Bible Diary for October 31st – November 6th

October 31st

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

1st Reading: Dt 6:2-6:
Fear Yahweh, observe his commandments all the days of your life and his norms that I teach you today. So also for your children and your children‘s children that they may live long. Listen, then, Israel, observe these commandments and put them into practice. If you do this, you will be well and you will multiply in this land flowing with milk and honey, as Yahweh, the God of your fathers, promised you. Listen, Israel: Yahweh, our God, is One Yahweh. And you shall love Yahweh, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength. Engrave in your heart the commandments that I pass on to you today.

2nd Reading: Heb 7:23-28:
The former priests were many since, as mortal men, they could not remain in office. But Jesus remains forever, and the priesthood shall not be taken from him. Consequently, he is able to save, for all time, those who approach God, through him. He always lives to intercede on their behalf. It was fitting that our high priest be holy, undefiled, set apart from sinners, and exalted above the heavens; a priest who does not, first, need to offer sacrifice for himself, before offering for the sins of the people, as high priests do. He offered himself in sacrifice, once and for all. And, whereas, the law elected weak men as high priests, now, after the law, the word of God, with an oath, appointed the Son, made perfect forever.

Gospel: Mk 12:28b-34:
A teacher of the law had been listening to this discussion and admired how Jesus answered them. So he came up and asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is: Hear, Israel! The Lord, our God, is One Lord; and you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. And after this comes a second commandment: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these two.”

The teacher of the law said to him, “Well spoken, Master; you are right when you say that he is one, and there is no other besides him. To love him with all our heart, with all our understanding and with all our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves is more important than any burnt offering or sacrifice.” Jesus approved this answer and said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.

“You are not far from the Kingdom of God,“ said Jesus to the lawyer who upheld the equivalency of love of God and neighbor. But there is a catch in the sentence: being not far only implies being close enough; it is no guarantee that one is definitively within the Kingdom. What would move the lawyer – and us – from within the proximity to within the boundaries of the Kingdom? If knowing the greatest commandment with its equivalent love of God and neighbor takes us close to the Kingdom, it is doing the commandment that will move us in. Ask God for the wisdom to know the commandments and the courage to do the same. Do an examination of conscience today. Where do you stand in relation to doing the commandments?

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! At that moment, one of the elders spoke up and said to me, “Who are these people clothed in white, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, it is you who know this.” The elder replied, “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:
See what singular love the Father has for us: we are called children of God, and we really are. This is why the world does not know us, because it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children and what we shall be has not yet been shown. Yet when he appears in his glory, we know that we shall be like him, for then we shall see him as he is. All who have such a hope try to be pure as he is pure.

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 a pure heart, 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 justice, 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.

Many spend their life toiling to achieve something which they think would make them happy. Of course power and authority, fame and fortune do give joy and satisfaction. But to achieve them you have to work hard, give much, sacrifice those that are sometimes dear to you. In the end, are they really worth the price paid? Do they give joy and happiness to last forever? Contrast that with what Jesus offers as the new form of blessedness. They are laughable in the least because they represent the end of losers in this world. They are counter-intuitive. But come to think of it, all those called fortunate by Jesus are those who work and suffer for something that will lead them to God.

The meek, sorrowing, lowly and those who work for justice and peace will inevitably find themselves in front of God. That is why they are blessed. God will be their ultimate possession. Many people or groups work for a better society. They advocate values that are consistent with the gospel. Have I shown my support and participation to their cause? It would be good to stand up once in a while for what I believe and profess. Loving Father, awaken my passion to those that advance the cause of Your kingdom. Let me not waver in my resolve. May I be bold enough to identify myself with Your cause, and may I act accordingly without hesitation. Amen.

November 2nd

All Souls Day

1st Reading: Wis 3:1-9:
The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. For if before men, indeed, they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself.

As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself. In the time of their visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble; they shall judge nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord shall be their King forever. Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love: because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with his elect.

2nd Reading: Rom 6:3-9:
Brothers and sisters: Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection. We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin. For a dead person has been absolved from sin. If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him.

Gospel: Jn 6:37-40:
Jesus said to the crowds: “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.”

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: Rom 13:8-10:
Do not be in debt to anyone. Let this be the only debt of one to another: Love. The one who loves his or her neighbor fulfilled the Law. For the commandments: Do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not covet and whatever else are summarized in this one: You will love your neighbor as yourself. Love cannot do the neighbor any harm; so love fulfills the whole Law.

Gospel: Lk 14:25-33:
One day, when large crowds were walking along with Jesus, he turned and said to them, “If you come to me, unwilling to sacrifice your love for your father and mother, your spouse and children, your brothers and sisters, and indeed yourself, you cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not follow me carrying his own cross cannot be my disciple. Do you build a house without first sitting down to count the cost to see whether you have enough to complete it?

Otherwise, if you have laid the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone will make fun of you: ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ And when a king wages war against another king, does he go to fight without first sitting down to consider whether his ten thousand can stand against the twenty thousand of his opponent? And if not, while the other is still a long way off he sends messengers for peace talks. In the same way, none of you may become my disciple if he doesn’t give up everything he has.

Jesus doesn’t hesitate to heighten the bar of the discipleship. He aims for the primacy of embracing the Kingdom preached by him over all other human love. His list is very complete: “father and mother, spouse and children, brothers and sisters.” He goes even one more step by demanding that one be capable of renouncing oneself and carrying the cross. We can ask: why Jesus is so radical in his proposal? Jesus knows that in him the offering of eternal salvation has arrived, and destiny forever is the ultimate meaning of life. In our everyday life, we are diverted by many concerns.

We easily forget the final goal of our journey. Jesus is there to remind us of this essential truth. Therefore, we can understand the following parables: the building of the tower and the war against the enemy. In both cases we should be prudent in calculating our resources and strength to avoid the failure. But in our purpose, can we be discouraged from embracing discipleship? If we take to heart our reading of the New Testament, we can be confident that our resource and strength is in the Lord. We are not alone in our building nor in our war. May the teachings of Jesus awaken in us the flame of hope and love.

November 4th

St. Charles Borromeo

1st Reading: Rom 14:7-12:
In fact, none of us lives for himself, nor dies for himself. If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord. Either in life or in death, we belong to the Lord; It was for this purpose that Christ both died and came to life again to be Lord both of the living and of the dead. Then you, why do you criticize your brother or sister? And you, why do you despise them? For we will all appear at the tribunal of God. It is written: I swear by myself—word of the Lord—every knee will bend before me, and every tongue shall give glory to God. So each of us will account for himself before God.

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 scribes 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 out 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.”

The introduction given by Luke helps us to understand the parables of today. Tax collectors and sinners are attracted by Jesus’ teaching and they invite him, as the Pharisees also do. But the latter cannot restrain from muttering and judging the behavior of the Master. So, he will justify his conduct before them. And he tells three parables. The third is the famous one of the “prodigal son.” But the other two are shorter and also well known. Jesus takes his stories from men and women in common life and work. Haven’t we seen many times the beautiful statue of Jesus the Good Shepherd of the catacombs?

Really, the lost sheep on Jesus’ shoulders is a touching image of His heart. In our life conversions we have experienced the careful support of Jesus and the joy of heaven. Haven’t we ever lost coins or precious objects at home? Of course, we have. And we put all our diligence to recover it. Only then can we breathe in peace. Isn’t this a proof of the “humanity” of God toward us? Will we abide in our narrow judgment of our sinner brothers and sisters?

November 5th

1st Reading: Rom 15:14-21:
As for me, brothers and sisters, I am convinced that you have goodwill, knowledge and the capacity to advise each other; nevertheless I have written boldly in some parts of this letter to remind you of what you already know. I do this according to the grace God has given to me when I was sent to the pagan nations. I dedicated myself to the service of the Good News of God as a minister of Christ Jesus, in order to present the non-Jews to God as an agreeable offering consecrated by the Holy Spirit. This service of God is for me a cause of pride in Christ Jesus.

Of course, I would not dare to speak of other things but what Christ himself has done through me, my words and my works, with miracles and signs, by the power of the Holy Spirit—so that non-Jews may obey the faith. In this way I have extended the Good News to all parts, from Jerusalem to Illiricum. I have been very careful, however, and I am proud of this, not to preach in places where Christ is already known, and not to build upon foundations laid by others. Let it be as Scripture says: Those not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.

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.”

When we read this parable we can become perplexed: Is Jesus praising the conduct of this corrupt steward? Let us be attentive as Jesus shows us a sample of skillful behavior. The steward was truly fraudulent for he immediately knows what to do in case he is dismissed. We know these kind of subterfuges in our modern society. They are always increasing. So the steward is tranquil. He does not feel obliged to work or to beg. He will comfortably tell the debtors of his former master to simply give him part of what they owe. Let us consider the moral of the parable.

The master commends the ability of his dishonest steward, but not the fraud itself. He doesn’t encourage us to act in a similar way. On the contrary he encourages us to apply the same sharpness for reaching the Kingdom. Does it mean that the “sons of the light” are sleepy or lazy? Our spiritual life and our Christian apostolate need imagination, courage and work. The saints were capable of many daring novelties for the Lord because undoubtedly the Holy Spirit does not sleep.

November 6th

1st Reading: Rom 16:3-9, 16, 22-27:
Greetings to Prisca and Aquilas, my helpers in Christ Jesus. To save my life, they risked theirs; I am very grateful to them, as are all the churches of the pagan nations. Greetings also to the church that meets in their house. Greetings to my dear Epaenetus, the first in the province of Asia to believe in Christ. Greet Mary, who worked so much for you. Greetings to Andronicus and Junias, my relatives and companions in prison; they are well known apostles and served Christ before I did. Give greetings to Ampliatus, whom I love so much in the Lord. Greetings to Urbanus, our fellow worker, and to my dear Stachys. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

All the churches of Christ send their greetings. I, Tertius, the writer of this letter, send you greetings in the Lord. Greetings from Gaius, who has given me lodging and in whose house the church meets. Greetings from Erastus, treasurer of the city, and from our brother Quartus. Glory be to God! He is able to give you strength, according to the Good News I proclaim, announcing Christ Jesus. Now is revealed the mysterious plan kept hidden for long ages in the past. By the will of the eternal God it is brought to light, through the prophetic books, and all nations shall believe the faith proclaimed to them. Glory to God, who alone is wise, through Christ Jesus, forever! Amen.

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.

The Christian use of material goods is very specific following the teachings of Jesus. Let us summarize the Gospel of today. First, we can convert our guilty money as means of salvation through charity, as we see in Zaccheus. Second, honesty or dishonesty in little things is important. For Jesus, money is not our true wealth because it is destined to be left on earth. Our real treasure is in our immortal soul through our good thoughts, words and deeds.

Third, it is not possible to have two masters: it is God or money. Isn’t this a constant matter of examination of our conscience to know who our true master is? What is the subject matter of our talks? If we are always speaking of money, then it is money. Let us procure it without anxiety. Fourth, Jesus reacts against Pharisees. They seem so pious, but their heart is so attached to material goods. God looks at this interior attitude and withdraws from them.