Bible Diary for February 18th – 24thBible Diary
First Sunday of Lent
1st Reading: Gen 9:8-15
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.”
“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.
When I bring clouds over the earth,
and the bow appears in the clouds,
I will recall the covenant I have made
between me and you and all living beings,
so that the waters shall never again become a flood
to destroy all mortal beings.”
2nd Reading: 1 P 3:18-22
Christ suffered for sins once,
the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous,
that he might lead you to God.
Put to death in the flesh,
he was brought to life in the Spirit.
In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison,
who had once been disobedient
while God patiently waited in the days of Noah
during the building of the ark,
in which a few persons, eight in all,
were saved through water.
This prefigured baptism, which saves you now.
It is not a removal of dirt from the body
but an appeal to God for a clear conscience,
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
who has gone into heaven
and is at the right hand of God,
with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.
Gospel: Mk 1:12-15
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.
After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
On this first Sunday of Lent, the Church reminds us of God‘s post-flood Covenant to Noah that God would preserve life on earth. Peter reminds us of the great spiritual redemption Christ has brought into our lives. With a forty-day desert experience, Jesus begins his ministry of announcing the Good News of God‘s love and life. Jesus‘ message included the declaration that the Time of redemption – God‘s Kingdom – has come and an invitation to mend one‘s ways and believe in the Good News of the possibility of one‘s redemption. Sometimes we are so steeped in the ways of the “world“ and have walked so far away from the ways of the Kingdom that it is hard to believe in even the possibility of a return and new beginnings. Thus the first step required is simply to believe in the Good News of this possibility. We shall begin the Lent by simply trusting this Good News.
Lord, help me believe in the possibility of change within me and my people.
Make a list of 2-3 things in your life that you would like to change around in this Lent.
1st Reading: Lev 19:1-2, 11-18
The LORD said to Moses,
“Speak to the whole assembly of the children of Israel and tell them:
Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.
“You shall not steal.
You shall not lie or speak falsely to one another.
You shall not swear falsely by my name,
thus profaning the name of your God.
I am the LORD.
“You shall not defraud or rob your neighbor.
You shall not withhold overnight the wages of your day laborer.
You shall not curse the deaf,
or put a stumbling block in front of the blind,
but you shall fear your God.
I am the LORD.
“You shall not act dishonestly in rendering judgment.
Show neither partiality to the weak nor deference to the mighty,
but judge your fellow men justly.
You shall not go about spreading slander among your kin;
nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbor’s life is at stake.
I am the LORD.
“You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart.
Though you may have to reprove him,
do not incur sin because of him.
Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Gospel: Mt 25:31-46
Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him.
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right,
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
And the king will say to them in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left,
‘Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome,
naked and you gave me no clothing,
ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’
Then they will answer and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,
and not minister to your needs?’
He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.’
And these will go off to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life.”
We have heard this injunction so many times before that we are no longer struck by its challenge. But if we begin to ponder on it anew we are struck by the fact that the measure of love for others that is demanded of us is our love for ourselves. We are often taught as children not to be selfish. So what is the difference between being selfish and loving ourselves? Loving ourselves mean, doing all that would make us healthier, saner, happier, holier human beings. So we take care of our bodies nourishing ourselves with healthy food, avoiding what will cause sickness to our bodies like smoking, drinking and all other forms of addiction. We develop good habits and strive to grow spiritually. And this is what we wish for others and we do what we can to help them attain this well being of body and spirit. Being selfish means to gratify all what our body craves even if it is harmful to it or to think solely of ourselves, indifferent to the needs of others or even to the extent of depriving others of what is due to them. Thus there is a healthy self-love which is our gauge in loving others.
1st Reading: Is 55:10-11
Thus says the LORD:
Just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
And do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
Giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
So shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
It shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.
Gospel: Mt 6:7-15
Jesus said to his disciples:
“In praying, do not babble like the pagans,
who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them.
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
“This is how you are to pray:
Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
“If you forgive men their transgressions,
your heavenly Father will forgive you.
But if you do not forgive men,
neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”
One prayer that does not use any word is MEDITATION. In mediation, we do not ask God for this and that, we do not speak words of praise, or sorrow, or thanksgiving. But all these are present in us when we are just present to the PRESENCE. People who are in love do not have to talk to each other. They are in bliss just being in each other‘s presence. So it is when one meditates. One does not think. In fact thoughts would be a distraction. One does not also frantically banish thoughts. One just takes note of them and they disappear. Do you know that when rain falls on a duck‘s back, it does not penetrate its feathers? Yes, because there is oil in a duck‘s feathers, so the water just rolls off the ducks‘ back to the ground. In meditation, our thoughts also can just roll off like that when we do not pay attention to them. Instead we focus on our breath — breathing in, breathing out (God‘s ruah!) and we may have a mantra like “peace“, “love“, “Jesus“, etc. It is the only way we can go into the depths of our being and meet the God who dwells in us.
St. Peter Damian
1st Reading: Jon 3:1-10
The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time:
“Set out for the great city of Nineveh,
and announce to it the message that I will tell you.”
So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh,
according to the LORD’s bidding.
Now Nineveh was an enormously large city;
it took three days to go through it.
Jonah began his journey through the city,
and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing,
“Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,”
when the people of Nineveh believed God;
they proclaimed a fast
and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.
When the news reached the king of Nineveh,
he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe,
covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes.
Then he had this proclaimed throughout Nineveh,
by decree of the king and his nobles:
“Neither man nor beast, neither cattle nor sheep,
shall taste anything;
they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water.
Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God;
every man shall turn from his evil way
and from the violence he has in hand.
Who knows, God may relent and forgive, and withhold his blazing wrath,
so that we shall not perish.”
When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way,
he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them;
he did not carry it out.
Gospel: Lk 11:29-32
While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them,
“This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,
except the sign of Jonah.
Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,
so will the Son of Man be to this generation.
At the judgment
the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation
and she will condemn them,
because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
and there is something greater than Solomon here.
At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it,
because at the preaching of Jonah they repented,
and there is something greater than Jonah here.”
It is human to want certainty in our life. And so when we pray for a decision we have to make, we ask for a sign to confirm our decision. This might happen once in a while. But for the most part this does not happen. Or we may tend to interpret something as a sign because it happens to be in accordance with what we want. In most cases God wants us to use the intelligence and free will we are gifted with to make our decisions. There are commandments and guidelines to help us, but we still have to use our judgment and also consider the context we are in. Is it possible that we make the wrong decision? Yes of course. But many times in the long run and on hindsight, what we thought was a mistake did become a stepping stone to success in the future. So instead of asking for signs, it is spiritually healthier to prayerfully discern what we have to do, courageously take action and leave everything in God‘s hands.
Chair of St. Peter
1st Reading: 1 P 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
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Pope Francis has many pastoral admonitions — He tells the Bishops to be Pastors rather than airport bishops. He tells them and all pastors to be with their sheep and actually should smell like their sheep. This is one way of saying be an example to your flock. You should not be a distant figure admonishing them just from the pulpit. They must see their pastor as a human being like them, struggling to be good, sometimes failing, always rising again. Being an example does not mean one has to be perfect. But people should see that one is really trying to walk one‘s talk. As a teacher for many decades, I know that the students are very observant and know which teachers do not practice what they preach. When they look back to their student days they realize that they learned most not from the most brilliant but from those who taught them by example how to be good human beings.
1st Reading: Ez 18:21-28
Thus says the Lord GOD:
If the wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed,
if he keeps all my statutes and does what is right and just,
he shall surely live, he shall not die.
None of the crimes he committed shall be remembered against him;
he shall live because of the virtue he has practiced.
Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked?
says the Lord GOD.
Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way
that he may live?
And if the virtuous man turns from the path of virtue to do evil,
the same kind of abominable things that the wicked man does,
can he do this and still live?
None of his virtuous deeds shall be remembered,
because he has broken faith and committed sin;
because of this, he shall die.
You say, “The LORD’s way is not fair!”
Hear now, house of Israel:
Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?
When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies,
it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.
But if the wicked, turning from the wickedness he has committed,
does what is right and just,
he shall preserve his life;
since he has turned away from all the sins that he committed,
he shall surely live, he shall not die.
Gospel: Mt 5:20-26
Jesus said to his disciples:
“I tell you,
unless your righteousness surpasses that
of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.
“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment,
and whoever says to his brother, Raqa,
will be answerable to the Sanhedrin,
and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court.
Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge,
and the judge will hand you over to the guard,
and you will be thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you,
you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”
Peace is the most wanted commodity in our times. There is so much violence in our world: economic, political, cultural, religious, gender, domestic. It is appalling to read of students capable of gunning down their classmates and teachers in broad daylight. So everyone is longing for peace. But peace in society is not possible unless we, individually, are men and women of peace. It is so clear in Christ‘s teaching that it is so important that he commands us to postpone our worship and first make peace with our neighbor before we offer sacrifice or go to the Church to take part in worship. This is more important to him than all the sacrifices and rituals in the world. We have to initiate peace, never mind if we are the older one, the aggrieved one, the “faultless“ one. This certainly needs humility and generosity. But it could start a circle of peace which could link with other circles of peace until there is actually peace in the whole community.
1st Reading: Dt 26:16-19
Moses spoke to the people, saying:
“This day the LORD, your God,
commands you to observe these statutes and decrees.
Be careful, then,
to observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.
Today you are making this agreement with the LORD:
he is to be your God and you are to walk in his ways
and observe his statutes, commandments and decrees,
and to hearken to his voice.
And today the LORD is making this agreement with you:
you are to be a people peculiarly his own, as he promised you;
and provided you keep all his commandments,
he will then raise you high in praise and renown and glory
above all other nations he has made,
and you will be a people sacred to the LORD, your God,
as he promised.”
Gospel: Mt 5:43-48
Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies,
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers and sisters only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Sometimes, we feel that Jesus is asking impossible things from us — like this one. How can we love someone who just humiliated us, spread all sorts of false stories about us, destroyed our good name? How can we love people who hate us or show how much they despise or look down upon us. And worse still, how can we pray for those who are persecuting us, have us falsely accused, arrested and detained? And yet yes, that is what we are enjoined to do because it is but natural to love people who love us, to appreciate those who do good to us, show us appreciation or even admiration. But to be a follower of Christ demands more. We have to do what does not come naturally to us. And by ourselves, we cannot do this. We have to ask God‘s grace to look at the good side of people, to forgive their actions against us. Maybe what can help is to remind ourselves that God sees something good in them and so we ask God to let us see this good that is in them. And as we know with God nothing is impossible – even loving those who hate us and praying for those who persecute us.