Bible Diary for November 27th – December 3rd

November 27th

1er domingo de Adviento

1st Reading: Is 2:1-5:
The vision of Isaiah, son of Amoz, concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In the last days, the mountain of Yahweh’s house shall be set over the highest mountains and shall tower over the hills. All the nations shall stream to it, saying, “Come, let us go to the mountain of Yahweh, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and we may walk in his paths. For the teaching comes from Zion, and from Jerusalem the word of Yahweh. He will rule over the nations and settle disputes for many people. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not raise sword against nation; they will train for war no more. O nation of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of Yahweh!”

2nd Reading: Rom 13:11-14:
You know what hour it is. This is the time to awake, for our salvation is, now, nearer than when we first believed; the night is almost over, and day is at hand. Let us discard, therefore, everything that belongs to darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. As we live in the full light of day, let us behave with decency; no banquets with drunkenness, no promiscuity or licentiousness, no fighting or jealousy. Put on, rather, the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not be led by the will of the flesh nor follow its desires.

Gospel: Mt 24:37-44:
At the coming of the Son of Man, it will be just as it was in the time of Noah. In those days before the Flood, people were eating and drinking, and marrying, until that day when Noah went into the ark. Yet, they did not know what would happen, until the flood came and swept them away. So will it be, at the coming of the Son of Man: of two men in the field, one will be taken and the other left; of two women grinding wheat together at the mill, one will be taken and the other left. Stay awake then, for you do not know on what day your Lord will come. Obviously, if the owner of the house knew at what time the thief was coming, he would certainly stay up and not allow his house to be broken into. So be alert, for the Son of Man will come at the hour you least expect.

Who among us does not dream of world peace as something eminently desirable? Apart from a few sick minds who believe that the destruction of the human race would be a good thing (v.g. some extreme ecologists hold that humans are a curse for Planet Earth), most people aspire to world peace. In fact, the United Nations was founded precisely with that goal in mind. And one of the text often quoted in that connection as a sort of guiding star is the Isaian prophecy contained in today’s first reading: “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not raise sword against nation; they will train for war no more.”

But the trouble with a prophecy like this is that it will never become reality as long as we keep emphasizing its first word: they. Why? Because this they easily becomes a way of passing the bucket: “We will have peace in the world when the Russians do this, when the Chinese stop doing that, etc.” That is how we think. But we will never have peace this way. Peace starts with me. I have to disarm in my dealings with Jack and Jane, Jim and Julie. The bucket has to stop somewhere. Let us implore God to pour his peace into our hearts. Today disarm in your dealings with Jack and Jane, Jim and Julie.

November 28th

St. Catherine Laboure

1st Reading: Is 4:2-6:
On that day the Shoot of Yahweh will be beautiful and glorious; and the fruit of the earth will be honor and splendor for the survivors of Israel. Those who are left in Zion and remain in Jerusalem will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem, when the Lord washes away the filth of the women of Zion and purges Jerusalem of the bloodstains in its midst with the blast of searing judgment, the blast of fire. Then will Yahweh create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over its assemblies a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of fire by night. For the glory of Yahweh will be a canopy and a pavilion for all, a shade from the scorching heat by day, a refuge from the storm and rain.

Gospel: Mt 8:5-11:
When Jesus entered Capernaum, an army captain approached him, to ask his help, “Sir, my servant lies sick at home. He is paralyzed and suffers terribly.” Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” The captain answered, “I am not worthy to have you under my roof. Just give an order and my boy will be healed. For I myself, a junior officer, give orders to my soldiers. And if I say to one, ‘Go!’ he goes; and if I say to another, ‘Come!’ he comes; and if I say to my servant, ‘Do this!’ he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was astonished; and said to those who were following him, “I tell you, I have not found such faith in Israel. I say to you, many will come from east and west and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of heaven.

In today’s gospel reading Jesus tells a Jewish crowd something that must have surprised them. Why? Because they were keenly aware of being God’s Chosen People, the People of the Covenants, the People of the Promises, the People from whom would one day emerge the Messiah, the King of the world. And yet, upon hearing the astonishing act of faith of an army captain belonging to the Roman occupants, Jesus predicts: “Many will come from east and west and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob at the feast of the Kingdom of heaven.”

This is quite a prophecy! Apparently pagans will enter into Heaven in droves! As Catholics, do we feel comfortable at the prospect of being a small minority in Heaven? Because that is what will most likely happen, if we trust the many “universalist” texts of the Bible. “God wants all humans to be saved” (1 Tim 2:4), Paul tells us. And God will presumably adopt all possible means to make this happen. Are we looking forward to being swamped by Hindus and Buddhists in Heaven? We should. Because each of them is our precious brother or sister for whom Christ died.

November 29th

Anniversary of Dorothy Day’s Death

1st Reading: Is 11:1-10:
From the stump of Jesse a shoot will come forth; from his roots a branch will grow and bear fruit. The spirit of the Lord will rest upon him— a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and power, a spirit of knowledge and fear of Yahweh. Not by appearances will he judge, nor by what is said must he decide, but with justice he will judge the poor and with righteousness decide for the meek. Like a rod, his word will strike the oppressor, and the breath of his lips slay the wicked. Justice will be the girdle of his waist, truth the girdle of his loins. The wolf will dwell with the lamb, the leopard will rest beside the kid, the calf and the lion cub will feed together and a little child will lead them.

Befriending each other, the cow and the bear will see their young ones lie down together. Like cattle, the lion will eat hay. By the cobra’s den the infant will play. The child will put his hand into the viper’s lair. No one will harm or destroy over my holy mountain, for as water fills the sea the earth will be filled with the knowledge of Yahweh. On that day the “Root of Jesse” will be raised as a signal for the nations. The people will come in search of him, thus making his dwelling place glorious. On that day Yahweh will again raise his hand to reclaim the remnant of his people from Assyria; from Egypt, Pathros and Ethiopia; from Elam, Shinar, Hamath and from the coast lands of the sea.

Gospel: Lk 10:21-24:
At that time, Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and made them known to little ones. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. I have been given all things by my Father, so that no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son, and he to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said to them privately, “Fortunate are you to see what you see, for I tell you, that many prophets and kings would have liked to see what you see, but did not see it; and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.

In today’s gospel reading we hear Jesus say something very strange and somewhat shocking. In a prayer to his Father he says: “You have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, and made them known to little ones.” What does Jesus mean exactly? Does not the Father act unfairly here by hiding his revelation to a whole group of people, the intellectuals? Why does he favor the little ones? Does he not have an equal love for all his children, just as any good parent has? Those are all legitimate questions, but they result from a too literal interpretation of Jesus’ words.

For here Jesus is using a Hebrew way of speaking. Since the Jews are convinced that in some way everything depends on God, they attribute directly to God as a cause what in reality is only a consequence of people’s free choices. In this case, intellectuals freely decide that they are not interested in learning about God, whereas simple people are. And so, in a condensed way of describing this phenomenon, Jesus says that God hides his secrets from some people and reveals them to others. But Jesus is thus merely describing people’s free choices with a Hebrew idiom.

November 30th

San Andrés

1st Reading: Rom 10:9-18:
You are saved, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord, and, in your heart, you believe that God raised him from the dead. By believing from the heart, you obtain true righteousness; by confessing the faith with your lips, you are saved. For Scripture says: No one who believes in him will be ashamed. Here, there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; all have the same Lord, who is very generous with whoever calls on him. Truly, all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.

But how can they call upon the name of the Lord without having believed in him? And how can they believe in him, without having first heard about him? And how will they hear about him, if no one preaches about him? And how will they preach about him, if no one sends them? As Scripture says: How beautiful are the feet of the messenger of good news. Although, not everyone obeyed the good news, as Isaiah said: Lord, who has believed in our preaching? So, faith comes from preaching, and preaching is rooted in the word of Christ. I ask: Have the Jews not heard? But, of course, they have. Because the voice of those preaching resounded all over the earth, and their voice was heard, to the ends of the world.

Gospel: Mt 4:18-22:
As Jesus walked by the lake of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come, follow me; and I will make you fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. He went on from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John, in a boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. Jesus called them. At once, they left the boat, and their father, and followed him.

Joan Caroll-Cruz wrote a book entitled “Mysteries, Marvels and Miracles in the Lives of the Saints. It is a 581-page compendium of facts and recorded stories of 289 beatified and canonized saints. Concerning St. Andrew, we find this account: On the first anniversary of his martyrdom (crucified on an X-shaped cross in Greece), November 30, 61, perfumed oil flowed from his sepulcher. For years it was so abundant that at times it flowed from the tomb down to the aisle of the church. In the year 357, his relics were transferred from Greece to Constantinople; the perfumed oil continued to flow. In 1204, his bones were transferred into a silver urn.

A century later, the perfumed oil was replaced by a white granular substance. When this was applied to a blind man, his vision was restored. The miracles surrounding his relics are living testimonies that even after death, this blessed apostle continues to strengthen others’ faith in the Lord; many have been healed and many have been reconciled to Jesus. It is indeed the vocation of St. Andrew to introduce people to Jesus (cf. John 1:42; John 6:8ff; John 12:20ff). And in the course of his life he travelled to many lands facilitating an encounter between people and Jesus through his preaching. In other words, we have in St. Andrew an excellent model in evangelization. He labored with dedication for others to know Jesus. May we have the same inspiration.

December 1st

1st Reading: Is 26:1-6:
On that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city, he himself has set up walls and fortifications to protect us. Open the gates! Let the righteous nation enter, she who is firm in faithfulness. You keep in perfect peace the one of steadfast mind, the one who trusts in you. Trust in Yahweh forever, for Yahweh is an everlasting Rock. He brought down those who dwell on high, he laid low the lofty city, he razed it to the ground, leveled it to the dust, Now it is trampled the poor and the lowly tread upon it.

Gospel: Mt 7:21, 24-27:
Jesus said to his disciples, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my heavenly Father. “Therefore, anyone who hears these words of mine, and acts according to them, is like a wise man, who built his house on rock. The rain poured down, the rivers flooded, and the wind blew and struck that house. But it did not collapse, because it was built on rock. But anyone who hears these words of mine, and does not act accordingly, is like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain poured, the rivers flooded, and the wind blew and struck that house; it collapsed, and what a terrible collapse that was!”

There is a story about a sentimental lady who loved to watch mushy movie. On one occasion she was watching a movie featuring the misfortunes of a little orphan girl. The movie was what we call a “tear-jerker,” something like “the Perils of Pauline” or “Little Orphan Annie.” And the lady wept through most of the movie, deeply affected by the heroine’s many hardships. Finally the movie ended, the lady dried her tears, picked up her things and left. As she emerged from the movie house, a frail little girl in rags approached her.

She was emaciated and trembling in the bitter cold. “Ma’am,” she begged, “I haven’t eaten for two days. Could you spare a few pennies, please?” The lady reacted with outrage. “Go away, little vermin!” she cried out. “How dare you clutter the streets of our city?” and she walked away, draped in her righteousness. A fictitious beggar could stir her feelings, but not a real-life one. In today’s gospel reading we hear Jesus say: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my heavenly Father.” In other words, fine feelings are useless if they do not inspire action.

December 2nd

1st Reading: Is 29:17-24:
In a very short time, Lebanon will become a fruitful field and the fruitful field will be as a forest. On that day the deaf will hear the words of the book, and out of the dark and obscurity the eyes of the blind will see. The meek will find joy and the poor among men will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. For the tyrant will be no more and the scoffers gone forever, and all who plan to do evil will be cut down— those who by a word make you guilty, those who for a bribe can lay a snare and send home the just empty-handed.

Therefore Yahweh, Abraham’s redeemer, speaks concerning the people of Jacob: No longer will Jacob be ashamed; no longer will his face grow pale. When he sees the work of my hands, his children again in his midst, they will sanctify my name, they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and stand in awe of the God of Israel. Those who err in spirit will understand; those who murmur will learn.

Gospel: Mt 9:27-31:
As Jesus moved on from there, two blind men followed him, shouting, “Son of David, help us!” When he was about to enter the house, the blind men caught up with him; and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do what you want?” They answered, “Yes, sir!” Then Jesus touched their eyes and said, “As you have believed, so let it be.” And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus gave them a stern warning, “Be careful that no one knows about this.” But as soon as they went away, they spread the news about him through the whole area.

Throughout the time of Advent we hear a lot of predictions taken from the Book of Isaiah, the greatest of the prophets of Israel. All these texts of Isaiah constitute a teaching about the Messianic Age to come. And, as we see in today’s gospel reading, the predictions of Isaiah are shown as realized in the ministry of Jesus. In today’s first reading Isaiah describes the future Messianic Age in particularly glowing terms. It will be, he says, a time when even snow-covered Mt. Lebanon will become green and when, in his own words, “out of the dark and obscurity the eyes of the blind will see.”

And the gospel reading presents a scene describing precisely Jesus healing two blind men. This scene, however, is in sharp contrast with the grand descriptions of Isaiah’s Messianic Age. It is subdued, toned down, muted. Obviously Jesus is not the flashy Messiah Isaiah imagined. His compassion indeed compels him to act and to act powerfully in favor of those who suffer. But he does not want his miracles to become spiritual fireworks for the entertainment of the crowds. He is only interested in changing hearts and in changing lives.

3 de diciembre

San Francisco Javier

1st Reading: Is 30:19-21, 23-26:
O people of Zion, who dwell in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. When you cry, he will listen; when he hears, he will answer. When the Lord has given you the bread of anguish and the water of distress, he, your teacher will hide no longer. Your own eyes will see him, and your ear will listen to his words behind you: “This is the way, walk in it.” He will then give rain for the seed you sow and make the harvest abundant from the crops you grow.

On that day your cattle will graze in wide pastures. Your beasts of burden will eat silage tossed to them with pitchfork and shovel. For on the day of the great slaughter, when fortresses fall, streams of water will flow on every mountain and lofty hill. The light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun seven times greater, like the light of seven days, when Yahweh binds up the wounds of his people and heals the bruises inflicted by his blows.

Gospel: Mt 9:35–10:1, 5a, 6-8:
Jesus went around all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom; and he cured every sickness and disease. When he saw the crowds, he was moved with pity; for they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are only few. Ask the master of the harvest to send workers to gather his harvest.”

Jesus called his Twelve disciples to him, and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out, and to heal every disease and sickness. Jesus sent these Twelve on mission, with the instructions: Go, instead, to the lost sheep of the people of Israel. Go, and proclaim this message: The kingdom of heaven is near. Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons. Freely have you received, freely give.”

Jesus is constantly on the move, teaching in synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom and curing every disease and illness. Jesus has deep compassion on all those who are like sheep without a shepherd. When we were baptized, we become coworkers in the vineyard of the Lord. Every one of us is called to be a laborer with the Lord. I could be the only one who could reach a corner of my own part in the harvest field: my family, my neighbors, my office mates and others who came into my life.

I may be the only person who could bring Jesus’ healing and compassion into their lives. Let them know that Christmas is all about sharing in the works of Jesus. Heal those sick friends by your sympathy and support. Give life and vigor to them. They are physically alive but they have stopped living wonderful and meaningful lives. Let them know that they are accepted and loved by God. The spirit of Christmas impels us to act on our baptismal promises as coworkers of the Lord. Be a gift to others. Share the spirit of Christmas by your own spiritual and corporal works of mercy.