Bible Diary for October 2nd – October 8th

October 2nd

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Guardian Angels

1st Reading: Heb 1:2-3; 2:2-4:
Yahweh, how long will I cry for help while you pay no attention to me? I denounce the oppression and you do not save. Why do you make me see injustice? Are you pleased to look on tyranny? All I see is outrage, violence and quarrels. Then Yahweh answered me and said, “Write down the vision, inscribe it on tablets so it can be easily read, since this is a vision for an appointed time; it will not fail but will be fulfilled in due time. If it delays, wait for it, for it will come, and will not be deferred. Look: I don’t look with favor on the one who gives way; the upright, on the other hand, will live by his faithfulness.”

2nd Reading: 2 Tim 1:6-8, 13-14:
For this reason, I invite you to fan into a flame, the gift of God you received, through the laying on of my hands. For God did not confer on us a spirit of fearfulness, but of strength, love and good judgment. Do not be ashamed of testifying to our Lord, nor of seeing me in chains. On the contrary, do your share in laboring for the gospel, with the strength of God. Follow the pattern of the sound doctrine which you have heard from me, concerning faith, and love in Christ Jesus. Keep this precious deposit, with the help of the Holy Spirit, who lives within us.

Gospel: Lk 17:5-10:
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” And the Lord said, “If you have faith, even the size of a mustard seed, you may say to this tree, ‘Be uprooted, and plant yourself in the sea!’ and it will obey you. Who among you would say to your servant, coming in from the fields after plowing or tending sheep, ‘Go ahead and have your dinner’? No, you tell him, ‘Prepare my dinner. Put on your apron, and wait on me while I eat and drink. You can eat and drink afterward.’ Do you thank this servant for doing what you told him to do? I don’t think so. And therefore, when you have done all that you have been told to do, you should say, ‘We are no more than servants; we have only done our duty.’”

In any human relationship there are two sides to the relationship, each side being acted out by each person involved. The same holds true with our relationship with God. One side shows how we should treat God and the other side shows how God treats us. The parable contained in today’s gospel reading is a teaching of Jesus on how we should treat God. And this teaching is based on a normal master-servant relationship. In such a relationship the master will expect his servant coming in from the fields to prepare and serve the master’s dinner before himself eating.

Doing so does not deserve any gratitude on the master’s part, since the servant is only doing his job. Any claim for gratitude would be out of place. This is how we should live our relationship with God. However, another parable presents God’s way of treating us, and it is the opposite of what we would expect on the basis of this parable. In that other parable, Jesus teaches that paradoxically it is the master who puts on an apron and waits on his servant (Lk 12:37). Such is our God. Pure love. Let us beg God for the great grace of humility—which consists in simply acknowledging who we really are. Think about how generous God has been towards you. Count your blessings.

October 3rd

1st Reading: Gal 1:6-12:
I am surprised at how quickly you have abandoned God, who called you, according to the grace of Christ, and have gone to another gospel. Indeed, there is no other gospel, but some people, who are sowing confusion among you, want to turn the gospel of Christ upside down. But even if we, ourselves, were giving you another gospel, different from the one we preached to you, or if it were an angel from heaven, I would say: let God’s curse be on him!

As I have said, I now say again: if anyone preaches the gospel in a way other than you received it, fire that one! Are we to please humans or obey God? Do you think that I try to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Let me remind you, brothers and sisters, that the gospel we preached to you is not a human message, nor did I receive it from anyone, I was not taught of it; but it came to me, as a revelation from Christ Jesus.

Gospel: Lk 10:25-37:
Then a teacher of the law came and began putting Jesus to the test. And he said, “Master, what shall I do to receive eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What is written in the law? How do you understand it?” The man answered, “It is written: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus replied, “What a good answer! Do this and you shall live.”

The man wanted to justify his question, so he asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus then said, “There was a man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him and went off, leaving him half-dead. It happened that a priest was going along that road and saw the man, but passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite saw the man, and passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan also was going that way; and when he came upon the man, he was moved with compassion.

He went over to him, and cleaned his wounds with oil and wine, and wrapped them in bandages. Then he put him on his own mount, and brought him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day, he had to set off; but he gave two silver coins to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him, and whatever you spend on him, I will repay when I return.’” Jesus then asked, “Which of these three, do you think, made himself neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The teacher of the law answered, “The one who had mercy on him.” And Jesus said, “Then go and do the same.”

Today’s gospel reading presents the Parable of the Good Samaritan, one of the most famous parables of Jesus, and rightly so because it is a literary gem full of twists and turns. In this story we must not be too surprised that the priest going down the road to Jericho passes on to the other side. He is probably just returning from performing his priestly duties in the temple of Jerusalem. Now, since the victim of the robbers is probably unconscious and bleeding, the priest might suspect that the victim is dead.

If that is the case and he approaches the man nearer than four cubits, he will incur ritual defilement and will have to go back to Jerusalem for purification. Besides, maybe the robbers are hiding nearby and waiting to pounce on whoever would stop to help the victim. Finally, the victim might be a sinner, or even one of those accursed Samaritans! But since the Writings (Sir 12:1-7) forbid good Jews to help sinners, it seems wiser not to stop. And so, the priest moves on. When we want to avoid doing a good action, do we not often act like this priest and rationalize our hardness of heart by a thousand flimsy excuses?

October 4th

St. Francis of Assisi

1st Reading: Gal 1:13-24:
You have heard of my previous activity in the Jewish community; I furiously persecuted the Church of God and tried to destroy it. For I was more devoted to the Jewish religion than many fellow Jews of my age, and I defended the traditions of my ancestors more fanatically. But one day, God called me, out of his great love, he, who had chosen me from my mother’s womb; and he was pleased to reveal, in me, his Son, that I might make him known among the pagan nations. Then, I did not seek human advice nor did I go up to Jerusalem, to those who were apostles before me.

I immediately went to Arabia, and from there, I returned, again, to Damascus. Later, after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to meet Cephas, and I stayed with him for fifteen days. But I did not see any other apostle except James, the Lord’s brother. On writing this to you, I affirm before God that I am not lying. After that, I went to Syria and Cilicia. The churches of Christ in Judea did not know me personally; they had only heard of me: “He, who once persecuted us, is now preaching the faith he tried to uproot.” And they praised God because of me.

Gospel: Lk 10:38-42:
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he entered a village, and a woman called Martha welcomed him to her house. She had a sister named Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet to listen to his words. Martha, meanwhile, was busy with all the serving, and finally she said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work? Tell her to help me!” But the Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you worry and are troubled about many things, whereas only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken away from her.”

In his visit to the house of Mary and Martha, Jesus is not very particular about the details of hospitality; he is more concern with the more important form of hospitality, a spiritual hospitality, namely the listening to his words. We may also call it: the “hospitality of loving attention and listening” (Brendan Byrne). It is a deeper kind of hospitality, which Mary accorded to Jesus. It is the “only one thing” that Jesus has commended as something needed.

Another thing that differentiates Mary from Martha is that she has recognized God’s visit through Jesus. This recognition prompted her to offer Jesus an open heart. For the poor and the vulnerable of our society, this is also the kind of hospitality that they can offer when the word of God is heard. It is spiritually the most necessary (R. T. France). With the hospitality of attention and listening comes also the hospitality of trust.

October 5th

Bl. Francis Xavier Seelos

1st Reading: Gal 2:1-2, 7-14:
After fourteen years, I, again, went up to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and Titus came with us. Following a revelation, I went, to lay before them the gospel that I am preaching to the pagans. I had a private meeting with the leaders—lest I should be working, or have worked, in a wrong way. They recognized that I have been entrusted to give the Good News to the pagan nations, just as Peter has been entrusted to give it to the Jews. In the same way that God made Peter the apostle of the Jews, he made me the apostle of the pagans.

James, Cephas and John acknowledged the graces God gave me. Those men, who were regarded as the pillars of the Church, stretched out their hand to me and Barnabas, as a sign of fellowship; we would go to the pagans, and they, to the Jews. We should only keep in mind, the poor among them. I have taken care to do this. When, later, Cephas came to Antioch, I confronted him, since he deserved to be blamed. Before some of James’ people arrived, he used to eat with non-Jewish people.

But when they arrived, he withdrew, and did not mingle anymore with them, for fear of the Jewish group. The rest of the Jews followed him in this pretense, and even Barnabas was part of this insincerity. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas publicly: If you, who are Jewish, agreed to live like the non-Jews, setting aside the Jewish customs, why do you, now, compel the non-Jews to live like Jews?

Gospel: Lk 11:1-4:
“Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” And Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say this: Father, may your name be held holy, may your kingdom come; give us, each day, the kind of bread we need, and forgive us our sins; for we also forgive all who do us wrong; and do not bring us to the test.”

In Asian cultures, there is such a respect for social precedence (ascendancy due to age, senior kinship, title, prestige, etc.) that it is unthinkable for one of inferior rank to admonish someone belonging to a higher rank. Yet, in today’s first reading we have an instance of exactly that happening. Here is the background of this incident. At the so-called “Council of Jerusalem” which is recounted in Acts 15, it had been decided that the pagans who had converted to Christianity would not be required to undergo circumcision and to follow the food regulations of the Mosaic Law.

Yet a small but influential number of Christian Jews from Jerusalem still expected converts to follow those regulations. Peter had eaten with some new converts and had ignored the food regulations— until strict Jews from Jerusalem came. And then Peter stopped eating with those new converts, thus negating in practice the agreement reached at the Council. Seeing this act of cowardice, Paul publicly rebuked Peter. What is remarkable here is that Peter was the Head of the Church, the first Pope, and that Paul, his inferior, rebuked him because Peter was obviously in the wrong. Do we have the courage to criticize, respectfully but candidly our religious leaders?

October 6th

St. Bruno
Bl. Marie-Rose Durocher

1st Reading: Gal 3:1-5:
How foolish you are, Galatians! How could they bewitch you after Jesus Christ has been presented to you as crucified? I shall ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by the practice of the law, or by believing the message? How can you be such fools: you begin with the Spirit and end up with the flesh! So, you have experienced all this in vain! Would that, it were not so! Did God give you the Spirit, and work miracles among you because of your observance of the law, or because you believed in his message?

Gospel: Lk 11:5-13:
Jesus said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to his house in the middle of the night and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine who is traveling has just arrived, and I have nothing to offer him.’ Maybe your friend will answer from inside, ‘Don’t bother me now; the door is locked, and my children and I are in bed, so I can’t get up and give you anything.’ But I tell you, even though he will not get up and attend to you because you are a friend, yet he will get up because you are a bother to him, and he will give you all you need.

And so I say to you, ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For the one who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to him who knocks the door will be opened. If your child asks for a fish, will you give him a snake instead? And if your child asks for an egg, will you give him a scorpion? If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”

In 1850 American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne published a story entitled “The Great Stone Face.” It is about a gigantic and noble face that nature had carved on the side of a mountain overlooking a village. An old legend said that one day one of the villagers would come to resemble that majestic and saintly Stone Face. A young lad longed for such a man to show up one day. Meanwhile, he passed all his leisure hours contemplating the Stone Face. Time passed. The lad became an old man.

One day the villagers realized with a shock that his luminously holy face had become the exact resemblance of the Great Stone Face. In today’s gospel reading we hear Jesus tell us: “Ask and it will be given to you.” There is a mystery here for many of us. Because we ask for many things which we never receive. And our faith is shaken. But Jesus does not say that we will necessarily receive what we ask for, only that something will be given to us. And it always is—if not what we asked for, then something better. Perhaps that something better is the slow transformation that takes place in us if we look at God long enough.

October 7th

Our Lady of the Rosary

1st Reading: Gal 3:7-14:
Understand, then, that those who follow the way of faith are sons and daughters of Abraham. The Scriptures foresaw that, by the way of faith, God would give true righteousness to the non-Jewish nations. For God’s promise to Abraham was this: In you shall all the nations be blessed. So, now, those who take the way of faith receive the same blessing as Abraham, who believed; but those who rely on the practice of the law are under a curse, for it is written: Cursed is everyone who does not always fulfill everything written in the law.

It is plainly written that no one becomes righteous in God’s way, by the law: by faith the righteous shall live. Yet the law gives no place to faith, for according to it: the one who fulfills the commandments shall have life through them. Now Christ rescued us from the curse of the law, by becoming cursed himself, for our sake, as it is written: there is a curse on everyone who is hanged on a tree. So the blessing granted to Abraham, reached the pagan nations in, and, with Christ, and we received the promised Spirit, through faith.

Gospel: Lk 11:15-26:
Yet some of them said, “He drives out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the chief of the demons.” Others wanted to put him to the test, by asking him for a heavenly sign. But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them, “Every nation divided by civil war is on the road to ruin, and will fall. If Satan also is divided, his empire is coming to an end. How can you say that I drive out demons by calling upon Beelzebul? If I drive them out by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons drive out demons? They will be your judges, then. But if I drive out demons by the finger of God; would not this mean that the kingdom of God has come upon you?

As long as a man, strong and well-armed, guards his house, his goods are safe. But when a stronger man attacks and overcomes him, the challenger takes away all the weapons he relied on, and disposes of his spoils. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me, scatters. When the evil spirit goes out of a person, it wanders through dry lands, looking for a resting place; and finding none, it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds the house swept and everything in order. Then it goes to fetch seven other spirits, even worse than itself. They move in and settle there, so that the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

I was a college student in UP Los Baños when the celebrated 1993 abduction-cum-murder case of two students happened. In 2006, I returned there to pursue doctoral studies. One evening in 2007, our house of studies was in a bedlam when some agitated students came requesting for priests; one female student was allegedly possessed and kept babbling a female name. When we inquired of the name, I was taken aback. It was the name of the female student murdered in 1993!

As to how a 2007 student knew of that 1993 student, I do not know. When some fellow priests decided to go with the students, I opted to stay. I only learned later that it was not a real possession. Our gospel today contains an objective affirmation of the possibility of possessions. Evil forces can intrude and make a mess of our lives. They are tough and will never give up. The point is we need to be stronger and tougher. We need to possess firm faith, because the key to victory is to be on the side of Christ and not against him.

October 8th

1st Reading: Gal 3:22-29:
But the Scriptures have declared, that we are all prisoners of sin. So, the only way to receive God’s promise is to believe in Jesus Christ. Before the time of faith had come, the law confined us, and kept us in custody, until the time in which faith would show up. The law, then, was serving as a slave, to look after us until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. With the coming of faith, we are no longer submitted to this guidance.

Now, in Christ Jesus, all of you are sons and daughters of God, through faith. All of you, who were given to Christ through Baptism, have put on Christ. Here, there is no longer any difference between Jew or Greek, or between slave or freed, or between man and woman: but all of you are one, in Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Christ, you are of Abraham’s race and you are to inherit God’s promise.

Gospel: Lk 11:27-28:
As Jesus was speaking, a woman spoke from the crowd and said to him, “Blessed is the one who gave you birth and nursed you!” Jesus replied, “Truly blessed are those who hear the word of God, and keep it as well.”

At the time of Jesus the pious and well-meaning Jews imagined God acting more or less like an accountant. In a kind of celestial ledger, God entered all your good deeds and acts of obedience to the 613 prescriptions of the Mosaic Law (248 precepts and 365 prohibitions), but also all your sins. Then, when you died, God would draw the line under each column and add up good deeds and sins. If your good deeds outnumbered your sins, you went to Heaven. If your sins outnumbered your good deeds, you went to Hell. It was all a matter of strict justice.

Jesus rejected this way of thinking. God is not a heartless accountant, he protested. God is a Father. The only thing needed to be saved is to believe in the Father’s love and to love our neighbor as ourselves. The preceding considerations form the background of today’s first reading and of the whole Letter to the Galatians. Paul’s opponents insist that one must obey the Mosaic Law in order to be saved (they preach the accountant God). Paul vigorously opposes them and repeats Christ’s teaching: what saves us is to believe that God is a loving Father, and to love our neighbor.