Bible Diary for December 16th – 22ndBible Diary
Third Sunday of Advent
1st Reading: Zep 3:14-18a:
Cry out with joy, O daughter of Zion; rejoice, O people of Israel! Sing joyfully with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! Yahweh has lifted your sentence and has driven your enemies away. Yahweh, the King of Israel is with you; do not fear any misfortune. On that day, they will say to Jerusalem: Do not be afraid nor let your hands tremble, for Yahweh your God is within you, Yahweh, saving warrior. He will jump for joy on seeing you, for he has revived his love. For you he will cry out with joy, as you do in the days of the feast. I will drive away the evil I warned you about, and you will no longer be shamed.
2nd Reading: Phil 4:4-7:
Rejoice in the Lord always! I say it again: rejoice, and may everyone experience your gentle and understanding heart. The Lord is near: do not be anxious about anything. In everything, resort to prayer and supplication, together, with thanksgiving, and bring your requests before God. Then, the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Gospel: Lk 3:10-18:
The people asked him, “What are we to do?“ And John answered, “If you have two coats, give one to the person who has none; and if you have food, do the same.“ Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and asked him, “Master, what must we do?“ John said to them, “Collect no more than your fixed rate.“ Then some soldiers asked John, “What about us? What are we to do?“ And he answered, “Don‘t take anything by force, or threaten the people by denouncing them falsely. Be content with your pay.“
The people were wondering about John‘s identity, “Could he be the Messiah?“ Then John answered them, “I baptize you with water, but the one who is coming will do much more: he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. As for me, I am not worthy to untie his sandal. He comes with a winnowing fan, to clear his threshing floor, and gather the grain into his barn. But the chaff he will burn, with fire that never goes out.“ With these, and many other words, John announced the Good News to the people.
The third Sunday of Advent is all about rejoicing. But who rejoices? Whose joy is it? Primarily it is the Lord‘s. It is God who will jump for joy on seeing us, His beloved. He will cry out with joy for us, so says Zephaniah. And when we see the joy of our beloved, the one who delights in us, we cannot but be joyful and rejoice. Our joy is a spontaneous response in gratitude to the discovery of having been loved by a love that we didn’t know ever existed. You have been loved beyond your understanding. Knowing this, speak to God in words that spontaneously well up in your heart.
1st Reading: Gen 49:2, 8-10:
Jacob called his sons and said to them: “Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob, listen to Israel, your father.
“You, Judah, shall your brothers praise –your hand on the neck of your enemies; the sons of your father shall bow down to you. Judah, like a lion’s whelp, you have grown up on prey, my son. He crouches like a lion recumbent, the king of beasts–who would dare rouse him? The scepter shall never depart from Judah, or the mace from between his legs, While tribute is brought to him, and he receives the people’s homage.”
Gospel: Mt 1:1-17:
This is the account of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham.
Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (their mother was Tamar), Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron of Aram. … Salmon was the father of Boaz. His mother was Rahab. Boaz was the father of Obed. His mother was Ruth. Obed was the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David, the king. David was the father of Solomon. His mother had been Uriah’s wife. Solomon was the father of Rehoboam. Then came the kings: Abijah, Asaph, Jehoshaphat, Joram, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, Josiah. Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud, Abiud of Eliakim, and Eliakim of Azor. Azor was the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, and Akim the father of Eliud. Eliud was the father of Eleazar, Eleazar of Matthan, and Matthan of Jacob. Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and from her came Jesus who is called the Christ—the Messiah.
There were then fourteen generations from Abraham to David, and fourteen generations from David to the deportation to Babylon, and fourteen generations from the deportation to Babylon to the birth of Christ.
The genealogy is divided into three significant parts, each with fourteen generations. The first part is from Abraham down to David, the second from David to the deportation to Babylon, and the third from the deportation to Joseph and Mary. There are four women mentioned – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba. The Book of Genesis (38:15) recounts that Tamar pretended to be a harlot and seduced her father-in-law, Judah. Rahab was a prostitute, as the Book of Joshua attests (Jos 2:1), but the New Testament praises her for her faith and good works (Heb 11:31 and Jas 2:25). Ruth was one who showed her Jewish mother-in-law care and fidelity. (Ru 1:16-17).
The infamous Bathsheba that Matthew described simply as Uriah‘s wife committed adultery with David. By including these women in Jesus‘ genealogy, Matthew is showing us that God takes humanity as it is to bring an unfolding plan to fulfillment. It involves sin and conversion, success and failure, sinners and saints. But God is at work in it, making broken ways straight and rough ways smooth. And ultimately, God‘s love prevails, a truth revealed in the person and life of Jesus. Jesus comes in our midst and is totally incarnated in the world so that he could communicate the message of God‘s love to the world and for the world.
1st Reading: Jer 23:5-8:
Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David; As king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security. This is the name they give him: “The LORD our justice.”
Therefore, the days will come, says the LORD, when they shall no longer say, “As the LORD lives, who brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt”; but rather, “As the LORD lives, who brought the descendants of the house of Israel up from the land of the north”– and from all the lands to which I banished them; they shall again live on their own land.
Gospel: Mt 1:18-25:
This is how Jesus Christ was born: Mary his mother had been given to Joseph in marriage, but before they lived together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph, her husband, made plans to divorce her in all secrecy. He was an upright man, and in no way did he want to disgrace her. While he was pondering over this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. She has conceived by the Holy Spirit, and now she will bear a son. You shall call him ‘Jesus‘ for he will save his people from their sins.“
All this happened in order to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: The virgin will conceive and bear a son, and he will be called Emmanuel, which means: God-with us. When Joseph awoke, he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do, and he took his wife to his home. He did not have any marital relations with her. When she gave birth to a son, Joseph gave him the name Jesus.
An unmarried woman. An unplanned pregnancy. “Who is the father?“ “They say Joseph still intends to take her as his wife. He‘s going to marry her after all this.“ “This whole thing is a disgrace. She and her love child should be stoned. The law requires it.“ Mary and Joseph should know better. They aren’t even married yet.“ Joseph knows this is a scandal. He knows there are questions of faithfulness. But it is not a scandal of immorality. The real drama is that God is with us. We thought God was up there, or out there, maybe somewhere in the future. But then Mary got pregnant. The mystery of that pregnancy is that God is intimately present with our humanity and history.
God‘s holy spirit fills the womb of Mary. The wonder of the event is that humanity can become pregnant with God. In this pregnancy God renews all the covenants of history and again chooses us to be his people. God‘s continuing promise to show up and live in the midst of our lives is fulfilled in Mary‘s pregnancy. The child within Mary is a love child. That is not, however, a euphemism for illegitimate, a child born to unmarried parents. The child is the revelation of God‘s love and fidelity for humanity. Love that can be seen, heard, touched. This embodied love of God will feed and nourish God‘s people.
1st Reading: Jdg 13:2-7, 24-25a:
There was a certain man from Zorah, of the clan of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. His wife was barren and had borne no children. An angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, “Though you are barren and have had no children, yet you will conceive and bear a son. Now, then, be careful to take no wine or strong drink and to eat nothing unclean. As for the son you will conceive and bear, no razor shall touch his head, for this boy is to be consecrated to God from the womb. It is he who will begin the deliverance of Israel from the power of the Philistines.”
The woman went and told her husband, “A man of God came to me; he had the appearance of an angel of God, terrible indeed. I did not ask him where he came from, nor did he tell me his name. But he said to me, ‘You will be with child and will bear a son. So take neither wine nor strong drink, and eat nothing unclean. For the boy shall be consecrated to God from the womb, until the day of his death.’”
The woman bore a son and named him Samson. The boy grew up and the LORD blessed him; the Spirit of the LORD stirred him.
Gospel: Lk 1:5-25:
(…) Now, while Zechariah and those with him were fulfilling their office, it fell to him by lot, according to the custom of the priests, to enter the Sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. (…) On seeing the angel, Zechariah was deeply troubled and fear took hold of him. But the angel said to him, “Don‘t be afraid, Zechariah, be assured that your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you shall name him John. (…) This son of yours will be great in the eyes of the Lord. Listen: he shall never drink wine or strong drink; but he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother‘s womb.
(…) He, himself, will open the way to the Lord, with the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah (…) Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I believe this? I am an old man and my wife is elderly, too.“ The angel replied, “I am Gabriel, who stands before God; and I am the one sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news! My words will come true in their time. But you would not believe; and now, you will be silent and unable to speak until this has happened.“ (…) When his time of service was completed, Zechariah returned home; and, some time later, Elizabeth became pregnant. (…)
In Israelite culture, and even in many cultures today, it was considered a curse from God for a woman to be without child – to be barren. If a woman was not able to have a child, it was often thought that it was because God was punishing her for some sin. But Zacharias and Elizabeth were blameless before God. They were not being punished. It took sometime before they got a child. Zacharias felt it was even too late. And then he tries to give God a lesson in biology and procreation. “How can I believe this? I am an old man and my wife is elderly, too.“
He questions the message from the angel. What is clear wasn’t because God didn’t hear their prayers. It wasn’t because they were sinning and so God wasn’t answering their prayers. It was because God had something in store for them beyond anything they could ask or imagine. They would become the parents of John the Baptist who would prepare the way for Jesus Christ. They had waited and waited and waited, and God had finally answered, in His own time, and in His own amazing way! God always keeps his promises. He kept his promises to Israel. He kept his promises to Zacharias. And He will keep His promises to you.
1st Reading: Is 7:10-14:
The LORD spoke to Ahaz: Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God; let it be deep as the nether world, or high as the sky! But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!” Then Isaiah said: Listen, O house of David! Is it not enough for you to weary men, must you also weary my God? Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.
Gospel: Lk 1:26-38:
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God, to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent to a virgin, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin‘s name was Mary. The angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you!“ Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But the angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a son; and you shall call him Jesus. He will be great, and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the kingdom of David, his ancestor; he will rule over the people of Jacob forever; and his reign shall have no end.“
Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?“ And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; (…) With God nothing is impossible.“ Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.“ And the angel left her.
Gabriel explains that Mary will become pregnant and give birth to Jesus, the Messiah. She disagrees with a valid objection: “How will this be, since I am a virgin?“ She meant that the demand of God was simply impossible given her limitations and the shame that go with the request. It was her right to question and doubt God‘s offer to be the mother of Jesus. Mary‘s question arose from fear and even disbelief. It was not easy to say yes. It was not an easy decision to make. Responding to God‘s call requires being challenged to the core of one‘s being. Mary‘s courage to question is part of being true to herself. Her fears were real. Her fears turned to faith when she got the assurance of God‘s promise to make a partner of God‘ plan to share the joys and pains of humanity by being one of us.
Mary‘s response to the angel‘s announcement and explanation “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said“ is an act of trust to God‘s promise. Here is a teenager facing misunderstanding and rejection from her family, her betrothed, and her townspeople. And yet she says yes to God‘s call. Mary affirms the bedrock truth that undergirds our discipleship: “I am the Lord‘s servant.“ After all is said and done, after we have explored all the possibilities, we still must decide: am I a servant or a master? Is my allegiance to the God of history or to my own desires?
St. Peter Canisius
1st Reading: Zep 3:14-18a (or Song 2:8-14):
Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The LORD has removed the judgment against you, he has turned away your enemies; The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear. On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem: Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, He will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.
Gospel: Lk 1:39-45:
Mary then set out for a town in the hill country of Judah. She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary‘s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and, giving a loud cry, said, “You are most blessed among women; and blessed is the fruit of your womb! How is it, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby within me suddenly leapt for joy. Blessed are you, who believed that the Lord‘s word would come true!“
It was a meeting of two expectant mothers, one old, one young. One was six months along; the other, newly pregnant. Both of them were pregnant when really neither one of them should have been, under normal circumstances. But these circumstances were anything but normal. “The Visitation“ is the term that is commonly used when referring to this meeting of these two most uncommon mothers, Mary and Elizabeth. A woman‘s discovery that she is going to have a baby remains a defining moment in her life. For some, it is a glorious fulfillment of hopes and dreams. For others, it is an unexpected and frightening event.
After the angel Gabriel turned her life upside down, Mary needed the counsel of someone she could trust, someone who might mentor her and help her understand God‘s great challenge for her life. Her cousin Elizabeth was the perfect person to do that, for she was a kind, older woman who could speak to Mary the words of wisdom and encouragement she needed to hear. Although an older woman, Elizabeth was also expecting a child. John the Baptist. These women had no wealth or social standing; nothing about them was remarkable. Yet God chose them to be his instruments for bringing into the world two men who would shape the faith of humanity and change the course of history.
1st Reading: 1 S 1:24-28:
In those days, Hannah brought Samuel with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and presented him at the temple of the LORD in Shiloh. After the boy’s father had sacrificed the young bull, Hannah, his mother, approached Eli and said: “Pardon, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood near you here, praying to the LORD. I prayed for this child, and the LORD granted my request. Now I, in turn, give him to the LORD; as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the LORD.” She left Samuel there.
Gospel: Lk 1:46-56:
And Mary said, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God, my savior! He has looked upon his servant, in her lowliness, and people, forever, will call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, Holy is his Name! From age to age, his mercy extends to those who live in his presence. He has acted with power and done wonders, and scattered the proud with their plans. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up those who are downtrodden. He has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty. He held out his hand to Israel, his servant, for he remembered his mercy, even as he promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.“ Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months, and then returned home.
When we think of Mary the Mother of Jesus, perhaps we think of her as a quiet, mild, docile, submissive woman. This is the woman to whom the angel Gabriel appeared, saying that she was going to give birth to a baby who would be called “Son of the Most High. What was Mary‘s response to all this? She said, “I am the Lord‘s servant. May it be to me as you have said.“ In Luke‘s narrative, Mary challenges the angel‘s message on the level of realism: “What do you mean I‘m going to give birth? I‘m not married and I‘m still a virgin.“ And in the entire account with the Angel, Mary never falters. She‘s resigned, but remains courageous. Three months after Mary had her encounter with the angel Gabriel, she went to visit her relation Elizabeth. By that time she had had time to think about what was happening to her.
And so, sings the Magnificat as an expression of God‘s powerful and liberating presence in her life. The content of the poem is full of revolutionary imperatives, the lamentations of the weak against the powerful, the cry of the poor and weak against the rich and powerful. Why does Mary‘s soul magnify the Lord? Because God has remembered his humble servant, Mary, to be sure, but also because He offers a new set of relationships from exploitation and greed to just and reconciled order of relations. This was a woman for whom religion is a call for faith that does justice.