Bible Diary Week for July 17th-23rd

July 17th

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

1st Reading: Gen 18:1-10a:
Yahweh appeared to Abraham near the oaks of Mamre. Abraham was sitting at the entrance to his tent, in the heat of the day, when he looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them he ran from the entrance of the tent to meet them. He bowed to the ground and said, “My Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought. Wash your feet and then rest under the trees. I shall fetch some bread so that you can be refreshed and continue on your way, since you have come to your servant.”

They then said, “Do as you say.” Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said to her, “Quick, take three measures of flour, knead it and make cakes.” Abraham then ran to the herd, took a fine, tender calf, gave it to the servant who hurried to prepare it. He took butter and milk and together with the calf he had prepared laid it all before them. And while he remained standing, they ate. They then asked, “Where is Sarah, your wife?” Abraham answered, “She is in the tent.” And the visitor said, “At this same time next year I will return and Sarah by then will have a son.”

2nd Reading: Col 1:24-28:
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, the hope for glory. This Christ, we preach. We warn, and teach everyone true wisdom, aiming to make everyone perfect, in Christ.

Gospel Lk 10:38-42:
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he entered a village, and a woman called Martha welcomed him to her house. She had a sister named Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet to listen to his words. Martha, meanwhile, was busy with all the serving, and finally she said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work? Tell her to help me!” But the Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you worry and are troubled about many things, whereas only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken away from her.”

There are two basic ways of helping people, and each is illustrated somehow in today’s first and third reading. The first way of helping people is by actively doing things for them. This way is magnificently illustrated in the lavish hospitality with which Abraham welcomes his three unexpected guest (who later will prove to be God and two angels) as also by the industrious care with which Martha welcomes Jesus in her house at Bethany. In a lot of cases this way of helping people, namely, by active service, by doing things for them, is assuredly the best kind of help we can provide.

But there is another way of helping people which is just as beneficial–perhaps even more beneficial in some cases–and which consists in simply listening. Because many people are lonely, lost, desolate, depressed, what they need is a shoulder to cry on, a friendly ear to talk to. They do not need our services. They need our loving attention, our uninterrupting listening, our sympathetic presence. Nothing more. Unfortunately, few people understand this. Yet, listening to a person in distress with all your heart is sometimes the greatest act of love you can perform. Let us ask for a listening heart. Today let us make it a point to listen to people who are lonely, lost, desolate, depressed.

July 18th

St. Camillus de Lellis

1st Reading: Mic 6:1-4, 6-8:
Listen to what Yahweh said to me, “Stand up, let the mountains hear your claim, and the hills listen to your plea.” Hear, O mountains, Yahweh’s complaint! Foundations of the earth, pay attention! For Yahweh has a case against his people, and will argue it with Israel. “O my people, what have I done to you? In what way have I been a burden to you? Answer me. I brought you out of Egypt; I rescued you from the land of bondage; I sent Moses, Aaron and Miriam to lead you.

“What shall I bring when I come to Yahweh and bow down before God the most high? Shall I come with burnt offerings, with sacrifices of yearling calves? Will Yahweh be pleased with thousands of rams, with an overabundance of oil libations? Should I offer my firstborn for my sins, the fruit of my body for my wrongdoing?” “You have been told, O man, what is good and what Yahweh requires of you: to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

Gospel: Mt 12:38-42:
Then, some teachers of the law and some Pharisees spoke up, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” Jesus answered them, “An evil and unfaithful people want a sign; but no sign will be given, them except the sign of the prophet Jonah. In the same way, as Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of Man spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. At the judgment, the people of Nineveh will rise with this generation, and condemn it; because they reformed their lives at the preaching of Jonah, and here, there is greater than Jonah. At the judgment, the Queen of the South will stand up and condemn you. She came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and here, there is greater than Solomon.

Today’s first reading illustrates powerfully the sort of general misunderstanding existing in too many Christians’ mind about what exactly God expects of them. In a dramatic dialogue between Yahweh and his people, the prophet Micah presents Yahweh’s expectations of his people, given the fact that it was Yahweh who delivered them from a state of slavery and brought them to freedom under the leadership of Moses. The people respond by offering to perform liturgical functions! But that is the wrong answer. What God expects of his people is not ritual celebrations but simply loving God (“walk humbly with your God”) and neighbor (“do justice, love mercy”).

The same misunderstanding exists in the mind of too many Christians. These Christians think that by far the most important thing they can do for God is to attend Mass regularly. But where in the gospels did Jesus ever teach that one’s first duty toward God is to attend the temple? What Jesus insisted on was the love of neighbor—on which, by the way, we will be judged (cf. Parable of the Last judgment–Mt 25:31-46). God has not changed. He is pure love. He expects us to become like him.

July 19th

1st Reading: Mic 7:14-15, 18-20:
Shepherd your people with your staff, shepherd the flock of your inheritance that dwells alone in the scrub, in the midst of a fertile land. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in the days of old, in the days when you went out of Egypt. Who is a God like you, who takes away guilt and pardons crime for the remnant of his inheritance? Who is like you whose anger does not last? For you delight in merciful forgiveness. Once again you will show us your loving kindness and trample on our wrongs, casting all our sins into the depths of the sea. Show faithfulness to Jacob, mercy to Abraham, as you have sworn to our ancestors from the days of old.

Gospel: Mt 12:46-50:
While Jesus was talking to the people, his mother and his brothers wanted to speak to him, and they waited outside. So someone said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside; they want to speak with you.” Jesus answered, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look! Here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Some people are like elephants. They have a very long memory. If you have wronged them, they might forgive you after you have begged them to do so. But they will never forget what you did to them. As the expression goes about “burying the hatchet” (making peace, reconciling), they did accept to bury the hatchet, but they remember exactly where they buried it. Because of this, such people can hardly believe that God can “forgive and forget.” In their eyes that would be just too good to be true.

Yet, in many parts of the Bible God assures us that, once he forgives our sins, he forgets them forever. For example, we hear God say in the Book of Jeremiah: “I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more” (Jer 31:34–quoted in Heb 8:12 and 10:17). The same idea is expressed in today’s first reading, where we hear the prophet Micah describing God as “casting all our sins into the depths of the sea.” That is the kind of God our God is. When he buries the hatchet, he throws it where it can never be found!

July 20th

St. Apollinaris

1st Reading: Jer 1:1, 4-10:
These are the words of Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. A word of Yahweh came to me, “Even before I formed you in the womb I have known you; even before you were born I had set you apart, and appointed you a prophet to the nations!” I said, “Ah, Lord Yahweh! I do not know how to speak; I am still young!” But Yahweh replied, “Do not say; ‘I am still young’, for now you will go, whatever be the mission I am entrusting to you, and you will speak of whatever I command you to say.

“Do not be afraid of them, for I will be with you to protect you—it is Yahweh who speaks!” Then Yahweh stretched out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth. See! Today I give you authority over nations and over kingdoms to uproot and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Gospel: Mt 13:1-9:
That same day, Jesus left the house and sat down by the lakeside. Many people gathered around him. So he got into a boat, and sat down, while the crowds stood on the shore; and he spoke to them in parables about many things. Jesus said, “The sower went out to sow; and, as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path; and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil, and the seeds sprouted quickly, because the soil was not deep.

But as soon as the sun rose, the plants were scorched; and they withered, because they had no roots. Again, other seeds fell among thistles; and the thistles grew and choked the plants. Still, other seeds fell on good soil and produced a crop: some a hundredfold, others sixty, and others thirty. If you have ears, then hear!”

When God called Moses to become the leader of his people and charged him with the mission of bringing the people out of the land of Egypt into a land of freedom, Moses was far from enthusiastic about his mission. In fact, he raised not less than six objections to God’s plan (his age, among others, because he was already 80 years old at the time). Yet God overruled all his objections by telling him: “I will be with you.”

God reassured with the same words, “I will be with you,” many great figures of the Old Testament who were overwhelmed by God’s plans on them: Joshua (Dt 31:23), Gideon (Jgs 6:12), Solomon (1 K 11:38), the general Johanan (Jer 42:11), the people of Israel (Jer 46:28), Zerubbabel (Hag 1:13; 2:4), the Church (Mt 28:20), Mary (Lk 1:28), Paul (Acts 18:10). In today’s first reading, God again overrules Jeremiah’s objection that he is too young and is not gifted as an orator to become a prophet by the words “I will be with you.” God does not change. All of us are charged by him with a great mission. If we feel unequal to the responsibility he entrusts us with, let us remember that, through it all, he shall always be at our side.

July 21st

St. Lawrence of Brindisi

1st Reading: Jer 2:1-3, 7-8, 12-13:
A word of Yahweh came to me, “Go and shout this in the hearing of Jerusalem. This is Yahweh’s word: I remember your kindness as a youth, the love of your bridal days, when you followed me in the wilderness, through a land not sown. Israel was holy to Yahweh, the first fruits of his harvest. All who ate of it had to pay and misfortune fell on them—it is Yahweh who speaks. I brought you to a fertile land to eat of the choicest fruit. As soon as you came you defiled my land and dishonored my heritage!

The priests did not ask, ‘Where is Yahweh?’ The masters of my teaching did not know me; the pastors of my people betrayed me; the prophets followed worthless idols and spoke in the name of Baal. Be aghast at that, O heavens! Shudder, be utterly appalled—it is Yahweh who speaks— for my people have done two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, to dig for themselves leaking cisterns that hold no water!

Gospel: Mt 13:10-17:
Then his disciples came to him and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but not to these people. For the one who has will be given more; and he will have in abundance. But the one who does not have will be deprived of even what he has. That is why I speak to them in parables; because they look and do not see; they hear; but they do not listen or understand.

In them, the words of the prophet Isaiah are fulfilled: However much you hear, you do not understand; however much you see, you do not perceive. For the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears hardly hear and their eyes dare not see. If they were to see with their eyes, hear with their ears and understand with their heart, they would turn back, and I would heal them. But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For I tell you, many prophets and righteous people have longed to see the things you see, but they did not see them; and to hear them.

In today’s gospel reading we hear Jesus say something somewhat shocking because it seems to approve unfair treatment of people. This is what Jesus says: “For the one who has will be given more; and he will have in abundance. But the one who does not have will be deprived even of what he has.“ How can we explain this saying of Jesus? First, the verbs “will be given… will be deprived” are in the passive voice. And this is a commonly used biblical device to refer to God without naming him out of respect because, at time of Jesus, it was considered irrespectful to refer to God directly by name.

Second, we are talking here of inner dispositions of openness to God’s revelation, however mysterious it may be. If you are willing to accept whatever God will reveal about himself and about his designs on you, he will give you further understanding. If you are not generously open to whatever God wants to reveal to you, then he will take away the little understanding you have and leave you to your own devices—because God totally respects our human freedom. It is all a matter of generosity.

July 22nd

St. Mary Magdalene

1st Reading: Song 3:1-4b (or 2 Cor 5:14-17):
On my bed at night I looked for the one I love, I sought him without finding him; I called him and he did not answer. I will rise and go about the city, through the streets and the squares; I will seek the love of my heart… I sought him without finding him; the watchmen came upon me, those who patrol the city. “Have you seen the love of my heart?” As soon as I left them, I found the love of my heart.

Gospel: Jn 20:1-2, 11-18:
Now, on the first day after the Sabbath, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark, and she saw that the stone blocking the tomb had been moved away. She ran to Peter, and the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and she said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have laid him.” Mary stood weeping outside the tomb; and as she wept, she bent down to look inside. She saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, and the other at the feet. They said, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

She answered, “Because they have taken my Lord and I don’t know where they have put him.” As she said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not recognize him. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and answered him, “Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and take him away.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned, and said to him, “Rabboni!”—which means Master. Jesus said to her, “Do not touch me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them: I am ascending to my Father, who is your Father, to my God, who is your God.” So Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord, and this is what he said to me.”

Perhaps no other woman in history has been more maligned and unjustly vilified than Mary Magdalene. (Incidentally, Magdalene means “from Magdalas,” a town situated on the Western shore of the Sea of Galilee). For various reasons (v.g. there are six Marys mentioned in the New Testament), she was wrongly identified with the nameless, “sinful” woman, who anointed the feet of Jesus (cf. Lk 7:36-50). Thus Mary Magdalene was for centuries thought to have been a reformed prostitute. This error was first spread by Gregory the Great in the 16th century—a typical example of male chauvinism—and was finally corrected only by the Roman Calendar of 1969, where she is no longer called a “penitent.”

Since then at least seven highly scholarly works by female exegetes have set the record straight once and for all. Male chauvinism is slowly being eroded in the West (it is still rampant in many cultures and religions in the East) but remains an ugly blot on humankind. We should all examine our thinking and our behavior in this respect—women as well as men, for some women “introject” that prejudice and accept it unconsciously. Let us look at Jesus’ unconditional acceptance of women disciples. He made of Mary Magdalene, in the words of the Byzantine liturgy, “apostle to the apostle.”

July 23rd

St. Bridget of Sweden

1st Reading: Jer 7:1-11:
These words were spoken by Yahweh, to Jeremiah, “Stand at the gate of Yahweh’s house and proclaim this in a loud voice: Listen to what Yahweh says, all you people of Judah (who enter these gates to worship Yahweh). Yahweh the God of Israel says this: Amend your ways and your deeds and I will stay with you in this place. Rely not on empty words such as: ‘Look, temple of Yahweh! Temple of Yahweh! This is the temple of Yahweh!’ It is far better for you to amend your ways and act justly with all.

Do not abuse the stranger, orphan or widow or shed innocent blood in this place or follow false gods to your own ruin. Then I will stay with you in this place, in the land I gave to your ancestors in times past and forever. But you trust in deceptive and useless words. You steal, kill, take the wife of your neighbor; you swear falsely, worship Baal and follow foreign gods who are not yours. Then, after doing all these horrible things, you come and stand before me in this temple that bears my name and say, ‘Now we are safe.’ Is this house on which rests my name a den of thieves? I have seen this myself—it is Yahweh who speaks.

Gospel: Mt 13:24-30:
Jesus told the people another parable, “The kingdom of heaven can be compared to a man, who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep, his enemy came, and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the plants sprouted and produced grain, the weeds also appeared. Then, the servants of the owner came, and said to him, ‘Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?’

He answered them, ‘This is the work of an enemy.’ They asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?’ He told them, ‘No, when you pull up the weeds, you might uproot the wheat with them. Let them grow together, until harvest; and, at harvest time, I will say to the workers: Pull up the weeds first, tie them in bundles and burn them; then gather the wheat into my barn.’”

There are three types of bad listeners of the Word of God in today’s gospel reading. Let us focus our attention on the third type, the one in whom “the worries of this life and the love of money choke the word, and it does not bear fruit.” What kind of listeners are they? They are busy bodies, fanatics of success, thrusters. Always on the move. They have a head full of wonderful projects aimed at ensuring their success. Are they good Christians? They sincerely believe they are. Do they not attend Mass every Sunday? Do they not give to charities? Do they not place their children in a denominational school?

However, they would have to admit deep within themselves that they are doing all this merely out of a sense of duty. What really matters for them is not so much to place God at the center of their family and professional life, as rather to have a brilliant career, to make a name for themselves, to fatten their bank account. This could be transposed on the spiritual level. There is a way of busying oneself with the things of God which is closely akin to this frantic activism. Yet, nothing can substitute for listening to the word of God.