Bible Diary for September 25th – October 1st

September 25th

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

1st Reading: Am 6:1a, 4-7:
Woe to those proud people, who live overconfident, on the hill of Samaria! You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and sprawl on your couches; you eat lamb from the flock and veal from calves fattened in the stall. You strum on your harps, and like David, try out new musical instruments. You drink wine by the bowlful and anoint yourselves with the finest oils; but you do not grieve over the ruins of Joseph. Therefore, you will be the first to go into exile; and the feast of sprawlers will be over.

2nd Reading: 1 Tim 6:11-16:
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. Now, in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Jesus Christ, who expressed before Pontius Pilate the authentic profession of faith: preserve the revealed message to all.

Keep yourself pure and blameless, until the glorious coming of Christ Jesus, our Lord, who God will bring about at the proper time; he, the magnificent sovereign, King of kings and Lord of lords. To him, alone, immortal, who lives in unapproachable light, and whom no one has ever seen or can see, to him, be honor and power, for ever and ever. Amen!

Gospel: Lk 16:19-31:
Once there was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen and feasted every day. At his gate lay Lazarus, a poor man covered with sores, who longed to eat just the scraps falling from the rich man’s table. Even dogs used to come and lick his sores. It happened that the poor man died, and angels carried him to take his place with Abraham. The rich man also died, and was buried. From the netherworld where he was in torment, the rich man looked up and saw Abraham afar off, and with him Lazarus at rest. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me, and send Lazarus, with the tip of his finger dipped in water, to cool my tongue, for I suffer so much in this fire!’

Abraham replied, ‘My son, remember that in your lifetime you were well-off, while the lot of Lazarus was misfortune. Now he is in comfort, and you are in agony. But that is not all. Between your place and ours a great chasm has been fixed, so that no one can cross over from here to you, or from your side to us.’ The rich man implored once more, ‘Then I beg you, Father Abraham, send Lazarus to my father’s house, where my five brothers live. Let him warn them, so that they may not end up in this place of torment.’

Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ But the rich man said, ‘No, Father Abraham; but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced, even if someone rises from the dead.’”

It is easy, when one is rich, to become callous about the condition of the poor. Since many rich people become rich because they work very hard (often 14 or more hours a day), they can easily imagine that poor people are poor because they are lazy. Also, since many rich people are very intelligent, they suppose that anybody who is poor is necessarily dumb. But they forget, too, that it was often by a stroke of pure luck that they were able to achieve a break-through in their undertakings.

But many poor people remain poor because of a string of bad luck, compounded by bad health, an ugly face, etc. The rich man in today’s gospel parable was certainly a callous person. Since Lazarus lay at his very gate, he could see in what dire condition Lazarus was. Yet, he would not even give to Lazarus the scraps falling from his table. Our wardrobes and our cupboards and our garages are overflowing with things that have become useless to us. Perhaps it is time to give some of them to the many Lazaruses living in the slums of our cities. Let us pray the Lord that he open our eyes to the plight of the poor people we meet every day. Today give away some possessions that you never use.

September 26th

Sts. Cosmas and Damian

1st Reading: Job 1:6-22:
One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before Yahweh, and Satan came with them. Yahweh asked Satan, “Where have you been?” … Satan answered, “Going up and down the earth, roaming about.” Yahweh asked again, “Have you noticed my servant Job? No one on earth is as blameless and upright as he, a man who fears God and avoids evil.” But Satan returned the question, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not built a protective wall around him and his family and all his possessions? You have blessed and prospered him, with his livestock all over the land. But stretch out your hand and strike where his riches are, and I bet he will curse you to your face.”

Yahweh said to Satan, “Very well, all that he has is in your power. But do not lay a finger upon the man himself.” So Satan left the presence of Yahweh. One day, while his sons and daughters were feasting in the house of their eldest brother, a messenger came to Job and said, “Your oxen were plowing, and your donkeys were grazing nearby when the Sabaeans came and carried them off. … He was still speaking when another messenger came and said to Job, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking in the house of their eldest brother when suddenly a great wind blew across the desert and struck the house.

It collapsed on the young people and they all died. I alone have escaped to tell you.” In grief Job tore his clothes and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground and worshiped, saying, … Yahweh gave, Yahweh has taken away. Blessed be his name!” In spite of this calamity, Job did not sin by blaspheming God.

Gospel: Lk 9:46-50:
One day, the disciples were arguing about which of them was the most important. But Jesus knew their thoughts, so he took a little child and stood him by his side. Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name, welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me, welcomes the one who sent me. And listen: the one who is found to be the least among you all, is the one who is the greatest.” Then John spoke up, “Master, we saw someone who drives out demons by calling upon your name, and we tried to forbid him, because he doesn’t follow you with us.” But Jesus said, “Don’t forbid him. He who is not against you is for you.”

Today’s first reading presents the beginning of the Book of Job, one of the greatest literary masterpieces of all time. And we will continue to read from this book in the days ahead. This work was composed at some time around the 5th century B.C. by an anonymous author who created his dramatic poem around the imaginary figure of a man named Job. The Book of Job is all about the problem of the suffering good person regards divine retribution. In a series of long speeches, four of Job’s friends urge him to admit that he deserves his suffering because of some hidden sin of his.

But Job maintains his innocence and calls upon God to have God explain to him why he is suffering so much. Many Christians, when they experience great trials, react like Job. They believe that God is responsible for their sufferings, that God has sent them their sufferings as a punishment or as a trial to test them. But God, contrary to what many Old Testament texts say, never punishes and never sends tests. Jesus is very clear on this: “My Father judges no one” (Jn 5:22). How could a good father want his children to suffer?

September 27th

St. Vincent de Paul

1st Reading: Job 3:1-3, 11-17, 20-23:
At length it was Job who spoke, cursing the day of his birth. This is what he said: Cursed be the day I was born, and the night which whispered: A boy has been conceived. Why didn’t I die at birth, or come from the womb without breath? Why the knees that received me, why the breasts that suckled me? For then I should have lain down asleep and been at rest with kings and rulers of the earth who built for themselves lonely tombs; or with princes who had gold to spare and houses stuffed with silver.

Why was I not stillborn, like others who did not see the light of morn? There, the trouble of the wicked ceases, there, the weary find repose. Why is light given to the miserable, and life to the embittered? To those who long for death more than for hidden treasure? They rejoice at the sight of their end, they are happy upon reaching the grave. Why give light to a man whose path has vanished, whose ways God blocks at every side?

Gospel: Lk 9:51-56:
As the time drew near when Jesus would be taken up to heaven, he made up his mind to go to Jerusalem. He sent ahead of him some messengers, who entered a Samaritan village to prepare a lodging for him. But the people would not receive him, because he was on his way to Jerusalem. Seeing this, James and John, his disciples, said, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to reduce them to ashes?” Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went on to another village.

At the time of Jesus Palestine was divided into three regions: Galilee in the north, Judea in the south, and Samaria in the middle. This meant that the shortest route from Galilee to Judea was through Samaria. Now in the 4th century B.C. the Samaritans had erected a temple on Mt. Gerizim, in the center of Samaria, to rival the temple of Jerusalem on Mt. Zion. The Samaritan temple had been destroyed in 128 B.C. by John Hyrcanus, a high-priest of Judea.

The site, however, was still a place of worship at the time of Jesus. And the Samaritans resented the fact that Galileans snubbed their Mt. Gerizim and instead went to worship in Jerusalem. This explains why, as we see in today’s gospel reading, they refuse to welcome Jesus and his troop of Galileans all headed toward the detested Jerusalem. This rejection inflames the hot-tempered James and John, who want to retaliate by burning the place to the ground. These two well deserve their nickname of “sons of thunder” (Mk 3:17). In contrast, one can only admire the restraint of Jesus, who refuses to punish the Samaritans’ rudeness. How would we have reacted in his place?

September 28th

St. Wenceslaus
St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions

1st Reading: Job 9:1-12, 14-16:
Then Job answered: Very well I know that it is so. But how can a mortal be just before God? If one were to contend with him, not once in a thousand times would he answer. His power is vast, his wisdom pro-found. Who has resisted him and come out unharmed? He moves mountains before they are aware; he overturns them in his rage. He makes the earth tremble and its pillars quake. He commands the sun, and it does not shine; he seals off the light of the stars.

He alone stretches out the skies and treads on the waves of the seas. He made the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and every constellation. His wonders are past all reckoning, his miracles beyond all counting. He passes by, but I do not see him; he moves on, but I do not notice him. If he snatches away, who can stop him? Who can say to him, “What are you doing?” How then can I answer him and find words to argue with him? If he does not answer when I am right, shall I plead with my judge for mercy? Even if I appealed and he answered, I do not believe that he would have heard.

Gospel: Lk 9:57-62:
As they went on their way, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another, Jesus said, “Follow me!” But he answered, “Let me go back now, for, first, I want to bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their dead; as for you, leave them, and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said to him, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say goodbye to my family.” And Jesus said to him, “Whoever has put his hand to the plow, and looks back, is not fit for the kingdom of God.”

In today’s gospel reading Jesus seems to be positively discouraging eager would-be disciples from becoming full-fledged disciples. But is that really the case? It seems not. It seems he is merely warning those starry-eyes idealists that following him entails detachment from body comforts, availability and wholehearted commitment. This is illustrated in the case of the three “volunteers” featured in this passage. The first one lacks realism.

He seems not to be aware that following Jesus means leaving behind one’s comfort zone and facing uncomfortable situations. Jesus reminds him that he, Jesus, is homeless. The second wants to delay following Jesus until his old father dies. Jesus refuses any such delay. The Kingdom of God cannot wait. The third one is looking back in the direction of his family. Jesus tells him that the time has come to look forward instead, like a good plower who, because of the hardness of the Palestinian soil, has to put his full weight to hold down the plow. With Jesus, half-measures will not do. In our own lives, can we meet Jesus’ tough requirements? Are we held back by our body comforts or our family ties?

September 29th

Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels

1st Reading: Dn 7:9-10, 13-14 (or Rev 12:7-12a):
I looked and saw the following: Some thrones were set in place and One of Great Age took his seat. His robe was white, as snow, his hair, white as washed wool. His throne was flames of fire with wheels of blazing fire. A river of fire sprang forth and flowed before him. Thousands upon thousands served him and a countless multitude stood before him. I continued watching the nocturnal vision: One like a son of man came on the clouds of heaven. He faced the One of Great Age and was brought into his presence. Dominion, honor and kingship were given him, and all the peoples and nations of every language served him. His dominion is eternal and shall never pass away; his kingdom will never be destroyed.

Gospel: Jn 1:47-51:
When Jesus saw Nathanael coming, he said of him, “Here comes an Israelite, a true one; there is nothing false in him.” Nathanael asked him, “How do you know me?” And Jesus said to him, “Before Philip called you, you were under the fig tree, and I saw you.” Nathanael answered, “Master, you are the Son of God! You are the king of Israel!” But Jesus replied, “You believe because I said, ‘I saw you under the fig tree.’ But you will see greater things than that. Truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

When called to do something, we do not know really where it will lead us. However, there is a feeling of assurance, a sense of peace, that everything will just be fine and that we are in the right direction. When God calls, he knows exactly when and how to do it; the timing is so perfect. The call will hit us right at the core in the most opportune time. Like the question of Nathaniel “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”, we can also ask: “Can anything good come out from us once we follow the call? Can anything good/great happen?”

Indeed, great things unfold in life as a result of following the call—things beyond our expectations. But they may not be according to our taste, standard, or time frame. One thing is certain these great things are for the flourishing of God’s very good creation, for the well-being of the Earth’s community of life, and for the expansion of God’s reign. The call is specifically designed for all of these, that is, to contribute to the bringing in of the reign of God on Earth, a reign of love, justice, and peace. The call is intended to accomplish just this.

September 30th

St. Jerome

1st Reading: Job 38:1, 12-21; 40:3-5:
Then Yahweh answered Job out of the storm: Have you ever commanded the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might grasp the earth by its edges and shake the wicked out of it, when it takes a clay color and changes its tint like a garment; when the wicked are denied their own light, and their proud arm is shattered? Have you journeyed to where the sea begins or walked in its deepest recesses? Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the gates of Shadow? Have you an idea of the breadth of the earth?

Tell me, if you know all this. Where is the way to the home of light, and where does darkness dwell? Can you take them to their own regions, and set them on their homeward paths? You know, for you were born before them, and great is the number of your years! Job said: How can I reply, unworthy as I am! All I can do is put my hand over my mouth. I have spoken once, now I will not answer; oh, yes, twice, but I will do no further.

Gospel: Lk 10:13-16:
Alas for you, Chorazin! Alas for you, Bethsaida! So many miracles have been worked in you! If the same miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would already be sitting in ashes and wearing the sackcloth of repentance. Surely for Tyre and Sidon it will be better on the Day of Judgment than for you. And what of you, city of Capernaum? Will you be lifted up to heaven? You will be thrown down to the place of the dead. Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me; and he who rejects me, rejects the one who sent me.”

Today’s first reading presents a part of the conclusion of the Book of Job. In the previous chapters of the book, Job protests that he does not deserve his many trials (whereas his friends say that he does), and he challenges God to debate with him on this matter. Now God does appear, but he does not defend his treatment of Job. Instead he draws Job’s attention to the incredible wisdom displayed in the management of the universe. Just as a man’s wisdom is shown by the way he runs his life, likewise God’s wisdom is shown by the way He runs the universe.

Now the universe, despite its awesome dimensions and complexity, does not fall apart and return to chaos. That is because God’s wisdom is able to overcome all paradoxes and all complexities. That is why Job should trust him instead of criticizing him. The Book of Job does not give a speculative explanation of the problem of evil. But it gives a way to live with evil without understanding it, and that way is faith in God’s wisdom. If God can run a universe so well, I should trust him when it comes to the ups and downs of my life.

October 1st

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

1st Reading: Job 42:1-3, 5-6, 12-17:
This was the answer Job gave to Yahweh: I know that you are all powerful; no plan of yours can be thwarted. I spoke of things I did not understand, too wonderful for me to know. My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I retract all I have said, and in dust and ashes I repent. Yahweh blessed Job’s latter days much more than his earlier ones. He came to own fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she-donkeys.

He was also blessed with seven sons and three daughters. The first daughter he named Dove, the second Cinnamon, and the third Bottle of Perfume. Nowhere in the land was there found any woman who could compare in beauty with Job’s daughters. Their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers. Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. He died old and full of years.

Gospel: Lk 10:17-24:
The seventy-two disciples returned full of joy. They said, “Lord, even the demons obeyed us when we called on your name.” Then Jesus replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. You see, I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the Enemy, so that nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, don’t rejoice because the evil spirits submit to you; rejoice, rather, that your names are written in heaven.”

At that time, Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and made them known to little ones. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. I have been given all things by my Father, so that no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son, and he to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said to them privately, “Fortunate are you to see what you see, for I tell you, that many prophets and kings would have liked to see what you see, but did not see it; and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”

Many have asked if I possess the gift of healing, just like my good friend Roselle whose sick father-in-law I anointed in the hospital. According to her, he had been confined to his bed in the past months. But a few hours after the anointing, he stood up from bed and asked for milk! I sensed her excitement, but I am not sure if she sensed my bewilderment. Our gospel today forms part of the conclusion of the mission-sending of the 72 disciples. By this time, they returned to the company of Jesus bringing along thrilling success stories from their missionary undertakings. But Jesus was quick to remind them: “I have given you authority….”

What they have accomplished did not flow from their inherent capabilities, but from a power whose source is Jesus. My friend’s father-in-law survived for a few weeks before he finally went home to the Father, but it was not I who gave him those few more weeks to live! At the outset, Jesus’ words may appear more appropriate for us who are in the ministry and service of the Church. But a closer reflection reveals that the lesson is important for all Christians as well: we cannot be successful on our own; it is only with and through Jesus that we can accomplish great things. Remember, Jesus says in John 15:5 that “… apart from me you can do nothing.”