Bible Diary for September 1st – 7th

September 1st

1st Reading: Sir 3:17–18, 20, 28–29:
My son, conduct your affairs with discretion and you will be loved by those who are acceptable to God. The greater you are, the more you should humble yourself and thus you will find favor with God. For great is the power of the Lord and it is the humble who give him glory. For the sufferings of the proud man there is no remedy, the roots of evil are implanted in him. The wise man reflects on proverbs. What the wise man desires is an attentive ear.

2nd Reading: Heb 12:18-19, 22-24a:
What you have come to, is nothing known to the senses: nor heat of a blazing fire, darkness and gloom and storms, blasts of trumpets or such a voice that the people pleaded, that no further word be spoken. But you came near to Mount Zion, to the City of the living God, to the heavenly Jerusalem, with its innumerable angels. You have come to the solemn feast, the assembly of the firstborn of God, whose names are written in heaven. There is God, Judge of all, with the spirits of the upright, brought to perfection. There is Jesus, the mediator of the new Covenant, with the sprinkled blood that cries out more effectively than Abel’s.

Gospel: Lk 14:1, 7-14:                                  
One Sabbath Jesus had gone to eat a meal in the house of a leading Pharisee, and he was carefully watched. Jesus then told a parable to the guests, for he had noticed how they tried to take the places of honor. And he said, “When you are invited to a wedding party, do not choose the best seat. It may happen that someone more important than you has been invited, and your host, who invited both of you, will come and say to you: ‘Please give this per- son your place.’ What shame is yours when you take the lowest seat! “Whenever you are invited, go rather to the lowest seat, so that your host may come and say to you: ‘Friend, you must come up higher.’ And this will be a great honor for you in the presence of all the other guests.

For whoever makes himself out to be great will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be raised.” Jesus also addressed the man who had invited him and said, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, don’t invite your friends, or your brothers and relatives and wealthy neighbors. For surely they will also invite you in return and you will be repaid. When you give a feast, invite instead the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. Fortunate are you then, because they can’t repay you; you will be repaid at the Resurrection of the upright.”

Being humble takes on a special place in the reign of God. The humble person recognizes what his status and who she/he is before God. She/he recognizes God as the source of all and her/ his origin. She/he does not place God aside, but instead acknowledges his power and love. She/he does not usurp that which belongs primarily to God. For instance, the cook/ chef who is able to prepare delicious and nice-looking dish acknowledges where the ingredients come from and how they are produced. She/he does not claim sole credit for the dish.

(There are many other examples through which we can detect the presence or absence of humility in a person.) The humble person recognizes the goodness and giftedness of others. She/he does not look down on other people. She/ he sees them also capable of doing something great and worthwhile. She/he is free to associate with the poor and marginalized of the society. It does not bother her/him to be with them. Lord, grant us the grace to free ourselves (with) of pride and arrogance. And may we learn the humility of Jesus.

September 2nd

1st Reading: 1 Thes 4:13-18:
We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep. Indeed, we tell you this, on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep.

For the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, console one another with these words.

Gospel: Lk 4:16-30:
When Jesus came to Nazareth where he had been brought up, he entered the synagogue on the Sabbath as he usually did. He stood up to read and they handed him the book of the prophet Isaiah. Jesus then unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and new sight to the blind; to free the oppressed and announce the Lord’s year of mercy.” (…) Then he said to them, “Today these prophetic words come true even as you listen.” All agreed with him and were lost in wonder, while he kept on speaking of the grace of God.

Nevertheless they asked, “Who is this but Joseph’s son?” (…) Jesus added, “No prophet is honored in his own country. Truly, I say to you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens withheld rain for three years and six months and a great famine came over the whole land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow of Zarephath, in the country of Sidon. (…) On hearing these words, the whole assembly became indignant. They rose up and brought him out of the town, to the edge of the hill on which Nazareth is built, intending to throw him down the cliff. But he passed through their midst and went his way.

The gospel narrative today contains the programmatic statement of Jesus’ mission: to bring good news to the poor; to proclaim liberty to the captives; new sight to the blind; to free the oppress; and, to announce the Lord’s year of mercy. It defines what Jesus is all up to, that is, to defeat the power of sin and to liberate humanity and the natural world from its bondage. Jesus’ mission is striking sin and its attendant social, religious, economic, and political structures, to the core; and, it does it head on. The consequence is the cross.

The Church, whose mandate is to carry on Jesus’ saving mission, and Christians from all walks of life, who take the gospel message to heart, are at the forefront of the fight against social injustices, the destruction and plundering of the natural world. The struggle remains, and the end seems remote. But we are not wanting of women and men who committed their lives for the promotion, preservation and protection of human life and other forms of life. Furthermore, the Spirit continues to touch the human heart so that God’s creation might continue to flourish and find fulfilment.

September 3rd

St. Gregory the Great

1st Reading: 1 Thes 5:1-6, 9-11:
Concerning times and seasons, brothers and sisters, you have no need for anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night. When people are saying, “Peace and security,” then sudden disaster comes upon them, like labor pains upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness, for that day to overtake you like a thief. For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober. For God did not destine us for wrath, but to gain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live together with him. Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do.

Gospel: Lk 4:31-37:
Jesus went down to Capernaum, a town of Galilee, and began teaching the people at the Sabbath meetings. They were astonished at the way he taught them, for his word was spoken with authority. In the synagogue, there was a man possessed by an evil spirit, who shouted in a loud voice, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I recognize you: you are the Holy One of God.”

Then Jesus said to him sharply, “Be silent and leave this man!” The evil spirit then threw the man down in front of them, and came out of him without doing him harm. Amazement seized all these people, and they said to one another, “What does this mean? He commands the evil spirits with authority and power. He orders, and you see how they come out!” And news about Jesus spread throughout the surrounding area.

The desire for power and to accumulate possession, consumerist attitude and destructive behavior, chronic frustration, hatred and unforgiveness, hopelessness and defeatism, poor self-image, fear, jealousy, indifference, and the like—all these are a concrete manifestation of an evil power that has gotten hold of the human person. They control, manipulate, oppress, mislead, and stunt the individual. They are damaging, and their effects lasting. They stifle personal growth and well-being. Jesus’ program of actions is precisely aimed at conquering the evil power that pulls one into these predicaments, and at the same time intended at liberating the human person from their grip.

What can help break free from their grip? It is the love of God, made visible in Jesus, that flows through in life; and the conviction that his grace is sufficient for us and that his power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor 12:9). “The love of Jesus Christ . . . conquers sin and gives the strength to rise and begin again (Pope Francis). It frees us from sin. We may add: the love and tenderness, the concern and care, and the generosity and understanding, we experience with others are helpful to be freed from sin and its effects. And we can call them experiences of hope.

September 4th

1st Reading: Col 1:1-8:
Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,  to the holy ones and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae: grace to you and peace from God our Father. We always give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the holy ones because of the hope reserved for you in heaven.

Of this you have already heard through the word of truth, the Gospel, that has come to you. Just as in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing, so also among you, from the day you heard it and came to know the grace of God in truth, as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow slave, who is a trustworthy minister of Christ on your behalf and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

Gospel: Lk 4:38-44:
Leaving the synagogue, Jesus went to the house of Simon. His mother-in-law was suffering from high fever, and they asked him to do something for her. Bending over her, he rebuked the fever, and it left her. Immediately, she got up and waited on them. At sunset, people suffering from many kinds of sickness were brought to Jesus. Laying his hands on each one, he healed them. Demons were driven out, howling as they departed from their victims, “You are the Son of God!”

He rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, for they knew he was the Messiah. Jesus left at daybreak and looked for a solitary place. People went out in search of him, and finding him, they tried to dissuade him from leaving. But he said, “I have to go to other towns, to announce the good news of the kingdom of God. That is what I was sent to do.” And Jesus continued to preach in the synagogues of Galilee.

Jesus knows exactly what he is up to, that is, the proclamation of the good news of God’s saving love and to launch the reign of God on Earth. This is the “divine priority” which must touch the lives of peoples. Zeal and undivided focus primarily characterized Jesus’ mission of liberating humanity from the grip of sin and the power of the devil. His missionary zeal cannot be contained; the good news of God’s love and mercy needs to reach the ends of the Earth. Jesus’ experience of the Father’s love, the “Abba experience,” is the driving force behind his commitment to the mission.

And our personal experience of the same love, and of the love of Christ, drive us to be faithful to the task/mission assigned to us. It even urges us to go beyond “familiar shores.” I met Fr. Manh Le, Vietnamese religious missionary, who recently arrived in Sydney from his mission assignment in the Amazon in Brazil. Of the thirteen years in Brazil, three years were spent in a poor parish and five years living in the Amazon, in the homes of the people because there is no accommodation. He does not stay permanently in one home and travels with his hammock and mosquito net.

September 5th

St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta

1st Reading: Col 1:9-14:
Brothers and sisters:
From the day we heard about you, we do not cease praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, so as to be fully pleasing, in every good work bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with every power, in accord with his glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy giving thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light. He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Gospel: Lk 5:1-11:
One day, as Jesus stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, with a crowd gathered around him listening to the word of God, he caught sight of two boats, left at the water’s edge by fishermen, now washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to pull out a little from the shore. There he sat, and continued to teach the crowd. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon replied, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing. But if you say so, I will lower the nets.” This they did, and caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.

They signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They came, and they filled both boats almost to the point of sinking. Upon seeing this, Simon Peter fell at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and his companions were amazed at the catch they had made, and so were Simon’s partners, James and John, Zebedee’s sons. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. You will catch people from now on.” So they brought their boats to land and followed him, leaving everything.

Australian Catholic New Testament scholar Brendan Byrne SJ has a beautiful phrase to capture the essence of Jesus’ ministry from a different perspective, that is, “‘people-catching’ trade” in comparison to the fishing-for-fish trade of Simon and his companions. The notion of people-catching expresses the bringing in of people into the loving embrace of the reign of God by means of the nets of preaching the good news, healing, forgiveness and reconciling. These nets constitute Jesus’ saving ministry, and they are designed to gather people for God.

We, members of the Church, are now partners in this people-catching trade of Jesus because we were once “caught” into these nets. Those who are caught in the nets become themselves teachers of the good news, and agents of healing, forgiveness and reconciliation. We participate in Jesus’ people-catching trade to “bring [people] the more abundant life of the kingdom” (Brendan Byrne). As co-workers in the trade, we help reclaim the dignity and value of all God’s creation, humans and nonhumans alike.

September 6th

1st Reading: Col 1:15-20:
Brothers and sisters:
Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

He is the head of the Body, the Church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the Blood of his cross through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.

Gospel: Lk 5:33-39:
Some people asked him, “The disciples of John fast often and say long prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees. Why is it that your disciples eat and drink?” Then Jesus said to them, “You can’t make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them. But later, the bridegroom will be taken from them; and they will fast in those days.”

Jesus also told them this parable: “No one tears a piece from a new coat to put it on an old one; otherwise the new coat will be torn, and the piece taken from the new coat will not match the old coat. No one puts new wine into old wine skins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed as well. But new wine must be put into fresh skins. Yet, no one who has tasted old wine is eager to drink new wine, but says, ‘The old is good.’”

We might call the Jesus Christ event, his incarnation, saving activities, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension, as a “divine visitation” (Brendan Byrne), where God became historically present in Jesus, bringing and demonstrating his pure and all-embracing love. The visitation is radical in nature. It brought the consciousness and expectations of people in Jesus’ days upside down. It opposed the prevailing system of abuse and exploitation; it exposed hypocrisy. It brought to the fore the saving love of God and the value and dignity of the human person before him.

The divine visitation in Jesus left a legacy of love, mercy and compassion. This legacy is culture-changing; it is changing the culture of death, hatred and destruction. The legacy goes against the attitude of indifference and carelessness. Jesus love, mercy and compassion are life-changing and life-giving. They bring hope. And they are only welcomed by a converted heart, the heart that allows itself to be touched by them, the heart that opens up itself to the truth, and the heart that delights only with the authentically good and valuable. The converted heart is the fresh skin that receives Jesus’ legacy of love, mercy and compassion.

September 7th

1st Reading: Col 1:21-23:
Brothers and sisters:
You once were alienated and hostile in mind because of evil deeds; God has now reconciled you in the fleshly Body of Christ through his death, to present you holy, without blemish, and irreproachable before him, provided that you persevere in the faith, firmly grounded, stable, and not shifting from the hope of the Gospel that you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, am a minister.

Gospel: Lk 6:1-5:
One Sabbath Jesus was going through a field of grain, and his disciples began to pick heads of grain, crushing them in their hands for food. Some of the Pharisees asked them, “Why do you do what is forbidden on the Sabbath?” Then Jesus spoke up and asked them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his men were hungry? He entered the house of God, took and ate the bread of the offering, and even gave some to his men, though only priests are allowed to eat that bread.” And Jesus added, “The Son of Man is Lord and rules over the Sabbath.”

In his book The Gospel of Life: Following Christ, Together, on the Path to Holiness, Pope Francis described St John Paul II’s notion of the “paradox of abundance” as the “[situation] in which there is food for everyone, but not everyone can eat, while waste, excessive consumption and the use of food for other purposes is visible before our very eyes.” There is, indeed, food for everyone. The Earth produces, in its abundance, all that every form of life needs to survive. Humanity and other living species take their foodstuffs from the Earth.

That is why to destroy the ecosystem of the Earth and its biodiversity, and to intervene with its natural processes, is to deprive people, particularly the poor, of their daily sustenance and source of livelihood. When we consider the imbalance in the distribution and use of the Earth’s resources we might ask: If our present world economic system works for the health and well-being of all the Earth’s living inhabitants and if the progress it claimed to have achieved truly benefit humanity, then why does the poor sector of the world continue to increase and poverty is on the rise; and, why does the gap between the poor and the rich of the world continue to widen