Bible Diary for February 4th – February 10th

February 4th

5º domingo de tiempo ordinario

1st Reading: Jb 7:1-4, 6-7:
Job spoke, saying: Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery? Are not his days those of hirelings? He is a slave who longs for the shade, a hireling who waits for his wages. So I have been assigned months of misery, and troubled nights have been allotted to me. If in bed I say, “When shall I arise?” then the night drags on; I am filled with restlessness until the dawn. My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle; they come to an end without hope. Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.

2nd Reading: 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23:
Brothers and sisters: If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it! If I do so willingly, I have a recompense, but if unwillingly, then I have been entrusted with a stewardship. What then is my recompense? That, when I preach, I offer the gospel free of charge so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all so as to win over as many as possible. To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak. I have become all things to all, to save at least some. All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it.

Gospel: Mk 1:29-39:
On leaving the synagogue Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them. When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him. Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.” He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.

How do you see suffering in your personal and communitarian experience? Is it a punishment or a moment to redirect us towards God? Nurturing one’s relationship with God and others is not exempted from trials and sufferings; yet we are not afraid for we are assured of God’s continued comforting and loving presence if only we open our heart and soul to God day and night, in good and in bad times. Lord, make us docile to the promptings of your Holy Spirit, guiding us every day of our lives. Show us the way to face our daily chores with firm faith and hope in your loving and comforting presence in our lives. Amen. Identify the most challenging experience you have these past days and try to discern what God is calling you to do now in your life. Say to yourself: “Have a time to relax and allow God to work in you!”

February 5th

San Felipe de Jesús
Santa Ágata

1st Reading: 1 Kgs 8:1-7, 9-13:
The elders of Israel and all the leaders of the tribes, the princes in the ancestral houses of the children of Israel, came to King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the Lord’s covenant from the City of David, which is Zion. All the people of Israel assembled before King Solomon during the festival in the month of Ethanim (the seventh month). When all the elders of Israel had arrived, the priests took up the ark; they carried the ark of the Lord and the meeting tent with all the sacred vessels that were in the tent. (The priests and Levites carried them.) King Solomon and the entire community of Israel present for the occasion sacrificed before the ark sheep and oxen too many to number or count.

The priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place beneath the wings of the cherubim in the sanctuary, the holy of holies of the temple. The cherubim had their wings spread out over the place of the ark, sheltering the ark and its poles from above. There was nothing in the ark but the two stone tablets which Moses had put there at Horeb, when the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel at their departure from the land of Egypt. When the priests left the holy place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord so that the priests could no longer minister because of the cloud, since the Lord’s glory had filled the temple of the Lord. Then Solomon said, “The Lord intends to dwell in the dark cloud; I have truly built you a princely house, a dwelling where you may abide forever.”

Gospel: Mk 6:53-56:
After making the crossing to the other side of the sea, Jesus and his disciples came to land at Gennesaret and tied up there. As they were leaving the boat, people immediately recognized him. They scurried about the surrounding country and began to bring in the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed.

The power of touch! Touch is the first sense we acquire and the first language of love we understand. It is also considered the secret ingredient in many successful relationships. Studies have shown that abandoned babies who do not experience enough human touch and care can easily get sick, and can even shrivel and die of illness. One research demonstrated that touch can communicate different emotions and that we have an innate ability to decode emotions via touch alone. No wonder, when Jesus healed, he used the power of touch.

This is the striking image the gospel presents—Jesus touching the sick to heal them, communicating to them God’s love and care. Without words, the people he touched understood the unspoken language of love, forgiveness, and acceptance; they were made whole again. Were the people in Jesus’ time like us today—not only hungry for food, but also hungry for love? No wonder they were crowding around Jesus because in him their deepest yearning for healing and wholeness were being fulfilled. Jesus invites us to approach him, to allow him to touch us in our depths so we may be healed of our doubts, that God truly loves us.

February 6th

San Pablo Miki y Compañeros

1st Reading: 1 Kgs 8:22-23, 27-30:
Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of the whole community of Israel, and stretching forth his hands toward heaven, he said, “Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below; you keep your covenant of mercy with your servants who are faithful to you with their whole heart. “Can it indeed be that God dwells on earth? If the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain you, how much less this temple which I have built! Look kindly on the prayer and petition of your servant, O Lord, my God, and listen to the cry of supplication which I, your servant, utter before you this day. May your eyes watch night and day over this temple, the place where you have decreed you shall be honored; may you heed the prayer which I, your servant, offer in this place. Listen to the petitions of your servant and of your people Israel which they offer in this place. Listen from your heavenly dwelling and grant pardon.”

Gospel: Mk 7:1-13:
When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. (For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. And on coming from the marketplace they do not eat without purifying themselves. And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed, the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds.) So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”

He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts. You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.” He went on to say, “How well you have set aside the commandment of God in order to uphold your tradition! For Moses said, Honor your father and your mother, and Whoever curses father or mother shall die. Yet you say, ‘If someone says to father or mother, “Any support you might have had from me is qorban”‘ (meaning, dedicated to God), you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother. You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things.”

Traditions are not only important for many religions, they are also very much part of any culture. Even families have traditions they consider sacrosanct. The word “tradition” means “something handed down,” from one generation to the next. It could be a teaching or a practice. Precisely because traditions are handed down, the way they are interpreted can change over time as cultures and people’s contexts change. Sometimes people observe traditions without even understanding their significance. Meanings can get lost in transmission, not just in translation. In itself, tradition is not bad.

If so, what is Jesus really criticizing in today’s gospel? I don’t think it is tradition as such, since it appears that Jesus himself was not against all tradition. We are told that he observed some traditions like going regularly to the synagogue “as was his custom.” What Jesus was against is when a human-made tradition is being taught as an absolute, when it is done to earn salvation, or when it is given priority over God’s commandment of love. Tradition of this kind can only lead to an empty, hypocritical and superficial worship of God. Jesus invites us to worship God from our depths.

February 7th

Beato Pío IX

1st Reading: 1 Kgs 10:1-10:
The queen of Sheba, having heard of Solomon’s fame, came to test him with subtle questions. She arrived in Jerusalem with a very numerous retinue, and with camels bearing spices, a large amount of gold, and precious stones. She came to Solomon and questioned him on every subject in which she was interested. King Solomon explained everything she asked about, and there remained nothing hidden from him that he could not explain to her. When the queen of Sheba witnessed Solomon’s great wisdom, the palace he had built, the food at his table, the seating of his ministers, the attendance and garb of his waiters, his banquet service, and the burnt offerings he offered in the temple of the Lord, she was breathless.

“The report I heard in my country about your deeds and your wisdom is true,” she told the king. “Though I did not believe the report until I came and saw with my own eyes, I have discovered that they were not telling me the half. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report I heard. Blessed are your men, blessed these servants of yours, who stand before you always and listen to your wisdom. Blessed be the Lord, your God, whom it has pleased to place you on the throne of Israel. In his enduring love for Israel, the Lord has made you king to carry out judgment and justice.” Then she gave the king one hundred and twenty gold talents, a very large quantity of spices, and precious stones. Never again did anyone bring such an abundance of spices as the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.

Gospel: Mk 7:14-23:
Jesus summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.” When he got home away from the crowd his disciples questioned him about the parable. He said to them, “Are even you likewise without understanding? Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) “But what comes out of the man, that is what defiles him. From within the man, from his heart, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”

We are confronted again with the question of evil. Questions like, why does evil exist or how can evil be eliminated from our lives, continue to beg for satisfactory answers. The Jews in Jesus’ time believed that evil comes from outside and that even what they eat if unclean can make one impure. Jesus dealt with this issue in responding to the religious leaders’ concern with ritual defilement, which would render a person unsuitable to worship God. They were under the illusion that on the inside they were good and godly. This narrow-minded interpretation totally missed the bigger picture about human nature.

Sin is not only an external problem, even if we live in a world of injustice and pain. Our tendency towards evil resides deep within us. This is aggravated by external influences impinging on our conscience development. True religion is not only concerned with actions but also motivations, not just rituals but also spirituality. The problem with evil is that it is often rationalized, unrecognized or hidden behind thick crusts of cultural conditioning. It takes grace to have the courage to look inside ourselves and face the sinful tendencies that reside in our wounded, unbelieving and hardened hearts.

February 8th

San Jerónimo Emiliani
Santa Josefina Bakhita

1st Reading: 1 Kgs 11:4-13:
When Solomon was old his wives had turned his heart to strange gods, and his heart was not entirely with the Lord, his God, as the heart of his father David had been. By adoring Astarte, the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom, the idol of the Ammonites, Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord; he did not follow him unreservedly as his father David had done. Solomon then built a high place to Chemosh, the idol of Moab, and to Molech, the idol of the Ammonites, on the hill opposite Jerusalem. He did the same for all his foreign wives who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.

The Lord, therefore, became angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice (for though the Lord had forbidden him this very act of following strange gods, Solomon had not obeyed him). So the Lord said to Solomon: “Since this is what you want, and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes which I enjoined on you, I will deprive you of the kingdom and give it to your servant. I will not do this during your lifetime, however, for the sake of your father David; it is your son whom I will deprive. Nor will I take away the whole kingdom. I will leave your son one tribe for the sake of my servant David and of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”

Gospel: Mk 7:24-30:
Jesus went to the district of Tyre. He entered a house and wanted no one to know about it, but he could not escape notice. Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him. She came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She replied and said to him, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.” Then he said to her, “For saying this, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.” When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.

We are presented with a disturbing image of Jesus as seemingly cruel and haughty in his dismissive attitude toward the pagan woman who was begging for his help in behalf of her possessed daughter. This is a rather incongruent image of him as compassionate towards the suffering and the possessed, and merciful towards sinners and outcasts. The Syrophoenician, being a woman and a pagan, was therefore an outcast. Although Jesus is presented as someone who seemed to have a narrow understanding of his own mission—only to the Jews—the audacity of the woman’s faith compelled him to broaden the scope of his mission, making it more inclusive and expansive.

Perhaps the story is meant to force us to look more intently into our own faith and attitude: Do we truly believe in Jesus? Is our faith challenging us to change our attitudes towards others? We know that showing bias on the basis of someone’s religion or gender or social standing is against common morality. Perhaps this story does not offend us enough if our actions continue to communicate an “us and them” attitude. If Jesus in his humanity was open to change, are we willing to follow his example?

February 9th

1st Reading: 1 kgs 11:29-32; 12:19:
Jeroboam left Jerusalem, and the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite met him on the road. The two were alone in the area, and the prophet was wearing a new cloak. Ahijah took off his new cloak, tore it into twelve pieces, and said to Jeroboam: “Take ten pieces for yourself; the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I will tear away the kingdom from Solomon’s grasp and will give you ten of the tribes. One tribe shall remain to him for the sake of David my servant, and of Jerusalem, the city I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel.’” Israel went into rebellion against David’s house to this day.

Gospel: Mk 7:31-37:
Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”) And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

The beautiful song in Handel’s Messiah from Is 35:5-6 about “the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped” and “the tongue of the dumb shall sing” reverberates in today’s gospel. Although this is a story of physical healing, the deeper significance of the event must not be lost on us. When Jesus heals, he invites us to go beyond the physical and into the spiritual. Jesus’ first action before he healed the deaf-mute is significant. It describes a three-stage movement from the physical realm to the spiritual: he (1) “took” the man (2) “apart,” leading him to a private space, away (3) “from the crowd.”

It was in a quiet space where the deafmute gave his full attention on Jesus that the healing occurred. When we approach Jesus in our need, he leads us first to a space of solitude where we are less distracted and able to communicate with him as we are. “Ephphatha, be opened!” With ears unplugged, Jesus invites us to listen not only with our ears but also with our hearts to God’s dream for us. With tongues loosened, we are able to sing with our entire being our desires and deep longings for God.

February 10th

La escolástica

1st Reading: 1 Kgs 12:26-32; 13:33-34:
Jeroboam thought to himself: “The kingdom will return to David’s house. If now this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, the hearts of this people will return to their master, Rehoboam, king of Judah, and they will kill me.” After taking counsel, the king made two calves of gold and said to the people: “You have been going up to Jerusalem long enough. Here is your God, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” And he put one in Bethel, the other in Dan. This led to sin, because the people frequented those calves in Bethel and in Dan.

He also built temples on the high places and made priests from among the people who were not Levites. Jeroboam established a feast in the eighth month on the fifteenth day of the month to duplicate in Bethel the pilgrimage feast of Judah, with sacrifices to the calves he had made; and he stationed in Bethel priests of the high places he had built. Jeroboam did not give up his evil ways after this, but again made priests for the high places from among the common people. Whoever desired it was consecrated and became a priest of the high places. This was a sin on the part of the house of Jeroboam for which it was to be cut off and destroyed from the earth.

Gospel: Mk 8:1-10:
In those days when there again was a great crowd without anything to eat, Jesus summoned the disciples and said, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will collapse on the way, and some of them have come a great distance.” His disciples answered him, “Where can anyone get enough bread to satisfy them here in this deserted place?” Still he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?”

They replied, “Seven.” He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then, taking the seven loaves he gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to his disciples to distribute, and they distributed them to the crowd. They also had a few fish. He said the blessing over them and ordered them distributed also. They ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets. There were about four thousand people. He dismissed the crowd and got into the boat with his disciples and came to the region of Dalmanutha.

From our real life experience we can understand the feeling of hunger and its effects on the mind and body. When we see pictures of emaciated children dying of hunger in famine-stricken places, we understand what it is like. Today’s gospel presents us with a familiar scene—for the second time Jesus is confronted with a hungry crowd, which again evokes compassion from him. What might be the significance of repeating a similar story? The location, a non-Jewish territory, and the previous stories of Jesus ministering to non-Jews, give us clues—that God knows our needs and feeds our hunger irrespective of our race, religion, or background.

Jesus’ disciples did not seem to understand this and reacted to Jesus’ challenge in the same way they did during the first miracle of the loaves. Like the disciples, we often misinterpret, disobey, or doubt our Christian call. All of us hunger for God not only for food. The people that followed Jesus were hungry for his word to fulfill their empty lives. Whatever provisions they brought with them did not last, making them physically hungry again. Only Jesus could satisfy both hungers in their life as he does today for us who believe.