Bible Diary for September 11th – September 17th

September 11th

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

1st Reading: Ex 32:7-11, 13-14:
Then Yahweh said to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have quickly turned from the way I commanded them and have made for themselves a molten calf; they have bowed down before it and sacrificed to it and said: ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you out of Egypt.’” And Yahweh said to Moses “I see that these people are a stiff-necked people. Now just leave me that my anger may blaze against them. I will destroy them, but of you I will make a great nation.”

But Moses calmed the anger of Yahweh, his God, and said, “Why, O Yahweh, should your anger burst against your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with such great power and with a mighty hand? Remember your servants, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the promise you yourself swore: I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land I spoke about I will give to them as an everlasting inheritance.” Yahweh then changed his mind and would not yet harm his people.

2nd Reading: 1 Tim 1:12-17:
I give thanks to Christ Jesus, our Lord, who is my strength, who has considered me trustworthy, and appointed me to his service, although I had been a blasphemer, a persecutor and a fanatical enemy. However, he took mercy on me, because I did not know what I was doing when I opposed the faith; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, together with faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. This saying is true and worthy of belief: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first. Because of that, I was forgiven; Christ Jesus wanted to display his utmost patience, so that I might be an example for all who are to believe, and obtain eternal life. To the King of ages, the only God, who lives beyond every perishable and visible creation—to him, be honor and glory forever. Amen!

Gospel: Lk 15:1-32 (or 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. … 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.” Jesus continued, “There was a man with two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Give me my share of the estate.’ So the father divided his property between them. Some days later, the younger son gathered all his belongings and started off for a distant land, where he squandered his wealth in loose living. Having spent everything, he was hard pressed when a severe famine broke out in that land.

So he hired himself out to a well-to-do citizen of that place, and was sent to work on a pig farm. So famished was he, that he longed to fill his stomach even with the food given to the pigs, but no one offered him anything. Finally coming to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will get up and go back to my father, and say to him, Father, I have sinned against God, and before you. I no longer deserve to be called your son. Treat me then as one of your hired servants.’ With that thought in mind, he set off for his father’s house. He was still a long way off, when his father caught sight of him.

His father was so deeply moved with compassion that he ran out to meet him, threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. The son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ But the father turned to his servants: ‘Quick!’ he said. ‘Bring out the finest robe and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! Take the fattened calf and kill it! We shall celebrate and have a feast, for this son of mine was dead, and has come back to life; he was lost, and is found!’ And the celebration began.

Today’s gospel reading contains a parable which is usually known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son, “prodigal” meaning here: lavish, extravagant. But this title is a misnomer for two reasons. First, it is not the young wastrel who is the real central figure of the parable, it is the father. His generosity and love for both his sons are so extravagant that many experts entitle this parable the Parable of the Prodigal Father. One of the details of the parable which illustrates the father’s unimaginable kindness is that he meekly consents to the request of the younger son: “Give me my share of the estate.” This request is unheard of.

It amounts to saying: “I cannot wait for you to die.” Said to a Father still in good health, this request is a stinging insult and is universally condemned in the Near East. Yet, instead of cursing his son and disowning him, he does as his son suggests. And he is sure that, by giving his son his share of the estate, the young man will use it to go away. The old man respects his son’s decision. God respects our freedom to the extent that we can use it to turn our backs on him. Let us ask from God the grace of never again turning our backs on him. Today we will try to tactfully induce someone to return to the Christian fold.

September 12th

Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary

1st Reading: 1 Cor 11:17-26, 33:
To continue with my advice, I cannot praise you, for your gatherings are not for the better but for the worse. First, as I have heard, when you gather together, there are divisions among you and I partly believe it. There may have to be different groups among you, so that it becomes clear who among you are genuine. Your gatherings are no longer the Supper of the Lord, for each one eats at once, his own food, and, while one is hungry, the other is getting drunk. Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or perhaps you despise the Church of God and desire to humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say? Shall I praise you? For this I cannot praise you.

This is the tradition of the Lord that I received, and, that, in my turn, I have handed on to you; the Lord Jesus, on the night that he was delivered up, took bread and, after giving thanks, broke it, saying, “This is my body which is broken for you; do this in memory of me.” In the same manner, taking the cup after the supper, he said, “This cup is the new Covenant, in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do it in memory of me.” So, then, whenever you eat of this bread and drink from this cup, you are proclaiming the death of the Lord, until he comes. So then, brothers, when you gather for a meal, wait for one another.

Gospel: Lk 7:1-10:
When Jesus had finished teaching the people, he went to Capernaum. A Roman military officer lived there, whose servant was very sick and near to death, a man very dear to him. So when he heard about Jesus, he sent some elders of the Jews to persuade him to come and save his servant’s life. The elders came to Jesus and begged him earnestly, saying, “He deserves this of you, for he loves our people and even built a synagogue for us.” Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house, when the Roman officer sent friends to give this message,

“Sir, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to welcome you under my roof. You see, I didn’t approach you myself. Just give the order, and my servant will be healed. For I myself, a junior officer, give orders to my soldiers, and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes; and to the other, ‘Come!’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” On hearing these words, Jesus was filled with admiration. He turned and said to the people with him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” The people, sent by the captain, went back to his house; there they found that the servant was well.

Today’s gospel reading presents us with a truly good man. Four details in the text show this. First, although he is a Roman military officer and, therefore, a person of high social standing, he loves one of his old menservants very much. You would not expect this kind of affection reaching out across social lines. Our officer is no snob and has an affectionate heart. Second, this kind heart of his inspired him at one time to have a local synagogue built at his own expense. Yet, this is not the gesture of a pious Jew. Our man is a pagan.

But he has come to respect the stark monotheism of the Jews. Third, he respects Jesus’ so much that he does not dare address him in person. Instead he asks the Jewish leaders to plead his cause and then he sends friends of his to represent him before Jesus. Fourth, he has an implicit faith that Jesus’ word is enough to heal his servant at a distance. Just as his own orders are obeyed because he stands in a great chain of command reaching to the Emperor. Likewise, he reasons, Jesus is backed by God’s infinite power and can perform any miracle. Many pagans of our time are like our hero.

September 13th

St. John Chrysostom

1st Reading: 1 Cor 12:12-14, 27-31a:
As the body is one, having many members, and all the members, while being many, form one body, so it is with Christ. All of us, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, have been baptized in one Spirit, to form one body, and all of us have been given, to drink from the one Spirit. The body has not just one member, but many. Now, you are the body of Christ, and each of you, individually, is a member of it. So God has appointed us in the Church. First apostles, second prophets, third teachers. Then come miracles, then the gift of healing, material help, administration in the Church and the gift of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Can all perform miracles, or cure the sick, or speak in tongues, or explain what was said in tongues? Be that as it may, set your hearts on the most precious gifts, and I will show you a much better way.

Gospel: Lk 7:11-17:
A little later, Jesus went to a town called Naim. He was accompanied by his disciples and a great number of people. As he reached the gate of the town, a dead man was being carried out. He was the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; there followed a large crowd of townspeople. On seeing her, the Lord had pity on her and said, “Don’t cry.” Then he came up and touched the stretcher, and the men who carried it stopped. Jesus then said, “Young man, I say to you, wake up!” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. A holy fear came over them all, and they praised God saying, “A great prophet has appeared among us. God has visited his people.” This news spread throughout Judea and the surrounding places.

It is strange how much our past experiences condition us and attune us to sympathize with people whose present experiences reflect our own past. In the case of Jesus, let us consider just two things: he was an only son and, as far as we can tell, his mother Mary was a widow for many long years. Well, in today’s gospel reading we see Jesus do something he very rarely does: he takes the initiative of performing a miracle, and not just an ordinary miracle, but nothing less than the raising of a dead man. Why this special treatment? Here we are left to our own speculations.

But we might speculate along the following lines. Jesus sees in this only son and his widowed mother an echo of his own past life situation in Nazareth, when he lived as the only son of his widowed mother. And such a close similarity of situation touches his heart so much that he decides to help the desolate widow and her dead son. Jesus performed many of his miracles out of sheer compassion. He has not changed. We should appeal to his compassionate heart without any fear of rejection.

September 14th

Triumph of the Holy Cross

1st Reading: Num 21:4b-9:
The people were discouraged by the journey and began to complain against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is neither bread nor water here and we are disgusted with this tasteless manna.” Yahweh then sent fiery serpents against them. They bit the people and many of the Israelites died. Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, speaking against Yahweh and against you. Plead with Yahweh to take the serpents away.” Moses pleaded for the people and Yahweh said to him, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a standard; whoever has been bitten and then looks at it shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a standard. Whenever a man was bitten, he looked towards the bronze serpent and he lived.

2nd Reading: Phil 2:6-11:
Though he was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking on the nature of a servant, made in human likeness, and, in his appearance, found, as a man, He humbled himself by being obedient, to death, death on the cross. That is why God exalted him and gave him the name which outshines all names, so, that, at the name of Jesus all knees should bend in heaven, on earth and among the dead, and all tongues proclaim, that Christ Jesus is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Gospel: Jn 3:13-17:
No one has ever gone up to heaven except the one who came from heaven, the Son of Man. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. Yes, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world; instead, through him the world is to be saved.

The core stuff of the world is love; each of its component parts bears the pure, creative love of God. And since the world is created through the love of God, it can only be saved or “recreated” through the same love. But the way God has taken is costly. The price of loving and saving the world is his only Son. Jesus has become the fullest expression of God’s saving love. God’s pure love is made known and felt in many concrete ways through Jesus. There is no other way except by assuming a human form that this love may be communicated to humanity and the whole world.

We need to experience the love of God in Jesus so that we ourselves will know how to love. Jesus is our model for loving others. By experiencing the love of God, we come to know how we can become agents of this love. Love takes possession of us so that God may continue saving and loving the world. This means that we, the people of God, are Christ’s co-worker. It is now through us, by the power of the Spirit, that his saving plan continues.

September 15th

Our Lady of Sorrows

1st Reading: 1 Cor 15:1-11:
Let me remind you, brothers and sisters, of the Good News that I preached to you, and which you received, and on which, you stand firm. By that gospel, you are saved, provided that you hold to it, as I preached it. Otherwise, you will have believed in vain. In the first place, I have passed on to you what I, myself, received: that Christ died for our sins, as Scripture says; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas and then to the Twelve.

Afterward, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters together; most of them are still alive, although some have already gone to rest. Then he appeared to James, and after that, to all the apostles. And last of all, he appeared to the most despicable of them, this is, to me. For I am the last of the apostles, and I do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. Nevertheless, by the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been without fruit. Far from it, I have toiled more than all of them, although, not I, rather the grace of God, in me. Now, whether it was I or they, this, we preach, and this, you have believed.

Gospel: Lk 2:33-35 (or Jn 19:25-27):
His father and mother wondered at what was said about the child. Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary, his mother, “Know this: your son is a sign; a sign established for the falling and rising of many in Israel, a sign of contradiction; and a sword will pierce your own soul, so that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”

In the realm of music, a person who has perfect pitch is a person who can recognize and name any note or group of notes with absolute certainty, as if the person had a built –in tuning fork in his or her head. It is a great gift to have perfect pitch, but it is also a great source of frustration and suffering, for then the person having it detects the slightest sound out of tune or false note. Spiritually speaking, Mary was endowed with perfect pitch, being completely attuned to God.

And this is difficult, nay, impossible for us to imagine, let alone understand. But the downside of this was that she suffered acutely when she came in contact with sin, hate, pettiness, pride, etc. And so, during the public life of Jesus, as she witnessed the mounting opposition of his enemies and could already anticipate how it would all end, in anticipation she suffered the Cross more than we will ever be able to imagine. As Simeon predicted when the child Jesus was presented in the Temple, “and you yourself a sword will pierce” (Lk 2:35). Today we are remembering that Mary, too, was crucified in her own way.

September 16th

Sts. Cornelius and Cyprian

1st Reading: 1 Cor 15:12-20:
Well, then, if Christ is preached as risen from the dead, how can some of you say, that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is empty, and our belief comes to nothing. And we become false witnesses of God, attesting that he raised Christ, whereas he could not raise him, if indeed, the dead are not raised. If the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith gives you nothing, and you are still in sin. Also, those who fall asleep, in Christ, are lost. If it is only for this life, that we hope in Christ, we are the most unfortunate of all people. But no, Christ has been raised from the dead, and he comes before all those who have fallen asleep.

Gospel: Lk 8:1-3:
Jesus walked through towns and countryside, preaching and giving the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve followed him, and also some women, who had been healed of evil spirits and diseases: Mary called Magdalene, who had been freed of seven demons; Joanna, wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward; Suzanna; and others, who provided for them out of their own funds.

At the time of Jesus and in 1st century Palestine, women had no public voice, no public role, and no rights as free persons. Rabbis had a low opinion of women and saw them essentially as temptresses (Eve tempted Adam to eat of the forbidden fruit). Hence the need for men to keep aloof of women, never talk or be seen with them in public. In the synagogues, they were separated from men and screened off so as to remain invisible. Against this cultural background we see Jesus treating women in a completely different way.

He talks to them in public (cf. the episode of the Samaritan woman), to the astonishment of his disciples (Jn 4:27). He accepts them as disciples, as we see in today’s gospel reading, what no Jewish rabbi would ever have done. He would have made them apostles, surely, but no one would have accepted to listen to them, so he had to stop short of doing that. But he did appear to women first, after the Resurrection. Clearly, Jesus thought that women were just as important as men. And, if we are true followers of his, we will think so too.

September 17th

St. Robert Bellarmine

1st Reading: 1 Cor 15:35-37, 42-49:
Some of you will ask: How will the dead be raised? With what kind of body will they come? You fools! What you sow cannot sprout unless it dies. … It is the same with the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in decomposition; it will be raised never more to die. It is sown in humiliation, and it will be raised for glory. … For there shall be a spiritual body, as there is, at present, a living body. … The spirit does not appear first, but the natural life, and afterward comes the spirit. … This is why, after bearing the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one.

Gospel: Lk 8:4-15:
As a great crowd gathered, and people came to him from every town, Jesus began teaching them with a story: “The sower went out to sow the seed. And as he sowed, some of the seed fell along the way, was trodden on, and the birds of the sky ate it up. Some seed fell on rocky ground; and no sooner had it come up than it withered, because it had no water. Some seed fell among thorns; the thorns grew up with the seed and choked it. But some seed fell on good soil and grew, producing fruit, a hundred times as much!” And Jesus cried out, “Listen then, if you have ears to hear!”

The disciples asked him, “What does this story mean?” And Jesus answered, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God. But to others it is given in the form of stories, or parables, so that, seeing, they may not perceive; and hearing, they may not understand. Now, this is the point of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the wayside are people who hear it; but immediately, the devil comes and takes the word from their minds, for he doesn’t want them to believe and be saved.

Those on the rocky ground are people who receive the word with joy; but they have no root; they believe for a while, and give way in time of trial. Among the thorns are people who hear the word, but, as they go their way, they are choked by worries, riches, and the pleasures of life; they bring no fruit to maturity. The good soil, instead, are people who receive the word, and keep it, in a gentle and generous mind, and, persevering patiently, they bear fruit.

In today’s gospel reading we hear Jesus telling the crowd the parable of the Sower and then explaining this parable privately to his disciples. According to him, there are four categories of people when it comes to listening to God’s word. The first three categories receive that word but do not bear fruit for various reasons. One of these is given as being “the riches and the pleasures of life.” Now how does this work out in many cases? In the first place, let us be clear about one thing: there is nothing wrong with being rich or with enjoying life.

A lot of people are excellent Christians, while being rich or while enjoying life. However, they will tell you that they have to be extra careful, especially with the use of their time, because when you have a lot of money, you tend to forget that God is more important than your millions, your stocks and bonds and your money investments. Likewise, when you spend a lot of time watching television or playing cards or drinking with your buddies. These things—all good things—tend to crowd out God from your life, if you let them. So, let us be vigilant in this area of money and pleasure.