Bible Diary for September 8th – 14th

September 8th

Birth of the Virgin Mary

1st Reading: Wis 9:13-18b:
Indeed, who can know the intentions of God? Who can discern the plan of the Lord? For human reasoning is timid, our notions misleading; a perishable body is a burden for the soul and our tent of clay weighs down the active mind. We are barely able to know about the things of earth and it is a struggle to understand what is close to us; who then may hope to understand heavenly things?

Who has ever known your will unless you first gave him Wisdom and sent down your holy spirit to him? In this way you directed the human race on the right path; they learned what pleases you and were saved by Wisdom.

2nd Reading: Phlm 9-10, 12-17:
Yet I prefer to request you, in love. The one talking is Paul, the old man, now prisoner for Christ. And my request is on behalf of Onesimus, whose father I have become while I was in prison. In returning him to you, I am sending you my own heart. I would have liked to keep him at my side, to serve me, on your behalf, while I am in prison for the gospel, but I did not want to do anything without your agreement, nor impose a good deed upon you without your free consent.

Perhaps Onesimus has been parted from you for a while so that you may have him back forever, no longer as a slave, but better than a slave. For he is a very dear brother to me, and he will be even dearer to you. And so, because of our friendship, receive him, as if he were I myself.

Gospel: Lk 14:25-33:
One day, when large crowds were walking along with Jesus, he turned and said to them, “If you come to me, unwilling to sacrifice your love for your father and mother, your spouse and children, your brothers and sisters, and indeed yourself, you cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not follow me, carrying his own cross, cannot be my disciple. Do you build a house without first sitting down to count the cost, to see whether you have enough to complete it?

Otherwise, if you, have laid the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone will make fun of you: ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ And when a king wages war against another king, does he go to fight without first sitting down to consider whether his ten thousand can stand against the twenty thousand of his opponent? And if not, while the other is still a long way off, he sends messengers for peace talks. In the same way, none of you may become my disciple, if he doesn’t give up everything he has.

God sent Jesus to enact his saving plan, to establish his reign of love and mercy, and to restore humanity and the rest of creation back to him so that we may enjoy an “abundant” life and creation reach its fulfillment. This is God’s generosity and goodness in action. But to receive the full benefit of his generosity and goodness, there is a condition that must be satisfied, that is, the following of Jesus. And it does not come without cost.

The decision to follow Jesus entails giving-up of that which is most important to us and the willingness to place one’s self in an uncomfortable situation. It is a free decision we take because God has opened our eyes to his love. Just like Wisdom which gives right direction, the following of Jesus leads us to the heart of God. Gracious God, help us follow the example and teachings of Jesus so that we can direct our lives to what is genuinely good and valuable.

September 9th

St. Peter Claver

1st Reading: Col 1:24–2:3:
Brothers and sisters:
I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his Body, which is the Church, of which I am a minister in accordance with God’s stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God, the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past. But now it has been manifested to his holy ones, to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; it is Christ in you, the hope for glory.

It is he whom we proclaim, admonishing everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. For this I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me. For I want you to know how great a struggle I am having for you and for those in Laodicea and all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged as they are brought together in love, to have all the richness of assured understanding, for the knowledge of the mystery of God, Christ, in whom 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 to 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 healthy as the other. But they were furious, and began to discuss with one another how they could deal with Jesus.

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10). This, according to Jesuit New Testament scholar Brendan Byrne, is the heart of Jesus mission. It is a life that is lived to the full; a life of peace, justice and love; a life filled with compassion and mercy, with tenderness and caring. It is a new way of living where humans do not live in want, but abundance. A parishioner in our Sydney parish is in the third month of pregnancy when she was advised by her obstetrician to terminate her pregnancy.

She was told that the pregnancy is risky because of her age (She is in her late forties.) and that there is big chance the baby will be borne with defects. In a conversation with her, she recounted that after much prayer she and her husband decided to keep the baby, and that she continued to pray for the baby the rest of the pregnancy. Several months went past. On one Sunday evening, after the mass, I saw her with the baby on the pram. She told me they are so grateful that they decided to keep their baby. The last time I saw her and her family was few weeks before their flight back to England.

September 10th

1st Reading: Col 2:6-15:
Brothers and sisters:
As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him, rooted in him and built upon him and established in the faith as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to the tradition of men, according to the elemental powers of the world and not according to Christ. For in him dwells the whole fullness of the deity bodily, and you share in this fullness in him, who is the head of every principality and power. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not administered by hand, by stripping off the carnal body, with the circumcision of Christ.

You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And even when you were dead in transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he brought you to life along with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions; obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims, which was opposed to us, he also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross; despoiling the principalities and the powers, he made a public spectacle of them, leading them away in triumph by it.

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.

The far-reaching mission of Jesus, from the Father and through the apostles, extends to us. It is alive in those people who were touched by Christ’s spirit, and fully embraced it in their lives. No matter how great or simple (measuring it in human terms) it may be, it has a particular thing to accomplish in the reign of God’s love, justice and mercy; and to God, it has tremendous significance. That extension in us is specific to us. It is only you or I who can carry it out meaningfully, effectively.

In saying this who else can/will do it aside from us? Because of us Jesus’ mission reaches far and wide; and, it leaves a historical mark for people to continue. Who can stop God’s reign of love, justice and mercy except only us? Each of us may prevent an element of Christ’s mission to proceed by saying “no” to that which we are called to do, but it will not completely stop because it will always find a suitable person to further the mission. Christ’s Spirit continues to touch the hearts of women and men so that it may renew all creation.

September 11th

1st Reading: Col 3:1-11:
Brothers and sisters:
If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory. Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry. Because of these the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient.

By these you too once conducted yourselves, when you lived in that way. But now you must put them all away: anger, fury, malice, slander, and obscene language out of your mouths. Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all.

Gospel: Lk 6:20-26:
Lifting up his eyes to his disciples, Jesus said, “Fortunate are you who are poor, the kingdom of God is yours.” “Fortunate are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Fortunate are you who weep now, for you will laugh. “Fortunate are you when people hate you, when they reject you and insult you and number you among criminals, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for a great reward is kept for you in heaven.

Remember that is how the ancestors of this people treated the prophets. “But alas for you who have wealth, for you have been comforted now. “Alas for you who are full, for you will go hungry. “Alas for you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. “Alas for you when people speak well of you, for that is how the ancestors of these people treated the false prophets.”

The first thing that comes to mind when we encounter the word “poor” are the people considered as economically or materially needy and those who are disadvantaged. However, in the gospel passage that is not the case, although it is not ruled out: “‘The poor’ are all whose emptiness and destitution provide scope for the generosity of God” (Brendan Byrne). Their condition creates the opportunity so that divine goodness could operate in their lives. The situation might include a deep feeling of emptiness, uncertainty and hopelessness. No one is exempted from these kinds of feeling regardless of economic and social status.

In situations where the prevailing feeling is that of emptiness and destitution, one is invited to open up to the power of God and to receive his generosity. He/she could find comfort in the encounter with God, which could subsequently lead to the unfolding of a new world of hope and opportunities. There are conditions that help the human heart open up to God’s power and goodness. Unbelief, arrogance, and self-conceit shuts its door and cancels out space for divine occupancy. It is the thought that any external power, or influence, makes any contribution. Outside factors (or the God-factor) are simply out of the picture.

September 12th

Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary

1st Reading: Col 3:12-17:
Brothers and sisters:
Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one Body.

And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Gospel: Lk 6:27-38:
Jesus said to his disciples, “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 graciousness is yours? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do favors to those who are good to you, what kind of graciousness is yours? Even sinners do the same. If you lend only when you expect to receive, what kind of graciousness 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.”

Here is the most radical of Jesus’ instructions to his hearers, and probably the most difficult of all to do: “Love your enemies and do good to them.” What makes it so important in human affairs? Many problems in the world, past, present and future, could have been/could be avoided. The world would be a more peaceful place to live in. Love of enemies invites one to be extravagantly and extraordinarily generous. It goes beyond the “reciprocity system” being practiced during the time of Jesus: “I give you something/favor; I expect something in return from you.”

Extreme generosity overturns this system and replaces it with: “I am willing to give, even without anything in return.” It is selfless. The motivation for giving is not the favorable return that will be received, but the pure joy and unconditional love flowing from the love of God. Extravagant generosity means the willingness to give to anyone in need, and it goes to the extent of wishing/ doing good to one’s enemies. In the reciprocity system, one sees the self as the end point; the action terminates back to the self, not on the other. On the other hand, love and generosity see the other as the endpoint, the sole beneficiary of the action.

September 13th

St. John Chrysostom

1st Reading: 1 Tim 1:1-2, 12-14:
Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, to Timothy, my true child in faith: grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he considered me trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry.

I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man, but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief. Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant, along with the 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.

In one instance or another we have already come across an acquaintance, a friend, or a colleague, whom we have greeted nicely, but replied rather in a harsh, sarcastic manner. And we wonder why. Unless she/he tells us we would not exactly know. We could just guess. In this kind of situation, we might opt to adopt God’s way of dealing with us: knowing our deepest thoughts and feelings, God, nevertheless, treats us with generosity, goodness, understanding and compassion. We need them in our day-to-day interaction with others. By trying to understand the person/the situation, we put ourselves in a position where we generously and compassionately give.

By being understanding, we put ourselves in her/ his own situation, thus seeing things from the other’s perspective. When we understand and consider where the person is coming from, we are more inclined to respond in love, mercy and tenderness. We prevent ourselves from passing inaccurate judgment(s). But here judging should not be construed as ignoring wrong or injustices committed. It is simply putting ourselves in her/his own shoes so that we can respond lovingly. That is why it helps to keep in mind that we are not gifted the ability to read thoroughly the content of the human heart, whereas Jesus knows fully well what is going on within us.

September 14th

Triumph of the Holy Cross

1st Reading: Num 21:4b-9:
With their patience worn out by the journey, the people complained against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food!” In punishment the Lord sent among the people saraph serpents, which bit the people so that many of them died. Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned in complaining against the Lord and you.

Pray the Lord to take the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people, and the Lord said to Moses, “Make a saraph and mount it on a pole, and if any who have been bitten look at it, they will live.” Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

2nd Reading: Phil 2:6-11:
Brothers and sisters:
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Gospel: Jn 3:13-17:
No one has ever gone up to heaven except the one who came from heaven, the Son of Man. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. Yes, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world; instead, through him the world is to be saved.

The core stuff of the world is love; each of its component parts bears the pure, creative love of God. And since the world is created through the love of God, it can only be saved or “recreated” through the same love. But the way God has taken is costly. The price of loving and saving the world is his only Son. Jesus has become the fullest expression of God’s saving love. God’s pure love is made known and felt in many concrete ways through Jesus. There is no other way except by assuming a human form that this love may be communicated to humanity and the whole world.

We need to experience the love of God in Jesus so that we ourselves will know how to love. Jesus is our model for loving others. By experiencing the love of God, we come to know how we can become agents of this love. Love takes possession of us so that God may continue saving and loving the world. This means that we, the people of God, are Christ’s co-worker. It is now through us, by the power of the Spirit, that his saving plan continues.