Bible Diary for July 7th – July 13th

7 de julio

14º domingo del tiempo ordinario

1st Reading: Ez 2:2-5:
As the Lord spoke to me, the spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard the one who was speaking say to me: Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have revolted against me to this very day. Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you. But you shall say to them: Thus says the Lord God! And whether they heed or resist—for they are a rebellious house— they shall know that a prophet has been among them.

2nd Reading: 2 Cor 12:7-10:
Brothers and sisters: That I, Paul, might not become too elated, because of the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Gospel: Mk 6:1-6:
Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples. When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Not all is well in the mission of Jesus. He has His own share of setbacks and failures. What is more galling about His failures is that they came from His very own townsfolk, His fellow Israelites, the religious and intellectual classes, and even some of His disciples. They may seem to be failures but they are not from a broader perspective. They showed us that Jesus’ humanity is not an afterthought or a forced addition to His being. He is fully human as well as fully divine, and this wonderful humanity with its limits and frailty shines through in His experiences of failures and defeats.

This made His sacrifices on our behalf all the more awesome and wonderful to believe. A God who consented to be limited by a nature is worth believing because He invested so much for what He did. There are moments when I am asked to invest more than the usual token actions and words of piety for what I believed in. I am called to be inconvenienced by the truth that I profess. So when was the last time I really walked the extra mile for my faith? Perhaps this is a good day to put substance to my belief and do something that is more than the usual for it. Lord, inconvenience me from time to time so that I may remain awake to the truth that my faith is a gift and a task. Amen.

8 de julio

1st Reading: Hos 2:16, 17c-18, 21-22:
Thus says the Lord: I will allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart. She shall respond there as in the days of her youth, when she came up from the land of Egypt. On that day, says the Lord, She shall call me “My husband,” and never again “My baal.” I will espouse you to me forever: I will espouse you in right and in justice, in love and in mercy; I will espouse you in fidelity, and you shall know the Lord.

Evangelio: Mt 9, 18-26:
While Jesus was speaking, an official came forward, knelt down before him, and said, “My daughter has just died. But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.” Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples. A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. She said to herself, “If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.” Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, “Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you.” And from that hour the woman was cured. When Jesus arrived at the official’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd who were making a commotion, he said, “Go away! The girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they ridiculed him. When the crowd was put out, he came and took her by the hand, and the little girl arose. And news of this spread throughout all that land.

Radioactivity is “the spontaneous emission of radiation from atomic nuclei” (Collins Dictionary). It is a form of energy, invisible to the eye, but which a specialized instrument such as a Geiger counter can detect and measure. We are all familiar with radioactivity, physical radioactivity, that is. But, in a manner of speaking, we could say that there exists an emotional radioactivity as well. That is the reason for keepsakes, souvenirs, mementos: we consider that an object which has once belonged to a lost loved one can somehow enable us to renew our contact with that loved one, that it “radiates” the loved one’s presence. In like manner, we could speak of a spiritual radioactivity.

Objects closely associated with a holy person are often perceived as radiating some of the saint’s power to heal, strengthen, comfort, console, etc. For instance, the Bible shows that some apostles emitted that kind of spiritual radioactivity capable of healing: Paul’s accessories (Acts 19:12), Peter’s shadow (Acts 5:15). The Catholic use of saints’ relics for healing purposes is based on these solid biblical data, and not on some vague superstition. In today’s gospel reading the bleeding woman likewise sees Jesus as the source of a spiritual radioactivity capable of being communicated through his cloak. And she is right. Approaching Jesus in faith is always a healing experience.

9 de julio

San Agustín Zhao Rong y Compañeros

1st Reading: Hos 8:4-7, 11-13:
Thus says the Lord: They made kings in Israel, but not by my authority; they established princes, but without my approval. With their silver and gold they made idols for themselves, to their own destruction. Cast away your calf, O Samaria! my wrath is kindled against them; How long will they be unable to attain innocence in Israel? The work of an artisan, no god at all, Destined for the flames— such is the calf of Samaria! When they sow the wind, they shall reap the whirlwind; The stalk of grain that forms no ear can yield no flour; Even if it could, strangers would swallow it. When Ephraim made many altars to expiate sin, his altars became occasions of sin. Though I write for him my many ordinances, they are considered as a stranger’s. Though they offer sacrifice, immolate flesh and eat it, the Lord is not pleased with them. He shall still remember their guilt and punish their sins; they shall return to Egypt.

Evangelio: Mt 9, 32-38:
A demoniac who could not speak was brought to Jesus, and when the demon was driven out the mute man spoke. The crowds were amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “He drives out demons by the prince of demons.” Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”

“He cured every sickness and disease.” A Statement like this one is found eight times in Matthew’s gospel alone (4:24, 8:16, 9:35, 12:15, 14:36, 15:31, 19:2, 21:14). And the other gospels agree with him (v.g. Lk 6:19). According to them, Jesus was a universalist healer and never excluded anyone from his therapeutic ministry. Not once did he say to someone: “I am really sorry, but I cannot remove your sickness (blindness, leprosy, paralysis, lameness, etc.) because it has been sent to you by my Father (as a punishment for your sins, a test for your faith, a means to make you grow in holiness, etc.).

Obviously Jesus is convinced that illness is never sent by his Father, otherwise he would not routinely “cure every sickness and disease.” Not only that, but he commissions his disciples to do the same (universalist healing, cf. Mt 10:1), and the Acts of the Apostles present the Apostles as doing precisely that (Acts 5:16). This being the case, why on earth do a great number of Christians believe the opposite and blame God for their illnesses? What caring father would want his child to be sick? And God is the most loving Father one can imagine. Is there no end to our silliness?

10 de julio

1st Reading: Hos 10:1-3, 7-8, 12:
Israel is a luxuriant vine whose fruit matches its growth. The more abundant his fruit, the more altars he built; The more productive his land, the more sacred pillars he set up. Their heart is false, now they pay for their guilt; God shall break down their altars and destroy their sacred pillars. If they would say, “We have no king”— Since they do not fear the Lord, what can the king do for them? The king of Samaria shall disappear, like foam upon the waters. The high places of Aven shall be destroyed, the sin of Israel; thorns and thistles shall overgrow their altars. Then they shall cry out to the mountains, “Cover us!” and to the hills, “Fall upon us!” “Sow for yourselves justice, reap the fruit of piety; break up for yourselves a new field, for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain down justice upon you.”

Evangelio: Mt 10: 1-7:
Jesus summoned his Twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness. The names of the Twelve Apostles are these: first, Simon called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Jude Thaddeus; Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus. Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus, “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”

“He gave them authority… to heal every disease and sickness.” As we saw yesterday, Jesus was a universal healer. And today we see that he expects his disciples (you and me) to do the same. Now obviously we are not talking here of only physical disease but of any kind of disease, of any kind of affliction, of any kind of ill-being. And that covers a lot of territory! In other words, Jesus wants us to do what he was doing all the time during his earthly ministry. We are as it were, an extension of his healing hands, of his healing presence, of his healing words.

We are his Body amplified through time and space—throughout the whole universe and until the end of time. We are Christ Multiplied, nothing less. Are we aware of our awesome obligation to the world? We are all ambassadors of the King of kings. What an honor—but also what a responsibility! A Christian is a Christ-person. Willy-nilly, the moment we claim the title of Christian, we automatically commit ourselves to continue Christ’s healing ministry. This means that everywhere we go, we must bring healing (of hearts and souls, mostly), peace, comfort, consolation, joy.

11 de julio

San Benito

1st Reading: Hos 11:1-4, 8e-9:
Thus says the Lord: When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the farther they went from me, Sacrificing to the Baals and burning incense to idols. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms; I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks; Yet, though I stooped to feed my child, they did not know that I was their healer. My heart is overwhelmed, my pity is stirred. I will not give vent to my blazing anger, I will not destroy Ephraim again; For I am God and not man, the Holy One present among you; I will not let the flames consume you.

Evangelio: Mt 10: 7-15:
Jesus said to his Apostles: “As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give. Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick. The laborer deserves his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it, and stay there until you leave. As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you. Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words— go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet. Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.”

“Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons.” Such are the marching orders Jesus gives to his disciples (and consequently to us) in today’s gospel reading. They are as comprehensive as anyone can wish—but also quite daunting. Of course, since we all have different gifts or charisms, none of us is expected to do all that Jesus mandates his Church to do. We are meant to “specialize” in our service of our brothers and sisters, according to our natural talents and capacities. Now a lot of Christians are not at all deterred by the formidable task confronting them—nothing less than continuing the healing ministry of Christ himself!

Their problem-solving mentality, their super active temperament and their challenge loving personality spur them on to action. But when they encounter problems which have no solutions, they falter. Yet, what is often the greatest service they can then render is their silent, loving presence. Yes as many psychologists tell us, often enough the most healing action we can perform for a person in pain is simply to sit silently with that person and to share that person’s pain.

12 de julio

1st Reading: HOS 14:2-10:
Thus says the Lord: Return, O Israel, to the Lord, your God; you have collapsed through your guilt. Take with you words, and return to the Lord; Say to him, “Forgive all iniquity, and receive what is good, that we may render as offerings the bullocks from our stalls. Assyria will not save us, nor shall we have horses to mount; We shall say no more, ‘Our god,’ to the work of our hands; for in you the orphan finds compassion.” I will heal their defection, says the Lord, I will love them freely; for my wrath is turned away from them.

I will be like the dew for Israel: he shall blossom like the lily; He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar, and put forth his shoots. His splendor shall be like the olive tree and his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar. Again they shall dwell in his shade and raise grain; They shall blossom like the vine, and his fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon. Ephraim! What more has he to do with idols? I have humbled him, but I will prosper him. “I am like a verdant cypress tree”— because of me you bear fruit! Let him who is wise understand these things; let him who is prudent know them. Straight are the paths of the Lord, in them the just walk, but sinners stumble in them.

Gospel: MT 10:16-23:
Jesus said to his Apostles: “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to another. Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

Traditionally, since the time of St. Augustine (354-430) who developed what has subsequently been called the “just was theory”, the Catholic Church has accepted the notion that, when certain rigorous conditions are met, Christians may take part in a defensive war. These conditions are spelled out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 2309) (Cf. also nn. 2307-2317). However, one can respectfully criticize this position of the Magesterium as not being really Christian. For Christ commands us to love our enemies (Mt 5:44). Presumably, this order implies that we do not kill them, not even in self-defense! Today’s gospel reading confirms this: “I send you like sheep among wolves.”

And we never see Jesus having recourse to violence. Even his cleansing of the Temple consisted only in shooting away a few animals. And, when arrested, he never defended himself violently, although he could have disposed of twelve legions of angels to do so (Mt 26:53). The first generations of Christians, up to at least the years 170-180, preached and practiced absolute pacifism. Can we simply imagine Jesus toting a machine gun and mowing down rows of extreme Islamists? In our daily lives, do we adopt the violent tactics of the wolves—or do we solve our conflicts with the peaceful ways of the sheep?

13 de julio

San Enrique

1st Reading: Is 6:1-8:
In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple. Seraphim were stationed above; each of them had six wings: with two they veiled their faces, with two they veiled their feet, and with two they hovered aloft. They cried one to the other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory!” At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke.

Then I said, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember that he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it and said, “See, now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said; “send me!”

Evangelio: Mt 10: 24-33:
Jesus said to his Apostles: “No disciple is above his teacher, no slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, for the slave that he become like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more those of his household! “Therefore do not be afraid of them. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.

And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”

If I am a free agent, I can always choose to do very bad actions. I can choose to hurt other people, to rob them, to kill them. Why does God allow this to happen? Because he wants me to be free. When he made me a man and not an animal, he made me free. And he respects my freedom so much that he will not strike me dead when I decide to use my freedom by choosing to do bad actions. This explains in part why people suffer so much, why there are martyrs. Why does God not intervene and protect them from death? Because he respects human freedom, the freedom of those who freely choose to kill Christians.

Yet this is not the whole story. This is only half of the story. It deals with our life in this world. But the story continues after our death. Then freedom of choice ceases and God takes over. The one who suffered from the persecutor’s evil choice is made happy forever, whereas the persecutor is punished. That is why Jesus tells us not to fear persecution. Sure, he says, if things come to the worst, you might die. But God is present at your death and will eventually compensate it surpassingly.