Bible Diary for September 5th – 11th
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta
1st Reading: Is 35:4-7a:
Say to those who are afraid: “Have courage, do not fear. See, your God comes, demanding justice. He is the God who rewards, the God who comes to save you.” Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unsealed. Then will the lame leap as a hart and the tongue of the dumb sing and shout. For water will break out in the wilderness and streams gush forth from the desert. The thirsty ground will become a pool, the arid land springs of water.
2nd Reading: Jas 2:1-5:
My brothers and sisters, if you truly believe in our glorified Lord, Jesus Christ, you will not discriminate between persons. Suppose a person enters the synagogue where you are assembled, dressed magnificently and wearing a gold ring; at the same time, a poor person enters dressed in rags. If you focus your attention on the well-dressed and say, “Come and sit in the best seat,” while to the poor one you say, “Stay standing or else sit down at my feet,” have you not, in fact, made a distinction between the two? Have you not judged, using a double standard? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters, did God not choose the poor of this world to receive the riches of faith and to inherit the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him?
Gospel: Mk 7:31-37:
Again Jesus set out: from the country of Tyre he passed through Sidon and skirting the sea of Galilee he came to the territory of Decapolis. There a deaf man who also had difficulty in speaking was brought to him. They asked Jesus to lay his hand upon him. Jesus took him apart from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle. Then, looking up to heaven, he said with a deep sigh, “Ephphata!” that is, “Be opened!” And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was loosened, and he began to speak clearly. Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone, but the more he insisted, the more they proclaimed it. The people were completely astonished and said, “He has done all things well; he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.”
Jesus was on a mission to proclaim the Good News but people with infirmities wanted a bit of His time. The deaf and the dumb sought redemption from his illness. He could not hear and had difficulty speaking. Jesus’ words though wonderful and uplifting could not have wrought its transformative power on this man. That is why Jesus had to heal him. And so he did, together with his friends who brought him to Jesus. No matter how much Jesus told them to keep all in secret, tongues were loosened. They were unstoppable in giving witness to the good things Jesus had done for them. If we but only allow Jesus to loosen our tongue, perhaps we too would joyfully proclaim His Good News to others.
Many people today are robbed of their capacity for self-expression. It could be an oppression coming from within or without. We can help liberate them by taking up their plight and presenting it in forums that might awaken a positive response from others. I could use my social network sites where I am enrolled to advance this cause. I can join discussion or cause oriented groups. There are many ways to loosen the tongues of others if I but only try. Lord, make me a voice of the voiceless, and encourage others to speak up for those whose tongues are tied. Give me the courage to mouth the truth that sets others free, in the mighty name of Jesus our Lord. Amen.
1st Reading: Col 1:24—2:3:
At present I rejoice when I suffer for you; I complete, in my own flesh, what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, for the sake of his body, which is the Church. For I am serving the Church since God entrusted to me the ministry to make the word of God fully known. I mean that mysterious plan that for centuries and generations remained secret, and which God has now revealed to his holy ones. God willed to make known to them the riches and even the glory that his mysterious plan reserved for the pagan nations: Christ is in you and you may hope God’s glory. This Christ we preach. We warn and teach everyone true wisdom, aiming to make everyone perfect in Christ.
For this cause I labor and struggle with the energy of Christ working powerfully in me. I want you to know how I strive for you, for those of Laodicea and for so many who have not met me personally. I pray that all may be encouraged. May you be established in love, that you may obtain all the riches of a full understanding and know the mystery of God, Christ himself. For in him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Gospel: Lk 6:6-11:
On another Sabbath, Jesus entered the synagogue and began teaching. There was a man with a paralyzed right hand and the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees watched him: Would Jesus heal the man on the Sabbath? If he did, they could accuse him. But Jesus knew their thoughts and said to the man, “Get up and stand in the middle.” Then he spoke to them, “I want to ask you: what is allowed by the Law on the Sabbath, to do good or to do harm, to save life or destroy it?” And Jesus looked around at them all. Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and his hand was restored, becoming as whole as the other. But they were furious and began to discuss with one another how they could deal with Jesus.
In the four gospels we find no fewer than seven Sabbath-healing stories (i.e. stories about healings occurring on the Sabbath). And so, one must conclude that these healings on the Sabbath were not mere coincidences; they are too numerous for that. All the more so that Jesus can observe on each of these seven occasions how upset his enemies become when they witness his behavior. Obviously, Jesus seeks on purpose to oppose their understanding of the Sabbath. What exactly is the problem here? It is simply this. The rabbis see a healing, even a miraculous one, as a medical intervention and consequently as a working activity, something forbidden on the day of the Sabbath.
Jesus challenges this view. He claims that there can be no time when it is prohibited to do good to another human being. In other words, there is no time when we are allowed to refuse to love. To refuse to love, under the specious excuse of obeying a law is at bottom to abet evil, to side with evil. This is a very serious matter. We are all tempted at times to refuse to perform a good deed when we could easily do so, and we then justify our refusal with all kinds of excuses. But oftentimes these excuses are merely a refusal to love.
1st Reading: Col 2:6-15:
If you have accepted Christ Jesus as Lord, let him be your doctrine. Be rooted and built up in him; let faith be your principle, as you were taught, and your thanksgiving, overflowing. See that no one deceives you with philosophy or any hollow discourse; these are merely human doctrines, not inspired by Christ, but by the wisdom of this world. For in him, dwells the fullness of God, in bodily form. He is the head of all cosmic power and authority, and, in him, you have everything.In Christ Jesus, you were given a circumcision, but not by human hands, which removed completely from you the carnal body: I refer to baptism.
On receiving it, you were buried with Christ; and you also rose with him, for having believed in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. You were dead. You were in sin and uncircumcised at the same time. But God gave you life with Christ. He forgave all our sins.He canceled the record of our debts, those regulations which accused us. He did away with all that, and nailed it to the cross. Victorious through the cross, he stripped the rulers and authorities of their power, humbled them before the eyes of the whole world, and dragged them behind him, as prisoners.
Gospel: Lk 6:12-19:
At this time, Jesus went out into the hills to pray, spending the whole night in prayer with God. When day came, he called his disciples to him, and chose Twelve of them, whom he called ‘apostles‘: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew; James and John; Philip and Bartholomew; Matthew and Thomas; James son of Alpheus and Simon called the Zealot; Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who would be the traitor.
Coming down the hill with them, Jesus stood in an open plain. Many of his disciples were there, and a large crowd of people, who had come from all parts of Judea and Jerusalem, and from the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon.They gathered to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And people troubled by unclean spirits were cured. The entire crowd tried to touch him, because of the power that went out from him and healed them all.
Christian faith does not rest on a dogma or any philosophical idea. It rests on a relationship with one person—the person of Christ. Everything else emerges from this personal and collective relationship with, and in Christ. Paul advises us: “Let Christ be your doctrine.“ In him dwells the fullness of God. To him all cosmic power and authority belong. In him all beings converge. He connects the heavens and the earth. Being one with God, he stands with us. Luke tells us poignantly: “Coming down the hill with them, Jesus stood on a level place.“ One who is God stands on a par with us and calls us to be his disciples. Let us gather around him, reach out and touch him, and receive the power that comes out of him and heals us all.
Birth of the Virgin Mary
1st Reading: Mic 5:1-4a:
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, so small that you are hardly named among the clans of Judah, from you shall I raise the one who is to rule over Israel. For he comes forth from of old, from the ancient times. Yahweh, therefore, will abandon Israel until such time as she who is to give birth has given birth. Then the rest of his deported brothers will return to the people of Israel. He will stand and shepherd his flock with the strength of Yahweh, in the glorious Name of Yahweh, his God. They will live safely while he wins renown to the ends of the earth. He shall be peace.
Gospel: Mt 1:1-16, 18-23:
The Book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar. Perez became the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab. Amminadab became the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab. Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth. Obed became the father of Jesse, Jesse the father of David the king.
David became the father of Solomon, whose mother had been the wife of Uriah. Solomon became the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asaph. Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, Joram the father of Uzziah. Uzziah became the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah. Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amos, Amos the father of Josiah. Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers at the time of the Babylonian exile.
After the Babylonian exile, Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abiud. Abiud became the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok. Zadok became the father of Achim, Achim the father of Eliud, Eliud the father of Eleazar. Eleazar became the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”
From today’s gospel reading it is abundantly clear that God wanted Mary to be the mother of Jesus, while remaining a virgin. Not that there is anything wrong with sexual union—on the contrary sex, and the pleasure that goes with it, was invented by God; and, on that score, there would have been absolutely nothing wrong with Jesus being the product of the sexual union of Mary and Joseph. But, if this had happened, Jesus would have had a human father. Again, these would have been nothing wrong with that, but it would have had one inconvenience: it would somewhat have blurred the relationship between Jesus and God the Father.
In other words, by having a human mother but no human father, Jesus can be seen more clearly for what he really is: he is one hundred percent a man (he takes his human nature from his mother), and at the same time he is one hundred percent God (the only Father he ever had is God, having no human father). In this way, Jesus can say that God is his Father just as literally as when I say, “That man is my father.” This means that, when I look at Jesus-the-man, I can say with utter truth, “That man is the Son of God.”
St. Peter Claver
1st Reading: Col 3:12-17:
Clothe yourselves, then, as is fitting for God’s chosen people, holy and beloved of him. Put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience to bear with one another and forgive whenever there is any occasion to do so. As the Lord has forgiven you, forgive one another. Above all, clothe yourselves with love which binds everything together in perfect harmony. May the peace of Christ overflow in your hearts; for this end you were called to be one body. And be thankful. Let the word of God dwell in you in all its richness. Teach and admonish one another with words of wisdom. With thankful hearts sing to God psalms, hymns and spontaneous praise. And whatever you do or say, do it in the Name of Jesus, the Lord, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Gospel: Lk 6:27-38:
But I say to you who hear me: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you and pray for those who treat you badly. To the one who strikes you on the cheek, turn the other cheek; from the one who takes your coat, do not keep back your shirt. Give to the one who asks and if anyone has taken something from you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have others do to you. If you love only those who love you, what kind of grace is yours? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do favors to those who are good to you, what kind of grace is yours? Even sinners do the same. If you lend only when you expect to receive, what kind of grace is yours?
“For sinners also lend to sinners, expecting to receive something in return. But love your enemies and do good to them, and lend when there is nothing to expect in return. Then will your reward be great and you will be sons and daughters of the Most High. For he is kind towards the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Don’t be a judge of others and you will not be judged; do not condemn and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you, and you will receive in your sack good measure, pressed down, full and running over. For the measure you give will be the measure you receive back.”
In general, we will rarely have the opportunity of exercising love towards a national enemy. The “enemies” we meet most often in our daily lives are simply the neighbors, co-workers and acquaintances who have wronged or indisposed us in some small way. Such enemies are constantly at our side. Those are precisely the ones Jesus asks us to love. Those are the ones we have to help when we can, forgive from the bottom of our hearts. No doubt such an attitude has nothing “natural” or spontaneous about it.
On certain occasion, we would rather die than shake hands with the person who has just wronged us. But that is exactly what Jesus asks of us if we want to be his disciples: that we should die to our natural feelings and take on once and for all the magnanimous heart of Christ, he forgave his enemies on the cross. For we are called to become a new creation in him. If we accept to die in this way, we will discover a new life in him and be able to say with St. John: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love our brothers (and sisters)” (1 Jn 3:14).
1st Reading: 1 Tm 1:1-2, 12-14:
From Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus by a command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, to Timothy, my true son in the faith. I give thanks to Christ Jesus, our Lord, who is my strength, who has considered me trustworthy and appointed me to his service, although I had been a blasphemer, a persecutor and a rabid enemy. However he took mercy on me because I did not know what I was doing when I opposed the faith; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, together with faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Gospel: Lk 6:39-42:
And Jesus offered this example, “Can a blind person lead another blind person? Surely both will fall into a ditch. A disciple is not above the master; but when fully trained, he will be like the master. So why do you pay attention to the speck in your brother’s eye while you have a log in your eye and are not conscious of it? How can you say to your neighbor: ‘Friend, let me take this speck out of your eye,’ when you can’t remove the log in your own? You hypocrite! First remove the log from your own eye and then you will see clearly enough to remove the speck from your neighbor’s eye.”
“How can you say to your neighbor: ‘Friend, let me take this speck out of your eye,’ when you can’t remove the log in your own?” This recommendation of Jesus raises a problem: We are all sinful people, since we all have “specks” in our eyes (or even big “logs” at times!). But do we have the right to go on correcting our brothers and sisters through preaching, counseling, advising, exhorting? Or if so, are we not then necessarily hypocritical? Perhaps the following considerations can provide some answers to the problem. First, we have the example of the apostles who, though still very imperfect (Phil 3:12; 1 Cor 9:27) and aware of it, nevertheless went on preaching.
Second, actually the preacher in no way claims to be perfect. In fact, he is preaching to himself just as much as he is preaching to others (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis n. 13; 1 Tim 4:15-16). And, if ever the preacher has illusions about his practice of what he is preaching on, he can always be sure that sooner or later he will be corrected by his colleagues (Gal 3:11-14; Presb. Ord. n. 8), by the faithful, and by life itself. Third, the saints themselves give us an example of honesty in this respect: they preached most often on what was their own personal problem, on what they naturally lacked: humility, chastity, etc.
1st Reading: 1 Tm 1:15-17:
This saying is true and worthy of belief: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first. Because of that I was forgiven; Christ Jesus wanted to display his utmost patience so that I might be an example for all who are to believe and obtain eternal life. To the King of ages, the only God who lives beyond every perishable and visible creation—to him be honor and glory forever. Amen!
Gospel: Lk 6:43-49:
“No healthy tree bears bad fruit, no poor tree bears good fruit. And each tree is known by the fruit it bears: you don’t gather figs from thorns, or grapes from brambles. Similarly the good person draws good things from the good stored in the heart, and an evil person draws evil things from the evil stored in the heart. For the mouth speaks from the fullness of the heart. Why do you call me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ and do not do what I say? I will show you what the one is like, who comes to me, and listens to my words, and acts accordingly.
“That person is like the builder who dug deep, and laid the foundations of his house on rock. The river overflowed, and the stream dashed against the house, but could not carry it off because the house had been well built. But the one who listens and does not act, is like a man who built his house on the ground without a foundation. The flood burst against it, and the house fell at once: and what a terrible disaster that was!”
Faith in Jesus does not protect us from trial. In the present parable, each of the two houses is assailed by storms: the one built on rock just as much as the one built on sand. We must harbor no illusion on this score. Christian life is not “all-risks insurance.” On the contrary, as a consequence of their very faith true Christians must normally face more adversities than other people since, after all, they are always swimming against the current of facility and selfishness. The promise of Jesus contained in this page of the Gospel does not bear, therefore, on the absence of storms. Far from that; these are announced as a matter of course.
What is promised is the victorious resistance of the disciples of Jesus: though their house be furiously assaulted by storms, it will not fall. Those who build their house on the words of Jesus can say with the prophet Isaiah, “The Lord is an everlasting rock” (Is 26:4). If, in accordance with the aspirations of so many of our contemporaries, we want to build a “just and fraternal society,” we must absolutely build it on the rock of the Gospel. The Man from Nazareth is the only one to have the words of eternal life (Jn 6:68).