Bible Diary for February 23rd – 29th

February 23rd

7mo domingo en tiempo ordinario
San Policarpo

1st Reading: Lev 19:1–2, 17–18:
Yahweh spoke to Moses and said, “Speak to the entire assembly of the people of Israel and say to them: Be holy for I, Yahweh, your God, am holy. Do not hate your brother in your heart; rebuke your neighbor frankly so as not to share in his guilt. Do not seek revenge or nurture a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am Yahweh.

2nd Reading: 1 Cor 3:16–23:
Do you not know that you are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit abides within you? If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him. God’s temple is holy, and you are this temple. Do not deceive yourselves. If anyone of you considers himself wise in the ways of the world, let him become a fool, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s eyes.

To this, Scripture says: God catches the wise in their own wisdom. It also says: The Lord knows the reasoning of the wise, that it is useless. Because of this, let no one boast about human beings, for everything be longs to you; Paul, Apollos, Cephas—life, death, the present and the future. Everything is yours, and you, you belong to Christ, and Christ is of God.

Gospel: Mt 5:38–48:
You have heard, that it was said: An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you this: do not oppose evil with evil; if someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn and offer the other. If someone sues you in court for your shirt, give him your coat as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give when asked, and do not turn your back on anyone who wants to borrow from you.

You have heard, that it was said: Love your neighbor and do not do good to your enemy. But this I tell you: love your enemies; and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. For he makes his sun rise on both the wicked and the good; and he gives rain to both the just and the unjust.

If you love those who love you, what is special about that? Do not even tax collectors do as much? And if you are friendly only to your friends, what is so exceptional about that? Do not even the pagans do as much? As for you, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Jesus did tell His disciples to follow the Law and the Prophets but they must exercise right judgment and not get stuck only with the letter of the Law but to look higher and see the spirit that permeates the Law, that is, love. This standard should also be used in everyday common sayings that are usually accepted without question because they seem to be practical and just, like exacting payment for debt obtained and loving only those who love you. But this kind of logic runs contrary to the logic of love. It is too easy and convenient. Love when it is genuine needs hard work.

That’s why the seat of love, the heart, is a muscle. It needs to be exercised to maintain its capacity to go beyond the easy and the practical. It has to be strong so as not to get tired loving even if it is uncomfortable to do so. When was the last time you allowed yourself to be “vulnerable” for the sake of love? It may seem foolish but people who love are not weak. In fact they are so strong that they can bear the burdens of true love. So, allow yourself to be weak for the sake of love today and feel strong in participating in God’s awesome power of Love.

February 24th

1st Reading: Jas 3:13-18:
If you consider yourself wise and learned, show it by your good life, and let your actions, in all humility, be an example for others. But if your heart is full of bitter jealousy, and ambition, do not try to show off; that would be covering up the truth; this kind of wisdom does not come from above, but from the world, and it is earthly and devilish.

Wherever there is jealousy and ambition, you will also find discord, and all that is evil. Instead, the wisdom that comes from above is pure and peace-loving. Persons with this wisdom show understanding, and listen to advice; they are full of compassion and good works; they are impartial and sincere. Peacemakers, who sow peace, reap a harvest of justice.

Gospel: Mark 9:14-29:
When they came to the place where they had left the disciples, they saw many people around them and some teachers of the law arguing with them. When the people saw Jesus, they were astonished and ran to greet him. He asked, “What are you arguing about with them?” A man answered him from the crowd, “Master, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit, deaf and mute. Whenever the spirit seizes him, it throws him down and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth and becomes stiff all over.

I asked your disciples to drive the spirit out, but they could not.” Jesus replied, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. As soon as the spirit saw Jesus, it shook and convulsed the boy, who fell on the ground and began rolling about, foaming at the mouth. Then Jesus asked the father, “How long has this been happening to him?”

He replied, “From childhood. And it has often thrown him into the fire and into the water to destroy him. If you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “Why do you say, ‘If you can?’ All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately, the father of the boy cried out, “I do believe, but help the little faith I have.”

Jesus saw that the crowd was increasing rapidly, so he ordered the evil spirit, “Dumb and deaf spirit, I command you: Leave the boy and never enter him again.” The evil spirit shook and convulsed the boy and with a terrible shriek came out. The boy lay like a corpse and people said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and the boy stood up. After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive out the spirit?” And he answered, “Only prayer can drive out this kind, nothing else.”

The disciples were asked to effect a particular healing. It was a boy oppressed by a dumb and deaf spirit. It was just one of those days when they were at a loss how to explain their impotence before something which they had lorded over before. It was just an ordinary case yet there they were embarrassed at their own inadequacy. It is in this context that arguments began. Expectations were not met, hope was dashed to the ground, the friendly atmosphere turned sour with disappointment.

And then Jesus found them. He remedied the case by expelling the cause of the little boy’s illness. And order was once again restored. That day, Jesus taught His disciples a valuable lesson that would stay with them forever. When faced with an enormous task beyond their skill, they should not resort to defensive behavior but to prayer.

February 25th

1st Reading: Jas 4:1–10:
What causes these fights and quarrels among you? Is it not your cravings, that make war within your own selves? When you long for something you cannot have, you kill for it, and when you do not get what you desire, you squabble and fight. The fact is, you do not have what you want, because you do not pray for it. You pray for something, and you do not get it, because you pray with the wrong motive, of indulging your pleasures. You adulterers! Don’t you know, that making friends with the world makes you enemies of God? Therefore, whoever chooses to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy.

Can you not see the point of the saying in Scripture: “The longing of the spirit, he sent to dwell in us, is a jealous longing?” But God has something better to give, and Scripture also says, God opposes the proud but he gives his favor to the humble. Give in, then, to God; resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw close to God and he will come close to you. Clean your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you doubters. Recognize your distress, be miserable and weep. Turn your laughter into tears and your joy into sadness. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will raise you up.

Gospel: Mk 9:30–37:
After leaving that place, they made their way through Galilee; but Jesus did not want people to know where he was because he was teaching his disciples. And he told them, “The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, but three days after he has been killed, he will rise.” The disciples, however, did not understand these words and they were afraid to ask him what he meant. They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, Jesus asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?”

But they did not answer, because they had been arguing about who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve and said to them, “If someone wants to be first, let him be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child, placed him in their midst, and putting his arms around him he said to them, “Whoever welcomes a child such as this in my name, welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me, welcomes not me, but the One who sent me.”

Jesus talks about suffering and death, the vulnerable lot of the Son of Man in human hands while His disciples argue who among them is the greatest. They are clearly coming from different planes. This must be one of the times when Jesus’ patience was tested. After all the times the disciples spent with Him, they could still not get it. Yet Jesus continued hoping and believing in His unruly lot.

He did not give up on them. It was because of this that they willingly laid down their lives for the One who patiently taught them what true greatness really meant. And His teaching had a lasting impact because He lived what He taught. He walked the talk. Hence His words and His actions affirming and confirming each other was a teaching style that transformed His apostles.

February 26th

Miércoles de ceniza

1st Reading: Jl 2:12–18:
Yahweh says, “Yet even now, return to me with your whole heart; with fasting, weeping and mourning. Rend your heart, not your garment. Return to Yahweh, your God—gracious and compassionate.” Yahweh is slow to anger, full of kind ness, and he repents of having punished. Who knows? Probably he will relent once more, and spare some part of the harvest, from which we may bring sacred offerings to Yahweh, your God. Blow the trumpet in Zion, proclaim a sacred fast, call a solemn assembly.

Gather the people, sanctify the community, bring together the elders, even the children and infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his bed, and the bride her room. Between the vestibule and the altar, let the priests, Yahweh’s ministers, weep and say: Spare your people, Yahweh. Do not humble them or make them an object of scorn among the nations. Why should it be said among the people: Where is their God? Yahweh has become jealous for his land; he has had pity on his people.

2nd Reading: 2 Cor 5:20—6:2:
So we present ourselves as ambassadors, in the name of Christ, as if God, himself, makes an appeal to you, through us. Let God reconcile you; this, we ask you, in the name of Christ. He had no sin, but God made him bear our sin, so, that, in him, we might share the holiness of God.

Being God’s helpers, we beg you: let it not be in vain, that you received this grace of God. Scripture says: At the favorable time I listened to you, on the day of salvation I helped you. This is the favorable time, this is the day of salvation.

Gospel: Mt 6:1–6, 16–18:
Be careful not to make a show of your good deeds before people. If you do so, you do not gain any – thing from your Father in heaven. When you give something to the poor, do not have it trumpeted before you, as do those who want to be noticed in the synagogues and in the streets, in order to be praised by people. I assure you, they have their reward. If you give something to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your gift remains really secret. Your Father, who sees what is kept secret, will reward you. When you pray, do not be like those who want to be noticed. They love to stand and pray in the synagogues or on street corners, in order to be seen by everyone.

I assure you, they have their reward. When you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father who is with you in secret; and your Father who sees what is kept secret will re ward you. When you fast, do not put on a miserable face, as do the hypocrites. They put on a gloomy face, so that people can see they are fasting. I tell you this: they have been paid in full already. When you fast, wash your face and make yourself look cheerful, because you are not fasting for appearances or for people, but for your Father, who sees beyond appearances. And your Father, who sees what is kept secret, will reward you.

Righteousness is not something for display. It is a way of life that is the product of consistency in words and actions. You do not ascribe it to yourself. It is others who begin to notice your spiritual growth and they affirm it by their testimony and belief in the righteousness that you displayed all along. Righteousness if flaunted loses its power to influence and transform others. It becomes a superficial and cheap effort to impress.

This is why Jesus warned His disciples not to resort to this kind of gimmickry. Better strive for holiness in secret to avoid the distraction of having to deal with people’s attention. Since a righteous life cannot be contained, when that comes, you are strong enough to realize that it is not you but the righteous God who took possession of you who attracted them.

February 27th

1st Reading: Dt 30:15–20:
See, I set before you on this day life and good, evil and death. I command you to love Yahweh, your God and follow his ways. Observe his commandments, his norms and his laws, and you will live and increase, and Yahweh will give you his blessing in the land you are going to possess. But if your heart turns away and does not listen, if you are drawn away and bow before other gods to serve them, I declare on this day that you shall perish.

You shall not last in the land you are going to occupy on the other side of the Jordan. Let the heavens and the earth listen, that they may be witnesses against you. I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life that you and your descendants may live, loving Yahweh, listening to his voice, and being one with him. In this is life for you and length of days in the land which Yahweh swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

Gospel: Lk 9:22–25:
And he added, “The Son of Man must suffer many things. He will be rejected by the elders and chief priests and teachers of the law, and be put to death. Then after three days he will be raised to life.”

Jesus also said to all the people, “If you wish to be a follower of mine, deny yourself and take up your cross each day, and follow me! For if you choose to save your life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake, you will save it. What does it profit you to gain the whole world, if you destroy or damage yourself?

Jesus never promised His disciples an easy life. As a matter of fact, early on, He already disclosed to them the kind of end He would have: an ignoble death but one that would lead to new life. However, His disciples could not grasp the significance of His last words on death and being raised to new life.

The very idea of death troubled them. Thus the invitation of Jesus on denying the self and taking up the cross fell on deaf ears. It would take the very death and resurrection of Jesus to convince them to embrace this path. Even then, it would be a long time before some of them became fully convinced.

February 28th

1st Reading: Is 58:1–9a:
Cry out aloud for all you are worth; raise your voice like a trumpet blast; tell my people of their offenses, Jacob’s family of their sins. Is it true that they seek me day after day, longing to know my ways, as a people that does what is right and has not forsaken the word of its God? They want to know the just laws and not to drift away from their God. “Why are we fasting,” they complain, “and you do not even see it? We are doing penance and you never notice it.” Look, on your fast days you push your trade and you oppress your laborers. Yes, you fast but end up quarreling, striking each other with wicked blows. Fasting as you do will not make your voice heard on high.

Is that the kind of fast that pleases me, just a day to humble oneself? Is fasting merely bowing down one’s head, and making use of sackcloth and ashes? Would you call that fasting, a day acceptable to Yahweh? See the fast that pleases me: breaking the fetters of injustice and unfastening the thongs of the yoke, setting the oppressed free and breaking every yoke. Fast by sharing your food with the hungry, bring to your house the homeless, clothe the one you see naked and do not turn away from your own kin. Then will your light break forth as the dawn and your healing come in a flash. Your righteousness will be your vanguard, the glory of Yahweh your rearguard. Then you will call and Yahweh will answer, you will cry and he will say, I am here.

Gospel: Mt 9:14–15:
Then the disciples of John came to him with the question, “How is it, that we and the Pharisees fast on many occasions, but not your disciples?” Jesus answered them, “How can you expect wedding guests to mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The time will come, when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then, they will fast.

Joy is the byproduct of a life lived for Jesus. No wonder, many saints were known to be advocates or provocateurs of joy. The reason why the Son of Man came into the world is precisely to bring back to us this capacity to know joy that we lost when we deliberately turned our back on God’s friendship.

From that time on, we tried to win back God’s favor through a life of penance, mortification and sacrifice. But Jesus came and befriended us again. We have joy back in our midst. There is no reason to be unhappy. That is why Jesus’ disciples do not fast. That will come when Jesus will be separated from them.

February 29th

1st Reading: Is 58:9b–14:
Then you will call and Yahweh will answer, you will cry and he will say, I am here. If you remove from your midst the yoke, the clenched fist and the wicked word, if you share your food with the hungry and give relief to the oppressed, then your light will rise in the dark, your night will be like noon. Yahweh will guide you always and give you relief in desert places. He will strengthen your bones; he will make you as a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters never fail.

Your ancient ruins will be rebuilt, the age-old foundations will be raised. You will be called the Breach-mender, and the Restorer of ruined houses. If you stop profaning the Sabbath and doing as you please on the holy day, if you call the Sabbath a day of delight and keep sacred Yahweh’s holy day, if you honor it by not going your own way, not doing as you please and not speaking with malice, then you will find happiness in Yahweh, over the heights you will ride triumphantly, and feast joyfully on the inheritance of your father Jacob. The mouth of Yahweh has spoken.

Gospel: Lk 5:27–32:
After this, Jesus went out, and noticing a tax collector named Levi, sitting in the tax-office, he said to him, “Follow me!” So Levi, leaving everything, got up and followed Jesus. Levi gave a great feast for Jesus, and many tax collectors came to his house, and took their places at the table with the other people.

Then the Pharisees and their followers complained to Jesus’ disciples, “How is it, that you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” But Jesus spoke up, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I have not come to call the just, but sinners, to a change of heart.”

Not all those considered sinners are stubborn of heart. We might be surprised to learn that beneath the sinful exterior is someone sincerely looking for meaning in life. Levi is a such case. He was at his tax collector’s table doing his “sinful” job during an ordinary day. Yet, someone extraordinary passed by and invited him to a life that he could not have conceived of before. He is given a chance; he will not allow it to pass.

It’s amazing sometimes how people condemn others without even bothering to give them a chance to reform. Or even if they were given the chance were not accorded the necessary companionship and support to help them overcome their sinful situation. Jesus did not only invite Levi, He also showed His confidence and support by attending Levi’s feast and defending him in front of people who would not allow him to change. Levi found someone who would risk for him. For someone like him following Jesus would be a no brainer.