Bible Diary for June 16th – June 22nd

16 de junio

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

1st Reading: Ez 17:22-24:
Thus says the Lord God: I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar, from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot, and plant it on a high and lofty mountain; on the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it. It shall put forth branches and bear fruit, and become a majestic cedar. Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it, every winged thing in the shade of its boughs. And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom. As I, the Lord, have spoken, so will I do.

2nd Reading: 2 Cor 5:6-10:
Brothers and sisters: We are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord. Therefore, we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.

Gospel: Mk 4:26-34:
Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.” He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

The Kingdom of God grows in the hearts of people amidst all opposing appearances. Remember that the Spirit of the Lord is deep within our hearts. In spite all hardships, the Spirit will continue to inspire us to do what is good and produce good results – however big or little that would be. Often, we are tempted to despise small things; it is easier for us to appreciate and respect big things that easily can be noticed. But again we are being reminded to be truly convinced that we are small seeds ready to disappear underground to give rise to the large tree that is the Kingdom of God.

How am I assessing myself now as a small seed? Lord, as we do our tasks in the ordinariness of life, sometimes we are lost in the immediate pleasure or prestige we gain from the material things that you give us. Inspire us to be more attuned to what are the essentials of our following you, living in community or family where the seed of your love has to be nurtured and allowed to grow amidst apparently unending trials and difficulties. Amen. Identify the little ones in your community or family – those who are taken for granted, rejected, despised or separated. Take time to pray and visit them if possible and share your concern and support for them.

17 de junio

1st Reading: 1 Kgs 21:1-16:
Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel next to the palace of Ahab, king of Samaria. Ahab said to Naboth, “Give me your vineyard to be my vegetable garden, since it is close by, next to my house. I will give you a better vineyard in exchange, or, if you prefer, I will give you its value in money.” Naboth answered him, “The Lord forbid that I should give you my ancestral heritage.” Ahab went home disturbed and angry at the answer Naboth the Jezreelite had made to him: “I will not give you my ancestral heritage.” Lying down on his bed, he turned away from food and would not eat. His wife Jezebel came to him and said to him, “Why are you so angry that you will not eat?” He answered her, “Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, ‘Sell me your vineyard, or, if you prefer, I will give you a vineyard in exchange.’

But he refused to let me have his vineyard.” His wife Jezebel said to him, “A fine ruler over Israel you are indeed! Get up. Eat and be cheerful. I will obtain the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite for you.” So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and, having sealed them with his seal, sent them to the elders and to the nobles who lived in the same city with Naboth. This is what she wrote in the letters: “Proclaim a fast and set Naboth at the head of the people. Next, get two scoundrels to face him and accuse him of having cursed God and king. Then take him out and stone him to death.” His fellow citizens—the elders and nobles who dwelt in his city— did as Jezebel had ordered them in writing, through the letters she had sent them.

They proclaimed a fast and placed Naboth at the head of the people. Two scoundrels came in and confronted him with the accusation, “Naboth has cursed God and king.” And they led him out of the city and stoned him to death. Then they sent the information to Jezebel that Naboth had been stoned to death. When Jezebel learned that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Go on, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you, because Naboth is not alive, but dead.” On hearing that Naboth was dead, Ahab started off on his way down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.

Evangelio: Mt 5: 38-42:
Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”

In today’s Gospel, Matthew built a contrast between the old law — which only regulated one’s outer actions and the new law — which demands a higher standard of morality. According to Matthew, Jesus has now put more constraints on one’s heart and mind than the law put on one’s behavior (Sociorhetorical interpretation of Matthew). The Jewish teachers considered one’s neighbors as members of family, community, country, nation and religion. Jesus teaches that kindness should extend to all. While many render evil for evil, an eye for an eye (oculum pro oculo), it is not Jesus’ way.

Even though the Old Law stipulates that the punishment should not exceed the injury done, Jesus, however, prohibits even this proportionate retaliation. Why is that? If God let the sun shine on both the just and unjust, do we treat others selectively? The lex talionis is not for his followers, because they are not ferocious beasts whose actions are regulated by the law of the jungle, but are translators of God’s love (to paraphrase Benedict XV1’s Holy Thursday Message to Priests, 2012). Jesus’ followers’ love is inclusive, not selective. “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” (Mahatma Gandhi)

18 de junio

1st Reading: 1 Kgs 21:17-29:
After the death of Naboth the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite: “Start down to meet Ahab, king of Israel, who rules in Samaria. He will be in the vineyard of Naboth, of which he has come to take possession. This is what you shall tell him, ‘The Lord says: After murdering, do you also take possession? For this, the Lord says: In the place where the dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, the dogs shall lick up your blood, too.'” Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me out, my enemy?” “Yes,” he answered. “Because you have given yourself up to doing evil in the Lord’s sight, I am bringing evil upon you: I will destroy you and will cut off every male in Ahab’s line, whether slave or freeman, in Israel. I will make your house like that of Jeroboam, son of Nebat, and like that of Baasha, son of Ahijah, because of how you have provoked me by leading Israel into sin.” (Against Jezebel, too, the Lord declared, “The dogs shall devour Jezebel in the district of Jezreel.”)

“When one of Ahab’s line dies in the city, dogs will devour him; when one of them dies in the field, the birds of the sky will devour him.” Indeed, no one gave himself up to the doing of evil in the sight of the Lord as did Ahab, urged on by his wife Jezebel. He became completely abominable by following idols, just as the Amorites had done, whom the Lord drove out before the children of Israel. When Ahab heard these words, he tore his garments and put on sackcloth over his bare flesh. He fasted, slept in the sackcloth, and went about subdued. Then the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Have you seen that Ahab has humbled himself before me? Since he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his time. I will bring the evil upon his house during the reign of his son.”

Evangelio: Mt 5: 43-48:
Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

“If a Jew sees that a Gentile has fallen into the sea, let him by no means lift him out. Of course it is written, ‘Do not rise up against your neighbor’s life.’, but this man is not your neighbor.” (Paraphrase of Tristram, Eastern Customs in Bible Lands, quoted in Sanders, For Believers Only, Enemy came from Latin, hostis, “hostile.” One’s enemy comes in different nationalities and from various places. To take one an enemy is disastrous not only to its object, but more so its subject. Jesus surprised his hearers, because he included love of neighbor, even one’s enemy. It was counter-cultural.

Jesus extends the range of Jewish neighborliness. It is no longer exclusive, but totally unselective to include one and all. Today, the Biblical concept of love has been distorted in language and society. The world equates love with puppy love or love at first sight. Though love comes with emotions, it’s not exclusive. True love, after the teachings of Jesus, is transcendental, selfless, sacrificial and compassionate. Love till it hurts. “I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, but only more love.” (Mother Teresa)

19 de junio

San Romuald

1st Reading: 2 Kgs 2:1, 6-14:
When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, he and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Please stay here; the Lord has sent me on to the Jordan.” “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you,” Elisha replied. And so the two went on together. Fifty of the guild prophets followed and when the two stopped at the Jordan, they stood facing them at a distance. Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up and struck the water, which divided, and both crossed over on dry ground. When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask for whatever I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha answered, “May I receive a double portion of your spirit.” “You have asked something that is not easy,” Elijah replied.

“Still, if you see me taken up from you, your wish will be granted; otherwise not.” As they walked on conversing, a flaming chariot and flaming horses came between them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. When Elisha saw it happen he cried out, “My father! my father! Israel’s chariots and drivers!” But when he could no longer see him, Elisha gripped his own garment and tore it in two. Then he picked up Elijah’s mantle that had fallen from him, and went back and stood at the bank of the Jordan. Wielding the mantle that had fallen from Elijah, Elisha struck the water in his turn and said, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” When Elisha struck the water it divided and he crossed over.

Evangelio: Mt 6: 1-6, 16-18:
Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

The conduct of the hypocrites is contrasted with the demands of discipleship. To stress the difference between the Christian idea of reward and that of the hypocrites, Matthew employs two different Greek verbs to express the reward of the disciples and that of the hypocrites; for the latter he used the verb apechō, a commercial term for giving a receipt for what has been paid in full. (USCCB) A hypocrite acts virtuous, morally or religiously. Hypocrisy intends to deceive others. In the 4th century BC Athens, Demosthenes ridiculed his opponent who had been a promising actor before switching to politics.

Originally, a hypocrite is one skilled at impersonating characters on stage and it characterized Aeschines as untrustworthy or play-acting. Jesus advised his disciple not to act like the Pharisees, because the latter have already received their reward – undeserving praises. Their sin, which is still true today, is using religion as a camouflage for their depraved character. That’s why Jesus did not mince his words in denouncing the scribes and Pharisees. “You are like whitewashed tombs which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” (Mt 23:27)

20 de junio

1st Reading: Sir 48:1-14:
Like a fire there appeared the prophet Elijah whose words were as a flaming furnace. Their staff of bread he shattered, in his zeal he reduced them to straits; By the Lord’s word he shut up the heavens and three times brought down fire. How awesome are you, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds! Whose glory is equal to yours? You brought a dead man back to life from the nether world, by the will of the Lord. You sent kings down to destruction, and easily broke their power into pieces. You brought down nobles, from their beds of sickness. You heard threats at Sinai, at Horeb avenging judgments. You anointed kings who should inflict vengeance, and a prophet as your successor.

You were taken aloft in a whirlwind of fire, in a chariot with fiery horses. You were destined, it is written, in time to come to put an end to wrath before the day of the Lord, To turn back the hearts of fathers toward their sons, and to re-establish the tribes of Jacob. Blessed is he who shall have seen you And who falls asleep in your friendship. For we live only in our life, but after death our name will not be such. O Elijah, enveloped in the whirlwind! Then Elisha, filled with the twofold portion of his spirit, wrought many marvels by his mere word. During his lifetime he feared no one, nor was any man able to intimidate his will. Nothing was beyond his power; beneath him flesh was brought back into life. In life he performed wonders, and after death, marvelous deeds.

Evangelio: Mt 6, 7-15:
Jesus said to his disciples: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. “This is how you are to pray: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’ “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”

Jesus is aware of the reality of human needs, but forbids making them the main concern and not to become their slave. The “Our Father” sets the tone about what belongs to God and what pertains to man. Primarily, God’s name is to be hallowed, that God demonstrates his mysterium tremendum et fascinans, his glory and power. His glory is revealed when man’s needs are fulfilled, such as the bodily sustenance, acts of forgiveness and deliverance from all forms of evil. There’s always a tension between the divine and human in pastoral ministry.

Some pastors are inclined to stress the divine over what is human, and vice versa. A missionary was requested by his parishioners to pray for rain to alleviate the drought that affects their crops. The priest happily obliged to ask God. The following Sunday, he was furious. He told the congregation that he petitioned God for rain. To his dismay, they did not bring any umbrellas. Faith in God demands human cooperation. God helps those who help themselves. Spirituality is based on the reciprocity principle (do ut des, I give that you may give). Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus (a sleeping dragon is never to be tickled).

21 de junio

San Aloysius Gonzaga

1st Reading: 2 Kgs 11:1-4, 9-18, 20:
When Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah, saw that her son was dead, she began to kill off the whole royal family. But Jehosheba, daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah, took Joash, his son, and spirited him away, along with his nurse, from the bedroom where the princes were about to be slain. She concealed him from Athaliah, and so he did not die. For six years he remained hidden in the temple of the Lord, while Athaliah ruled the land. But in the seventh year, Jehoiada summoned the captains of the Carians and of the guards. He had them come to him in the temple of the Lord, exacted from them a sworn commitment, and then showed them the king’s son. The captains did just as Jehoiada the priest commanded. Each one with his men, both those going on duty for the sabbath and those going off duty that week, came to Jehoiada the priest.

He gave the captains King David’s spears and shields, which were in the temple of the Lord. And the guards, with drawn weapons, lined up from the southern to the northern limit of the enclosure, surrounding the altar and the temple on the king’s behalf. Then Jehoiada led out the king’s son and put the crown and the insignia upon him. They proclaimed him king and anointed him, clapping their hands and shouting, “Long live the king!” Athaliah heard the noise made by the people, and appeared before them in the temple of the Lord. When she saw the king standing by the pillar, as was the custom, and the captains and trumpeters near him, with all the people of the land rejoicing and blowing trumpets, she tore her garments and cried out, “Treason, treason!”

Then Jehoiada the priest instructed the captains in command of the force: “Bring her outside through the ranks. If anyone follows her,” he added, “let him die by the sword.” He had given orders that she should not be slain in the temple of the Lord. She was led out forcibly to the horse gate of the royal palace, where she was put to death. Then Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord as one party and the king and the people as the other, by which they would be the Lord’s people; and another covenant, between the king and the people. Thereupon all the people of the land went to the temple of Baal and demolished it. They shattered its altars and images completely, and slew Mattan, the priest of Baal, before the altars. Jehoiada appointed a detachment for the temple of the Lord. All the people of the land rejoiced and the city was quiet, now that Athaliah had been slain with the sword at the royal palace.

Evangelio: Mt 6, 19-23:
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. “The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness. And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.”

Everyone’s desire is to strike a goldmine, divine or material, for comfort and security. Both desires cause anxiety, because of their possible loss. It doesn’t mean that people should not be concerned about earthly things, but that no created thing can replace the heavenly treasure. “The eye refers to motive. When a person wants to do something, he first forms an intention: … if your intention … is directed towards God, your whole body, that is, all your actions, will be sound, sincerely directed towards good.” (Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on St. Matthew, Mike Harrison)

When there is a short supply or a grand sale of goods, people hoard up. True, one has to worry about hard times. However, a new vision is needed that can look at things unselfishly and communally. One may seek earthly treasure, provided it doesn’t replace the heavenly and is used to love others. Goods can be accumulated, not for their sakes, but to glorify God through love of others. “… To see the world with new eyes – open eyes – loving eyes to choose compassion and understanding – for ourselves, our family, our friends, our community, for the whole world.” (Jonathan Lockwood Huie)

22 de junio

San paulino de nola
Sts. John Fisher y Thomas More

1st Reading: 2 Chr 24:17-25:
After the death of Jehoiada, the princes of Judah came and paid homage to King Joash, and the king then listened to them. They forsook the temple of the Lord, the God of their fathers, and began to serve the sacred poles and the idols; and because of this crime of theirs, wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem. Although prophets were sent to them to convert them to the Lord, the people would not listen to their warnings. Then the Spirit of God possessed Zechariah, son of Jehoiada the priest. He took his stand above the people and said to them: “God says, ‘Why are you transgressing the Lord’s commands, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have abandoned the Lord, he has abandoned you.'” But they conspired against him, and at the king’s order they stoned him to death in the court of the Lord’s temple.

Thus King Joash was unmindful of the devotion shown him by Jehoiada, Zechariah’s father, and slew his son. And as Zechariah was dying, he said, “May the Lord see and avenge.” At the turn of the year a force of Arameans came up against Joash. They invaded Judah and Jerusalem, did away with all the princes of the people, and sent all their spoil to the king of Damascus. Though the Aramean force came with few men, the Lord surrendered a very large force into their power, because Judah had abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers. So punishment was meted out to Joash. After the Arameans had departed from him, leaving him in grievous suffering, his servants conspired against him because of the murder of the son of Jehoiada the priest. He was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.

Evangelio: Mt 6, 24-34:
Jesus said to his disciples: “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes?

Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

The lyrics of the opera Nabucco was by Temistocle Solera and music was by Giuseppe Verdi. The latter’s last name signifies the re-unification of Lombardy and an acronym for Vittorio Emmanuele Re d’Italia, King of Italy. After a day of forced labor and resting by the Euphrates River, the Israelites long for their freedom, for their land where there are gentle breezes. They wondered whether Yahweh had abandoned them. Zechariah encouraged them not to worry, but trust in God.

Mystics had also their worries and doubts. Mother Teresa of Calcutta confided in her letters “. . . just that terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing.” For her God seemed oblivious of her sufferings for “the poorest of the poor.” Humans are no exception with regard to worries. People worry about money, job, health and family. Jesus also was terribly worried at Gethsemane to the point that he suffered “hematidrosis” (sweating blood). At Calvary, he asked “My Lord, why have you forsaken me.” In the end, he died with absolute faith in God. Jesus is the Emmanuel, God-with-his-people. He never abandons us, even if we abandon him.