Bible Diary for September 18th – September 24th

September 18th

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

1st Reading: Am 8:4-7:
Hear this, you, who trample on the needy, to do away with the weak of the land. You who say, “When will the new moon or the Sabbath feast be over that we may open the store and sell our grain? Let us lower the measure and raise the price; let us cheat and tamper with the scales, and even sell the refuse with the whole grain. We will buy up the poor for money and the needy for a pair of sandals.” Yahweh, the pride of Jacob, has sworn by himself, “I shall never forget their deeds.”

2nd Reading: 1 Tim 2:1-8:
First of all, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving 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 16:1-13:
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. 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 parable contained in today’s gospel reading is entitled the Parable of the Dishonest Manager and, because of this title, it is often misunderstood. Here are some reflections on the matter. First of all, in Palestine agents representing their boss paid themselves their commissions by including these commissions (often usurious) in their boss’ bills. In the parable, the agent is called dishonest because he squandered his boss’ property, as we learn in the first sentence of the parable, and not because of what he does when he learns that he is fired.

What he does, then, is merely to give up his own usurious commissions as an agent and to have the debtors write new I.O.U.s that reflect only the real amount due (i.e. minus the agent’s commissions). He does this to ingratiate himself to the debtors because he knows that he will soon be in need of a new job. This parable, then, teaches how to use material goods wisely when faced with as imminent crisis, such as sudden death and the Last Judgment. Someone said that the gospel has more to do with our pocketbooks that with our prayerbooks. Amos in the first reading and Jesus in the third reading couldn’t agree more… Let us pray that the Lord may detach us from material things and instead attach us to him. Today we will reflect on our attitude towards money.

September 19th

St. Januarius

1st Reading: Pro 3:27-34:
Do not hold back from those who ask your help, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, “Go away! Come another time; tomorrow I will give it to you!” when you can help him now. Do not plot evil against your neighbor who lives trustingly beside you, nor fight a man without cause when he has done you no wrong. Do not envy the man of violence or follow his example. For Yahweh hates the wicked but guides the honest. He curses the house of the evildoer but blesses the home of the upright. If there are mockers, he mocks them in turn but he shows his favor to the humble. The wise will possess his glory while the foolish will inherit disgrace.

Gospel: Lk 8:16-18:
No one, after lighting a lamp, covers it with a bowl or puts it under the bed; rather, he puts it on a lamp stand, so that people coming in may see the light. In the same way, there is nothing hidden that shall not be uncovered; nothing kept secret, that shall not be known clearly. Now, pay attention and listen well, for whoever produces, will be given more; but from those who do not produce, even what they seem to have will be taken away from them.”

In the constitution of many countries, we find various provisions stating that Church and State must remain separate. This means that the State does not promote a particular Church as representing it, as we find in some countries (England, Malta, Denmark, Costa Rica, etc.) This does not mean that the affairs of the State have to be separated from God or religion, as many people falsely surmise. Such people think that their religion must remain within the four walls of their home or of their church, and must not be expressed publicly in any manner.

Some other people go further and claim that any mention of God should be banned from public discourse. In today’s gospel reading Jesus declares that a lamp is made to shine as widely as possible. And, in a similar passage found in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus applies this idea to Christians: “Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt 5:16). This is a clear warning against timidly confining our beliefs to the private sphere. If we really believe that Christ provides the solution to the world’s problems, then we should share this tremendous Good News with the whole world.

September 20th

Sts. Andrew Kim & Paul Chong and Companions

1st Reading: Pro 21:1-6, 10-13:
In the hands of Yahweh, the heart of the king is like running water; he directs it wherever he wishes. To the eyes of man all his ways are honest but it is Yahweh who weighs the heart. To do what is upright and just pleases Yahweh more than sacrifice. Haughty looks, proud heart, the light of the wicked is sin. The plans of a hardworking man result in earnings; poverty is for those who act too hastily.

To make a fortune by means of deceit is like running after the wind; the end is death. The soul of the wicked desires nothing but evil; not even his friend is treated with compassion. When the mocker is punished the ignorant man grows wise; when the wise man is instructed he grows in knowledge. The Just One watches the house of the evildoer and hurls the wicked into misfortune. He who is deaf to the poor man’s cry will not be heard when he himself calls out.

Gospel: Lk 8:19-21:
Then his mother and his relatives came to him; but they could not get to him because of the crowd. Someone told him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside and wish to meet you.” Then Jesus answered, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”

Upon hearing the last sentence of today’s gospel reading (“my mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it”), some people might think that Jesus is somehow distancing himself from Mary, his physical mother. But nothing could be further from the truth, and that is certainly not the intention of the evangelist Luke from whose gospel this statement is taken. Because the same Luke, at the very beginning of his gospel, has presented Mary as a model of availability to God’s word when, upon the annunciation by the angel Gabriel, she reacts by saying: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).

In fact, we could say that, in a sense, Jesus is drawing our attention away from the physical maternity of Mary to her much more intimate kinship with him through her perfect obedience to God’s will. As the Church Fathers like to repeat: “Before conceiving Jesus in her womb, Mary conceived him in her heart.” Words do not cost much and so do not mean much. One action is worth a thousand words.

September 21st

St. Matthew

1st Reading: Eph 4:1-7, 11-13:
Therefore, I, the prisoner of Christ, invite you, to live the vocation you have received. Be humble, kind, patient, and bear with one another in love. Make every effort to keep, among you, the unity of spirit, through bonds of peace. Let there be one body, and one Spirit, just as one hope is the goal of your calling by God. One Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God, the Father of all, who is above all, and works through all, and is in all. But to each of us, divine grace is given, according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Therefore, it is said: When he ascended to the heights, he brought captives and gave his gifts to people. As for his gifts, to some, he gave to be apostles; to others, prophets, or even evangelists; or pastors and teachers. So, he prepared those who belong to him, for the ministry, in order to build up the Body of Christ, until we are all united, in the same faith and knowledge of the Son of God. Thus, we shall become the perfect Man, upon reaching maturity, and sharing the fullness of Christ.

Gospel: Mt 9:9-13:
As Jesus moved on from there, he saw a man named Matthew, at his seat in the custom-house; and he said to him, “Follow me!” And Matthew got up and followed him. Now it happened, while Jesus was at table in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners joined Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why is it, that your master eats with sinners and tax collectors?” When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people do not need a doctor, but sick people do. Go, and find out what this means: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

In a delightful French musical entitled “The Choristers,” an inspired music teacher forms a choir involving every student of his class—except for one boy, who cannot sing a note. The boy sadly thinks that the teacher will abandon him in a corner because of that. But the teacher protests: “Alone in a corner? Never! I need you to hold my musical score for me.” And that is what the boy did, to his ecstatic joy. He could be part of The Choristers— in his own way.

In today’s first reading Paul tells us that we are all gifted to serve the Church in some capacity or other. But in this connection some Christians are very uneasy because they think they have no special talent. However, that cannot be. God gave a special talent to each one of us. Three questions can help people discover their particular gift or talent: what do I really like doing? Am I good at it? Is there a need for it? Usually doing what one loves doing and excelling at it, go together. And so, it should not be difficult, by answering these simple questions, to discover your own personal gift to the world.

September 22nd

1st Reading: Eccl 1:2-11:
All is meaningless—says the Teacher—meaningless, meaningless! What profit is there for a man in all his work for which he toils under the sun? A generation goes, a generation comes and the earth remains forever. The sun rises, the sun sets, hastening towards the place where it again rises. Blowing to the south, turning to the north, the wind goes round and round and after all its rounds it has to blow again. All rivers go to the sea but the sea is not full; to the place where the rivers come from, there they return again.

All words become weary and speech comes to an end, but the eye has never seen enough nor the ear heard too much. What has happened before will happen again; what has been done before will be done again: there is nothing new under the sun. If they say to you, “See, it’s new!” know that it has already been centuries earlier. There is no remembrance of ancient people, and those to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.

Gospel: Lk 9:7-9:
King Herod heard of all this, and did not know what to think, for people said, “This is John, raised from the dead.” Others believed that Elijah, or one of the ancient prophets, had come back to life. As for Herod, he said, “I had John beheaded. Who is this man, about whom I hear such wonders?” And he was anxious to see him.

Today’s first reading is an excerpt from Ecclesiastes, also known as Qoheleth. Until Qoheleth was written (about 300 years before Christ), everyone in Israel agreed on three dogmas: there is no positive afterlife (everybody ends up in the dark Sheol), God is just, God rewards and punishes people in this life according to their deserts. The Book of Job is the only book which disputes this, because Job is a good man who suffers terribly.

However, the ending of the book (Job is given back twice of what he had lost) aligns it with the traditional doctrine of divine retribution in this life. And so, Qoheleth is the only author of the Old Testament who is honest and realist enough to say that people do not always get what they deserve. As he says: “I have seen all manner of things in my vain days: a just man perishing in his justice, and a wicked man surviving in his wickedness (Qo 7:15; see also 8:14; 9:2-3, 11). Things have not changed since the time of Qoheleth: good people still suffer bad things, bad people are the unworthy beneficiaries of good things. God’s justice will be meted out only after this life, not during it.

September 23rd

St. Pio of Pietrelcina

1st Reading: Eccl 3:1-11:
There is a given time for everything and a time for every happening under heaven: A time for giving birth, a time for dying; a time for planting, a time for uprooting. A time for killing, a time for healing; a time for knocking down, a time for building. A time for tears, a time for laughter; a time for mourning, a time for dancing. A time for throwing stones, a time for gathering stones; a time for embracing, a time to refrain from embracing.

A time for searching, a time for losing; a time for keeping, a time for throwing away. A time for tearing, a time for sewing; a time to be silent and a time to speak. A time for loving, a time for hating; a time for war, a time for peace. What profit is there for a man from all his toils? Finally I considered the task God gave to the humans. He made everything fitting in its time, but he also set eternity in their hearts, although they are not able to embrace the work of God from the beginning to the end.

Gospel: Lk 9:18-22:
One day, when Jesus was praying alone, not far from his disciples, he asked them, “What do people say about me?” And they answered, “Some say, that you are John the Baptist; others say, that you are Elijah; and still others, that you are one of the prophets of old, risen from the dead.” Again Jesus asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” Then Jesus spoke to them, giving them strict orders not to tell this to anyone. And he added, “The Son of Man must suffer many things. He will be rejected by the elders and chief priests and teachers of the law, and be put to death. Then after three days he will be raised to life.”

In today’s first reading, an excerpt from the Book of Ecclesiastes, we hear this wise man tell us that there is a time for everything and, among other things, “a time to be silent and a time to speak.” Perhaps we could reflect on this last statement. Silence is a condition of creativity, of deep prayer, of the attainment of wisdom. Silence is also needed to keep secrets told to us in confidence, to protect other people’s reputation, to keep oneself from indulging in petty quarrels, etc. But silence has limits. There are times when we must speak up.

One of them is surely when we must express our religious convictions, sometimes running great risks in the process, as in times of religious persecution, for example (cf. 2 Cor 4:13; Acts 4:20). Another instance when speaking is imperative when too much silence can ruin a marriage. Some marriages die simply from lack of communication. Another time to speak is to denounce wrongdoing. If I am a witness to a wrongdoing and do not protest against it, I become its accomplice because silence gives consent. We should not be silent when we witness, for example, child abuse, battered wives, bullying of any kind, vicious gossip, political tyranny, etc.

September 24th

1st Reading: Eccl 11:9–12:8:
Rejoice, young man, in your youth and direct well your heart when you are young; follow your desires and achieve your ambitions but recall that God will take account of all you do. Drive sorrow from your heart and pain from your flesh, for youth and dark hair will not last. Be mindful of your Creator when you are young, before the time of sorrow comes when you have to say, “This gives me no pleasure,” and before the sun, moon and stars withdraw their light, before the clouds gather again after the rain.

On the day when the guardians of the house tremble, when sturdy men are bowed and those at the mill stop working because they are too few, when it grows dim for those looking through the windows, and the doors are shut and the noise of the mill grows faint, the sparrow stops chirping and the bird-song is silenced, when one fears the slopes and to walk is frightening; yet the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper is fat and the caperberry bears fruit that serves no purpose, because man goes forward to his eternal home and mourners gather in the street, even before the silver chain is snapped or the golden globe is shattered, before the pitcher is broken at the fountain or the wheel at the mill, before the dust returns to the earth from which it came and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Meaningless! meaningless! the Teacher says; all is meaningless!

Gospel: Lk 9:43b-45:
But while all were amazed at everything Jesus did, he said to his disciples, “Listen, and remember what I tell you now: The Son of Man will be betrayed into the hands of men.” But the disciples didn’t understand this saying; something prevented them from grasping what he meant, and they were afraid to ask him about it.

One of the greatest pains that we can experience during our lifetime is the pain caused by a friend’s betrayal. And the pain is all the more acute that we have given that friend our full confidence and have shared with him all our secrets. By becoming a human being Jesus exposed himself to share all our human sufferings, and he suffered this particular form of suffering which was caused by the betrayal of his friend, Judas. It is revealing, in this connection, to note how many times in the gospels Jesus refers to this betrayal of Judas, without however revealing his name.

Surely, when Jesus chose Judas to be an apostle, he had no idea that Judas would turn against him. On the contrary, he saw a good deal of potential for good in Judas and opened his heart to him in total trust. Consequently, the latter’s betrayal must have caused Jesus, a man of exquisite sensitivity, a pain such as we can hardly imagine. Jesus made himself like us in all things but sin, as the Creeds say and, like us, he suffered from a soured relationship. Let us turn to him when we suffer in like manner, for he understands us.