Bible Diary for February 17th – 23rdBible Diary
Seven Founders of the Order of Servites
1st Reading: Jer 17:5-8:
This is what Yahweh says, “Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings and depends on a mortal for his life, while his heart is drawn away from Yahweh! He is like a bunch of thistles in dry land, in parched desert places, in a salt land where no one lives and who never finds happiness. Blessed is the man who puts his trust in Yahweh and whose confidence is in him! He is like a tree planted by the water, sending out its roots towards the stream. He has no fear when the heat comes, his leaves are always green; the year of drought is no problem and he can always bear fruit.
2nd Reading: 1 Cor 15:12, 16-20:
Well, then, if Christ is preached as risen from the dead, how can some of you say, that there is no resurrection of the dead? If the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith gives you nothing, and you are still in sin. Also, those who fall asleep, in Christ, are lost. If it is only for this life, that we hope in Christ, we are the most unfortunate of all people. But no, Christ has been raised from the dead, and he comes before all those who have fallen asleep.
Gospel: Lk 6:17, 20-26:
Coming down the hill with them, Jesus stood in an open plain. Many of his disciples were there, and a large crowd of people, who had come from all parts of Judea and Jerusalem, and from the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon. Then, looking at his disciples, Jesus said, “Fortunate are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Fortunate are you, who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Fortunate are you, who weep now, for you will laugh.
Fortunate are you, when people hate you, when they reject you and insult you and number you among criminals, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for a great reward is kept for you in heaven. Remember, that is how the ancestors of the people treated the prophets. But alas for you, who have wealth, for you have been comforted now. Alas for you, who are full, for you will go hungry. Alas for you, who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Alas for you, when people speak well of you, for that is how the ancestors of the people treated the false prophets.
A tree planted in dry land is an apt reference for those who seek happiness or fulfillment in the things of this world. Similarly, for those who seek success only in this life. Such, according to St. Paul, are “the most unfortunate of men.” They are planting a tree amidst thistles, in parched desert land. Jesus instead blesses those who are poor, who hunger, who weep, who face insults and persecution. To follow Jesus is to enter an upside down kingdom, where what was up is down; what seemed like solid ground is now over our heads; where what was dead is now alive! Lord, let us feast in hope, laugh and rejoice in your promises, and believe in the good news that Jesus is truly risen!
1st Reading: Gen 4:1-15, 25:
The man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have produced a man with the help of the LORD.” Next she bore his brother Abel. Abel became a keeper of flocks, and Cain a tiller of the soil. In the course of time Cain brought an offering to the LORD from the fruit of the soil, while Abel, for his part, brought one of the best firstlings of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not. Cain greatly resented this and was crestfallen. So the LORD said to Cain: “Why are you so resentful and crestfallen. If you do well, you can hold up your head; but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door: his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master.”
Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out in the field.” When they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the LORD asked Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He answered, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” The LORD then said: “What have you done! Listen: your brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil! Therefore you shall be banned from the soil that opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. If you till the soil, it shall no longer give you its produce. You shall become a restless wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the LORD: “My punishment is too great to bear. Since you have now banished me from the soil, and I must avoid your presence and become a restless wanderer on the earth, anyone may kill me at sight.” “Not so!” the LORD said to him. “If anyone kills Cain, Cain shall be avenged sevenfold.” So the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest anyone should kill him at sight.
Adam again had relations with his wife, and she gave birth to a son whom she called Seth. “God has granted me more offspring in place of Abel,” she said, “because Cain slew him.”
Gospel: Mk 8:11-13:
The Pharisees came and started to argue with Jesus. Hoping to embarrass him, they asked for some heavenly sign. Then his spirit was moved. He gave a deep sigh and said, “Why do the people of this present time ask for a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this people.” Then he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side of the lake.
According to Genesis, no sooner were there two brothers, than one killed the other. Along with this primordial sin comes the impulse to evade responsibility. God asks Cain, “Where is your brother, Abel?” And Cain, conscious of his guilt replies, “I don’t know; am I my brother’s keeper?” Perhaps the seeds of his crime lay in that innocent-sounding question. Yes, we are our brother’s and sister’s keeper. The blood of so many victims cries to God from the ground—victims not necessarily by our conscious intent, but by our indifference, our failure even to recognize that they are our brothers and sisters.
Meanwhile, in the Gospel text, Jesus shows his exasperation with those who want to treat him like a performing monkey: “Show us a trick! Perform a sign!” He did not come to provide diversion or to satisfy their curiosity. Was it not a sign of God’s coming kingdom when he treated strangers, sinners, the sick and marginalized as his brothers and sisters? Well, the time will come when he will provide a still greater sign—one that will cost everything, even his very life. But not yet.
1st Reading: Gen 6:5-8; 7:1-5, 10:
When the LORD saw how great was man’s wickedness on earth, and how no desire that his heart conceived was ever anything but evil, he regretted that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was grieved.
So the LORD said: “I will wipe out from the earth the men whom I have created, and not only the men, but also the beasts and the creeping things and the birds of the air, for I am sorry that I made them.” But Noah found favor with the LORD.
Then the LORD said to Noah: “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for you alone in this age have I found to be truly just. Of every clean animal, take with you seven pairs, a male and its mate; and of the unclean animals, one pair, a male and its mate; likewise, of every clean bird of the air, seven pairs, a male and a female, and of all the unclean birds, one pair, a male and a female. Thus you will keep their issue alive over all the earth. Seven days from now I will bring rain down on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and so I will wipe out from the surface of the earth every moving creature that I have made.” Noah did just as the LORD had commanded him.
As soon as the seven days were over, the waters of the flood came upon the earth.
Gospel: Mk 8:14-21:
The disciples had forgotten to bring more bread, and had only one loaf with them in the boat. Then Jesus warned them, “Keep your eyes open, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” And they said to one another, “He saw that we have no bread.” Aware of this, Jesus asked them, “Why are you talking about the loaves you are short of? Do you not see or understand? Are your minds closed?
Have you eyes that don’t see and ears that don’t hear? And do you not re member when I broke the five loaves among five thousand? How many baskets full of leftovers did you collect?” They answered, “Twelve.” “And having distributed seven loaves to the four thousand, how many wicker baskets of leftovers did you collect?” They answered, “Seven.” Then Jesus said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
One can sympathize with the disciples who often had a hard time judging when Jesus was talking literally or resorting to one of his riddles. When he talks about bread, does he mean, literally bread? And what’s all this about the “yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod”—are we still talking about bread or something else? And when he fed a multitude with seven loaves of bread, was that just about feeding a hungry crowd, or was it supposed to be about something more? “Do you not see or understand? Are your minds closed?” he asks.
But why can’t he just say plainly what he means? These simple men are struggling to keep up, to understand what it means to live in this marvelous human/divine world of their master, for whom every ordinary fact is a window onto some deeper spiritual truth, for whom bread is not just food, but life, compassion, blessing; where yeast is not just the stuff that makes bread rise, but could be about something that corrupts us from within . . . or something like that. “Do you not see and understand?” he asks them. Well, no… not entirely. Not yet.
1st Reading: Gen 8:6-13, 20-22:
At the end of forty days Noah opened the hatch he had made in the ark, and he sent out a raven, to see if the waters had lessened on the earth. It flew back and forth until the waters dried off from the earth. Then he sent out a dove, to see if the waters had lessened on the earth. But the dove could find no place to alight and perch, and it returned to him in the ark, for there was water all over the earth. Putting out his hand, he caught the dove and drew it back to him inside the ark. He waited seven days more and again sent the dove out from the ark. In the evening the dove came back to him, and there in its bill was a plucked-off olive leaf! So Noah knew that the waters had lessened on the earth. He waited still another seven days and then released the dove once more; and this time it did not come back.
In the six hundred and first year of Noah’s life, in the first month, on the first day of the month, the water began to dry up on the earth. Noah then removed the covering of the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was drying up.
Noah built an altar to the LORD, and choosing from every clean animal and every clean bird, he offered burnt offerings on the altar. When the LORD smelled the sweet odor, he said to himself: “Never again will I doom the earth because of man since the desires of man’s heart are evil from the start; nor will I ever again strike down all living beings, as I have done. As long as the earth lasts, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”
Gospel: Mk 8:22-26:
When they came to Bethsaida, Jesus was asked to touch a blind man who was brought to him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had put spittle on his eyes and laid his hands upon him, he asked, “Can you see anything?” The man, who was beginning to see, replied, “I see people! They look like trees, but they move around.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again and the man could see perfectly. Then Jesus sent him home saying, “Do not return to the village.”
The story in Genesis of Noah and his ark signifies, among other things, the importance of the holy remnant. Noah did not “walk with God” for himself alone. The call to righteousness carries with it a responsibility for the entire globe and its inhabitants. Thus, Noah represents an ethic and spirituality concerned with the preservation of the earth and the survival of endangered species and cultures; he might well serve as a patron of ecological stewardship. Through Noah’s faithfulness God makes an unconditional covenant with all creation:
“Never again will I strike down every living creature as I have done.” This is a universal covenant that precedes the specific covenants with Abraham and Moses. But the fact that God has vowed never to destroy the earth by means of a flood offers no grounds for complacency. Today the earth is threatened, as never before, by human wickedness, greed, and carelessness. The challenge for Noah’s descendants is not “survivalism” but defense of our common planet and its delicate ecology. If the earth becomes uninhabitable there will be no other lifeboats.
St. Peter Damian
1st Reading: Gen 9:1-13:
God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them: “Be fertile and multiply and fill the earth. Dread fear of you shall come upon all the animals of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon all the creatures that move about on the ground and all the fishes of the sea; into your power they are delivered. Every creature that is alive shall be yours to eat; I give them all to you as I did the green plants. Only flesh with its lifeblood still in it you shall not eat. For your own lifeblood, too, I will demand an accounting: from every animal I will demand it, and from one man in regard to his fellow man I will demand an accounting for human life.
If anyone sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has man been made. Be fertile, then, and multiply; abound on earth and subdue it.”
God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “See, I am now establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you: all the birds, and the various tame and wild animals that were with you and came out of the ark. I will establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood; there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth.” God added: “This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come, of the covenant between me and you and every living creature with you: I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”
Gospel: Mk 8:27-33:
Jesus set out with his disciples for the villages around Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” And they told him, “Some say, you are John the Baptist; others say, you are Elijah or one of the prophets.” Then Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” And he ordered them not to tell anyone about him. Jesus then began to teach them that the Son of Man had to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law. He would be killed, and after three days rise again. Jesus said all this quite openly, so that Peter took him aside and began to protest strongly. But Jesus, turning around, and looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You are thinking not as God does, but as people do.”
Here is a turning point in the Gospel of Mark. Heretofore Jesus has performed a series of miracles and wondrous signs, all begging the question: Who is this man? Now Jesus puts the question directly to his disciples: Forget about what others are saying. “Who do you say that I am?” By his impulsive, heartfelt answer Peter seems to score an “A” on his Christology exam: “You are the Messiah!” But then almost immediately he flunks the course, and Jesus rebukes him. Where did he go wrong? It is not enough to identify Jesus as the Messiah.
It remains to understand what that means—that Jesus is a Messiah who will accomplish his mission by means of suffering and death. That is not what Peter and the others envision. They are thinking more of a super-hero Messiah who will be invulnerable, who will smash their enemies, and establish an unbeatable kingdom. In other words, a Messiah who accepts the temptations that Jesus rejected in the wilderness. It is not enough for us to worship Christ as the Son of God. Confession implies discipleship, which means following Christ, even on his path to Calvary. Only thus will we learn to see and “think as God does.”
Chair of St. Peter
1st Reading: 1 Pt 5:1-4:
I exhort the presbyters among you, as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed. Tend the flock of God in your midst, overseeing not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
Gospel: Mt 16:13-19:
After that, Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They said, “For some of them, you are John the Baptist; for others Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “It is well for you, Simon Barjona, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And now I say to you: You are Peter; and on this Rock I will build my Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.”
Without knowing Aramaic, it is hard for us to know whether Jesus was typically given to puns and wordplay. Here is one example. The name Peter (a Greek rendering of the Aramaic Cephas), which means rock, is the new name that Jesus gave to his disciple Simon. This sets the basis for a memorable pun, when Jesus proclaims that “on this Rock” he will build his church. As later events in the Gospel make abundantly clear (particularly Peter’s later betrayal of the Lord), this is a rather shaky rock on which to build anything.
(Hadn’t Peter himself tried to warn the Lord at the beginning: “Leave my Lord, for I am a sinful man”?) If the church is built on a rock, it is not the personal steadiness of Peter or any one man, but on the confession of faith: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” That confession and the implications that follow are the true foundation of the church. The powers of death–neither the death of Jesus, nor the death of Peter–will not overcome that rock.
1st Reading: Heb 11:1-7:
Brothers and sisters:
Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Because of it the ancients were well attested. By faith we understand that the universe was ordered by the word of God, so that what is visible came into being through the invisible. By faith Abel offered to God a sacrifice greater than Cain’s. Through this, he was attested to be righteous, God bearing witness to his gifts, and through this, though dead, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was found no more because God had taken him.
Before he was taken up, he was attested to have pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him, for anyone who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, warned about what was not yet seen, with reverence built an ark for the salvation of his household. Through this, he condemned the world and inherited the righteousness that comes through faith.
Gospel: Mk 9:2-13:
Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain. There, his appearance was changed before their eyes. Even his clothes shone, becoming as white as no bleach of this world could make them. Elijah and Moses appeared to them; the two were talking with Jesus. Then Peter spoke and said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” (…) the cloud came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved: listen to him!” (…) As they came down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
So they kept this to themselves, although they discussed with one another what ‘to rise from the dead’ could mean. Finally they asked him, “Why, then, do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus answered them, “Of course Elijah will come first, so that everything may be as it should be. But why do the Scriptures say that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be despised? I tell you that Elijah has already come; and they have treated him as they pleased, as the Scriptures say of him.”
Here is one of the few times when the disciples were not forced to contend with riddles and parables but were afforded a glimpse of the thing itself— whatever that is: Christ in his future glory? Some kind of insight into the deeper heart of reality? In the typical life such epiphanies are rare. Most of us are no more equipped to face the naked truth than we are to stare at the sun. Nevertheless, we recall certain moments in our lives when everything appeared completely clear and vivid. The veil of everydayness was pulled aside and we sensed that we were standing on holy ground.
What do we do with such experiences? The Trappist monk Thomas Merton had such an experience one day at a busy intersection in the city, when he was overwhelmed by the realization “that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs.” He said, “There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.” Such moments come in the lives of many disciples: a voice speaks to us from the midst of an encounter or an ethical challenge and says: “This is my Beloved Son; listen to him.” Woe to those who let such moments pass them by.