Bible Diary for December 26th – January 1st

December 26th

Feast of the Holy Family
San Esteban

1st Reading: 1 Sm 1:20-22, 24-28:
And she became pregnant. She gave birth to a son and called him Samuel because she said: “I have asked Yahweh to give him to me.” Once more Elkanah went to the temple with his family to offer his yearly sacrifice and to pay his vow to Yahweh. Hannah would not go along but she said to her husband, “I will bring the child there as soon as he is weaned. He shall be presented to Yahweh and stay there forever.”

When the child was weaned, Hannah took him with her along with a three-year-old bull, a measure of flour and a flask of wine, and she brought him to Yahweh’s house at Shiloh. The child was still young. After they had slain the bull, they brought the child to Eli. Hannah exclaimed: “Oh, my lord, look! I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to Yahweh. I asked for this child and Yahweh granted me the favor I begged of him. I think Yahweh is now asking for this child. As long as he lives, he belongs to Yahweh.”

2nd Reading: 1 Jn 3:1-2, 21-24:
See what singular love the Father has for us: we are called children of God, and we really are. This is why the world does not know us, because it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children and what we shall be has not yet been shown. Yet when he appears in his glory, we know that we shall be like him, for then we shall see him as he is. When our conscience does not condemn us, dear friends, we may have complete confidence in God. Then whatever we ask we shall receive, since we keep his commands and do what pleases him. His command is that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and that we love one another, as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commands remains in God and God in him. It is by the Spirit God has given us that we know he lives in us.

Gospel: Lk 2:41-52:
Every year the parents of Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover, as was customary. And when Jesus was twelve years old, he went up with them according to the custom for this feast. After the festival was over, they returned, but the boy Jesus remained in Jerusalem and his parents did not know it. They assumed that he was in their group of travelers and after walking the whole day they looked for him among their relatives and friends. As they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem searching for him, and on the third day they found him in the Temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions.

And all the people were amazed at his understanding and his answers. His parents were very surprised when they saw him and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I were very worried while searching for you.” Then he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand this answer. Jesus went down with them, returning to Nazareth, and he continued to be obedient to them. As for his mother, she kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and age, and in divine and human favor.

Family life can be a daunting task. Even a family such as that of Jesus, Mary and Joseph had some uncomfortable moments sometimes. But these kinks rather than subtracting the beauty of the family added luster and life to it. Mary and Joseph now will have a context to understand the behavior of their son who chose to stay behind in the big city rather than go back to Nazareth with them. It was not because they were less in His estimation but because He felt safe in the house of His Father. So every time Jesus tarried for a long time in any temple dedicated to His Father, Mary and Joseph would understand.

Thus we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, and of any family for that matter by reading something that hints of domestic disturbance within the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. This is probably to remind us that family is family even if things don’t go smoothly sometimes. What have I done for my family lately? Today honors the families of the world. Perhaps I will plan something that will make the days of my family members magical. Lord, help me be a better member of my family. May I bring blessings and problems in unequal measure with blessings as the clear winner. And grant that whatever problem I may cause may lead to a better family life, that it is just a blessing disguising itself as a test. May all end well in my family. Amen.

December 27th

San Juan

1st Reading: 1 Jn 1:1-4:
This is what has been, from the beginning, and what we have heard, and have seen with our own eyes, what we have looked at, and touched with our hands, I mean the Word who is Life. The Life made itself known. We have seen Eternal Life and we bear witness; and we are telling you of it. It was with the Father and made himself known to us.  So, we tell you, what we have seen and heard, that you may be in fellowship with us, and us, with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ.  And we write this, that our joy may be complete.

Gospel: Jn 20:1a & 2-8:
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.” Peter then set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb.

They ran together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down and saw the linen cloths lying flat, but he did not enter. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and entered the tomb; he, too, saw the linen cloths lying flat. The napkin, which had been around his head, was not lying flat like the other linen cloths, but lay rolled up in its place. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in; he saw and believed.

Among the many descriptions and titles of St. John (he is also called the Apostle, the Evangelist, the Theologian, the Divine, the Son of Zebedee, and the brother of James), what stands most is the description he gave to himself: “the disciple whom Jesus loved.“ He is the Beloved Disciple and this is what matters most to him. We may have obtained many titles because of our accomplishments and achievements, but if we don‘t have the love of Christ in us, we are nothing.

We may have gained everything in this world-riches, fame and influence-but if we don‘t have personal relationship with Christ, that‘s nothing. St Paul articulated this more emphatically: “If I speak with human tongues and angelic as well, but do not have love I am a noisy gang, a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and, with full knowledge, comprehend all mysteries, if I have faith great enough to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give everything I have to feed the poor and hand over my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” How about you? What is more important to you?

December 28th

Feast of the Holy Innocents

1st Reading: 1 Jn 1:5—2:2:
We heard his message from him and announceit to you: God is light and there is no darkness inhim.If we say we are in fellowship with him, while wewalk in darkness, we lie instead of being in truth. Butif we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we are infellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus,the Son of God, purifies us from all sin.If we say, “We have no sin,” we deceive ourselvesand the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, hewho is faithful and just will forgive us our sins andcleanse us from all wickedness.If we say that we do not sin, we make God a liar, hisword is not in us.My little children, I write to you that you may notsin. But if anyone sins, we have an intercessor withthe Father, Jesus Christ, the Just One. He is the sacrificialvictim for our sins and the sins of the wholeworld.

Gospel: Mt 2:13-18:
After the wise men had left, an angel of theLord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said, “Getup, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt,and stay there until I tell you for Herod will soon belooking for the child in order to kill him.”Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, andleft that night for Egypt, where he stayed until thedeath of Herod. In this way, what the Lord had saidthrough the prophet was fulfilled: I called my son outof Egypt.

When Herod found out that he had been trickedby the wise men, he was furious. He gave orders tokill all the boys in Bethlehem and its neighborhoodwho were two years old or under. This was doneaccording to what he had learned from the wisemen about the time when the star appeared.In this way, what the prophet Jeremiah had saidwas fulfilled: A cry is heard in Ramah, wailing and loudlamentation: Rachel weeps for her children. She refusesto be comforted, for they are no more.

In caves between the Orthodox basilica and the medieval one in Bethlehem today we can view many little skulls. According to tradition they belong to the innocent martyrs beheaded by Herod. Historically it is difficult to verify this, but monuments help us to remember historical events. Today’s feast is scandalous on the one hand, but mysterious on the other. We all reject this act of cruelty of Herod moved as he is by jealousy of any other possible king.

But it is also true that this bloody testimony is somehow linked to the future shedding of another blood, the blood of the innocent Lamb of God, now preserved from dying by the Providence of his Father, through the anguish and rushed flight to Egypt of Joseph, Mary and the child. Should not today be the moment to rekindle our deep compassion for so many innocent victims in the streets of our cities and provide them home, nourishment and education?

December 29th

Santo Tomás Becket

1st Reading: 1 Jn 2:3-11:
Beloved: The way we may be sure that we know Jesus is to keep his commandments. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him.  This is the way we may know that we are in union with him: whoever claims to abide in him ought to walk just as he walked. Beloved, I am writing no new commandment to you but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. 

The old commandment is the word that you have heard.  And yet I do write a new commandment to you, which holds true in him and among you, for the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.  Whoever says he is in the light, yet hates his brother, is still in the darkness.  Whoever loves his brother remains in the light, and there is nothing in him to cause a fall.  Whoever hates his brother is in darkness; he walks in darkness and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Gospel: Lk 2:22-35:
When the day came for the purification according to the law of Moses, they brought the baby up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, as it is written in the law of the Lord: Every firstborn male shall be consecrated to God. And they offered a sacrifice as ordered in the law of the Lord: a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. There lived in Jerusalem at this time a very upright and devout man named Simeon; the Holy Spirit was in him. He looked forward to the time when the Lord would comfort Israel, and he had been assured by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before seeing the Messiah of the Lord. So he was led into the Temple by the Holy Spirit at the time the parents brought the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law.

Simeon took the child in his arms and blessed God, saying, “Now, O Lord, you can dismiss your servant in peace, for you have fulfilled your word and my eyes have seen your salvation, which you display for all the people to see. Here is the light you will reveal to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.” His father and mother wondered at what was said about the child. Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary, his mother, “Know this: your son is a sign; a sign established for the falling and rising of many in Israel, a sign of contradiction; and a sword will pierce your own soul, so that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”

Did you realize that in the text the Holy Spirit appears three times? First: Simeon was a very upright and devout man and the Holy Spirit was in him. So, justice and piety, even the expectation of the consolation of Israel, are effects of the Holy Spirit. Similarly for us, virtues and perseverance waiting for the consolation of the Church, are fruits from the Spirit. Second: It was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not experience death until he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. It was a great interior revelation and promise; for a Jew, the summit of divine graces.

Haven’t we also promises and dreams that enlighten us in our Christian life? Third: Simeon came to the temple inspired by the Spirit and when the parents brought in the child Jesus… he took him in his hands and blessed God. That was the moment of fulfillment. Nobody recognized in this poor couple with a child the “consolation” of Israel. Only the Spirit could disclose the hidden mystery and act in the time of God. Can we not be attentive to the Spirit’s guidance like the pious Simeon and embrace the Child Jesus in our hands?

December 30th

1st Reading: 1 Jn 2:12-17:
My dear children, I write this to you: you have already received the forgiveness of your sins through the name of Jesus. Fathers, I write this to you: you know him who is from the beginning. Young men, I write this to you: you have overcome the Evil One. My dear children, I write to you because you already know the Father. Fathers, I write to you because you know him who is from the beginning. Young men, I write to you because you are strong and the Word of God lives in you who have indeed overcome the evil one.

Do not love the world or what is in it. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the craving of the flesh, the greed of eyes and people boasting of their superiority— all this belongs to the world, not to the Father. The world passes away with all its craving but those who do the will of God remain forever.

Gospel: Lk 2:36-40:
There was also a prophetess named Anna, daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. After leaving her father’s home, she had been seven years with her husband, and since then she had been continually about the Temple, serving God as a widow night and day in fasting and prayer. She was now eighty-four. Coming up at that time, she gave praise to God and spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem. When the parents had fulfilled all that was required by the law of the Lord, they returned to their town, Nazareth in Galilee. There the child grew in stature and strength and was filled with wisdom: the grace of God was upon him.

Today, we have the case of Anna. Luke presents her genealogy and praises her long widowhood in the temple: praying, fasting and serving. She also was inspired to join the humble couple in their presentation of the firstborn in the temple. She praised God and spoke of the child to all who looked to the deliverance of Jerusalem. This discrete presence of a prophetess comes to complete the scene of blessings. In Simeon, the prophecy on Jesus and Mary was explicit and mysterious: universality of his light and suffering of the mother because of the contradiction around her son.

Here, have we not a special message wherein we may bathe in the same atmosphere of praise, thanksgiving and redemption? Finally we have a summary of the childhood of Jesus which parallels the childhood of John. In fact we read about the Baptist: “As the child grew, he was seen to be strong in the Spirit; he lived in the desert till the day when he appeared openly in Israel” (Lk 1:80). And about Jesus: “The child grew in stature and strength and was filled with wisdom: the grace of God was upon him” (Lk 2: 40). With Simeon and Anna let us accept and meditate on this simple testimony of the Gospel.

December 31st

San Silvestre I

1st Reading: 1 Jn 2:18-21:
My dear children, it is the last hour. You were told that an antichrist would come; but several antichrists have already come, by which we know that it is now the last hour. They went out from us though they did not really belong to us. Had they belonged to us, they would have remained with us. So it became clear that not all of us were really ours. But you have the anointing from the Holy One, so that all of you have true wisdom. I write to you, not because you lack knowledge of the truth, but because you already know it, and lies have nothing in common with the truth.

Gospel: Jn 1:1-18:
In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God; he was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him and without him nothing came to be. Whatever has come to be, found life in him, life which for human beings was also light. Light that shines in the darkness: light that darkness could not overcome. A man came, sent by God; his name was John. He came to bear witness, as a witness to introduce the Light so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light but a witness to introduce the Light; for the Light was coming into the world, the true Light that enlightens everyone. He was in the world, and through him the world was made, the very world that did not know him.

He came to his own, yet his own people did not receive him; but to all who received him, he empowers to become children of God, for they believe in his name. These are born, but not by seed, or carnal desire, nor by the will of man: they are born of God. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us; and we have seen his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father: fullness of truth and loving-kindness. John bore witness to him openly, saying, “This is the one who comes after me, but he is already ahead of me, for he was before me.” From his fullness we have all received, favor upon favor. For God had given us the law through Moses, but Truth and Loving-kindness came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God-the-only-Son made him known: the one, who is in and with the Father.

In Christmas, we not only have descriptions of Jesus’ birth, but also texts in which we grasp the depth of the mystery which is behind the humble circumstances of Bethlehem, the stable and the manger. The Prologue of the Gospel of John is one of these manifestations of the true personality of this child. After the affirmation of the eternal divinity of the Word and his participation in creation and revelation to everyone, we hear the essential tenet of our faith: “And the Word was made flesh; …, and we have seen his Glory, the Glory of the only Son coming from the Father: fullness of truth and loving-kindness.”

God is quite invisible, but the only Son of God is now visible in his flesh and as such we can see him in his fullness of grace and truth. This is why the beloved disciple, John, could write: “The Word was with the Father and made himself known to us. So we tell you what we have seen and heard that you may be in fellowship with us, and us, with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” And he even denounces: “Who is the liar? The one who denies that Jesus is the Christ. This is the antichrist, who denies both the Father and the Son.” This solemn warning reminds us the conviction of our Catholic faith based in the Scripture and proclaimed everywhere since the apostolic times. Christmas is then the gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God.

January 1st

Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

1st Reading: Num 6:22-27:
Then Yahweh spoke to Moses saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons and say to them: This is how you shall bless the people of Israel; you shall say: May Yahweh bless you and keep you! May Yahweh let his face shine on you, and be gracious to you! May Yahweh look kindly on you, and give you his peace! In that way shall they put my name on the people of Israel and I will bless them.”

2nd Reading: Gal 4:4-7:
But when the fullness of time came, God sent his Son. He came, born of woman, and subject to the law, in order to redeem the subjects of the law, that we might receive adoption, as children of God. And because you are children, God has sent into your hearts, the spirit of his Son, who cries out: Abba! that is, Father! You, yourself, are no longer a slave, but a son or daughter, and yours is the inheritance, by God’s grace.

Gospel: Lk 2:16-21:
So they [shepherds] came hurriedly, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the feeding trough. On seeing him, they related what they had been told about the child; and all were astonished on hearing the shepherds. As for Mary, she treasured all these words, and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds then returned, giving glory and praise to God for all they had heard and seen, just as the angels had told them. On the eighth day, the circumcision of the baby had to be performed; he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

“She treasured all these words, and pondered them in her heart.” The Doctors of the Church endlessly repeat that, before ever conceiving Jesus in her body, Mary conceived him in her heart. By which expression they mean to say that the affinity between Mary and Jesus was not only the physical affinity existing between any normal mother and child. It was much more than that. It was a spiritual affinity, the one uniting two minds thinking on the same wave length, two hearts loving the same values, two wills deeply aligned on God’s will.

Most Christians emphasize the fact that Mary was Jesus’ physical mother. But they rarely go beyond and grasp that Mary was Jesus’ mother at such a depth that it defies our imagination. This does not mean that Mary understood Jesus perfectly, for she did not, as later gospel events will show. But she was willing to “ponder” the mystery of her Son, despite its awful incomprehensibility. She is our unsurpassable model in this. Instead of being so busy doing all kinds of things for the Kingdom, maybe we should spend more time in solitude, pondering the things of God in our hearts.