spiritual preparation. As followers of him, we must ”go into the hills” (v.12) or to a place where we could find solitude and peace; spend an ample time for reflection and communication with God; and then, put into action the fruits of our reflection and prayer. All followers of Christ are called not only to think before doing something but most importantly to pray sincerely and reflect deeply.

October 29th

1st Reading: Phil 1:18b-26:
Christ is proclaimed and, because of this, I rejoice and have no regrets. I know that all this will be a grace for me, because of your prayers, and the help given by the Spirit of Christ. I am hopeful, even certain, that I shall not be ashamed. I feel as assured now, as before, that Christ will be exalted through my person, whether I live or die. For to me, living is for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I am to go on living, I shall be able to enjoy fruitful labor. Which shall I choose?

So I feel torn between the two. I desire greatly to leave this life and to be with Christ, which will be better by far, but it is necessary for you that I remain in this life. And because I am convinced of this, I know that I will stay, and remain with you, for your progress and happiness in the faith. I will surely come to you again, and give you more reason for being proud of belonging to Christ Jesus.

Gospel: Lk 14:1, 7-11:
One Sabbath Jesus had gone to eat a meal in the house of a leading Pharisee, and he was carefully watched. Jesus then told a parable to the guests, for he had noticed how they tried to take the places of honor. And he said, “When you are invited to a wedding party, do not choose the best seat. It may happen that someone more important than you has been invited; and your host, who invited both of you, will come and say to you, ‘Please give this person your place.’

What shame is yours when you take the lowest seat! Whenever you are invited, go rather to the lowest seat, so that your host may come and say to you, ‘Friend, you must come up higher.’ And this will be a great honor for you in the presence of all the other guests. For whoever makes himself out to be great will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

It is difficult to have a balanced view of death. Some people seem to be in love with death, either because they are constantly defying death in daredevil stunts, or they attempt suicide at every occasion, or they talk of nothing else. In complete contrast to these death-worshippers are the people who are so terrified of death that they avoid, as the plague, any mention or reference to it. As Christians, what should be our attitude towards death?

To fear death instinctively is natural. After all, the apostle Paul calls it an enemy (1 Cor 15:26) and Jesus himself feared it (Mt 14:34). This fear is an instinct given by God to help us stay alive. But faith should help us to overcome this fear, because by faith we know that death marks the moment we will be with God in bliss forever. Paul says in today’s first reading that he desires greatly “to leave this life and to be with Christ.” And all the saints were eager to die precisely for this reason. Let us examine our own attitude toward death. Do we see it as something eminently desirable or do we see it as the supreme catastrophe?