Bible Diary for October 29th – November 4th

October 29th

30º domingo del tiempo ordinario

1st Reading: Ex 22:20-26:
Thus says the Lord: “You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry. My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword; then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans. “If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people, you shall not act like an extortioner toward him by demanding interest from him. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset; for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body. What else has he to sleep in? If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate.”

2nd Reading: 1 Thes 1:5c-10:
Brothers and sisters: You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit, so that you became a model for all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth not only in Macedonia and in Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves openly declare about us what sort of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to await his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus, who delivers us from the coming wrath.

Evangelio: Mt 22: 34-40:
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Questions are meant to clarify and enhance one’s understanding of the truth. But in the hands of enemies, it becomes a deadly weapon that can unmake the target of such malicious question. The religious authorities took turns in trapping Jesus with questions that may appear innocent but are deadly traps. It is a difficult time for the Lord and for His disciples. But the best defense against such line of questioning is no other than the truth itself. And Jesus sticks to the truth no matter what.

It may offend the religious and civil authorities but the truth can withstand any form of scrutiny. The more the opponents of Jesus waylay Him with traps, the more He unmasks their hypocrisy by the truth that He brings. No wonder they had to kill Him. In this world, the truth will always and forever be lonely. Do I have the courage to stand up for the truth? How many times have I chosen to be silent rather than stand up for what is right when it will inconvenience me? A cowardly or an indifferent life is hardly a life worth living. Today I decide to make a stand for the truth and will act on it accordingly.

October 30th

1st Reading: Rom 8:12-17:
Brothers and sisters, we are not debtors to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

Gospel: Lk 13:10-17:
Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath. And a woman was there who for eighteen years had been crippled by a spirit; she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect. When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said, “Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.” He laid his hands on her, and she at once stood up straight and glorified God. But the leader of the synagogue, indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath, said to the crowd in reply, “There are six days when work should be done. Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day.” The Lord said to him in reply, “Hypocrites! Does not each one of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger and lead it out for watering? This daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now, ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day from this bondage?” When he said this, all his adversaries were humiliated; and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by him.

During the many times Jesus ruffled the feathers of the religious authorities, it was always about His healing of the sick during Sabbath, supposed to be a holy day where goodness is the supreme rule. Yet the religious customs and traditions nurtured by the spiritual elite rendered the day sterile and mournful. Even the basic impulse of human compassion was stifled in favor of the observance of the man-made laws and regulations. This kind of religious despotism did not sit well with Jesus. It is true that religion in one of its root meanings “religare” means to “bind.” But it is a binding to a yoke that is easy and light. It is a bind that frees and not oppresses. And so Jesus let loose the liberating power of the Sabbath, that is, to give the woman the rest she craved from the oppression of her sickness of eighteen years. That day was truly Sabbath for her. She gained rest by the love of Jesus that does not rest in doing good.

October 31st

1st Reading: Rom 8:18-25:
Brothers and sisters: I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.

Gospel: Lk 13:18-21:
Jesus said, “What is the Kingdom of God like? To what can I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that a man took and planted in the garden. When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.” Again he said, “To what shall I compare the Kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened.”

In today’s first reading we hear the apostle Paul write that “wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.” Not many women today accept this teaching of Paul, and rightly so. Like all inspired authors of the Bible, Paul belonged to a particular culture and accepted uncritically a lot of his culture’s judgments, values, customs, viewpoints. For example, he never condemned slavery, whereas today slavery is universally condemned. He was hard on gays, because he thought that homosexuality was a free choice, whereas we now know it is not. He thought it a disgrace for men to wear long hair (1 Cor 11:14).

In other words, like all of us he was conditioned by his culture to a large extent—including his views on submissive wives. Fortunately, in his Apostolic Letter The Dignity of Women (August 15, 1988), Pope John Paul II completed Paul’s teaching by stating the following: “All the reasons in favor of the ‘subjection’ of woman to men in marriage must be understood in the sense of a ‘mutual subjection’ of both.” In other words, the husband must be subordinate to his wife just as much as the wife be subordinate to her husband. Paul’s text begins thus: “Be subordinate to one another.”

November 1st

Todos los Santos

1st Reading: Rv 7:2-4, 9-14:
I, John, saw another angel come up from the East, holding the seal of the living God. He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels who were given power to damage the land and the sea, “Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal, one hundred and forty-four thousand marked from every tribe of the children of Israel. After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.

They cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.” All the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They prostrated themselves before the throne, worshiped God, and exclaimed: “Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, “Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?” I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.” He said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”

2nd Reading: 1 Jn 3:1-3:
Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure.

Gospel: Mt 5:1-12a:
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”

Indeed fortunate are those who cling to God despite hardships and difficulties in this world. Their reward is assured in heaven. That is why we celebrate today the feast of all saints. These are the countless people who silently observed God’s word in their lives and died in the odor of sanctity unknown to the world. They didn’t need such recognition anyway. They have the better prize… heaven. In a world bent on trivializing the afterlife and robbing us of our hope of a better future, today’s celebration reminds us that no matter how much heaven is being denied, we believe that there are people who have gone there. They may be nameless but we celebrate their good fate here on earth. And so candles and flowers have the right to take center stage today. We celebrate that which we hope we ourselves will achieve someday.

November 2nd

Todo el día de almas

1st Reading: Wis 3:1-9:
The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. For if before men, indeed, they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself. In the time of their visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble; they shall judge nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord shall be their King forever. Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love: because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with his elect.

2nd Reading: Rom 6:3-9:
Brothers and sisters: Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection. We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin. For a dead person has been absolved from sin. If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him.

Gospel: Jn 6:37-40:
Jesus said to the crowds: “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.”

Today we are praying in a special way for all those human beings whose eternal reunion with God is already assured, but who are not quite ready yet for that searing proximity with Infinite Love. Since they died with residues of selfishness in their souls, they would not feel fully attuned to God while in that state of theirs. Hence the need to purify those remnants of self-centered love. We call that temporary stage of purification the Purgatory. But we do not know how exactly such a purification is done in them. All we know is that, like any giving up of our selfishness, that purification of theirs must be painful.

Consequently, today we implore God to alleviate or shorten that purification. This is the meaning of this special day of prayers for the departed souls. Our Protestant brethren do not believe in the existence of Purgatory. If they challenge you on this most ancient belief of ours, you could quote the saying of Jesus about the sin against the Holy Spirit which will not be forgiven “either in this age or in the age to come” (Mt 12:32). This seems to imply that some sins are forgiven in the next life, doesn’t it?

November 3rd

San martin de porres

1st Reading: Rom 9:1-5:
Brothers and sisters: I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing me witness that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are children of Israel; theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

Gospel: Lk 14:1-6:
On a sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. In front of him there was a man suffering from dropsy. Jesus spoke to the scholars of the law and Pharisees in reply, asking, “Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath or not?” But they kept silent; so he took the man and, after he had healed him, dismissed him. Then he said to them “Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern, would not immediately pull him out on the sabbath day?” But they were unable to answer his question.

We feel uneasy when we are watched. Our movements become stilted and our words guarded. We are not free. Jesus feels the same way too, probably right here in this Gospel. Yet He did not allow this feeling to overpower His love for those who are needy. He would not be constrained by others’ careful watching. He will do what is the right thing to do even if others do not approve. And so, Jesus has to disappoint again His self-appointed guardians. He tried to expand their horizons by freeing them from the confines of their legalistic frame of mind. He has better luck with the man afflicted by dropsy. The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees are cases very hard to cure.

November 4th

San Carlos Borromeo

1st Reading: Rom 11:1-2a, 11-12, 25-29:
Brothers and sisters: I ask, then, has God rejected his people? Of course not! For I too am a child of Israel, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? Hence I ask, did they stumble so as to fall? Of course not! But through their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make them jealous. Now if their transgression is enrichment for the world, and if their diminished number is enrichment for the Gentiles, how much more their full number.

I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you will not become wise in your own estimation: a hardening has come upon Israel in part, until the full number of the Gentiles comes in, and thus all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The deliverer will come out of Zion, he will turn away godlessness from Jacob; and this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins. In respect to the Gospel, they are enemies on your account; but in respect to election, they are beloved because of the patriarch. For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.

Gospel: Lk 14:1, 7-11:
On a sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place. Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

It is difficult to have a balanced view of death. Some people seem to be in love with death, either because they are constantly defying death in daredevil stunts, or they attempt suicide at every occasion, or they talk of nothing else. In complete contrast to these death-worshippers are the people who are so terrified of death that they avoid, as the plague, any mention or reference to it. As Christians, what should be our attitude towards death? To fear death instinctively is natural. After all, the apostle Paul calls it an enemy (1 Cor 15:26) and Jesus himself feared it (Mt 14:34).

This fear is an instinct given by God to help us stay alive. But faith should help us to overcome this fear, because by faith we know that death marks the moment we will be with God in bliss forever. Paul says in today’s first reading that he desires greatly “to leave this life and to be with Christ.” And all the saints were eager to die precisely for this reason. Let us examine our own attitude toward death. Do we see it as something eminently desirable or do we see it as the supreme catastrophe?