Bible Diary for July 7th – 13th

July 7th

1st Reading: Is 66:10-14c:
“Rejoice for Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her. Be glad with her, rejoice with her, all you who were in grief over her, that you may suck of the milk from her comforting breasts, that you may drink deeply from the abundance of her glory.” For this is what Yahweh says: I will send her peace, overflowing like a river; and the nations’ wealth, rushing like a torrent towards her.

And you will be nursed and carried in her arms and fondled upon her lap. As a son comforted by his mother, so will I comfort you. At the sight of this, your heart will rejoice; like grass, your bones will flourish. For it shall be known that Yahweh’s hand is with his servant, but his fury is upon his enemy.

2nd Reading: Gal 6:14-18:
For me, I do not wish to take pride in anything, except in the cross of Christ Jesus, our Lord. Through him, the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Let us no longer speak of the circumcised and of non-Jews, but of a new creation. Let those who live according to this rule receive peace and mercy: they are the Israel of God! Let no one trouble me any longer: for my part, I bear in my body the marks of Jesus. May the grace of Christ Jesus our Lord be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.

Gospel: Lk 10:1-12, 17-20:
After this, the Lord appointed seventy-two other disciples, and sent them, two by two, ahead of him, to every town and place, where he himself was to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. So you must ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers to his harvest. Courage! I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Set off without purse or bag or sandals; and do not stop at the homes of those you know. Whatever house you enter, first bless them, saying, ‘Peace to this house!’ If a friend of peace lives there, the peace shall rest upon that person.

But if not, the blessing will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking at their table, for the worker deserves to be paid. Do not move from house to house. When they welcome you to any town, eat what they offer you. Heal the sick who are there, and say to them: ‘The kingdom of God has drawn near to you.’ But in any town where you are not welcome, go to the market place and proclaim: ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off and leave with you. But know for a certainty that the kingdom of God has drawn near to you.’ I tell you, that on the Day of Judgment it will be better for Sodom than for this town. The seventy-two disciples returned full of joy. They said, “Lord, even the demons obeyed us when we called on your name.”

Then Jesus replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. You see, I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the Enemy, so that nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, don’t rejoice because the evil spirits submit to you; rejoice, rather, that your names are written in heaven.”

Jesus inauguration of the reign of God cannot be contained. It needs to expand and reach as many people. Thus, Jesus, sending of the seventy-two is meant to extend his mission. His instructions were clear, and their preparation adequate as it is evident in the success of their activities. They are to bless by giving peace and to heal the sick. With these gestures, the kingdom of God is brought to the people. In the dynamics of calling and sending, the origin of the mission/task/activity, how it will be carried out, the intention or purpose, and the recipient of task, are clearly identified.

When Christ calls and sends out, it is to advance God’s reign of love, justice, mercy and peace. And we, as recipients of the call and the command to go out, are endowed with gifts that correspond to the nature of the task. Once God assigns a specific task to us, only we can accomplish it. God, Lord of the harvest, may we be a true witnesses of your love and goodness to others.

July 8th

1st Reading: Gen 28:10-22a:
Jacob departed from Beer-sheba and proceeded toward Haran. When he came upon a certain shrine, as the sun had already set, he stopped there for the night. Taking one of the stones at the shrine, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep at that spot. Then he had a dream: a stairway rested on the ground, with its top reaching to the heavens; and God’s messengers were going up and down on it.

And there was the Lord standing beside him and saying: “I, the Lord, am the God of your forefather Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you are lying I will give to you and your descendants. These shall be as plentiful as the dust of the earth, and through them you shall spread out east and west, north and south. In you and your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing. Know that I am with you; I will protect you wherever you go, and bring you back to this land. I will never leave you until I have done what I promised you.”

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he exclaimed, “Truly, the Lord is in this spot, although I did not know it!” In solemn wonder he cried out: “How awesome is this shrine! This is nothing else but an abode of God, and that is the gateway to heaven!” Early the next morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head, set it up as a memorial stone, and poured oil on top of it. He called the site Bethel, whereas the former name of the town had been Luz.

Jacob then made this vow: “If God remains with me, to protect me on this journey I am making and to give me enough bread to eat and clothing to wear, and I come back safe to my father’s house, the Lord shall be my God. This stone that I have set up as a memorial stone shall be God’s abode.”

Gospel: Mt 9:18-26:
While Jesus was speaking to them, an official of the synagogue came up to him, bowed before him and said, “My daughter has just died, but come and place your hands on her, and she will live.” Jesus stood up and followed him with his disciples. Then a woman, who had suffered from a severe bleeding for twelve years, came up from behind and touched the edge of his cloak; for she thought, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”

Jesus turned, saw her and said, “Courage, my daughter, your faith has saved you.” And from that moment, the woman was cured. When Jesus arrived at the official’s house and saw the flute players and the excited crowd, he said, “Get out of here! The girl is not dead. She is only sleeping!” And they laughed at him. But once the crowd had been turned out, Jesus went in and took the girl by the hand, and she stood up. The news of this spread through the whole area.

Two characters in today’s gospel have their own encounter of the healing power of Jesus: (1) an official of the synagogue, interceding on behalf of the dead daughter, approached Jesus in faith; and, (2) a woman who stealthily came to Jesus and secretly touched His cloak. In both cases the healing power of Jesus is sought. It is clear to them that what they have suffered from has become unbearable, and they are convinced that Jesus can deliver them favorable result. Both may not even be aware that faith is the requisite to grant their intent.

Nevertheless, they possess it even before their actual approach to Jesus. The condition so that Jesus power may operate on the plea of the official and the desire of the woman (and in our life too) is faith. The only way Jesus’ touch may effect healing (or some change) is through an act of faith. Faith prepares the ground so that the love of God can work in their/our lives. Faith is the key that opens up the door of heaven, so that we receive God’s grace. By being faithful, we share in the heavenly gifts.

July 9th

St. Augustine Zhao Rong & Companions

1st Reading: Gen 32:23-33:
In the course of the night, Jacob arose, took his two wives, with the two maidservants and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After he had taken them across the stream and had brought over all his possessions, Jacob was left there alone. Then some man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. When the man saw that he could not prevail over him, he struck Jacob’s hip at its socket, so that the hip socket was wrenched as they wrestled. The man then said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go until you bless me.” The man asked, “What is your name?” He answered, “Jacob.”

Then the man said, “You shall no longer be spoken of as Jacob, but as Israel, because you have contended with divine and human beings and have prevailed.” Jacob then asked him, “Do tell me your name, please.” He answered, “Why should you want to know my name?” With that, he bade him farewell. Jacob named the place Peniel, “Because I have seen God face to face,” he said, “yet my life has been spared.” At sunrise, as he left Penuel, Jacob limped along because of his hip. That is why, to this day, the children of Israel do not eat the sciatic muscle that is on the hip socket, inasmuch as Jacob’s hip socket was struck at the sciatic muscle.

Gospel: Mt 9:32-38:
As they were going away, some people brought to Jesus a man who was dumb, because he was possessed by a demon. When the demon was driven out, the dumb man began to speak. The crowds were astonished and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “He drives away demons with the help of the prince of demons.”

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.”

This gospel reading may be divided into two subjects: one that concludes the healing activities of Jesus and the other introduces the context for Jesus’ next set of discourse, that is, the instruction to the twelve. In going to places to cure every sickness and disease, Jesus was motivated by compassion and mercy. The same intent prompted Him to send disciples to continue His messianic ministry. He saw the people needing care and direction, and he acted on it. Jesus is sensitive and attentive to people’s deepest need and cry.

He hears them and sees them in their suffering that is why He was moved with pity. This poses a challenge to us Christians if we are to live out the gospel message. To be sensitive and attentive to the sufferings of people means orienting ourselves and sharing a part of us to them. At times this is not easy. What is preventing us to see or respond to the need and abuses around us? What could be stopping us to lend a voice to those who are maltreated and exploited? We pray for the grace to be more caring and compassionate.

July 10th

1st Reading: Gen 41:55-57; 42:5-7a, 17-24a:
When hunger came to be felt throughout the land of Egypt and the people cried to Pharaoh for bread, Pharaoh directed all the Egyptians to go to Joseph and do whatever he told them. When the famine had spread throughout the land, Joseph opened all the cities that had grain and rationed it to the Egyptians, since the famine had gripped the land of Egypt. In fact, all the world came to Joseph to obtain rations of grain, for famine had gripped the whole world. The sons of Israel were among those who came to procure rations.

It was Joseph, as governor of the country, who dispensed the rations to all the people. When Joseph’s brothers came and knelt down before him with their faces to the ground, he recognized them as soon as he saw them. But Joseph concealed his own identity from them and spoke sternly to them. With that, he locked them up in the guardhouse for three days.

On the third day Joseph said to his brothers: “Do this, and you shall live; for I am a God-fearing man. If you have been honest, only one of your brothers need be confined in this prison, while the rest of you may go and take home provisions for your starving families. But you must come back to me with your youngest brother. Your words will thus be verified, and you will not die.” To this they agreed. To one another, however, they said: “Alas, we are being punished because of our brother. We saw the anguish of his heart when he pleaded with us, yet we paid no heed; that is why this anguish has now come upon us.”

Reuben broke in, “Did I not tell you not to do wrong to the boy? But you would not listen!  Now comes the reckoning for his blood.” The brothers did not know, of course, that Joseph understood what they said, since he spoke with them through an interpreter. But turning away from them, he wept.

Gospel: Mt 10:1-7:
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. These are the names of the Twelve apostles: 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 Thaddaeus; Simon, the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, the man who would betray him. Jesus sent these Twelve on mission, with the instructions: “Do not visit pagan territory and do not enter a Samaritan town. Go, instead, to the lost sheep of the people of Israel. Go, and proclaim this message: The kingdom of heaven is near.

Being called and being sent go together in Christian discipleship, but there is another element to it, namely the very reason for being called and sent. These are the threefold element of Christian discipleship. The “call” has an accompanying thing to accomplish. The disciples were specifically sent for a definite purpose: to proclaim the kingdom of God. This is very clear to Jesus; He is sending them for this purpose. It is also clear to the twelve that this is the object of their calling.

Jesus teaching, healing, and reconciling ministries inaugurated the reign of God. These ministries made historically concrete God’s love for all creation. The kingdom of God is God’s love reigning concretely on Earth through Jesus. Humanity had a foretaste of the fullness of creation through the healing and reconciling activities of Jesus. The kingdom of God that He began was made historically present, but not complete, that is why He called and sent the disciples. And these calling and sending extend to us, with the same purpose—the kingdom of God.

July 11th

St. Benedict

1st Reading: Gen 44:18-21, 23b-29; 45:1-5:
Judah approached Joseph and said: “I beg you, my lord, let your servant speak earnestly to my lord, and do not become angry with your servant, for you are the equal of Pharaoh. My lord asked your servants, ‘Have you a father, or another brother?’ So we said to my lord, ‘We have an aged father, and a young brother, the child of his old age. This one’s full brother is dead, and since he is the only one by that mother who is left, his father dotes on him.’ Then you told your servants, ‘Bring him down to me that my eyes may look on him. Unless your youngest brother comes back with you, you shall not come into my presence again.’ When we returned to your servant our father, we reported to him the words of my lord.

“Later, our father told us to come back and buy some food for the family. So we reminded him, ‘We cannot go down there; only if our youngest brother is with us can we go, for we may not see the man if our youngest brother is not with us.’ Then your servant our father said to us, ‘As you know, my wife bore me two sons. One of them, however, disappeared, and I had to conclude that he must have been torn to pieces by wild beasts; I have not seen him since. If you now take this one away from me, too, and some disaster befalls him, you will send my white head down to the nether world in grief.'”

Joseph could no longer control himself in the presence of all his attendants, so he cried out, “Have everyone withdraw from me!” Thus no one else was about when he made himself known to his brothers. But his sobs were so loud that the Egyptians heard him, and so the news reached Pharaoh’s palace. “I am Joseph,” he said to his brothers. “Is my father still in good health?” But his brothers could give him no answer, so dumbfounded were they at him.

“Come closer to me,” he told his brothers. When they had done so, he said: “I am your brother Joseph, whom you once sold into Egypt. But now do not be distressed, and do not reproach yourselves for having sold me here. It was really for the sake of saving lives that God sent me here ahead of you.”

Gospel: Mt 10:7-15:
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. Do not carry any gold or silver or money in your purses. Do not take a traveling bag, or an extra shirt, or sandals, or a walking stick: workers deserve to be compensated. When you come to a town or a village, look for a worthy person, and stay there until you leave.

When you enter the house, wish it peace. If the people are worthy people, your peace will rest on them; if they are not worthy people, your blessing will come back to you. And if you are not welcomed, and your words are not listened to, leave that house or that town, and shake the dust off your feet. I assure you, it will go easier for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment, than it will for the people of that town.

The gospel passage outlines what entails the mission to proclaim the Kingdom of God. It identifies the tasks that the disciples ought to accomplish. One may notice that these are the same activities that Jesus did during his public ministry. They are now extended to the disciples. This means that the same heavenly powers are to operate to fulfill the tasks. The disciples now share in the powers of Jesus. Today, these powers are operative in the Church.

They work in people touched by the Spirit. How does the Spirit inspire and empower us? What are we being called and sent to do to advance the Reign of God? We may not have the power to cure diseases and sickness, to raise the dead back to life, and so forth. But one thing is certain—we are gifted to do something for the Kingdom of God. And that something is specific to us to do.

July 12th

1st Reading: Gen 46:1-7, 28-30:
Israel set out with all that was his. When he arrived at Beer-sheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. There God, speaking to Israel in a vision by night, called, “Jacob! Jacob!” He answered, “Here I am.” Then he said: “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you a great nation. Not only will I go down to Egypt with you; I will also bring you back here, after Joseph has closed your eyes.” 

So Jacob departed from Beer-sheba, and the sons of Israel put their father and their wives and children on the wagons that Pharaoh had sent for his transport. They took with them their livestock and the possessions they had acquired in the land of Canaan. Thus Jacob and all his descendants migrated to Egypt. His sons and his grandsons, his daughters and his granddaughters all his descendants—he took with him to Egypt.

Israel had sent Judah ahead to Joseph, so that he might meet him in Goshen. On his arrival in the region of Goshen, Joseph hitched the horses to his chariot and rode to meet his father Israel in Goshen. As soon as Joseph saw him, he flung himself on his neck and wept a long time in his arms. And Israel said to Joseph, “At last I can die, now that I have seen for myself that Joseph is still alive.”

Gospel: Mt 10:16-23:
Look, I send you out like sheep among wolves. You must be as clever as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard with people, for they will hand you over to their courts, and they will flog you in their synagogues. You will be brought to trial before rulers and kings because of me, so that you may witness to them and the pagans. But when you are arrested, do not worry about what you are to say, or how you are to say it; when the hour comes, you will be given 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 his brother to death, and a father his child; children will turn against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of me, but whoever stands firm to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next. I tell you the truth, you will not have passed through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

Jesus instructs the disciples on how to deal with the attendant danger and persecution of their mission. The disciples must be as cunning as the snake and gentle as the dove. Jesus is aware of the difficulty and danger that come with the mission of proclaiming the Reign of God. He foresees them and would offer the disciples some help to conquer their fear. Jesus sees the combination of cunningness (or shrewdness) of the snake and gentleness of the dove as vital to carry out the mission.

It is wise to develop these qualities of cunningness and gentleness. The modern world has not become a better place to live. Violence, abuse and exploitation of fellow humans and the natural world remain. Humans have simply become more sophisticated in doing them. There is a need to be clever in identifying causes of abuse and of social and economic injustices. There is a need to be critically smart in identifying things that corrupt morally, things that distract us from what really matters and from what really is essential.

July 13th

St. Henry

1st Reading: Gen 49:29-32; 50:15-26a:
Jacob gave his sons this charge: “Since I am about to be taken to my people, bury me with my fathers in the cave that lies in the field of Ephron the Hittite, the cave in the field of Machpelah, facing on Mamre, in the land of Canaan, the field that Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite for a burial ground. There Abraham and his wife Sarah are buried, and so are Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and there, too, I buried Leah–the field and the cave in it that had been purchased from the Hittites.”

Now that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers became fearful and thought, “Suppose Joseph has been nursing a grudge against us and now plans to pay us back in full for all the wrong we did him!” So they approached Joseph and said: “Before your father died, he gave us these instructions: ‘You shall say to Joseph, Jacob begs you to forgive the criminal wrongdoing of your brothers, who treated you so cruelly.’ Please, therefore, forgive the crime that we, the servants of your father’s God, committed.” When they spoke these words to him, Joseph broke into tears. Then his brothers proceeded to fling themselves down before him and said, “Let us be your slaves!” But Joseph replied to them: “Have no fear. Can I take the place of God? Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve his present end, the survival of many people. Therefore have no fear. I will provide for you and for your children.” By thus speaking kindly to them, he reassured them.

Joseph remained in Egypt, together with his father’s family. He lived a hundred and ten years. He saw Ephraim’s children to the third generation, and the children of Manasseh’s son Machir were also born on Joseph’s knees. Joseph said to his brothers: “I am about to die. God will surely take care of you and lead you out of this land to the land that he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Then, putting the sons of Israel under oath, he continued, “When God thus takes care of you, you must bring my bones up with you from this place.” Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten.

Gospel: Mt 10:24-33:
A student is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. A student should be content to become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If the head of the household has been called Beelzebul, how much more, those of his household! So, do not be afraid of them! There is nothing covered that will not be uncovered. There is nothing hidden that will not be made known. What I am telling you in the dark, you must speak in the light. What you hear in private, proclaim from the housetops.

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but have no power to kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of him who can destroy both body and soul in hell. For a few cents you can buy two sparrows. Yet not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father knowing. As for you, every hair of your head has been counted. Do not be afraid: you are worth more than many sparrows! Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven. Whoever rejects me before others, I will reject before my Father in heaven.

Jesus continues to instruct the disciples to overcome their fear of foreseen suffering, persecution and strife. Using the imagery of God taking notice of the sparrow’s fall on the ground, Jesus reassures the disciples of God’s provident care. Jesus’ usage of this imagery is worth considering. Here and in other instances in the gospels, particularly in the parables about nature, Jesus shows His profound understanding of the natural world as being loved by God, as a place of God, and as revelatory of God.

Jesus finds God in the natural world as well as the world of human affairs (Denis Edwards). Both enjoy God’s loving embrace. If such is the case, the disciples need not worry, need not fear. Jesus’ statement “You are worth more than many sparrows!” might be interpreted as humans being more important and enjoying privileged status before God. Rather, it is to be taken simply to stress the point that the disciples need not worry and need not fear.