Bible Diary for February 24th – March 2ndBible Diary
1st Reading: 1 Sm 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23:
On hearing this, Saul went down with three thousand picked men of Israel to the desert of Ziph in search of David. So, that night, David and Abishai went into the camp and found Saul sleeping in the center, his spear thrust into the ground at his head, while Abner and the rest of the soldiers were sleeping around him. Abishai said to David, “God has delivered your enemy into your hands this day. Let me nail him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I will not repeat it.” But David answered Abishai, “Do not harm him.
For who could harm Yahweh’s anointed and not be punished? So David took the spear and the water jug from near Saul’s head and they left. Nobody saw, nobody knew, nobody woke up. All remained asleep, for a deep sleep from Yahweh had fallen on them. On the opposite slope David stood at a distance, on top of the hill. David answered, “I have your spear with me, O king! Let one of your servants come over to fetch it. Yahweh rewards a righteous and loyal man. Today he delivered you into my hands but I refused to harm Yahweh’s anointed.
2nd Reading: 1 Cor 15:45-49:
Scripture says that Adam, the first man, became a living being; but the last Adam has become a life-giving spirit. The spirit does not appear first, but the natural life, and afterward comes the spirit. The first man comes from the earth and is earthly, while the second one comes from heaven. As it was with the earthly one, so is it with the earthly people. As it is with Christ, so with the heavenly. This is why, after bearing the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one.
Gospel: Lk 6:27-38:
But I say to you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who treat you badly. To the one who strikes you on the cheek, turn the other cheek; from the one who takes your coat, do not keep back your shirt. Give to the one who asks, and if anyone has taken something from you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have others do to you. If you love only those who love you, what kind of grace is yours? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do favors to those who are good to you, what kind of grace is yours? Even sinners do the same. If you lend only when you expect to receive, what kind of grace is yours?
For sinners also lend to sinners, expecting to receive something in return. But love your enemies and do good to them, and lend when there is nothing to expect in return. Then will your reward be great, and you will be sons and daughters of the Most High. For he is kind toward the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Don’t be a judge of others and you will not be judged; do not condemn and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you, and you will receive in your sack good measure, pressed down, full and running over. For the measure you give will be the measure you receive back.”
It is easy to love people who are loveable. But how are we to love people who are disagreeable or even “unlovable”? How are we to love our enemies? The love that Jesus describes is not a feeling, nor is it based on the merits of the one we love. Love is active; it is a matter of the will; it is choice to return good for evil, mercy for those who treat us badly. Not because they “deserve it,” but because we aspire to be true sons and daughters of the God whose very nature is Love, whose very name is Mercy. Lord, where there is no love, let me put love, that I may find love.
1st Reading: Sir 1:1-10:
All wisdom comes from the LORD and with him it remains forever, and is before all time the sand of the seashore, the drops of rain, the days of eternity: who can number these? Heaven’s height, earth’s breadth, the depths of the abyss: who can explore these? Before all things else wisdom was created; and prudent understanding, from eternity. The word of God on high is the fountain of wisdom and her ways are everlasting. To whom has wisdom’s root been revealed? Who knows her subtleties? To whom has the discipline of wisdom been revealed?
And who has understood the multiplicity of her ways ? There is but one, wise and truly awe-inspiring, seated upon his throne: There is but one, Most High all-powerful creator-king and truly awe-inspiring one, seated upon his throne and he is the God of dominion. It is the LORD; he created her through the Holy Spirit, has seen her and taken note of her. He has poured her forth upon all his works, upon every living thing according to his bounty; he has lavished her upon his friends.
Gospel: Mk 9:14-29:
When Jesus came to the place where they had left the disciples, they saw many people around and some teachers of the Law arguing with them. (…) He asked, “What are you arguing about with them?“ A man answered him from the crowd, “Master, I brought my son to you for he has a dumb spirit. (…) I asked your disciples to drive the spirit out, but they could not.“ Jesus replied, “You faithless people. How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him to me.“ And they brought the boy to him. (…) Jesus asked the father, “How long has this been happening to him?“
He replied, “From childhood. And it has often thrown him into the fire and into the water to destroy him. If you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.“ Jesus said to him, “Why do you say: ‘If you can?’ All things are possible for one who believes.“ Immediately the father of the boy cried out, “I do believe, but help the little faith I have.“ Jesus ordered the evil spirit, “Dumb and deaf spirit, I command you: Leave the boy and never enter him again.“ (…) But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him and the boy stood up. After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive out the spirit?“ And he answered, “Only prayer can drive out this kind, nothing else.“
“I do believe, but help the little faith I have.” This line, from the father of a suffering child, is among the most honest and heartfelt prayers recorded in the Gospels. Faith and doubt, conviction and uncertainty are not entirely opposed; often they live side by side in the same heart. Pope Francis has acknowledged this: “In this quest to seek and find God in all things there is still an area of uncertainty. There must be. If a person says that he has met God with total certainty and is not touched by a margin of uncertainty, then this is not good.
If one has the answers to all the questions—that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties.” Where there is no faith, nothing is possible; the door remains shut and sealed from the inside. But even a little faith, though it struggles with doubt, opens all kinds of possibilities. So we pray: “I do believe, but help the little faith I have.”
1st Reading: Sir 2:1-11:
My son, when you come to serve the LORD, stand in justice and fear, prepare yourself for trials. Be sincere of heart and steadfast, incline your ear and receive the word of understanding, undisturbed in time of adversity. Wait on God, with patience, cling to him, forsake him not; thus will you be wise in all your ways. Accept whatever befalls you, when sorrowful, be steadfast, and in crushing misfortune be patient; for in fire gold and silver are tested, and worthy people in the crucible of humiliation. Trust God and God will help you; trust in him, and he will direct your way; keep his fear and grow old therein.
You who fear the LORD, wait for his mercy, turn not away lest you fall. You who fear the LORD, trust him, and your reward will not be lost. You who fear the LORD, hope for good things, for lasting joy and mercy. You who fear the LORD, love him, and your hearts will be enlightened. Study the generations long past and understand; has anyone hoped in the LORD and been disappointed? Has anyone persevered in his commandments and been forsaken? Has anyone called upon him and been rebuffed?
Compassionate and merciful is the LORD; he forgives sins, he saves in time of trouble and he is a protector to all who seek him in truth.
Gospel: Mk 9:30-37:
After leaving that place, they made their way through Galilee; but Jesus did not want people to know where he was because he was teaching his disciples. And he told them, “The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, but three days after he has been killed, he will rise.” The disciples, however, did not understand these words and they were afraid to ask him what he meant. They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, Jesus asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?”
But they did not answer, because they had been arguing about who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve and said to them, “If someone wants to be first, let him be last of all and servant of all.” Then he took a little child, placed him in their midst, and putting his arms around him he said to them, “Whoever welcomes a child such as this in my name, welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me, welcomes not me, but the One who sent me.”
How strange for Jesus that he must spend so much time among his disciples, realizing that there are lessons they will only understand in the future: after his enemies have abused and tortured his body, after they have hammered nails through his hands and feet and left him to die, after God has demonstrated through his resurrection that there is a power greater than death. He could tell them all this, and he does, but it goes in one ear and out the other. All they can see is the excitement of the crowds, the miracles, their Master’s skill in deflecting trick questions.
Surely, they believe, all this is leading up to something wonderful!—as indeed it is, though not as they envision. Instead, they spend their time “arguing about who was the greatest”! Meanwhile, Jesus bides his time, knowing certain lessons will have to wait. The disciples want a share of his “glory.” How could they bear to comprehend that the price of this will be a share of his passion? Jesus knows, and so he makes his lonely way toward Jerusalem. As for what the disciples know—that will only come on the other side of an empty tomb.
1st Reading: Sir 4:11-19:
Wisdom breathes life into her children and admonishes those who seek her. He who loves her loves life; those who seek her will be embraced by the Lord. He who holds her fast inherits glory; wherever he dwells, the Lord bestows blessings. Those who serve her serve the Holy One; those who love her the Lord loves. He who obeys her judges nations; he who hearkens to her dwells in her inmost chambers. If one trusts her, he will possess her; his descendants too will inherit her.
She walks with him as a stranger and at first she puts him to the test; fear and dread she brings upon him and tries him with her discipline until she try him by her laws and trust his soul. Then she comes back to bring him happiness and reveal her secrets to them and she will heap upon him treasures of knowledge and an understanding of justice. But if he fails her, she will abandon him and deliver him into the hands of despoilers.
Gospel: Mk 9:38-40:
John said to him, “Master, we saw someone who drove out demons by calling upon your name, and we tried to forbid him, because he does not belong to our group.” Jesus answered, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in my name can soon after speak evil of me. For whoever is not against us is for us.
Do we believe that Christians are the only ones who do good in the world? There are countless people of good will who serve their neighbors, the cause of peace, justice, and the good of the earth, who never invoke or even acknowledge the name of Christ. The French novelist François Mauriac spoke of such persons: “What glorious hope! There are all those who will discover that their neighbor is Jesus himself, although they belong to the mass of those who do not know Christ or have forgotten Him. It is impossible for any one of those who has real charity in his heart not to serve Christ.
Even those who think they hate Him have consecrated their lives to Him; for Jesus is disguised and masked in the midst of men, hidden among the poor, among the sick, among prisoners, among strangers. Many who serve Him officially have never known who He was, and many who do not even know His name, will hear on the last day the words that open to them the gates of joy. ‘Those children were I, and I those working men. I wept on the hospital bed. I was that murderer in his cell whom you consoled.’”
1st Reading: Sir 5:1-8:
Rely not on your wealth; say not: “I have the power.” Rely not on your strength in following the desires of your heart. Say not: “Who can prevail against me?” or, “Who will subdue me for my deeds?” for God will surely exact the punishment. Say not: “I have sinned, yet what has befallen me?” for the Most High bides his time. Of forgiveness be not overconfident, adding sin upon sin. Say not: “Great is his mercy; my many sins he will forgive.” For mercy and anger alike are with him; upon the wicked alights his wrath. Delay not your conversion to the Lord, put it not off from day to day. For suddenly his wrath flames forth; at the time of vengeance you will be destroyed. Rely not upon deceitful wealth, for it will be no help on the day of wrath.
Gospel: Mk 9:41-50:
If anyone gives you a drink of water because you belong to Christ and bear his name, truly, I say to you, he will not go without reward If anyone should cause one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble and sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a great millstone around his neck. If your hand makes you fall into sin, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life without a hand, than with two hands to go to hell, to the fire that never goes out. And if your foot makes you fall into sin, cut it off!
It is better for you to enter life without a foot, than with both feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye makes you fall into sin, tear it out! It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, keeping both eyes, to be thrown into hell, where the worms that eat them never die, and the fire never goes out. The fire itself will preserve them. Salt is a good thing; but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.”
In today’s Gospel Jesus delivers a hell-fire sermon on the judgment that awaits those who corrupt the innocent, along with a fearsome call to renounce any part of us that leads us to sin. (Alarmed by those who might take this literally, the early church issued a prohibition against self-mutilation as a way of maintaining purity.) Of course it is not our hand or foot or any other part of our bodies that causes us to sin. The root of sin lies in our hearts—in hatred, greed, anger, fear, lust, envy.
The occasion may seem like a petty thing: my dislike for strangers, a “harmless” little lie, my willingness to keep silent about prejudice or corruption. These “little” sins have the power to draw us completely into corruption. We must be on guard against them as much as any “great” sin. We must be wary lest our “salt”— the essential integrity of our souls—should lose its flavor. When we find ourselves falling into moral compromise, we must scrutinize the source of our weakness and ruthlessly cast it out.
1st Reading: Sir 6:5-17:
A kind mouth multiplies friends and appeases enemies, and gracious lips prompt friendly greetings. Let your acquaintances be many, but one in a thousand your confidant. When you gain a friend, first test him, and be not too ready to trust him. For one sort is a friend when it suits him, but he will not be with you in time of distress. Another is a friend who becomes an enemy, and tells of the quarrel to your shame. Another is a friend, a boon companion, who will not be with you when sorrow comes.
When things go well, he is your other self, and lords it over your servants; but if you are brought low, he turns against you and avoids meeting you. Keep away from your enemies; be on your guard with your friends. A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure. A faithful friend is beyond price, no sum can balance his worth. A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy, such as he who fears God finds; for he who fears God behaves accordingly, and his friend will be like himself.
Gospel: Mk 10: 1-12:
Jesus then left that place and went to the province of Judea, beyond the Jordan River. Once more, crowds gathered around him and, once more, he taught them, as he always did. Some (Pharisees came and) put him to the test with this question: “Is it right for a husband to divorce his wife?” He replied, “What law did Moses give you?” They answered, “Moses allowed us to write a certificate of dismissal in order to divorce.”
Then Jesus said to them, “Moses wrote this law for you, because you have hearts of stone. But in the beginning of creation God made them male and female; and because of this, man has to leave father and mother and be joined to his wife; and the two shall become one body. So, they are no longer two, but one body. Therefore, let no one separate what God has joined.” When they were indoors at home, the disciples again asked him about this, and he told them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against his wife; and the woman who divorces her husband and marries another, also commits adultery.”
Among the Pharisees, Jesus obviously has a reputation for being cavalier about the law—a matter for them of supreme importance. As usual they put a question to him, not to receive wisdom, but to find some reason to justify their own opposition. And as usual, they fall into their own trap. Rather than dismissing the law, Jesus appeals to an ideal far more demanding than the Mosaic law. Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery. Lest we suppose that Jesus hereby intended to establish a new and even more stringent law, we should recall his teaching that “everyone who looks lustfully at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer. Anyone who calls another a fool is liable to hellfire. (Mt 5:22) If that is so, as the disciples say in another context, “Who then can be saved?” For Jesus the law is not a standard by which to measure our personal righteousness. It is a concession to our “hardness of heart.” Our standard should always be the law of love, and the aspiration to be “perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48)
1st Reading: Sir 17:1-15:
God from the earth created man, and in his own image he made him. He makes man return to earth again, and endows him with a strength of his own. Limited days of life he gives him, with power over all things else on earth. He puts the fear of him in all flesh, and gives him rule over beasts and birds. He created for them counsel, and a tongue and eyes and ears, and an inventive heart, and filled them with the discipline of understanding. He created in them knowledge of the spirit; with wisdom he fills their heart; good and evil he shows them. He put the fear of himself upon their hearts, and showed them his mighty works, that they might glory in the wonder of his deeds and praise his holy name.
He has set before them knowledge, a law of life as their inheritance; an everlasting covenant he has made with them, his justice and his judgments he has revealed to them. His majestic glory their eyes beheld, his glorious voice their ears heard. He says to them, ”Avoid all evil”; each of them he gives precepts about his fellow men. Their ways are ever known to him, they cannot be hidden from his eyes. Over every nation he places a ruler, but God’s own portion is Israel. All their actions are clear as the sun to him, his eyes are ever upon their ways.
Gospel: Mk 10: 13-16:
People were bringing their little children to him to have him touch them; and the disciples rebuked them for this. When Jesus noticed it, he was very angry and said, “Let the children come to me and don’t stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Then he took the children in his arms and, laying his hands on them, blessed them.
Even today we sometimes take the attitude that children should be “seen and not heard.” In keeping with that attitude, the disciples rebuked those parents who were bringing their kids to Jesus to be blessed. This made Jesus angry. He welcomed the children in a way that represented a rebuke to his adult followers: “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” It is terrible to consider the number of children in our world for whom life is a daily struggle for survival. Apart from poverty and hunger, there are the scourges of forced labor, trafficking, physical and sexual abuse.
And there are other forms of socialization that amount to a kind of abuse: teaching children to hate, to serve poisonous ideologies, to discriminate against others on the basis of race or religious differences. How do we unlearn such things? How do we return to the trust, openness, and wonder that should be the birthright of every child—before they are taught otherwise? Until we find that way, the kingdom of God is closed to us.