Bible Diary for October 25th – 31st

October 25th

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

1st Reading: Ex 22:20–26:
You shall not wrong or oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not harm the widow or the orphan. If you do harm them and they cry out to me, I will hear them and my anger will blaze and I will kill you with the sword, and your own wives will be widows and your own children orphans. If you lend money to any of my people who are poor, do not act like a moneylender and do not charge him interest. If ever you take a person’s cloak as a pledge, you must give it back to him by sunset, for it is all the covering he has for his body. In what else will he sleep? And when he cries to me I will hear him, for I am full of pity.

2nd Reading: 1 Thes 1:5c–10:
The gospel we brought you was such, not only in words. Miracles, the Holy Spirit, and plenty of everything, were given to you. You, also, know how we dealt with you, for your sake. In return, you became followers of us, and of the Lord, when, on receiving the word, you experienced the joy of the Holy Spirit, in the midst of great opposition.

And you became a model for the faithful of Macedonia and Achaia, since, from you, the word of the Lord spread to Macedonia and Achaia, and still farther. The faith you have in God has become news in so many places, that we need say no more about it. Others tell, of how you welcomed us, and turned from idols, to the Lord. For you serve the living and true God, and you wait for his Son, from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus, who frees us from impending trial.

Gospel: Mt 22:34–40:
When the Pharisees heard how Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. One of them, a teacher of the Law, tried to test him with this question, “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the Law?” Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and the most important of the commandments. But after this there is another one very similar to it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole Law and the Prophets are founded on these two commandments.”

Questions are meant to clarify and enhance one’s understanding of the truth. But in the hands of enemies, it becomes a deadly weapon that can unmake the target of such malicious question. The religious authorities took turns in trapping Jesus with questions that may appear innocent but are deadly traps. It is a difficult time for the Lord and for His disciples. But the best defense against such line of questioning is no other than the truth itself. And Jesus sticks to the truth no matter what.

It may offend the religious and civil authorities but the truth can withstand any form of scrutiny. The more the opponents of Jesus waylay Him with traps, the more He unmasks their hypocrisy by the truth that He brings. No wonder they had to kill Him. In this world, the truth will always and forever be lonely. Do I have the courage to stand up for the truth? How many times have I chosen to be silent rather than stand up for what is right when it will inconvenience me? A cowardly or an indifferent life is hardly a life worth living. Today I decide to make a stand for the truth and will act on it accordingly.

October 26th

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.

During the many times Jesus ruffled the feathers of the religious authorities, it was always about His healing of the sick during Sabbath, supposed to be a holy day where goodness is the supreme rule. Yet the religious customs and traditions nurtured by the spiritual elite rendered the day sterile and mournful. Even the basic impulse of human compassion was stifled in favor of the observance of the man-made laws and regulations.

This kind of religious despotism did not sit well with Jesus.  It is true that religion in one of its root meanings “religare” means to “bind.” But it is a binding to a yoke that is easy and light. It is a bind that frees and not oppresses. And so Jesus let loose the liberating power of the Sabbath, that is, to give the woman the rest she craved from the oppression of her sickness of eighteen years. That day was truly Sabbath for her. She gained rest by the love of Jesus that does not rest in doing good.

October 27th

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 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.

There are major decisions in our lives that are sometimes heavy for us to bear alone. And so we resort to prayer, communing with God hoping that He will be with us when we finally make our choice. In the case of Jesus, this is not something added as an afterthought. Prayer always preceded His major decisions in life. In today’s Gospel, Jesus is about to choose from among His disciples those who will be His closest collaborators. He needs to talk with His Father.

This is clearly a big decision to make. But even with prayer, Jesus still made a mistake in the person of Judas Iscariot. This reminds us that things do not always go our way even if we have prayed over it. They have a  purpose that we don’t know. Surprises in life occur and we have to be ready. May our faith be big enough to accept when things go contrary to what we desire.

October 29th

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!”

At this point in time, the religious leaders who are out to destroy Jesus play the political card. They could not best Jesus on religious ground. He is always one step wiser than them, demolishing their arguments with aplomb. And so they have to drag their hostility towards the political front. After all, Jesus has no connections with anyone in power. He will surely be cowed and intimidated by their political clout.

This was their mistake. Jesus did not come to please anyone except His Father, the ruler and governor of the universe. A mere Herod, king of Israel could not instill fear on Him. And so He dared to call Herod names that would surely fan his anger. He will not back out from this confrontation. Jesus shows courage that is not one of reckless abandon. He places His feet where His mouth is.

October 30th

1st Reading: Phil 1:1–11:
From Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to the saints in Philippi, with their bishops and deacons; to you all in Christ Jesus: May grace and peace be yours from God, our Father, and Christ Jesus the Lord. I give thanks to my God, each time I remember you, and when I pray for you, I pray with joy. I cannot forget all you shared with me in the service of the gospel, from the first day, until now. Since God began such a good work, in you, I am certain, that he will complete it in the day of Christ Jesus.

This is my hope for you, for I carry you all, in my heart: whether I am in prison, or defending and confirming the gospel, you are with me and share the same grace. God knows, that I love you dearly, with the love of Christ Jesus, and in my prayers, I ask that your love may lead you, each day, to a deeper knowledge and clearer discernment, that you may have good criteria for everything. So you may be pure of heart, and come, blameless, to the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of holiness, that comes through Christ Jesus, for the glory and praise of God.

Gospel: Lk 14:1–6:
One Sabbath Jesus had gone to eat a meal in the house of a leading Pharisee, and he was carefully watched. In front of him was a man suffering from dropsy; so Jesus asked the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” But no one answered. Jesus then took the man, healed him, and sent him away. And he said to them, “If your lamb or your ox falls into a well on a Sabbath day, who among you doesn’t hurry to pull it out?” And they could not answer.

We feel uneasy when we are watched. Our movements become stilted and our words guarded. We are not free. Jesus feels the same way too, probably right here in this Gospel. Yet He did not allow this feeling to overpower His love for those who are needy. He would not be constrained by others’ careful watching. He will do what is the right thing to do even if others do not approve. And so, Jesus has to disappoint again His self-appointed guardians. He tried to expand their horizons by freeing them from the confines of their legalistic frame of mind. He has better luck with the man afflicted by dropsy. The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees are cases very hard to cure.

October 31st

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?