Bible Diary for September 27th – October 3rd

September 27th

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. Vincent de Paul

1st Reading: Ezk 18:25–28:
But you say: Yahweh’s way is not just! Why, Israel! Is my position wrong? Is it not rather that yours is wrong? If the righteous man turns from his righteous deeds, and sins, then he dies, because of his sins. And if the wicked man does what is good and right, after turning from the sins he committed, he will save his life. He will live and not die, because he has opened his eyes; and turned from the sins he had committed.

2nd Reading: Phil 2:1–11:
If I may advise you, in the name of Christ, and if you can hear it, as the voice of love; if we share the same Spirit, and are capable of mercy and compassion, then I beg of you, make me very happy: have one love, one spirit, one feeling, do nothing through rivalry or vain conceit. On the contrary, let each of you gently consider the others, as more important than yourselves. Do not seek your own interest, but, rather, that of others.

Your attitude should be the same as Jesus Christ had: Though he was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking on the nature of a servant, made in human likeness, and, in his appearance, found, as a man, He humbled himself by being obedient, to death, death on the cross. That is why God exalted him and gave him the name which outshines all names, so, that, at the name of Jesus all knees should bend in heaven, on earth and among the dead, and all tongues proclaim, that Christ Jesus is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Gospel: Mt 21:28–32:
Jesus went on to say, “What do you think of this? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said to him, ‘Son, go and work today in my vineyard.’ And the son answered, ‘I don’t want to.’ But later he thought better of it and went. Then the father went to his other son and said the same thing to him. This son replied, ‘I will go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did what the father wanted?”

They answered, “The first.” And Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you: the publicans and the prostitutes are ahead of you on the way to the kingdom of heaven. For John came, to show you the way of goodness, and you did not believe him; but the publicans and the prostitutes did. You were witnesses of this, but you neither repented nor believed him.

An open rebellion that leads to repentance and consequent obedience is better than a passive obedience that later leads to a secret rebellion. That is why we are better off with people who are loud and transparent with their intentions than those whose mind we cannot read. We know at least what to expect from the former and will be genuinely surprised if they have a change of heart. On the other hand we will have a hard time reconciling the good attitude the former has shown us while secretly harboring seditious thoughts. The known sinners in Jesus’ time were like that.

They made no secrets of their opposition to God by the lives they led, yet at a point in time, they changed course and mended their ways. It was a shock to note that those who were so sure of receiving the kingdom were instead disinherited of their claimed birthright because their disobedience was not forthright. I may be both the elder and the younger son in my response to obedience but they are not ideal examples. I should mean what I say and say what I mean clearly and without pretense. Today I take my word seriously. My word is my bond.

September 28th

St. Wenceslaus
St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions

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 29th

Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels

1st Reading: Rev 12:7–12ab:
War broke out in heaven, with Michael and his angels battling with the dragon. The dragon fought back with his angels, but they were defeated, and lost their place in heaven. The great dragon, the ancient serpent, known as the devil, or Satan, seducer of the whole world, was thrown out. He was hurled down to earth, together with his angels. Then, I heard a loud voice from heaven: Now has salvation come, with the power and the kingdom of our God, and the rule of his anointed.

For our brothers’ accuser has been cast out, who accused them night and day, before God. They conquered him, by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, for they gave up their lives, going to death. Rejoice, therefore, O you heavens, and you who dwell in them; but woe to you, earth and sea, for the devil has come to you, in anger, knowing that he has but a little time.

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.”

Nathanael’s true self and his hidden thoughts were laid bare by Jesus. Because of these, he promptly proclaimed the divinity of the Lord. Isn’t it that in our lives, we also feel the Lord unmasking us for who we are; He lays bare our soul. There is nothing that we can hide from Him. Sometimes, like Nathanael, we acknowledge His majesty. Some other times, because of shame or because of false pride, we turn away and leave Him. Jesus has no intention of embarrassing us when He looks into our inmost self. He loves us for who we are. Our pretensions will not add or subtract from that love. May we aspire to be like Nathanael where nothing is false within him. That is why it was easy for him to proclaim the Lordship of Jesus.

September 30th

St. Jerome

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 profound. 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?

October 1st

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

1st Reading: Job 19:21–27:
Have pity my friends, have pity, for God’s hand has struck me! Why do you hound me as God does? Will you never have enough of my flesh?’ Oh, that my words were written, or recorded on bronze with an iron tool, a chisel or engraved forever on rock! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and he, the last, will take his stand on earth. I will be there behind my skin, and in my flesh I shall see God. With my own eyes I shall see him—I and not another. How my heart yearns!

Gospel: Luke 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 plentiful, 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 to 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 Day of Judgment it will be better for Sodom than for this town.”

There is always a place for anyone who wants to work on God’s project. After all, Jesus has designed it in such a way that He will not do all but leave space for others to own and continue the task that He has done. And He does train His disciples to the job. Earlier on, He gives them a chance for hands-on work. They must have the feel of the terrain so that when the time comes, they may be able to assume leadership without much difficulty. Meanwhile, they have to be mentored. And so we His modern followers are not called to do something unprepared. The capacities are already there; all Jesus does is to draw them out and to hone them. Every calling is therefore an opportunity for improvement.

October 2nd

The Guardian Angels

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: 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.

In our churches, we are used to beautiful statues of angels on the altar in attitudes of adoration; and at the entrance of the church, offering blessed water. Angels are the invisible creation we proclaim in our Creed. They are pure spirits, without body, immortal, intelligent and free. According to tradition they constitute nine choirs: Angels, Archangels, Principalities, Powers, Virtues, Dominions, Thrones, Cherubim and Seraphim. They have been obedient to the Creator’s will and they praise for ever the glory of the Trinity. But they are also sent to the world to help us in our History of Salvation.

Therefore, we see angels so often in the Old/New Testaments, especially in the life of Jesus, from his conception to his ascension. Today we celebrate the “Guardian Angels”. The gospel we read makes us recall the presence of the angels who accompany us in our earthly journey and support us in the struggles against the rebel angels, the demons who fight against our salvation. Let us remember and pray to our guardian angel; let us entrust to our angel’s protection in the daily spiritual fight while awaiting our entrance into the eternal song of adoration and glory.

October 3rd

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.”

There is infectious joy in the air. The disciples rejoiced at their first successful ministry. Their Master partook in their joy, celebrating their little triumph. He gave His disciples the chance to revel in the good they had done because it would help them face the obstacles and hardships they would meet in the future. But Jesus directs their attention to what they should truly celebrate.

It is not their success but the fact that they are now part of God’s team. Their names are now in heaven. Successful or not later on, they should take comfort in the fact that God made them as their own. In our life, the source of our true joy should not be our work and its favorable result alone. Rather we should rejoice that God selected us to be His co-workers in the unfolding of His plan for the world.