Bible Diary for December 23rd – 29thBible Diary
4th Sunday of Advent
St. John of Kanty
1st Reading: Mi 5:1-4a:
But you, Bethlehem Ephrata, so small that you are hardly named among the clans of Judah; from you shall I raise the one who is to rule over Israel. For he comes forth from of old, from the ancient times. Yahweh, therefore, will abandon Israel until such time as she, who is to give birth, has given birth. Then the rest of his deported brothers will return to the people of Israel. He will stand, and shepherd his flock with the strength of Yahweh, in the glorious Name of Yahweh, his God. They will live safely, while he wins renown to the ends of the earth. He shall be peace. When the Assyrian invades our land and sets foot on our territory, we will raise against him not one, but seven shepherds; eight warlords.
2nd Reading: Heb 10:5-10:
This is why, on entering the world, Christ says: You did not desire sacrifice and offering; you were not pleased with burnt offerings and sin offerings. Then I said: “Here I am. It was written of me in the scroll. I will do your will, O God.” First he says: Sacrifice, offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire nor were you pleased with them – although they were required by the law. Then he says: Here I am to do your will. This is enough to nullify the first will and establish the new. Now, by this will of God, we are sanctified, once and for all, by the sacrifice of the body of Christ Jesus.
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!”
The encounter of Mary and Elizabeth is the meeting of lives touched by grace in diverse ways: One, aging towards the end of earthly life and the other, in the refreshing teens of life; one, beyond the possibilities of giving life and the other, teeming with potential for life; and most importantly, one, on the side of doubting the truth of God’s words and the other, capable of taking in God’s word as a fish takes to the waters. But the beauty is that God’s grace touches both – the one who believes and the one who doubts. Yet, as Elizabeth rightly observed, blessed is the one who believes in God’s possibilities, for her joy would be double. Pray for God’s will to be fulfilled in your life.
1st Reading: 2 S 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16:
When King David was settled in his palace, and the LORD had given him rest from his enemies on every side, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!” Nathan answered the king, “Go, do whatever you have in mind, for the LORD is with you.” But that night the LORD spoke to Nathan and said: “Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: Should you build me a house to dwell in?
“‘It was I who took you from the pasture and from the care of the flock to be commander of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went, and I have destroyed all your enemies before you. And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth. I will fix a place for my people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance. Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old, since the time I first appointed judges over my people Israel. I will give you rest from all your enemies. The LORD also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you. And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his Kingdom firm. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. Your house and your Kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.’”
Gospel: Lk 1:67-79:
Zechariah, filed with the Holy Spirit, sang this canticle: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has come and redeemed his people. In the house of David his servant, he has raised up for us a victorious Savior; as he promised through his prophets of old, salvation from our enemies and from the hand of our foes.
He has shown mercy to our fathers; and remembered his holy Covenant, the oath he swore to Abraham, our father, to deliver us from the enemy, that we might serve him fearlessly, as a holy and righteous people, all the days of our lives.
And you, my child, shall be called Prophet of the Most High, for you shall go before the Lord, to prepare the way for him, and to enable his people to know of their salvation, when he comes to forgive their sins. This is the work of the mercy of our God, who comes from on high, as a rising sun, shining on those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, and guiding our feet into the way of peace.”
Luke puts the Benedictus into the mouth of Zechariah. For doubting the word of the angel, Zechariah had been struck dumb but when, at the circumcision of his son, he confirmed that the boy’s name would be John, he recovered his speech and broke out into this song of praise. Zechariah thanks God for having – in the person of Jesus – “visited his people” and “come to their rescue” just he had promised through the mouths of the prophets down the ages. What was the purpose of this deliverance? So that we could rejoice over the defeat of those who wish us harm? No, it was that we could “serve him in holiness and virtue in his presence, all our days”.
There is enough there already for us to reflect on with deep gratitude. The first thing he gives thanks for is the fact that God has redeemed His people. Secondly, he thanks God for the fulfillment of past promises. Finally, he thanks God as he anticipates the fulfillment of future promises. All these are acts of God. So, we too thank God for His gracious work among us. The realization of that peace and harmony in each one, in every community and throughout every society, is a sign that the Kingdom has come. We all realize how much that peace is needed in our world, in our own society, in our own communities, in our homes and in our own selves. May the Prince of Peace come and dwell among us this Christmas.
1st Reading: Is 52:7-10:
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, “Your God is King!”
Hark! Your sentinels raise a cry, together they shout for joy, for they see directly, before their eyes, the LORD restoring Zion. Break out together in song, O ruins of Jerusalem! For the LORD comforts his people, he redeems Jerusalem. The LORD has bared his holy arm in the sight of all the nations; all the ends of the earth will behold the salvation of our God.
2nd Reading: Heb 1:1-6:
Brothers and sisters:
In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through the Son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe, who is the refulgence of his glory, the very imprint of his being, and who sustains all things by his mighty word. When he had accomplished purification from sins, he took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high, as far superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
For to which of the angels did God ever say: You are my son; this day I have begotten you? Or again: I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me? And again, when he leads the firstborn into the world, he says: Let all the angels of God worship him.
Gospel: Jn 1:1-18:
In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God; he was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him nothing came to be. Whatever has come to be, found life in him; life, which for human beings was also light, light that shines in darkness, light that darkness could not overcome. A man came, sent by God; his name was John. He came to bear witness, as a witness to introduce the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but a witness to introduce the Light; for the Light was coming into the world, the true Light that enlightens everyone.
He came to his own, yet his own people did not receive him; but to all who received him, he empowers to become children of God, for they believe in his name. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us; and we have seen his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father: fullness of truth and loving-kindness. John bore witness to him openly, saying, “This is the one who comes after me, but he is already ahead of me, for he was before me.” From his fullness we have all received, favor upon favor. For God had given us the law through Moses, but Truth and Loving kindness came through Jesus Christ.
The majestic opening of John’s Gospel shows us the cosmic scope of the mystery of the Incarnation. He is the definitive self expression of God, the one through whom God created all things in the beginning. The prologue climaxes with the announcement: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” It’s God’s concrete embodiment in humanity. This presence came about through God’s passion for humanity and for the whole of creation. Each day of our lives we seek the personal presence of those whom we care for and who care about us.
We want to enjoy the personal presence of those who fill our minds and let us live in their hearts. We live in God’s heart, and Christmas visibly brought among us the Son of God who cares infinitely for each of us. God did not want to live his presence at a distance. The Word became close to real people in real time. Through the wonder and mystery of the Incarnation, the Word became a person to be followed, enjoyed and loved! Our redemption is found in the Child of Bethlehem. Christmas inaugurates a completely new kind of real friendship with God.
It is God’s expression of concrete solidarity with the human condition and gives every person the hope to live differently and aspire to build a new set of relationships marked by peace, justice and ecological care. Christmas is a celebration of who God is in our lives – Emmanuel – God who is very intimate with us and comes to be with us and share what is possible within us if we care to pay attention to the divinity with each of us.
1st Reading: Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59:
Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people. Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen, Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and people from Cilicia and Asia, came forward and debated with Stephen, but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.
When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together. They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. As they were stoning Stephen, he called out “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Gospel: Mt 10:17-22:
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.
In today’s passage Jesus foretells what the disciples can look forward to. Jesus makes it clear that following him will result in families being broken up – father against child, children against parents. Alas, this prediction has been fulfilled all too often both in the past and in recent times. This is the price to pay for those whose lives are built on truth, love and peace. Those who prefer to live their faith in comfort and security would take Jesus’ message as a personal matter without the imperative of social justice. Jesus said that all those who wished to follow him would have to take up their cross and go after him.
Some of us may find it strange to be talking about such painful things during the Christmas season. If we think like that, then it may indicate that we do not fully understand the nature and purpose of Jesus’ birth. We tend to insulate the whole Christmas scene with romanticism and even a great deal of sentimentality but there was nothing sentimental about the Child being born in a poor social conditions, far from home, already ignored by the religious leadership of the day and whose only visitors were a group of poor and marginalized shepherds and some mysterious visitors from the East. They all indicate the direction of Jesus’ life, ministry and mission.
1st Reading: 1 Jn 1:1-4:
What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life – for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us – what we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; for our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.
Gospel: Jn 20:1a & 2-8:
Now, on the first day after the Sabbath, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark, and she saw that the stone blocking the tomb had been moved away. She ran to Peter, and the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and she said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have laid him.” Peter then set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down and saw the linen cloths lying flat, but he did not enter. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and entered the tomb; he, too, saw the linen cloths lying flat. The napkin, which had been around his head, was not lying flat like the other linen cloths, but lay rolled up in its place. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in; he saw and believed.
Mary Magdalene comes running to Peter and John and tells them that someone has taken Jesus’ body from the tomb. For having lost a friend and now losing the concrete body as symbol of everything a person has, it was heartbreaking. Have you ever experienced a time in your life when Jesus seems to have disappeared? These times can be very dark, frightening, and we may feel lost and alone. How do we respond to this “felt loss” of Jesus’ presence? In my life, when I experience the absence of Jesus, I usually come to understand that I am the one who has chosen another way not Jesus! And even if this is not the case for you, are we willing to stand firm and wait for Jesus to come? Are we able to see, believe and trust that Jesus is with us?
The other disciple whom Jesus loved had a more trusting posture; he saw and believed. In situations of fear and disbelief, the call is to be like the other disciple. His faith was greater than his fear. His hope was more intense than his despair. His love was faithful and not wavering. Jesus’ absence is neither the final word on his death nor the final story of a just man but God’s affirmation of his enduring presence and love. God’s love is the definitive story of a life that seemingly ended in failure. Death is not the final word but the victory of redemptive love. Jesus life and ministry are testaments of a faithful God who brought him to life and giving us the presence of Jesus through his spirit of love and mercy.
Feast of the Holy Innocents
1st Reading: 1 Jn 1:5 – 2:2
This is the message that we have heard from Jesus Christ and proclaim to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” while we continue to walk in darkness, we lie and do not act in truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the Blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We are without sin,” we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing. If we say, “We have not sinned,” we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
My children, I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.
Gospel: Mt 2:13-18:
After the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, for Herod will soon be looking for the child in order to kill him.” Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and left that night for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. In this way, what the Lord had said through the prophet was fulfilled: I called my son out of Egypt.
When Herod found out that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was furious. He gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its neighborhood who were two years old or under. This was done according to what he had learned from the wise men about the time when the star appeared. In this way, what the prophet Jeremiah had said was fulfilled: A cry is heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation: Rachel weeps for her children. She refuses to be comforted, for they are no more.
This is a painful story to read just four days after Christmas. Matthew tells a story that is disturbing but ultimately more realistic. Such a grim account of wholesale massacre and night flights to safety would seem far-fetched were it not for similar atrocities and tragedies happening right now. How many families, for instance, are being dislocated in Syria even as we reflect on the gospel? And how many children are being starved to death around the world as we finish up or throw away holiday leftovers? And how many families are struggling with their own sorrows and righteous anger as some members become victims of extrajudicial killings?
The Christmas event celebrates Jesus as Emmanuel, as God so near to us, shares our lot and our life, and submitting himself to all our disappointments, fears, violence and even death. This story matters because it tells us the truth: the sometimes difficult truth of unjust and violent rulers and the indifference of many. But we keep hopeful in the truth that God is not looking at our sorrows and pain at a distance, but in Jesus, God’s own self has joined our story and is working – even now, even here – to grant us new life that we may not just endure but flourish, experiencing joy and courage in our daily lives and sharing our hope with others.
St. Thomas Becket
1st Reading: 1 Jn 2:3-11:
The way we may be sure that we know Jesus is to keep his commandments. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him. This is the way we may know that we are in union with him: whoever claims to abide in him ought to walk just as he walked.
Beloved, I am writing no new commandment to you but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. And yet I do write a new commandment to you, which holds true in him and among you, for the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light, yet hates his brother, is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother remains in the light, and there is nothing in him to cause a fall.
Whoever hates his brother is in darkness; he walks in darkness and does not know where he is going
because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
Gospel: Lk 2:22-35:
When the day came for the purification according to the law of Moses, they brought the baby up to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord. There lived in Jerusalem, at this time, a very upright and devout man named Simeon; the Holy Spirit was in him. So, he was led into the temple by the Holy Spirit at the time the parents brought the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law.
Simeon took the child in his arms, and blessed God, saying, “Now, O Lord, you can dismiss your servant in peace, for you have fulfilled your word and my eyes have seen your salvation, which you display for all the people to see. Here is the light you will reveal to the nations, and the glory of your people Israel.” His father and mother wondered at what was said about the child. Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother, “Know this: your son is a sign; a sign established for the falling and rising of many in Israel, a sign of contradiction; and a sword will pierce your own soul, so that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”
The Holy Family was a Jewish family and both Jesus and his parents are shown as faithfully carrying out the requirements of the Law. When Joseph and Mary present Jesus to the Lord in Jerusalem, they are in effect dedicating his life to God. Jesus will be “holy to the Lord.” Jesus’ life is for God. In closing his account of this passage, Luke establishes that Mary and Joseph “accomplished all things that were according to the law of the Lord” – another sign of their faithfulness to the law.
Luke’s words portray a picture of hope, innocence and adult concern for the infant Jesus. His words foster nostalgia and loving sentiments. This child, Jesus, has received a strong start in life. But in juxtaposing this text with some of today’s facts and realities about children, the biblical passage stresses the importance of setting the right conditions for children to grow and how parents have a great responsibility of forming their children to become responsible adults.
We are challenged to meditate on the following questions: What expectations do we have for our children as they grow toward adulthood? What are our hopes for them? What protection and guidance do we offer them so hopes and expectations can be realized for their flourishing? How do we utilize the resources of our faith communities to support children? What responsibilities do all adults have for children, regardless of whether or not they are related to them by blood or marriage?