Bible Diary for January 13th – 19thBible Diary
Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
1st Reading: Is 40: 1-5, 9-11:
Be comforted, my people, be strengthened, says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, proclaim to her that her time of bondage is at an end, that her guilt has been paid for, that from the hand of Yahweh she has received double punishment for all her iniquity. A voice cries, “In the wilderness prepare the way for Yahweh. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley will be raised up; every mountain and hill will be laid low. The stumbling blocks shall become level and the rugged places smooth.
The glory of Yahweh will be revealed, and all mortals together will see it; for the mouth of Yahweh has spoken.” Go up onto the high mountain, messenger of good news to Zion, lift up your voice with strength, fear not to cry aloud when you tell Jerusalem and announce to the cities of Judah: Here is your God! Here comes Yahweh Sabaoth with might; his strong arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and here before him is his booty. Like a shepherd he tends his flock: he gathers the lambs in his arms, he carries them in his bosom, gently leading those that are with young.
2nd Reading: Ti 2:11-14; 3:4-7:
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, teaching us to reject an irreligious way of life, and worldly greed, and to live in this world, as responsible persons, upright and serving God, while we await our blessed hope—the glorious manifestation of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus. He gave himself for us, to redeem us from every evil, and to purify a people he wanted to be his own, and dedicated to what is good.
But God, our Savior, revealed his eminent goodness and love for humankind, and saved us, not because of good deeds we may have done, but for the sake of his own mercy, to the water of rebirth and renewal, by the Holy Spirit poured over us through Christ Jesus our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we should become heirs, in hope of eternal life.
Gospel: Lk 3:15-16, 21-22:
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. Now, with all the people who came to be baptized, Jesus, too, was baptized. Then, while he was praying, the heavens opened: the Holy Spirit came down upon him in the bodily form of a dove, and a voice from heaven was heard, “You are my Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
The role of the messenger is not to proclaim himself; he is not his own message. Instead, his mission is to proclaim another. The church, like Isaiah and John the Baptist, is called to be a messenger: making straight the way of the Lord and announcing his arrival. The church is not itself the Good News. When the church becomes confused about its role and preaches itself, rather than Christ, it falls into what Pope Francis calls “spiritual narcissism.” Today, Lord, may I have the courage and faith to prepare a way for you in my life.
First Sunday in Ordinary Time
1st 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 spoke 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 first born into the world, he says: Let all the angels of God worship him
Gospel: Mk 1:14-20:
After John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee and began preaching the Good News of God. He said, “The time has come; the kingdom of God is at hand. Change your ways and believe the Good News.” As Jesus was walking along the shore of Lake Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” At once, they abandoned their nets and followed him. Jesus went a little farther on, and saw James and John, the sons of Zebedee; they were in their boat mending their nets. Immediately, Jesus called them and they followed him, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men.
The Gospels record no instances in which a potential recruit rejects his personal call. It is as if such a calling—if it truly comes from the Lord—is literally irresistible. But perhaps Jesus’ choices were not arbitrary. Surely Simon and his brother were not the only fishermen Jesus encountered along the shore. Perhaps, as Jesus discerned, they were predisposed for such a summons, already yearning for a task and a mission greater than casting nets into the lake. If a stranger says to you, “I have the answer to your problem,” this will seem merely bizarre if you are not conscious of having a problem.
But if you do have a problem, and you receive such a message— well, at least he’s got your attention. “Many are called but few are chosen.” Perhaps it is only those already on a quest for answers who are ready to respond when the call comes—whether that call comes from a mysterious stranger on the beach, or the needs of our neighbor, or the demands of history. But those who are content merely with mending their nets are not likely to drop everything when the Lord issues that call.
1st Reading: Heb 2:5-12:
It was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. Instead, someone has testified somewhere: What is man that you are mindful of him, or the son of man that you care for him? You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor, subjecting all things under his feet.
In “subjecting” all things to him, he left nothing not “subject to him.” Yet at present we do not see “all things subject to him,” but we do see Jesus “crowned with glory and honor” because he suffered death,
he who “for a little while” was made “lower than the angels,” that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
For it was fitting that he, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the leader to their salvation perfect through suffering. He who consecrates and those who are being consecrated all have one origin. Therefore, he is not ashamed to call them “brothers” saying: I will proclaim your name to my brethren, in the midst of the assembly I will praise you.
Gospel: Mk 1:21-28:
They went into the town of Capernaum and Jesus taught in the synagogue on the Sabbath day. The people were astonished at the way he taught, for he spoke as one having authority, and not like the teachers of the law. It happened that, a man with an evil spirit was in their synagogue, and he shouted, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: you are the Holy One of God.”
Then Jesus faced him and said with authority, “Be silent, and come out of this man!” The evil spirit shook the man violently and, with a loud shriek, came out of him. All the people were astonished, and they wondered, “What is this? With what authority he preaches! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him!” And Jesus’ fame spread throughout all the country of Galilee.
Authority is the key word in today’s gospel reading. It occurs in two senses. There is Jesus’ authority in the sense of his power to command and be obeyed—even by evil spirits who recognize and name him as “the Holy One of God.” But there is authority in another sense: his capacity to preach and speak “with authority”—“not like teachers of the law.” Jesus’ authority does not come from learned study, office, or lineage. He preaches and acts as one who lives and embodies the truth of his message.
It is his very nature. People can sense his authenticity, but their response is more of wonder than of confession: “What is this?” They are not yet ready to recognize him as clearly as the evil spirits who “know who he is.” Among the saints, there were many who lacked any official office, who had no special training or theological education. And yet their contemporaries could perceive in them an authority that was lacking in “teachers of the law.” As Christians, we too must speak with authority—not simply by quoting authoritative texts or showing off our learning, but with the authority that comes from backing up professions of faith with the way we live.
1st Reading: Heb 2:14-18:
Since the children share in blood and Flesh, Jesus likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the Devil, and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life. Surely he did not help angels but rather the descendants of Abraham; therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.
Gospel: Mk 1:29-39:
On leaving the synagogue, Jesus went to the home of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. As Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with fever, they immediately told him about her. Jesus went to her and, taking her by the hand, raised her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. That evening, at sundown, people brought to Jesus all the sick and those who had evil spirits: the whole town was pressing around the door.
Jesus healed many who had various diseases, and drove out many demons; but he did not let them speak, for they knew who he was. Very early in the morning, before daylight, Jesus went off to a lonely place where he prayed. Simon and the others went out also, searching for him; and when they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Let us go to the nearby villages so that I may preach there too; for that is why I came.” So Jesus set out to preach in all the synagogues throughout Galilee; he also cast out demons.
The Gospel text describes a whirlwind of activity as Jesus enters a new town and is immediately beset by a crowd pressing around the door. Both here and in the nearby villages where he preached “throughout Galilee” and also casts out demons, Jesus seems to be surrounded by needy people; “everyone” is looking for him. The sick and possessed recognize him by his good works; even the nameless “demons” know who he is. But this wide view of a suffering world is balanced by attention to a particular person in need: the mother-in-law of Simon.
Jesus’ compassion is not directed just toward the nameless crowd; each person he healed was someone’s mother, spouse, or child. Yet he could not linger; it was time to move on, to another village, another person in need, another crowd hungry for the good news. That, he says, is why he came. It is important that we remain conscious of great social challenges, the need to address poverty, sickness, and the common good. But that does not excuse us from the need to notice and attend to the needs of the person right before us. Each one is precious in the eyes of the Lord.
St. Anthony Abbot
1st Reading: Heb 3:7-14:
The Holy Spirit says:
Oh, that today you would hear his voice, “Harden not your hearts as at the rebellion in the day of testing in the desert, where your ancestors tested and tried me and saw my works for forty years. Because of this I was provoked with that generation and I said, ‘They have always been of erring heart, and they do not know my ways.’ As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter into my rest.’”
Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil and unfaithful heart, so as to forsake the living God. Encourage yourselves daily while it is still “today,” so that none of you may grow hardened by the deceit of sin. We have become partners of Christ if only we hold the beginning of the reality firm until the end.
Gospel: Mk 1:40-45:
A leper came to Jesus and begged him, “If you want to, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do want to; be clean.” The leprosy left the man at once and he was made clean. As Jesus sent the man away, he sternly warned him, “Don’t tell anyone about this, but go and show yourself to the priest; and for the cleansing, bring the offering ordered by Moses; in this way, you will give to them your testimony.” However, as soon as the man went out, he began spreading the news everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter any town. But even though he stayed in the rural areas, people came to him from everywhere.
The Gospel of Mark is famous for the secrecy in which Jesus cloaks his identity. Over and over again he performs some wondrous deed, but then enjoins the witness to keep quiet about what he or she has seen. Scholars have debated this running theme. Perhaps he wants to avoid the exact outcome described here: “that Jesus could no longer openly enter any town.” Perhaps he does not want to be dismissed or embraced as merely a “wonder worker.”
Perhaps it is premature to disclose his Messianic identity until his disciples are able truly to understand what it means to be the Messiah. This is not a Messiah who comes in glory, but one who is going to suffer and die. Today is the feast of St. Anthony, one of the earliest of the desert fathers. Though St. Anthony went to great lengths of self-denial, what impressed others was the “soul’s joy” that shone from his features. More important than recognition is to be recognized for the right reason.
1st Reading: Heb 4:1-5, 11:
Let us be on our guard while the promise of entering into his rest remains, that none of you seem to have failed. For in fact we have received the Good News just as our ancestors did. But the word that they heard did not profit them, for they were not united in faith with those who listened. For we who believed enter into that rest, just as he has said:
As I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter into my rest,” and yet his works were accomplished at the foundation of the world. For he has spoken somewhere about the seventh day in this manner, And God rested on the seventh day from all his works; and again, in the previously mentioned place, They shall not enter into my rest. Therefore, let us strive to enter into that rest, so that no one may fall after the same example of disobedience.
Gospel: Mk 2:1-12:
After some days Jesus returned to Capernaum. As the news spread that he was at home, so many people gathered that there was no longer room even outside the door. While Jesus was preaching the Word to them, some people brought a paralyzed man to him. The four men who carried him couldn’t get near Jesus because of the crowd, so they opened the roof above the room where Jesus was and, through the hole, lowered the man on his mat. When Jesus saw the faith of these people, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” Now, some teachers of the Law who were sitting there wondered within themselves, “How can he speak like this insulting God? Who can forgive sins except God?”
At once Jesus knew through his spirit what they were thinking and asked, “Why do you wonder? Is it easier to say to this paralyzed man: ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say: ‘Rise, take up your mat and walk?’ But now you shall know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” And he said to the paralytic, “Stand up, take up your mat and go home.” The man rose and, in the sight of all those people, he took up his mat and went out. All of them were astonished and praised God saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
There are numerous protagonists in this story. First: the friends of the paralytic, whose faith Jesus acknowledges. When there is no way to Jesus, they make a way, believing that in Jesus’ presence their friend will be healed. (Do we also carry our friends to Jesus in prayer?) Then there is the paralyzed man, whom Jesus first forgives, before healing him. Jesus sees the paralytic, addresses him with love, restores his spirit, and raises him to full humanity. Then there are the grumblers, those who want Jesus to operate according to rules they can control and define: Heal if you must, but not forgive sins!
They are scandalized that he proclaims a kingdom of mercy, rather than a kingdom of law and order. Are they sincerely furious that Jesus usurps God’s exclusive prerogative of forgiveness? Or are they furious over the scandal of forgiveness itself? Pope Francis asks us to go to the margins, to the peripheries where people are alone and hurting: not just to the respectable people inside the house, but to those who are of no account, those who are left outside. Jesus came for them. He saw them. He loved them. And so must we.
Blessed Virgin Mary
1st Reading: Heb 4:12-16:
The word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.
Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.
Gospel: Mk 2:13-17:
When Jesus went out again, beside the lake, a crowd came to him, and he taught them. As he walked along, he saw a tax collector sitting in his office. This was Levi, the son of Alpheus. Jesus said to him, “Follow me!” And Levi got up and followed him. And it so happened that, when Jesus was eating in Levi’s house, tax collectors and sinners sat with him and his disciples; there were a lot of them, and they used to follow Jesus. But Pharisees, men educated in the law, when they saw Jesus eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does your master eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus heard them, and answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Christians often contrast themselves favorably with the “Pharisees” —as if the very word were a synonym for “hypocrites.” Jesus does not vilify these good and “righteous” people. But he makes it clear that his mission is elsewhere: to restore and heal what is lost and broken. The first object of his attention in this text is Levi, a tax collector. His job—which put him at the service of the Roman occupiers, and probably involved a certain amount of graft—would make him an object of derision. When the good people see that Jesus is dining in the home of Levi, along with a lot of other “sinners,” they are scandalized.
We often assume that God’s priorities reflect our own scale of value, particularly when it comes to what causes “scandal” and what confers respectability. Respectability is a matter of appearances; what matters to Jesus is what is in the heart. As the author of Hebrews observes, “all creation is transparent” to God; our hearts our transparent to him. The question is not whether we are among those called sinners or among the righteous—but whether we are among those whose self-righteousness effectively sets them beyond the reach of God’s mercy. The Savior comes only for those who know they need saving.