Bible Diary for September 12th – 18th
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary
1st Reading: Is 50:5-9a:
The Lord Yahweh has opened my ear. I have not rebelled, nor have I withdrawn. I offered my back to those who strike me, my cheeks to those who pulled my beard; neither did I shield my face from blows, spittle and disgrace. I have not despaired, for the Lord Yahweh comes to my help. So, like a flint I set my face, knowing that I will not be disgraced. He who avenges me is near. Who then will accuse me? Let us confront each other. Who is now my accuser? Let him approach. If the Lord Yahweh is my help, who will condemn me?
2nd Reading: Jas 2:14-18:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, to profess faith without showing works? Such faith has no power to save you. If a brother or sister is in need of clothes or food and one of you says, “May things go well for you; be warm and satisfied,” without attending to their material needs, what good is that? So it is for faith without deeds: it is totally dead. Say to whoever challenges you, “You have faith and I have good deeds; show me your faith apart from actions and I, for my part, will show you my faith in the way I act.
Gospel: Mk 8:27-35:
Jesus set out with his disciples for the villages around Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” And they told him, “Some say you are John the Baptist; others say you are Elijah or one of the prophets. ”Then Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” And he ordered them not to tell anyone about him. Jesus then began to teach them that the Son of Man had to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law. He would be killed and after three days rise again.
Jesus said all this quite openly, so that Peter took him aside and began to protest strongly. But Jesus turning around, and looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter saying, “Get behind me Satan! You are thinking not as God does, but as people do. ”Then Jesus called the people and his disciples and said, “If you want to follow me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. For if you choose to save your life, you will lose it; and if you lose your life for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel, you will save it.
Feelings of love sometimes precede understanding because it is a feeling of tenderness and goodwill whose basis has yet to be fully grasped. Peter and the Twelve no doubt loved the Lord. It was easy to love Him especially as He was gaining a large following and His mission works were almost all a resounding success. But when Jesus pointed them to a possibility that He would undergo hardships and sufferings, fear crept into their love and they became uneasy. Why spoil a day when love oozes carelessly and spontaneously? And so Jesus had to teach them again what true love really meant.
It is not just about feelings. It is also about understanding that no matter the circumstances, true love remains steadfast and unwavering. Perhaps we need a time to reflect on the real basis of our love for people. It is good to be aware of our reasons for loving. Although some loves are unfathomable and remain obscure still the exercises of being mindful of our love would help clarify why we act that way when it comes to people or things we love. Lord, teach my heart steadfastness and truth when it loves. Make me mindful of those I profess to love so that I may care for them deeply and sincerely. Amen.
St. John Chrysostom
1st Reading: 1 Tim 2:1-8:
First of all, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanks giving be made for everyone, for rulers of states, and all in authority, that we may enjoy a quiet and peaceful life, in godliness and respect. This is good and pleases God. For he wants all to be saved, and come to the knowledge of truth. As there is one God, there is one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave his life for the redemption of all. This is the testimony, given in its proper time, and of this, God has made me apostle and herald. I am not lying, I am telling the truth: He made me teacher of the nations regarding faith and truth. I want the men, in every place, to lift pure hands, in prayer, to heaven, without anger and dissension.
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.
This captain is a remarkable man, indeed! Being a gentile as well as Roman official, it would be hard to win the praise of the Jewish elders. But the elders come and speak to Jesus in favor of the captain. They attest to his goodness, his love for Jewish people, and respect for the Jewish faith. Moreover, a captain must have matters of far more serious concern than the illness of one of his servants. But for this man, the wellbeing of his ward is a value, and hence, worth his time and effort.
But Jesus commends him for something far superior: for his deep faith. The captain recognizes the holiness and authority of Jesus. In deference to Christ‘s holiness, the captain refrains from coming in front of him. In recognition of Christ‘s authority, the captain knows that if Christ utters one word, the powers in the heavens, on earth, and under the earth will obey. This gentile‘s faith is so meritorious that his words have entered the Eucharistic liturgy. Every time we prepare to receive the Body and Blood of Christ in Communion, we make his prayer our own.
Exaltation 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 poisonous 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.
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus during a conversation with a friendly Jew called Nicodemus, draws a parallel between the episode of the bronze snake mentioned in today’s first reading and his own destiny. He emphasizes two features which are found in both sides of the comparison. First, the metal snake was lifted up on a pole, and he himself will one day be lifted up on the cross. Secondly, the bronze snake was a source of life: all those who looked at it were immunized against the venom of the live snakes; likewise, he too will be a source of life in this world and in the next for all those who will look up to him with faith.
The lesson to be drawn from all this is very simple. All of us are victims of sin. From the time when Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden gave in to the temptation of the satanic Snake, humankind has been poisoned by pride, greed, lust, envy, laziness, gluttony, and all the other forms of sin. In all of us the poison of sin is present and undermines our spiritual organism. And so, our only hope is to go to Jesus, our doctor and healer.
Our Lady of Sorrows
1st Reading: 1 Tm 3:14-16:
I give you these instructions, although I hope I will see you soon. If I delay, you will know how you ought to conduct yourself in the household of God, that is, the Church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth. How great indeed is the mystery of divine blessing! He was shown in the flesh and sanctified by the Spirit; presented to the angels and proclaimed to all nations. The world believed in him: He was taken up in glory!
Gospel: Lk 2:33-35:
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.“
How does the sword that pierces Mary‘s heart reveal thoughts of other hearts? Perhaps it is a prophetic reference to how our hearts reveal their biases and prejudices when faced with the sufferings of others, especially of those on the margins. When a woman was caught in adultery and shamed in public, didn‘t it reveal the dark thoughts of many (John 8:3-4)? In our own times, how do our hearts respond when we hear stories of women disenfranchised, neglected, raped, and killed? Or of children dying of hunger? Or of people with HIV-AIDS are cast away? Do our hearts reveal compassion and care? Or do they reveal indifference and apathy, or even sheer cruelty?
Sts. Cornelius and Cyprian
1st Reading: 1 Tm 4:12-16:
Let no one reproach you on account of your youth.Be a model to the believers in the way you speak andact, in your love, your faith and purity of life. Devote yourselfto reading, preaching and teaching, until I come.Do not neglect the spiritual gift conferred on youwith prophetic words when the elders laid their handsupon you. Think about it and practice it so that yourprogress may be seen by all. Take heed of yourself andattend to your teaching. Be steadfast in doing this andyou will save both yourself and your hearers.
Gospel: Lk 7:36-50:
One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to share his meal, so he went to the Pharisee’s home and as usual reclined at the table to eat. And it happened that a woman of this town, who was known as a sinner, heard that he was in the Pharisee’s house. She brought an alabaster jar of perfume and stood behind him at his feet, weeping. She wet his feet with tears, she dried them with her hair and kissed his feet and poured the perfume on them. The Pharisee who had invited Jesus was watching and thought, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what sort of person is touching him; isn’t this woman a sinner?”
Then Jesus spoke to the Pharisee and said, “Simon, I have something to ask you.” He answered, “Speak, master.” And Jesus said, “Two people were in debt to the same creditor. One owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other fifty. As they were unable to pay him back, he graciously canceled the debts of both. Now, which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, who was forgiven more.” And Jesus said, “You are right.”
And turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? You gave me no water for my feet when I entered your house, but she has washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You didn’t welcome me with a kiss, but she has not stopped kissing my feet since she came in. You provided no oil for my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. This is why, I tell you, her sins, her many sins, are forgiven, because of her great love. But the one who is forgiven little, has little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” The others reclining with him at the table began to wonder, “Now this man claims to forgive sins!” But Jesus again spoke to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace!”
“Your faith has saved you.” These words are strange conclusion to today’s gospel episode, which has dealt only with forgiveness and gratitude until now. And yet, Jesus is quite right. At the root of any conversion, there is an act of faith. In fact, the hardest thing about conversion is precisely this act of faith. Strictly speaking, it is not too difficult to see oneself as a sinner. With a modicum of lucidity, the fact leaps to the eye. To perceive oneself as spiritually leprous, despicable, unacceptable, can be a matter of sheer honesty. But after that, to believe that God can accept the unacceptable being that I am requires faith.
St. John knew this well, for he wrote: “As for us, we have acknowledged God’s love for us and we have believed in it” (1 Jn 4:16). Yes indeed, however strange this may seem, to accept being loved by God when one is unlovable requires a great deal of faith. The sinner of this gospel episode has made this gigantic leap into the void: However great a sinner she was, she believed that God could love her as she was. She believed that “God was greater than her heart” (1 Jn 3:20). That is why she is told at the end: “Go in peace.”
St. Robert Bellarmine
1st Reading: 1 Tim 6:2c-12:
Teach and stress these things. Who ever teaches in some other way, not following the sound teaching of our Lord Christ Jesus, and true religious instruction, is conceited, and understands nothing. This one is crazy about controversies and discussions, that result in envy, insults, blows and constant arguments between people of depraved minds, and far from the truth. For them, religion is merely for financial gain. In reality, religion is a treasure, if we are content with what we have. We brought nothing into the world and we will leave it with nothing. Let us, then, be content with having food and clothing. Those who strive to be rich fall into temptations and traps.
A lot of foolish and harmful ambitions plunge them into ruin and destruction. Indeed, the love of money is the root of every evil. Because of this greed, some have wandered away from the faith, bringing on themselves afflictions of every kind. But you, man of God, shun all this. Strive to be holy and godly. Live in faith and love, with endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith and win everlasting life, to which you were called, when you made the good profession of faith, in the presence of so many witnesses.
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 it was not uncommon for well-to-do ladies to financially support rabbis and their disciples out of their own property. But, as Dr. Ben Witherington, a specialist on the status of women in the New Testament, writes: “But for women to leave home and travel with a rabbi was not only unheard of, it was scandalous. Even more scandalous was the fact that women, both respectable and not, were among Jesus’ traveling companions” (ZNW 70 (1979) 244-5). Jesus was a Jew of his time, yet he did not accept the prejudices of his contemporaries with regard to women. Neither should we, as his disciples, accept the prejudices of our time with regard to women.
There is still a long way to go before women are treated as the equals of men in every sphere of human endeavor. As Pope John Paul II wrote in his Apostolic Letter to Women (June 29, 1995): “Thus far as personal rights are concerned, there is an urgent need to achieve real equality in every area: equal pay for equal work, protection for working mothers, fairness in career advancements, equality of spouses with regard to family rights and the recognition of everything that is part of the rights and duties of citizens in a democratic State.”
1st Reading: 1 Tim 6:13-16:
Now, in the presence of God, who gives life to allthings, and of Jesus Christ, who expressed beforePontius Pilate the authentic profession of faith:preserve the revealed message to all. Keep yourselfpure and blameless, until the glorious coming ofChrist Jesus, our Lord, who God will bring about atthe proper time; he, the magnificent sovereign, Kingof kings and Lord of lords. To him, alone, immortal,who lives in unapproachable light, and whom noone has ever seen or can see, to him, be honor andpower, for ever and ever. Amen!
Gospel: Lk 8:4-15:
As a great crowd gathered, and people cameto him from every town, Jesus began teaching themwith a story: “The sower went out to sow the seed.And as he sowed, some of the seed fell along theway, was trodden on, and the birds of the sky ate itup. Some seed fell on rocky ground; and no soonerhad it come up than it withered, because it had nowater. Some seed fell among thorns; the thorns grewup with the seed and choked it. But some seed fellon good soil and grew, producing fruit, a hundredtimes as much!”
And Jesus cried out, “Listen then, ifyou have ears to hear!”The disciples asked him, “What does this storymean?” And Jesus answered, “To you it has beengiven to know the mystery of the kingdom of God.But to others it is given in the form of stories, orparables, so that, seeing, they may not perceive; andhearing, they may not understand.Now, this is the point of the parable: The seedis the word of God. Those along the wayside arepeople who hear it, but immediately the devil comesand takes the word from their minds, for he doesn’twant them to believe and be saved.
Those on therocky ground are people who receive the word withjoy, but they have no root; they believe for a whileand give way in time of trial. Among the thorns arepeople who hear the word but as they go their way,are choked by worries, riches, and the pleasures oflife; they bring no fruit to maturity. The good soil,instead, are people who receive the word and keepit in a gentle and generous mind, and perseveringpatiently, they bear fruit.
In today’s gospel reading Jesus describes a category of people who, in his own words, “have no root.” Unfortunately, millions of people live and never go down into the solitude of their hearts. In times of crisis they fall apart, not having any roots, or they simply never understand what is the meaning of life. How, then, do we acquire roots? By doing what we don’t get into the habit of doing, namely, standing back and looking at our lives.
This is done when we introduce periods of silence into our lives. If we live only on the surface of our lives without growing roots in our depths, we are in danger of being carried away by the storms of life. We need silence, quiet reflection, private prayer in order to grow deeper roots in God. This requires much courage. But it is the secret for a fruitful life yielding a hundredfold. All the spiritual masters agree on this. And, whenever we encounter a person who is on fire with the love of God and neighbor, we notice that the roots of that person have struck deep into the soil of spiritual silence. Is there enough real silence in my life?