Bible Diary for October 30th – November 5th

October 30th

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

1st Reading: Wis 11:22–12:2:
For the entire world lies before you, just enough to tip the scales, a drop of morning dew falling on the ground. But because you are almighty, you are merciful to all; you overlook sins and give your children time to repent. You love everything that exists and hate nothing that you have made; had you hated anything, you would not have formed it. How could anything endure if you did not will it? And how could anything last that you had not willed? You have compassion on all because all is yours, O Lord, lover of life. In fact your immortal spirit is in all. And so by degrees you correct those who sin, you admonish them, reminding them how they have strayed so that, turning away from evil they may trust in you, Lord.

2nd Reading: 2 Thes 1:11–2:2:
This is why we constantly pray for you; may our God make you worthy of his calling. May he, by his power, fulfill your good purposes, and your work, prompted by faith. In that way, the name of Jesus, our Lord, will be glorified through you, and you, through him, according to the loving plan of God and of Christ Jesus, the Lord. Brothers and sisters, let us speak about the coming of Christ Jesus, our Lord, and our gathering to meet him. Do not be easily unsettled. Do not be alarmed by what a prophet says, or by any report, or by some letter said to be ours, saying, the day of the Lord is at hand.

Gospel: Lk 19:1-10:
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man named Zaccheus lived there. He was a tax collector and a wealthy man. He wanted to see what Jesus was like, but he was a short man and could not see him because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree. From there he would be able to see Jesus, who was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, come down quickly, for I must stay at your house today.”

So Zaccheus climbed down and received him joyfully. All the people who saw it began to grumble, and said, “He has gone as a guest to the house of a sinner.” But Zaccheus spoke to Jesus, “Half of what I own, Lord, I will give to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay him back four times as much.” Looking at him Jesus said, “Salvation has come to this house today, for he is also a true son of Abraham. The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”

We will probably never know in this life what lay behind the sudden and total conversion of Zaccheus as we have it described in today’s gospel reading. So many questions come to mind when we relive this story: why did Zaccheus so much want to see Jesus? Why was he so deeply moved by the attitude of Jesus? Why had he taken up his hated profession in the first place? Many more such questions come to mind when we think of him. We might even speculate a bit about his height. Being so short–and, no doubt, being looked down upon by so many people–had he one day resolved that he would command respect at least because of wealth? Had he decided to become a tax collector as a short-cut to fulfill this ambition?

The whole city of Jericho despised him, but the self-invitation of Jesus had thrown him completely off balance. Here, finally was a man who respected him, and a man who was hailed as a great prophet… We could ask ourselves how we treat short people or people who do not exactly fit our criteria of respectability. Do we react like Jesus and see them as true sons and daughters of Abraham? Let us ask the Lord to widen our hearts so that all humans can find in us a fraternal welcome. Today I will treat with special respect those people whom I tend to despise.

October 31st

1st Reading: Phil 2:1-4:
If I may advise you, in the name of Christ, and if you can hear it, as the voice of love; if we share the same Spirit, and are capable of mercy and compassion, then I beg of you, make me very happy: have one love, one spirit, one feeling, do nothing through rivalry or vain conceit. On the contrary, let each of you gently consider the others, as more important than yourselves. Do not seek your own interest, but, rather, that of others.

Gospel: Lk 14:12-14:
Jesus also addressed the man who had invited him, and said, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, don’t invite your friends, or your brothers and relatives, or your wealthy neighbors. For surely they will also invite you in return, and you will be repaid. When you give a feast, invite instead the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. Fortunate are you then, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the upright.”

In today’s first reading the apostle Paul gives a piece of advice which might appear completely idealistic and impossible to implement in real life: “Consider the others as more important than yourselves.” But is Paul’s advice so unrealistic? Let us consider first this undeniable fact: every person I meet has a particular talent, knowledge, ability, skill that I do not have. For example, I may be a first-class linguist or mathematician or jurist or teacher—yet I do not know how to change a flat tire or how to repair a cellphone, how to bake a pie or how to sew a dress, how to drive a twelve-wheeler or how to fly a plane.

The list of the things that other people can do better than I can is practically endless. And then there is the spiritual state of other people. If I think seriously about my past sins in comparison with all the graces that I have received, I cannot evaluate my status before God. So how on earth will I have the gall to think that I am better than the next person—even the worst criminal? No, Paul is right. Let us play it safe and look up to everyone we meet.

November 1st

All Saints’ Day

1st Reading: Rev 7:2-4, 9-14:
I saw another angel, ascending from the sunrise, carrying the seal of the living God, and he cried out with a loud voice, to the four angels empowered to harm the earth and the sea, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God upon their foreheads.” Then, I heard the number of those marked with the seal: a hundred and forty-four thousand, from all the tribes of the people of Israel: After this, I saw a great crowd, impossible to count, from every nation, race, people and tongue, standing before the throne, and the Lamb, clothed in white, with palm branches in their hands, and they cried out with a loud voice, “Who saves, but our God, who sits on the throne, and the Lamb?”

All the angels were around the throne, the elders and the four living creatures; they, then, bowed before the throne, with their faces to the ground, to worship God. They said, Amen. Praise, glory, wisdom, thanks, honor, power and strength to our God forever and ever. Amen! … “Who are these people clothed in white …“ “They, are those who have come out of the great persecution; they have washed, and made their clothes white, in the blood of the Lamb.”

2nd Reading: 1 Jn 3:1-3

Gospel: Mt 5:1-12a:
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain. He sat down and his disciples gathered around him. Then he spoke and began to teach them: Fortunate are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Fortunate are those who mourn; they shall be comforted. Fortunate are the gentle; they shall possess the land. Fortunate are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied. Fortunate are the merciful, for they shall find mercy.

Fortunate are those with pure hearts, for they shall see God. Fortunate are those who work for peace; they shall be called children of God. Fortunate are those who are persecuted for the cause of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Fortunate are you, when people insult you and persecute you and speak all kinds of evil against you because you are my followers. Be glad and joyful, for a great reward is kept for you in God. For that is how this people persecuted the prophets who lived before you.

Saints are people like us, of flesh and blood. They came from all walks of life: John Paul II and John XXIII were popes; Ezekiel Moreno was a priest and bishop; Thomas More was a lawyer and statesman; Margaret of Scotland was queen, wife, and mother of 10; Therese of Lisieux was a nun; Tarcisius was an altar boy; Francis of Asissi was a deacon; Pedro Calungsod was a catechist; Lorenzo Ruiz was a layman; Isidore was a farmer; Louis and Zellie Martin were husband and wife, etc. They were very much like us. But what makes the difference?

The difference lies in the fact that their Christian Faith dictated and gave direction to their way of life. The difference is that they lived the Faith they embraced, and the Gospel they believed. They were totally devoted to Jesus. They had their own weakness, and like us they had to struggle with human inclinations and temptations, but they triumphed in their pursuit of holiness; they were Christians in and out. They took to heart not to stain their identity as children of God. “Be like saints” is our battle cry today. It will indeed be a great rejoicing when someday we will find each other counted and numbered among the saints, among those who will be marked and sealed as children of God (Rev. 7:3; 1 Jn 3:1,2).

November 2nd

All Souls’ Day

1st Reading: Wis 3:1-9:
The souls of the just are in the hands of God and no torment shall touch them. In the eyes of the unwise they appear to be dead. Their going is held as a disaster; it seems that they lose everything by departing from us, but they are in peace. Though seemingly they have been punished, immortality was the soul of their hope. After slight affliction will come great blessings, for God has tried them and found them worthy to be with him; after testing them as gold in the furnace, he has accepted them as a holocaust. …

2nd Reading: Rom 6:3-9

Gospel: Mt 25:31-46:
When the Son of Man comes in his glory with all his angels, he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be brought before him; and, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, so will he do with them, placing the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left. The king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, blessed of my Father! Take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you welcomed me into your home. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to see me.’

Then the righteous will ask him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, and give you food; thirsty, and give you something to drink; or a stranger, and welcome you; or naked, and clothe you? When did we see you sick, or in prison, and go to see you?’ The king will answer, ‘Truly I say to you: just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Go, cursed people, out of my sight, into the eternal fire, which has been prepared for the devil and his angels!

‘For I was hungry, and you did not give me anything to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not welcome me into your house; I was naked, and you did not clothe me; I was sick, and in prison, and you did not visit me.’ They, too, will ask, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, thirsty, naked or a stranger, sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ The king will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you: just as you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it for me.’ And these will go into eternal punishment; but the just, to eternal life.”

Many people are afraid of death. In most cases this is because many of us think that death is loss. But our Christian teachings provide us with courage by telling us that death is but a passage to life, to the real life where all of us are destined to reach. Of course I also understand that the source of fear may be the teaching that there are two possibilities of the life that awaits us after death: life in eternal bliss (heaven) or life in eternal punishment (hell). But then, this fear can be mitigated.

While we are still living today, let us make sure that we will reach heaven tomorrow. And instead of fearing death, we should always be ready for it. One beautiful line from the film “Dr. Strange” said: Death is a beautiful thing. It’s when we know that our days are numbered that we begin to live life better. Today we pray for all of those who have gone ahead of us in death, that through God’s mercy they will receive the reward of eternal life with him. We pray for ourselves too that when our time comes, we will share in the same reward.

November 3rd

St. Martin de Porres

1st Reading: Phil 3:3-8a:
We are the true circumcised people, since we serve accor[1]ding to the Spirit of God, and our confidence is in Christ Jesus, rather than in our merits. I, myself, do not lack those human qualities in which people have confidence. If some of them seem to be accredited with such qualities, how much more am I! I was circumcised when eight days old. I was born of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin; I am a Hebrew, born of Hebrews. With regard to the law, I am a Pharisee, and such was my zeal for the law that I persecuted the Church. As for being righteous according to the law, I was blameless. But once I found Christ, all those things that I might have considered as profit, I reckoned as loss. Still more, everything seems to me, as nothing, compared with the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord.

Gospel: Lk 15:1-10:
Meanwhile tax collectors and sinners were seeking the company of Jesus, all of them eager to hear what he had to say. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law frowned at this, muttering, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So Jesus told them this parable: “Who among you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, will not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and seek the lost one till he finds it? And finding it, will he not joyfully carry it home on his shoulders?

Then he will call his friends and neighbors together, and say, ‘Celebrate with me, for I have found my lost sheep!’ I tell you, in the same way, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner, than over ninety-nine decent people, who do not need to repent. What woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one, will not light a lamp, and sweep the house in a thorough search, till she finds the lost coin? And finding it, she will call her friends and neighbors, and say, ‘Celebrate with me, for I have found the silver coin I lost!’ I tell you, in the same way, there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner.”

We usually take a lot of things for granted. Take your cellphone, for example. You use it at least a dozen times a day for calls or texts, and you count on it to do exactly what it is expected to do. But suppose you lose your cellphone or somebody steals it from you. Then you realize all of a sudden how dependent on it you have become: no more quick contacts with relatives and friends, except by borrowing somebody else’s phone, and that creates quite an inconvenience! Hence your joy if, by sheer chance, you find your cellphone. Now you appreciate how enormously useful it is to you.

But you had to lose it first, in order to experience this new appreciation. The two parables contained in today’s gospel reading are based on this common human experience of being overjoyed upon finding a valued possession. Joy is the common theme connecting these two parables. Such, Jesus tells us, is God’s joy upon recovering his lost children. We, too, should rejoice to see sinners returning to God. That was the problem of the scribes and the Pharisees: they could not imagine that God could rejoice upon recovering lost sinners.

November 4th

St. Charles Borromeo

1st Reading: Phil 3:17–4:1:
Unite in imitating me, brothers and sisters, and look at those who walk in our way of life. For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. I have said it to you many times, and now I repeat it with tears: they are heading for ruin; their belly is their god, and they feel proud of what should be their shame. They only think of earthly things. For us, our citizenship is in heaven, from where we await the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ, the Lord. He will transfigure our lowly body, making it like his own body, radiant in glory, through the power which is his, to submit everything to himself. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for you, my glory and crown, be steadfast in the Lord.

Gospel: Lk 16:1-8:
At another time Jesus told his disciples, “There was a rich man, whose steward was reported to him because of fraudulent service. He summoned the steward and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? I want you to render an account of your service, for it is about to be terminated.’ The steward thought to himself, ‘What am I to do now? My master will surely dismiss me. I am not strong enough to do hard work, and I am ashamed to beg. I know what I will do: I must make sure that when I am dismissed, there will be people who will welcome me into their homes.’

So he called his master’s debtors, one by one. He asked the first debtor, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ The reply was, ‘A hundred jars of oil.’ The steward said, ‘Here is your bill. Sit down quickly and write fifty.’ To the second debtor he put the same question, ‘How much do you owe?’ The answer was, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ Then the steward said, ‘Take your bill and write eighty.’ The master commended the dishonest steward for his astuteness: for the people of this world are more astute, in dealing with their own kind, than are the people of light.

Before the apostle Paul’s time, in 42 B.C. to be exact, the city of Philippi became a Roman colonia or colony (Acts 16:12) having a large population of Roman veterans. It was subject to Roman law. And so, although residing at Philippi, the Philippians’ citizenship was in Rome, their true city of origin. This situation forms the background of Paul’s statement: “Our citizenship is in heaven.” By this statement, Paul is making a parallel between the Philippians’ relationship to heaven as Christians, and their relationship with Rome as Roman citizens living in a Roman colony.

He says that Christians constitute a colony of heaven, just as Philippi was a colony of Rome. In other words, Paul is saying that heaven is the Christians’ real home, their real patria or fatherland, because their Father, God, resides there in glory. For many Christians it might come as a surprise to be told that they do not belong to earth, that here they are strangers or tourists or passers-by. All their energies are concentrated on making a lot of money and having fun. Tell them that this earth is not their real home, and they will laugh at you. Boy, are they in for a surprise when they reach heaven!

November 5th

1st Reading: Phil 4:10-19:
I rejoice in the Lord because of your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me before, but you had no opportunity to show it. I do not say this because of being in want; I have learned to manage with what I have. I know what it is to be in want and what it is to have plenty. I am trained for both: to be hungry or satisfied, to have much or little. I can do all things in him who strengthens me. However, you did right in sharing my trials.

You Philippians, remember that, in the beginning, when we first preached the gospel, after I left Macedonia, you, alone, opened for me a debit and credit account, and when I was in Thessalonica, twice you sent me what I needed. It is not your gift that I value, but rather, the interest increasing in your own account. Now, I have enough, and more than enough, with everything Epaphroditus brought me, on your behalf, and which I received as “fragrant offerings pleasing to God.” God, himself, will provide you with everything you need, according to his riches, and show you his generosity in Christ Jesus.

Gospel: Lk 16:9-15:
And so I tell you: use filthy money to make friends for yourselves, so that, when it fails, these people may welcome you into the eternal homes. Whoever can be trusted in little things can also be trusted in great ones; whoever is dishonest in slight matters will also be dishonest in greater ones. So if you have been dishonest in handling filthy money, who would entrust you with true wealth? And if you have been dishonest with things that are not really yours, who will give you that wealth which is truly your own?

No servant can serve two masters. Either he does not like the one and is fond of the other, or he regards one highly and the other with contempt. You cannot give yourself both to God and to Money.” The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and sneered at Jesus. He said to them, “You do your best to be considered righteous by people. But God knows the heart, and what is highly esteemed by human beings is loathed by God.

When we feel sick and visit our doctor, the first thing the doctor does is to check our vital signs: temperature, pulse, blood pressure. These will tell him if there is something wrong with us or not. In the Christian life, one of the key indicators of our spiritual condition before God is our relationship to money: do we use money or do we serve money? This is the question to ask ourselves, as we can judge by combining the teaching contained in today’s two readings.

Paul is a magnificent example of someone who uses money and is not serving it. As he says: “I have learned to manage with what I have. I know what it is to be in want and what it is to have plenty. I am trained for both.” On the other hand, Jesus in today’s gospel tells us that we cannot hold a neutral position towards money: either we serve it as our practical god (a “god” is anything to which we give our hearts) or we only use it and serve the true God. But we have to choose, Jesus tells us: “You cannot give yourself both to God and money.” Whom do I serve: God or money?