Bible Diary for September 26th – October 2nd

September 26th

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sts. Cosmas and Damian

1st Reading: Num 11:25-29:
Yahweh came down in the cloud and spoke to him. He took some of the spirit that was upon him and put it on the seventy elders. Now when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But this they did not do again. Two men had remained in the camp; the name of one was Eldad, the name of the other Medad. However, the spirit came on them for they were among those who were registered though they had not gone out to the Tent. As they prophesied inside the camp, a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” Joshua, the son of Nun, who ministered to Moses from his youth said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous on my behalf? Would that all Yahweh’s people were prophets and that Yahweh would send his spirit upon them!“

2nd Reading: Jas 5:1-6:
So, now, for what concerns the rich! Cry and weep for the misfortunes that are coming upon you. Your riches are rotting and your clothes eaten up by the moths. Your silver and gold have rusted and their rust grows into a witness against you. It will consume your flesh like fire, for having piled up riches in these the last days. You deceived the workers who harvested your fields but now their wages cry out to the heavens. The reapers’ complaints have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You lived in luxury and pleasure in this world thus fattening yourselves for the day of slaughter. You have easily condemned and killed the innocent since they offered no resistance.

Gospel: Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48:
John said to him, “Master, we saw someone who drove out demons by calling upon your name, and we tried to forbid him because he does not belong to our group.” Jesus answered, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in my name can soon after speak evil of me. For whoever is not against us is for us. If anyone gives you a drink of water because you belong to Christ and bear his name, truly, I say to you, he will not go without reward. If anyone should cause one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble and sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a great millstone around his neck.

“If your hand makes you fall into sin, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life without a hand than with two hands to go to hell, to the fire that never goes out. And if your foot makes you fall into sin, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life without a foot than with both feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye makes you fall into sin, tear it out! It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than, keeping both eyes, to be thrown into hell where the worms that eat them never die, and the fire never goes out.”

We are jealous sometimes of our relationships and possessions, so much so that we want to have exclusive claim to them. The disciples were not immune to this very human feeling. They expressed and manifested it to their Teacher who in turn patiently schooled them into the kind of love that is not limited by boundaries. This band of brothers who professed their faith in Him were the only ones willing to stick it out with Him. Jesus called them by name.

And so amidst their insecurities and weaknesses, Jesus did not give up on them. He moved forward with them believing in them that someday, they would truly learn and live the teachings of their Master. What provokes my jealousy and envy? Human as these feelings are, still we are called to have control over ourselves. Acknowledging the sources of our envy and jealousy is the first step towards overcoming them. Lord, help me to realize that what I have is already amazing. May I be too busy thanking you for all that is given me so that I will have no time to think of the things I lack. Amen.

September 27th

St. Vincent de Paul

1st Reading: Zec 8:1-8:
The word of Yahweh, the God of Hosts was directed to me in this way, “I am intensely jealous for Zion, stirred by a burning anger for her sake. Yahweh says: I will return to Zion and live in her midst. Jerusalem shall be called the city of faithfulness and the Mountain of Yahweh of Hosts, the mountain of holiness.” Yahweh, God of Hosts speaks, “Old men and women will again sit in the squares, each with a stick in hand on account of their great age. The squares of the city will be filled with girls and boys playing.”

Yahweh, God of Hosts declares, “If that seems impossible in the eyes of those who have returned from exile, will it be impossible for me as well?”—word of Yahweh. Yahweh, God of Hosts says, “See, I am going to save my people, bringing them from the east and from the west and they will live in Jerusalem. They will be my people and I shall be their God in truth and in justice.“

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.”

In today’s gospel reading we hear Jesus say: “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me.” Unfortunately, in our modern society children are not welcome in at least three ways. First, millions of children around the world are savagely assassinated in the womb of their mothers and are disposed of by various sophisticated chemical, pharmaceutical and mechanical techniques. The mass media protest against the death penalty for criminals. But there is no protest in major magazines against the death penalty for innocent unborn children.

Second, motherhood and homemaking have been so devalued that many stay-at-home moms describe themselves with these words: “Oh, I’m just a housewife.” As if raising a child were not the most important job in the universe! Third, few parents spend quality time with their children because of their career, job, social life, etc. Yet, time is the greatest gift they can give their children and the only gift that can assure children of their personal value and self-worth. We can see that the teaching of Jesus is more relevant than ever. If we do not heed it and if we keep rejecting children, we are courting disaster.

September 28th

St. Wenceslaus
St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions

1st Reading: Zec 8:20-23:
Yahweh, the God of hosts speaks, ”Peoples will come from other nations, people from great cities. The inhabitants of one town will talk with those of another, and, say: ‘Come, let us go and implore the favor of Yahweh, and I, too, will seek Yahweh.‘ Many great peoples and powerful nations will come, seeking Yahweh, God of hosts, in Jerusalem and pray to him.” Yahweh, the God of hosts assures you, ”In those days, ten men of different languages spoken in various lands, will take hold of a Jew by the hem of his garment and say: We, too, want to go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”

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.

The First reading taken from the prophet Zechariah speaks so well of God‘s constant desire to gather all peoples into one family under His Fatherhood. A Father of a family or a parish priest will understand by heart this divine desire to have ”one flock under one shepherd” (Jn 10:16). This too is the priestly prayer of Jesus: ”Father may they be one as You and I are one” (Jn 17:20). This theme is also shown in today‘s Gospel reading. Jesus forbade his disciples James and John to retaliate against the Samaritans who did not welcome Him. The unwelcoming actions of the Samaritans are due to the long quarrel between the Jews and Samaritans. Jesus is not unaware of the conflict. But, He consented to pass that way to Jerusalem.

For security and to avoid confrontations, they could have passed through another way. Jesus must have a reason for passing through Samaria. He wanted to reconcile the conflict and to offer friendship and reunite them, as He is faithful to His mission as the “light to all nations.” During the civil war, President Abraham Lincoln was criticized for being soft and considerate to his enemies. Many times he was reminded that it was his duty to destroy them. To these, his answer was “The best way to destroy an enemy is to be friend him.” Lincoln must have learned it from Jesus. For us Christians, like Jesus, no one is an enemy but only a lost and strayed friend.

September 29th

Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels

1st Reading: Dn 7:9-10, 13-14:
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. Those in the tribunal took their seats and opened the book. 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.”

Throughout the Bible angels play a crucial role in furthering God’s overall plan of salvation. Most of the time they are not named (as is often the case in the Book of Revelation), but nevertheless they always appear as powerful agents of God. Among all these angelic figures, three are given names and stand out as particularly powerful and effective: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, whom we are celebrating in a special way today. Some people may scoff at the idea that there exists purely spiritual beings. But why not?

Apart from the clear testimony of the Bible, common sense itself suggests that, since there exists purely material beings (rocks, animals, plants) and composite beings made of matter and spirit, would it not be logical that purely spiritual beings complete the picture, as it were? Anyhow, the fact is that the three angels explicitly named by the authors of the Bible stand out as awesome figures indeed— especially Michael, whose personal mission is to defeat Satan. We would do well to ask for the assistance of these super-powerful beings in our times of need. We might be quite surprised at what can happen next!

September 30th

St. Jerome

1st Reading: Neh 8:1-4a, 5-6, 7b-12:
The whole people gathered as one in the open space before the Water Gate, and they called upon Ezra the scribe to bring forth the book of the law of Moses which the Lord prescribed for Israel. On the first day of the seventh month, therefore, Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly, which consisted of men, women, and those children old enough to understand. Standing at one end of the open place that was before the Water Gate, he read out of the book from daybreak until midday, in the presence of the men, the women, and those children old enough to understand; and all the people listened attentively to the book of the law.

Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that had been made for the occasion. He opened the scroll so that all the people might see it (for he was standing higher up than any of the people); and, as he opened it, all the people rose. Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people, their hands raised high, answered, “Amen, amen!” Then they bowed down and prostrated themselves before the Lord, their faces to the ground. As the people remained in their places, Ezra read plainly from the book of the law of God, interpreting it so that all could understand what was read.

Then Nehemiah, that is, His Excellency, and Ezra the priest-scribe and the Levites who were instructing the people said to all the people: “Today is holy to the Lord your God. Do not be sad, and do not weep”–for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law. He said further:  “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared; for today is holy to our Lord. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength!” And the Levites quieted all the people, saying, “Hush, for today is holy, and you must not be saddened.” Then all the people went to eat and drink, to distribute portions, and to celebrate with great joy, for they understood the words that had been expounded to them.

Gospel: Lk 10:1-12:
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two other disciples and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place, where he himself was to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is rich, but the workers are few. So you must ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers to his harvest. Courage! I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Set off without purse or bag or sandals; and do not stop at the homes of those you know. Whatever house you enter, first bless them saying: ‘Peace to this house.’ If a friend of peace lives there, the peace shall rest upon that person. But if not, the blessing will return to you.

Stay in that house eating and drinking at their table, for the worker deserves to be paid. Do not move from house to house. When they welcome you in any town, eat what they offer you. Heal the sick who are there and say to them: ‘The kingdom of God has drawn near to you.’ But in any town where you are not welcome, go to the marketplace and proclaim: ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off and leave with you. But know for a certainty that the kingdom of God has drawn near to you.’ I tell you that on the Judgment Day it will be better for Sodom than for this town.

I have always admired the boldness of Jesus in this evangelization campaign. Seventy-two disciples is not a small army of preachers. We easily can imagine their short preparation for the task. They had just heard the teachings of the Lord and seen his miracles. And then they were sent. Why? Because the harvest was rich, and Jesus knew the will of the Father. Can we guess here the intention of Jesus during his nights of praying? Yes, he asked the Lord of the harvest and the workers were abundant. Isn’t that a lesson for us? Therese understood it. The advice of Jesus to them deserves reflection. They were lambs among wolves. There is no evangelization without risk and opposition.

Christian disciples have to be confident in God, not in human means, like purse or bag. Francis of Assisi was such a disciple; Anthony M. Claret was one too in his missions through Catalunya. He stressed that poverty is the first quality of the evangelizer. Greetings are simple: “Peace!” Stability is demanded. No concern for meals. The message is one of awakening: “The kingdom of God has drawn near to you.” This seems to echo John the Baptist’s preaching. The final remark is not to be forgotten. The Gospel is the ultimate invitation. The gesture of wiping off of the dust is a symbol. The allusion to Sodom is a reminder for the future.

October 1st

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

1st Reading: Bar 1:15-22:
During the Babylonian captivity, the exiles prayed: “Justice is with the Lord, our God; and we today are flushed with shame, we men of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem, that we, with our kings and rulers and priests and prophets, and with our ancestors, have sinned in the Lord’s sight and disobeyed him. We have neither heeded the voice of the Lord, our God, nor followed the precepts which the Lord set before us. From the time the Lord led our ancestors out of the land of Egypt until the present day, we have been disobedient to the Lord, our God, and only too ready to disregard his voice.

“And the evils and the curse that the Lord enjoined upon Moses, his servant, at the time he led our ancestors forth from the land of Egypt to give us the land flowing with milk and honey, cling to us even today. For we did not heed the voice of the Lord, our God, in all the words of the prophets whom he sent us, but each one of us went off after the devices of his own wicked heart, served other gods, and did evil in the sight of the Lord, our God.”

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.“

Addressing his disciples he says, “He that hears you, hears me and he that despises you despises me“ and the Father who sent him. In other words, to listen to the messengers of Jesus is equivalent to listening to him personally; to reject those messengers is to reject Jesus and to reject God. And, in our own times, perhaps we should emphasize that those “messengers” are not just priests and religious. They include all those who sincerely proclaim the Gospel by their words and their lives. Each of us needs to hear those warnings of Jesus addressed to ourselves.

How well have we really responded to the call of Jesus in the Gospel? How open are we to hear that message coming to us from different kinds of people in our community? How committed are we to accepting, living and sharing that Gospel with others? There is never any room for complacency or for indifference in our Christian life. We are all called to conversion and above all to share God‘s mercy to others.

October 2nd

The Guardian Angels

1st Reading: Bar 4:5-12, 27-29:
Take courage, my people, you who preserve the memory of Israel. You have been sold to the nations but not for your destruction; because you had aroused the anger of God, you were delivered to your enemies. For you displeased your Creator in sacrificing to demons and not to God. You have forgotten the Eternal God, the one who nourished you. You have filled Jerusalem with sadness, she who brought you up. For she saw the anger of God fall on you and she said, “Listen, you neighboring cities of Zion, God has sent me a great sorrow. I have seen the captivity of my sons and daughters, which the Eternal one brought on them.

I had nurtured them in joy; with tears and sadness I saw them leave. Let no one rejoice on seeing me a widow and abandoned by all. Because of the sins of my children I am now alone, because they have turned away from the law of God. Take courage, my children, cry out to God, for he who sent you into exile will remember you. Thus, as you distanced yourself from God, return to him and seek him ten times more earnestly. For he who caused these evils to fall on you will bring you salvation and eternal joy.

Gospel: Mt 18:1-5, 10:
At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child, set the child in the midst of the disciples, and said, “I assure you, that, unless you change, and become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble, like this child, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and whoever receives such a child, in my name, receives me. See that you do not despise any of these little ones; for I tell you, their angels in heaven continually see the face of my heavenly Father.

We may have experienced being rescued from imminent dangers by no one. And when I tell people about them, their easy remark is that it was my guardian angel at work. Each of us has a guardian angel. Psalm 91:11 states “For he will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.” Although in today’s gospel Jesus speaks only of children who have them, it doesn’t mean that once a child becomes an adult his or her angel leaves with task accomplished. Our guardian angel is our lifetime companion.

CCC 336 admits that “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.” Having a guardian angel speaks of God’s caring presence in our life; he does not will that we are totally left on our own. Be it to rescue us from figuring in accidents, or to assist us in difficult times, or to simply protect us in any way. Each of us has a special place in God’s heart. And for this we must be truly grateful.