Bible Diary for September 19th – 25th
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1st Reading: Wis 2:12, 17-20:
Let us set a trap for the righteous, for he annoys us and opposes our way of life; he reproaches us for our breaches of the Law and accuses us of being false to our upbringing. Let us see the truth of what he says and find out what his end will be. If the righteous is a son of God, God will defend him and deliver him from his adversaries. Let us humble and torture him to prove his self-control and test his patience. When we have condemned him to a shameful death, we may test his words.
2nd Reading: Jas 3:16—4:3:
Wherever there is jealousy and ambition, you will also find discord and all that is evil. Instead, the wisdom that comes from above is pure and peace-loving. Persons with this wisdom show understanding and listen to advice; they are full of compassion and good works; they are impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow peace reap a harvest of justice. What causes these fights and quarrels among you? Is it not your cravings that make war within your own selves? When you long for something you cannot have, you kill for it and when you do not get what you desire, you squabble and fight. The fact is, you do not have what you want because you do not pray for it. You pray for something and you do not get it because you pray with the wrong motive of indulging your pleasures.
Gospel: Mk 9:30-37:
After leaving that place, they made their way through Galilee; but Jesus did not want people to know where he was because he was teaching his disciples. And he told them, “The Son of Man will be delivered into hands of men. They will kill him, but three days after he has been killed, he will rise.” The disciples, however, did not understand these words and they were afraid to ask him what he meant. They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, Jesus asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?”
But they did not answer because they had been arguing about who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve and said to them, “If someone wants to be first, let him be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child, placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around him he said to them, “Whoever welcomes a child such as this in my name, welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me, welcomes not me but the One who sent me.”
There are people who don’t want to understand especially if the truth is something that shakes their world. They would rather continue not knowing. Amidst this stubbornness, Jesus again patiently teaches His disciples on the true fate of the Messiah. But this time, by teaching them what true greatness means, that it is not all about position of power and authority but of humility and powerlessness, of meekness and gentleness as embodied by a child. Perhaps this is a gentler approach for the disciples to later on understand that saving others entails death to oneself, and ultimately giving oneself as a ransom for others even unto death.
The path that Jesus lays upon us is difficult. To enter the school of humility itself is already a great task. Perhaps it is worth noting my personal profile today and becoming aware of my own desires for power, authority and recognition and see whether its manifestations hamper my journey towards self-giving. A little mindfulness of how I behave when given power and authority will help a lot in my efforts to become like what Jesus wants me to be. Lord, break me and mend me back to the person that you want me to be today. Teach me Your way of humble service that I may cease to struggle trying to find a comfortable perch in the hierarchy of the world. May I be happy in my service and humble in my achievements. Amen.
Sts. Andrew Kim & Paul Chong and Companions
1st Reading: Ezr 1:1-6:
In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom, both by word of mouth and in writing: “Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: ‘All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Therefore, whoever among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him! Let everyone who has survived, in whatever place he may have dwelt, be assisted by the people of that place with silver, gold, goods, and cattle, together with free-will offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem.’”
Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin and the priests and Levites–everyone, that is, whom God had inspired to do so– prepared to go up to build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. All their neighbors gave them help in every way, with silver, gold, goods, and cattle, and with many precious gifts besides all their free-will offerings.
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.”
The purpose of the lamp is to shed light. That is what it is made for. The same thing is true for the word of Jesus. It is spoken for a purpose; that is, those who will hear it may be able to produce fruits to build God’s kingdom. It is thus in the interest of the hearers to listen very well to this fertile word of Jesus. For the quality of its produce depends on how one listens well. If it is received and kept in one’s heart and mind like Mary did, the word of Jesus will be the motivation of one’s speech and action. People who have dedicated their lives in following God’s word have never regretted. The saints and their testimonies showed us how fruitful they were and contented about it because they clung to Jesus’ word. We too will experience their bliss if we harden not our hearts when we hear His word.
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. 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 other sinners joined Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this they said to his disciples, “Why is it that your master eats with those 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.”
When Jesus is criticized by the Pharisees for consorting with publicans, those enemies of the nation, those traitors and collaborators of the detested Romans, Jesus does not defend them. No, on the contrary, he fully concurs with the Pharisees that the tax collectors are sinners in need of redemption. However, he insists, that is all the more reason for him to consort with them. If they are spiritually sick, as the Pharisees rightly maintain, then they need a spiritual doctor, and he is the spiritual doctor they need. Jesus concludes with the implicit question: Can you reproach a doctor for keeping company with the sick?
No, as Jesus states quite clearly: “I have come to call, not the self-righteous, but sinners.” Some Christians think their sins are what can keep Jesus away from them. The opposite is true. The greater the sinner, the more Jesus as doctor of the soul will keep pursuing them in order to save them. Let us never be afraid to approach Jesus, whatever our sins might be. His greatest joy is to forgive us and restore us to health. He’s a doctor; he loves to heal.
1st Reading: Ezra 9:5-9:
I remained seated and dismayed until the evening sacrifice; and then, at the time for the evening offering, I rose from my fasting, and with my clothes and mantle torn, I knelt down, spreading out my hands to Yahweh, my God. I said, “My God! I am ashamed and confused, my God, I do not dare raise my eyes to you for our sins have increased over our heads and our crimes reach up to the heavens. From the days of our ancestors to this day, our guilt has been great. We, our kings and priests have been given into the hands of foreign kings because of our crimes; we have been delivered to the sword, to captivity, to plunder, and put to shame as on this day.
However, for a brief moment, the mercy of Yahweh, our God, has been shown to us. He made a remnant of our people survive, and allowed the survivor to settle once again in his Holy Place; he has given us joy and life, though we are in bondage. We are no more than slaves, but in the midst of our slavery, God has not abandoned us, he has extended a merciful hand over us to support us before the kings of Persia. He has revived our life, enabled us to rebuild the House of our God, and to have walls in Jerusalem and in the other cities of Judah.
Gospel: Lk 9:1-6:
Then Jesus called his twelve disciples and gave them power and authority to drive out all evil spirits and to heal diseases. And he sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He instructed them, “Don’t take anything for the journey, neither staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor silver coins; and don’t even take a spare tunic. Whatever house you enter, remain there until you leave that place. And wherever they don’t welcome you, leave the town and shake the dust from your feet: it will be as a testimony against them.” So they set out and went through the villages, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.
Today’s gospel reading is highly revealing. It reveals both what kind of man Jesus was and what kind of Church he wants us to be. For he sends his disciples on a missionary tour, yet does not tell them to perform religious activities! Their mission is not about teaching the Our Father, for example, or explaining new truths about God, or organizing prayer meetings. Their mission is to help people in their basic needs as human beings, above all, in curing their diseases.
In this connection, it is remarkable that according to Jesus’ solemn teaching (cf. Mt 25:31-46), when they appear before the glorious Christ for the Last Judgment, people will be judged neither on the basis of their religious beliefs nor of their religious practices nor of their degree of faith. They will be judged on whether or not they have fed, housed, clothed, healed or consoled their neighbor in need. In the other words of James, “In the sight of God, pure and blameless religion lies in helping the orphans and widows in need and keeping oneself from the world’s corruption” (Jas 1:27). In other words, Christianity is not just limited to piety and prayer, but has a lot to do with service and help given to anybody in need.
St. Pio of Pietrelcina
1st Reading: Hg 1:1-8:
In the second year of the reign of Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, a word of Yahweh was directed to the prophet Haggai for the benefit of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. “So says Yahweh of Hosts: This people claim that the time to rebuild the House of Yahweh has not yet come. Well now, hear what I have to say through the prophet Haggai: Is this the time for you to live in your well-built houses while this House is a heap of ruins?
Think about your ways: you have sown much but harvested little, you eat and drink but are not satisfied, you clothe yourselves but still feel cold, and the laborer puts the money he earned in a tattered purse. Now think about what you must do: go to the mountain and look for wood to rebuild the House. This will make me happy and I will feel deeply honored, says Yahweh.
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.
It is said in today’s gospel reading that King Herod “was very curious to see him (Jesus).” Now exactly the same words are applied to another man, to Zaccheus, the chief tax collector of Jericho. Yet, in the actual unfolding of subsequent events, the fate of these two men turns out to be quite different. Let us first consider Herod. When he comes face to face with Jesus, he rejoices. Finally, his curiosity will be satisfied! Curiosity about what? Luke tells us plainly what Herod was curious about: “He had been hoping to see Jesus perform some miracle” (Lk 23:8). In other words, Herod was in no way seeking God.
He was hoping to be entertained by some religious fireworks. Now let us consider Zaccheus. When he comes face to face with Jesus, he undergoes a deep conversion. Zaccheus, it seems, was already tempted to change his ways, but did not know how to go about it. He was not seeking to be entertained, he was seeking God. We can become interested in religion because of its pageantry, colorful rituals, quaint customs. Such curiosity is worthless. The only worthwhile curiosity is the desire to find God—at all costs. That curiosity is always satisfied sooner or later.
1st Reading: Hg 2:1-9:
On the twenty-first day of the seventh month of the second year of the reign of Darius, this word of Yahweh was sent through the prophet Haggai, “Give this message to Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, and to Joshua, the high priest, and to all the people: Is there left among you one of those who saw this house long ago in the time of its glory? What do they think of what they see now? Is it not a very little thing? But I say to you, Zerubbabel, Joshua and my people: do not be discouraged.
“Begin to work, for I am with you, says Yahweh. Do not be afraid, for my spirit is in your midst. Thus says Yahweh of Hosts, within a short while I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the continents. Then I will shake all the nations and bring in the treasures of the whole world. I will fill this House with glory, says Yahweh. I will have as much silver and gold as I wish. The renown of this Temple will be greater than before, and in this place I will give peace,” says Yahweh of Hosts.
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.”
When Peter tells Jesus that he is the Christ, Peter is stating in other words that apart from Jesus no other Messiah is to be expected. Does our own faith sufficiently say to the world that Christ has come, that we should no longer expect another one? Without being aware of it, are we not often expecting the coming of someone (political or religious leader) who will usher in a golden age for the whole world, who will abolish taxes, double salaries, rebuild everything new, make religion easy, eliminate all suffering?
But such dreams are dangerous, for they make ordinary life heavier instead of giving us the courage to transform it. The Messiah did not want to transform the world in a moment, like a magician, letting us play the role of passive spectators looking on agape. He has wanted to enter completely in the suffering of the world, bear our sicknesses, our sorrows, our crimes. And he invites us to actively become other Messiahs like him, by giving our lives for our brothers and sisters. This is for us the only way by which we can transform the world around us.
1st Reading: Zec 2:5-9, 14-15a:
Raising my eyes again, I saw a man with a measuring line in his hand. I asked, “Where are you going?” He answered, “I’m going to measure Jerusalem, to find its width and its length.” As the angel who spoke to me came forward, another angel met him and said, “Run and tell this to that young man: ‘Jerusalem will remain unwalled because of its multitude of people and livestock.’ For this is the word of Yahweh: I myself will be around her like a wall of fire, and also within her in glory. “Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for I am about to come, I shall dwell among you,” says Yahweh. “On that day, many nations will join Yahweh and be my people, but my dwelling is among you.”
Gospel: Lk 9:43b-45:
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 delivered into human hands.” 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.
Someone said that there are two things we cannot stare at: the sun and death. In today’s gospel episode, we seem to have something in that line. Jesus announces openly his impending death. But his disciples understand nothing of what he is talking about and, more significantly, “were afraid,” in the words of the text, “to ask him about it.” One has the impression, upon reading this account of the incident, that the disciples did not want to hear anything more on the topic of death. Looking at death was too painful for them.
In this connection it is interesting (almost amusing) how people studiously avoid the direct mention of death and have recourse to a panoply of euphemisms: “he passed away,” “my late husband,” “our deceased daughter,” “our departed ones,” “he left us three years ago,” etc. When suffering comes to us, either for our loved ones or for ourselves, shall we look the other way, as the disciples were doing, or shall we have the courage to look suffering straight in the eye? The contemplation of the crucifix and of our crucified Lord should help us find that courage.