Bible Diary for October 9th – October 15th

October 9th

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. Denis and Companions
St. John Leonardi

1st Reading: 2 K 5:14-17:
So Naaman went down to the Jordan where he washed himself seven times as Elisha had ordered. His skin became soft like that of a child and he was cleansed. Then Naaman returned to the man of God with all his men. He entered and said to him, “Now I know that there is no other God anywhere in the world but in Israel. I ask you to accept these gifts from your servant.” But Elisha answered, “I swear by Yahweh whom I serve, I will accept nothing.” And however much Naaman insisted, Elisha would not accept his gifts. So Naaman told him, “Since you refuse, let me get some sacks of soil from your land—the amount that two mules can carry. I shall use it to build an altar to Yahweh, for I shall not offer sacrifices to any other god but him.

2nd Reading: 2 Tim 2:8-13:
Remember Christ Jesus, risen from the dead, Jesus, son of David, as preached in my gospel. For this gospel I labor, and even wear chains like an evildoer, but the word of God is not chained. And, so, I bear everything, for the sake of the chosen people, that they, too, may obtain the salvation given to us, in Christ Jesus, and share eternal glory. This statement is true: If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; If we endure with him, we shall reign with him; If we deny him, he will also deny us; If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful for he cannot deny himself.

Gospel: Lk 17:11-19:
On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus passed through Samaria and Galilee, and as he entered a village, ten lepers came to meet him. Keeping their distance, they called to him, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” Jesus said to them, “Go, and show yourselves to the priests.” Then, as they went on their way, they found they were cured. One of them, as soon as he saw that he was cleansed, turned back, praising God in a loud voice; and throwing himself on his face before Jesus, he gave him thanks. This man was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked him, “Were not all ten healed? Where are the other nine? Did none of them decide to return and give praise to God, but this foreigner?” And Jesus said to him, “Stand up and go your way; your faith has saved you.”

Weeds grow spontaneously in any place where there is the least minimum of earth. But roses do not grow anywhere, they have to be carefully cultivated. This is an image of people as regards gratitude. Gratitude has to be taught, carefully instilled in children when they are young (“Sandra, say thank you to the nice lady who gave you the doll—Billy, say thank you to Uncle Joe who brought you this new baseball bat”). Ingratitude is spontaneous. Today’s gospel reading illustrates perfectly how people are naturally ungrateful.

Here the ratio is 9 out of 10, since only one of the cured lepers returned to thank Jesus for his healing—and the man was not even a Jew! This is a precious lesson for us to learn. As we go through life, we will be terribly disappointed and become embittered if we expect gratitude from those we help or show kindness to. The wiser course of action is to give generously without ever expecting any expression of gratitude. And so, when on rare occasions one of our beneficiaries expresses his or her gratitude, we enjoy it as an unexpected bonus. If followed, the preceding advice will help you have a happy life. Let us ask the Lord to help us become more grateful. Today I will count my blessings.

October 10th

1st Reading: Gal 4:22-24, 26-27, 31–5:1:
It says, that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman, the other by the free woman, his wife. The son of the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but the son of the free woman was born in fulfillment of God’s promise. Here we have an allegory and the figures of two Covenants. The first is the one from Mount Sinai, represented through Hagar: her children have slavery for their lot. But the Jerusalem above, who is our mother, is free. And Scripture says of her: Rejoice, barren woman without children, break forth in shouts of joy, you who do not know the pains of childbirth, for many shall be the children of the forsaken mother, more than of the married woman. Brethren, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman. Christ freed us, to make us really free. So remain firm, and do not submit, again, to the yoke of slavery.

Gospel: Lk 11:29-32:
As the crowd increased, Jesus spoke the following words: “People of the present time are troubled people. They ask for a sign, but no sign will be given to them except the sign of Jonah. As Jonah became a sign for the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be a sign for this generation. The Queen of the South will rise up on Judgment Day with the people of these times and accuse them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and here, there is greater than Solomon. The people of Nineveh will rise up on Judgment Day with the people of these times and accuse them, for Jonah’s preaching made them turn from their sins, and here, there is greater than Jonah.

A popular proverb states that “there are none so blind as those who will not see,” and this reflects pretty much a desolate complaint of the prophet Jeremiah about those foolish and senseless people “who have eyes and see not, who have ears and hear not” (Jer 5:21). In today’s gospel reading we hear Jesus say about the scribes and the Pharisees, “they ask for a sign.” And this, after they had seen Jesus perform multiple exorcisms and countless miracles of healing. But these are not enough.

They demand a sign that will end all possibility of doubt concerning Jesus’ claim to be coming from God. Presumably they require some sort of celestial firework which will absolutely floor them and compel them to believe willy-nilly. But this would not be an act of faith, and faith needs to be free in order to be a meaningful gift of self. Those scribes and Pharisees just do not want to see what the crowds see so clearly, namely, that a very great man of God stands among them. And Jesus confirms this opinion of the crowds when he states that he is greater than Solomon, the proverbially wise king, and greater than Jonah, the converter of the Ninevites.

October 11th

St. John XXIII

1st Reading: Gal 5:1-6:
Christ freed us, to make us really free. So remain firm, and do not submit, again, to the yoke of slavery. I, Paul, say this to you: if you receive circumcision, Christ can no longer help you. Once more, I say, to whoever receives circumcision: you are now bound to keep the whole law. All you, who pretend to become righteous through the observance of the law, have separated yourselves from Christ, and have fallen away from grace. As for us, through the Spirit and faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. In Christ Jesus, it is irrelevant, whether we be circumcised or not; what matters is, faith, working through love.

Gospel: Lk 11:37-41:
As Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to have a meal with him. So he went and sat at table. The Pharisee then wondered why Jesus did not first wash his hands before dinner. But the Lord said to him, “So then, you Pharisees, you clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside yourselves you are full of greed and evil. Fools! He who made the outside, also made the inside. But according to you, by the mere giving of alms everything is made clean.

Our Protestant brethren like to focus their attention on all the passages from the apostle Paul’s letters which state in one way or another that only faith can save us, not works. Here is such a paragraph: “What occasion is there then for boasting? It is ruled out. On what principle, that of works? No, rather on the principle of faith” (Rom 3:27). From such texts Reformers like Luther extrapolated their famous Sola Fides: only faith can save. To this undue extrapolation some critical remarks can be made. First, the expression “only faith” is not found in the Bible.

Second, the works that cannot save us are only the works of the Law (of Moses). We, Catholics, agree totally on that. But we say that, in order to be saved we still need to perform the works of faith. This is alluded to in today’s first reading when Paul speaks of “faith working through love.” Third, the Letter of James emphasizes this point very much: “Faith without works is dead” (Jas 2:26). Fourth, at the Last Judgment (Mt 25:31-46), we shall be judged on our works, not our faith, since some of the saved do not recognize who their Judge is (Mt 25:37-39)

October 12th

1st Reading: Gal 5:18-25:
But when you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law. You know what comes from the flesh: fornication, impurity and shamelessness, idol worship and sorcery, hatred, jealousy and violence, anger, ambition, division, factions, and envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like. I again say to you what I have already said: those who do these things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy and peace, patience, understanding of others, kindness and fidelity, gentleness and self-control. For such things there is no law or punishment. Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its vices and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us live in a spiritual way.

Gospel: Lk 11:42-46:
A curse is on you, Pharisees! To the temple you give a tenth of all, including mint and rue and other herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. These ought to be practiced, without neglecting the other obligations. A curse is on you, Pharisees, for you love the best seats in the synagogues and to be greeted in the marketplace. A curse is on you, for you are like tombstones of the dead which can hardly be seen; people don’t notice them, and make themselves unclean by stepping on them.” Then a teacher of the law spoke up and said, “Master, when you speak like this, you insult us, too.” And Jesus answered, “A curse is on you also, teachers of the law. For you prepare unbearable burdens and load them on the people, while you yourselves do not move a finger to help them.

Let us imagine the following scenario. Two mothers each give birth to a blind baby. One of them sincerely believes that blindness is the worst thing that can happen to a human being and, therefore, out of misguided pity, is very much tempted to kill her baby (this is called “mercy killing” or euthanasia). But she refrains from killing her baby because of God’s commandment, “You shall not kill.” The other mother is extremely saddened by her baby’s blindness, but the thought of killing it never enters her mind. In fact, she would be horrified at such a thought.

Which mother really loves her child? In today’s first reading, the apostle Paul is trying to make a similar point. Those who are led by the law and nothing else obey it under constraint—and thus end up not really obeying it. Those who go beyond the law and obey the law not because it is the law but because they are moved by the love of God, then obey the law spontaneously and easily. They are interiorly moved (motivated comes from the same linguistic root) by the Holy Spirit, who gives them the inner energy to live out the law spontaneously and easily.

October 13th

1st Reading: Eph 1:1-10:
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God, to the saints in Ephesus, to you, who share Christian faith: receive grace and peace from God, our Father, and from Jesus, the Lord. Blessed be God, the Father of Christ Jesus our Lord, who, in Christ, has blessed us from heaven, with every spiritual blessing. God chose us, in Christ, before the creation of the world, to be holy, and without sin in his presence. From eternity he destined us, in love, to be his adopted sons and daughters, through Christ Jesus, thus fulfilling his free and generous will.

This goal suited him: that his loving-kindness, which he granted us in his beloved might finally receive all glory and praise. For, in Christ, we obtain freedom, sealed by his blood, and have the forgiveness of sins. In this, appears the greatness of his grace, which he lavished on us. In all wisdom and understanding, God has made known to us his mysterious design, in accordance with his loving-kindness, in Christ. In him, and under him, God wanted to unite, when the fullness of time had come, everything in heaven and on earth.

Gospel: Lk 11:47-54:
A curse is on you, for you build monuments to the prophets your ancestors killed. So you approve and agree with what your ancestors did. Is it not so? They got rid of the prophets, and you build monuments to them! For that reason the wisdom of God also said: I will send prophets and apostles and these people will kill and persecute some of them. But the present generation will have to answer for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was murdered between the altar and the Sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, the people of this time will have to answer for them all. A curse is on you, teachers of the law, for you have taken the key of knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you prevented others from entering.” As Jesus left that place, the teachers of the law and the Pharisees began to harass him, asking him endless questions, setting traps to catch him in something he might say.

One of the high points of a holiday like Thanksgiving Day or of a feast day like Christmas is when the extended family all gather together around the clan’s grandparents. When the latter see all their children and grandchildren united together in love and harmony, their joy knows no limit. And this is indeed the dream of all parents: to have their children gather around them in a circle of love. Well, God our Father has the same dream, as we learn from today’s first reading, where we hear Paul say: “In Christ and under Christ, God wanted to unite, when the fullness of time had come, everything in heaven and on earth.”

Yes, that is God’s dream. And, if we look back on human-kind’s evolution over the past ten thousand years or so, we see a progressive formation of bigger and bigger groups of humans gathered together: towns becoming cities, cities becoming nations, nations becoming empires, empires becoming the United Nations. And, parallel to this movement, inventions help to unite us: printing press, steamship, locomotive, telegraph, telephone, television, cellphone, etc. It looks like we will indeed eventually be united around Christ forever under the loving care of the Father…

October 14th

St. Callistus I

1st Reading: Eph 1:11-14:
By a decree of him, who disposes all things, according to his own plan and decision, we, the Jews, have been chosen and called, and we were awaiting the Messiah, for the praise of his glory. You, on hearing the word of truth, the gospel that saves you, have believed in him. And, as promised, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit, the first pledge of what we shall receive, on the way to our deliverance, as a people of God, for the praise of his glory.

Gospel: Lk 12:1-7:
Meanwhile, such a numerous crowd had gathered that they crushed one another. Then Jesus spoke to his disciples in this way, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered that will not be uncovered; or hidden, that will not be made known. Whatever you have said in darkness will be heard in daylight, and what you have whispered in hidden places, will be proclaimed from housetops. I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who put to death the body and, after that, can do no more. But I will tell you whom to fear: Fear the one who, after killing you, is able to throw you into hell. This one you must fear. Don’t you buy five sparrows for two pennies? Yet not one of them has been forgotten by God. Even the hairs of your head have been numbered. Don’t be afraid! Are you less worthy in the eyes of God than many sparrows?

The dictionary defines the word “plan” in this way: “a detailed scheme, method, etc., for attaining an objective” (Collins). Now in today’s first reading, the apostle Paul says that God “disposes all things according to his own plan and design.” Well, when they hear that God has a plan, a lot of Christians imagine that somewhere in the sky there is a detailed master plan of their lives and that their job is to discover what is in the master plan. And they agonize over what daily decisions they must make. These are wrong questions.

We must not think of God as wanting us to fit into some pre-made plan of his. We must think of him as a skillful dancer who constantly adjusts to our motions (decisions). God improvises in response to what we freely decide. The truth of the matter is that we are the ones who actually create God’s plan as we go along and follow our deepest aspirations. We are free agents. In most situations no one thing will please God, but many will. It is enough for us to listen to our inner attractions, to choose our greatest gladness. All masters of the Christian life agree on this.

October 15th

St. Teresa of Avila

1st Reading: Eph 1:15-23:
I have been told of your faith and your affection toward all the believers, so I always give thanks to God, remembering you in my prayers. May the God of Christ Jesus our Lord, the Father of glory, reveal himself to you, and give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation, that you may know him. May he enlighten your inner vision, that you may appreciate the things we hope for, since we were called by God. May you know how great is the inheritance, the glory, God sets apart for his saints; may you understand, with what extraordinary power, he acts in favor of us who believe.

He revealed his almighty power in Christ when he raised him from the dead, and had him sit at his right hand in heaven, far above all rule, power, authority, dominion, or any other supernatural force that could be named, not only in this world, but in the world to come as well. Thus has God put all things under the feet of Christ and set him above all things, as head of the church, which is his body, the fullness of him, who fills all in all.

Gospel: Lk 12:8-12:
I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before people, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. But the one who denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God. There will be pardon for the one who criticizes the Son of Man, but there will be no pardon for the one who slanders the Holy Spirit. When you are brought before the synagogues, and before governors and rulers, don’t worry about how you will defend yourself, or what to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you have to say.”

In the film “Francesco,” an episode showed the Holy Father Francis, then Archbishop of Argentina fondly called Padre Jorge, eating a meal with a family after celebrating mass in a slum area. In the course of the meal, he commented, “You’re sharing your food with us. That means you’re sharing your heart as well.” After he said this, the lady of the house started crying and left the table. The husband said she had been crying every night for two weeks already. Padre Jorge followed her, talked to her, and discovered that she aborted her baby. The words of Padre Jorge to her were heartwarming: “God is mercy. He knows you regret it from the bottom of your heart. I’m sure he’s forgiving you right now.”

God is mercy. God forgives. But why are sins against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven? Remember that the work of the Holy Spirit is to inspire, to open up the heart, and to dispose the person to God and to the values of God. It is possible for a person to refuse the Holy Spirit and his work. When this happens grace and enlightenment cannot penetrate. Unlike the lady in the story, this person will have no sense of regret, no sense of morals, and no sense of sin. It is not that God will not forgive; people like this will feel no need for it and thus, by their own will, they have brought condemnation upon themselves.