Bible Diary for September 20th – 26th

September 20th

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sts. Andrew Kim & Paul Chong and Companions

1st Reading: Is 55:6–9:
Seek Yahweh while he may be found; call to him while he is near. Let the wicked abandon his way, let him forsake his thoughts, let him turn to Yahweh for he will have mercy, for our God is generous in forgiving. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways are not your ways, says Yahweh. For as the heavens are above the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts.

2nd Reading: Phil 1:20c–24, 27a:
I am hopeful, even certain, that I shall not be ashamed. I feel as assured now, as before, that Christ will be exalted through my person, whether I live or die. For to me, living is for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I am to go on living, I shall be able to enjoy fruitful labor. Which shall I choose? So I feel torn between the two. I desire greatly to leave this life and to be with Christ, which will be better by far, but it is necessary for you that I remain in this life. Try, then, to adjust your lives according to the gospel of Christ. May I see it when I come to you, and if I cannot come, may I at least hear that you stand firm in the same spirit, striving to uphold the faith of the gospel with one heart.

Gospel: Mt 20:1–16a:
This story throws light on the kingdom of heaven: “A landowner went out early in the morning, to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay each worker the usual daily wage, and sent them to his vineyard. He went out again, at about nine in the morning, and, seeing others idle in the town square, he said to them, ‘You also, go to my vineyard, and I will pay you what is just.’ So they went. The owner went out at midday, and, again, at three in the afternoon, and he made the same offer. Again he went out, at the last working hour—the eleventh—and he saw others standing around. So he said to them, ‘Why do you stand idle the whole day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ The master said, ‘Go, and work in my vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wage, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’

“Those who had gone to work at the eleventh hour came up, and were each given a silver coin. When it was the turn of the first, they thought they would receive more. But they, too, received one silver coin. On receiving it, they began to grumble against the landowner. They said, ‘These last, hardly worked an hour; yet, you have treated them the same as us, who have endured the heavy work of the day and the heat.’ The owner said to one of them, ‘Friend, I have not been unjust to you. Did we not agree on one silver coin per day? So, take what is yours and go. I want to give to the last the same as I give to you. Don’t I have the right to do as I please with what is mine? Why are you envious when I am kind?’ So will it be: the last will be first, the first will be last.”

The values of the Kingdom are way beyond our understanding and ken. Whereas we always put monetary or its equivalent value to the things that we do, heaven is happy to multiply the greatest good and joy without considering the cost and amount. This is the reason why the landowner, who is the image of God, paid all workers, regardless of the time spent in working, the same amount. He was happy to share his resources equally to all without regard to their outputs. This does not sit well with those who worked ahead. They felt cheated because they expended more energy, spent more time and experienced more discomfort than the others.

They demand a just compensation to their efforts. But come to think of it, when we are in God’s house everything will be shared equally. No one will have more than the others because there will be no basis for comparison. This will simply fade away. What will remain is the abundant love of God that can never be exhausted. There will always be something more left behind for others once we get our share. Have I begrudged another’s generosity especially if I am not the recipient? Rather than griping about it, I should commend and reinforce it so that generosity will grow in strength especially in the community that I live.

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.“

A pastor once ran into a “lost sheep“ of his parish. This man had stopped going to church a long time ago. The pastor gently invited him to return to church. The man said with no little self-righteousness: “Father, I don‘t go because the church is full of crooks and hypocrites.“ And the pastor responded: “If so, please do come. We can always make room for one more.“

The Church belongs to saints and sinners alike. Perhaps more sinners than saints, for the Church exists for their sake: “Healthy people do not need a doctor, but sick people do.“ We go to Church not to proclaim our righteousness to the world, but to humbly declare our sinfulness and need for God, and to receive His mercy and healing. By calling Matthew to belong to his band of apostles, Jesus makes it clear that from the greatest to the least in the Church, everyone is sinful and all stand in need of God‘s mercy.

September 22nd

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.”

Jesus’ fame had already spread and many were following His every word. Not even His family could get close to Him now. They had to wait and send an emissary to tell Him that they were around. And something wonderful happened that day. That simple family who waited to see their Jesus was complemented by Him in a way that also disclosed their greatness. They had already heard the word of God and had done it in their lives. This is the reason why they stayed behind when Jesus made the rounds of Israel. They did not have to follow Him in His itinerant preaching. They were already doing what Jesus continues to exhort His hearers to do.

September 23rd

St. Pio of Pietrelcina

1st Reading: Pro 30:5–9:
Every word of God is true, he is a shield in whom man can find refuge. Add nothing to his words lest he rebuke you and take you for a liar. O God, two things I beg of you, do not deny me them before I die. Keep lying and falsehood far away from me, give me neither poverty nor riches. Give me just as much food as I need lest, satisfied, I deny you and say, “Who is Yahweh?” Or else, out of necessity, I steal and profane the name of my God.

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 money; 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.

Jesus’ style of leadership is handing over power to those who follow Him and giving them an opportunity to produce something for themselves. He provides an avenue where His disciples can do something concrete and something that they can be proud of. He does not feel diminished simply because His followers exercise control and leadership over that which they do.

Strange but very few have the capacity to let go of the remote control and allow others to select the show. The majority have this growing need for control just to show who is the leader or the boss. Jesus empowers. He shows genuine delight at the achievements of those He sent. If we could be a little bit more like Him, many people would be happy to do something for the benefit of others.

September 24th

1st Reading: Ecl 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.

There are things we have done that do not simply die. They continue to haunt us. The more unjust it has been, the scarier is its ghost that visits us. This is what King Herod felt. He knew that he had John beheaded because of an impulsive promise. Now, another man, who does what John did before, comes to town. He makes Herod remember the man he put to death. That is why Herod has to see him. He will always feel uneasy unless he puts the ghost of John to rest. But even if he sees Jesus, he will never find peace. Like Herod, we will never find peace from our ghosts if we do not repent.

September 25th

1st Reading: Ecl 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.”

The longer we spend time with one another, the deeper is our knowledge of each other. It is no wonder that the disciples, with Peter as their mouthpiece were able to pierce the veil that hid the deepest identity of Jesus. While others could only think of Him as a prophet, the disciples knew Him to be the Messiah of God. Yet even this confession did not guarantee their complete and steadfast faith in Jesus. They scattered like leaves when their Lord and Master was being tried, sentenced and put to death. This shows us that faith proclamation needs time to be truly rooted in our hearts and minds. The disciples themselves took time before they fully embraced what they had proclaimed that day.

September 26th

Sts. Cosmas and Damian

1st Reading: Ecl 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 birdsong is silenced, when one fears the slopes and to walk is frightening; yet the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper is fat and the caper berry 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:
And all who saw it were astonished at God’s wonderful work. 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 hands the 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.

Jesus had hinted at His fate to His disciples more often. But they didn’t want to face the fact. They were afraid of its implications. They would rather enjoy the moment of triumph that Jesus had with His following added every day. Yet Jesus would not allow them to sidestep the issue. They had to follow Him with eyes wide open not deluding themselves of a false glorious future.

This also goes for each and every one of us. Following Jesus does not guarantee an easy and smooth life. On the contrary we will find it hard to be disciples of the Lord in this present age. And He wants to tell us at once so that we will know what we are signing up for when we make Him the Lord and Master of our life. Knowing that, do we have the courage to go on?