Bible Diary for January 20th – 26thBible Diary
1st Reading: Is 62:1-5:
For Zion’s sake I will not hold my peace, for Jerusalem I will not keep silent, until her holiness shines like the dawn and her salvation flames like a burning torch. The nations will see your holiness and all the kings your glory. You will be called by a new name which the mouth of Yahweh will reveal. You will be a crown of glory in the hand of Yahweh, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No longer will you be named Forsaken; no longer will your land be called Abandoned; but you will be called My Delight and your land Espoused. For Yahweh delights in you and will make your land his spouse. As a young man marries a virgin, so will your builder marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so will your God rejoice in you.
2nd Reading: 1 Cor12:4-11:
There is diversity of gifts, but the Spirit is the same. There is diversity of ministries, but the Lord is the same. There is diversity of works, but the same God works in all. The Spirit reveals his presence in each one with a gift that is also a service. One is to speak with wisdom, through the Spirit. Another teaches, according to the same Spirit. To another is given faith, in which the Spirit acts; to another, the gift of healing, and it is the same Spirit. Another works miracles, another is a prophet, another recognizes what comes from the good or evil spirit; another speaks in tongues, and still another interprets what has been said in tongues. And all of this, is the work of the one and only Spirit, who gives to each one, as he so desires.
Gospel: Jn 2:1-11:
Three days later there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus was also invited to the wedding with his disciples. When all the wine provided for the celebration had been served, and they had run out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” Jesus replied, “Woman, what concern is that to you and me? My hour has not yet come.” However his mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby were six stone water jars, set there for ritual washing as practiced by the Jews; each jar could hold twenty or thirty Galilee. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them to the brim.
Then Jesus said, “Now draw some out and take it to the steward.” So they did. The steward tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing from where it had come; for only the servants who had drawn the water knew. Immediately he called the bride – groom, and said, “Everyone serves the best wine first, and when people have drunk enough, he serves that which is ordinary. But you have kept the best wine until the end.” This miraculous sign was the first, and Jesus performed it at Cana in Galilee. In this way he showed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.
For Isaiah the image of bridegroom and bride describes the relationship between God and His holy people. St. Paul describes a similar intimacy: the work of the Holy Spirit that is poured down on his people, and reveals Its presence in diverse gifts. In the Gospel, a wedding feast is the occasion of Jesus’ first miracle: turning water into wine. That wine foreshadows the later Eucharistic mystery, the most intimate union of all with his people.
“Do whatever he tells you.” With these words Jesus’ mother initiates the first of her son’s miraculous signs. Does she know that this is the beginning of a journey that will end with the pouring out of his life? So it begins—with Mary’s prompting. In effect, she is saying, yes, the hour has come. Now it is time for his glory to be known. Now it is time for him to be about his Father’s business. He will no longer have occasion to heed his mother. But it remains for us to heed her words: “Do whatever he tells you.” Blessed Mother, let me heed your words, and do whatever your Son tells me.
1st Reading: Heb 5:1-10:
Brothers and sisters:
Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people. No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. In the same way, it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest, but rather the one who said to him:
You are my Son: this day I have begotten you; just as he says in another place, You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
In the days when he was in the Flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.
Gospel: Mk 2:18-22:
One day, when the Pharisees and the disciples of John the Baptist were fasting, some people asked Jesus, “Why is it, that both the Pharisees and the disciples of John fast, but yours do not?” Jesus answered, “How can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the day will come, when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. No one sews a piece of new cloth on an old coat, because the new patch will shrink and tear away from the old cloth, making a worse tear. And no one puts new wine into old wine skins, for the wine would burst the skins, and then both the wine and the skins would be lost. But new wine, new skins!”
John the Baptist was famous for his asceticism and self-denial. He dressed in animal skins and lived on a diet of honey and locusts. For many people that is the standard by which to recognize a holy man of God. How is it that Jesus and his followers set such a different example—not only eating and drinking, but attending wedding feasts and dining with sinners and tax collectors? Jesus himself compares his entourage to a wedding party, with himself in the role of bridegroom.
It suggests a kind of joyous festivity that surrounded him, and it goes some way to explaining why so many felt drawn to follow. As Pope Francis says, there are Christians who seem to live in an endless Lent without Easter. Jesus represents “new wine,” which can’t simply be poured into old frameworks and ways of thinking. There is a time for mourning. But religious practice that is expressed entirely in penitence and sadness would seem to miss out on the joy of the Good News! As Julian of Norwich, an English mystic, exclaimed, “The worst has already happened and been repaired!”
1st Reading: Heb 6:10-20:
Brothers and sisters: God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love you have demonstrated for his name by having served and continuing to serve the holy ones. We earnestly desire each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness for the fulfillment of hope until the end, so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who, through faith and patience, are inheriting the promises. When God made the promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, and said, I will indeed bless you and multiply you. And so, after patient waiting, Abraham obtained the promise.
Now, men swear by someone greater than themselves; for them an oath serves as a guarantee and puts an end to all argument. So when God wanted to give the heirs of his promise an even clearer demonstration of the immutability of his purpose, he intervened with an oath, so that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to hold fast to the hope that lies before us. This we have as an anchor of the soul,
sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil, where Jesus has entered on our behalf as forerunner, becoming high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
Gospel: Mk 2:23-28:
One Sabbath he was walking through grain fields. As his disciples walked along with him, they began to pick the heads of grain and crush them in their hands. Then the Pharisees said to Jesus, “Look! They are doing what is forbidden on the Sabbath!” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did in his time of need; when he and his men were very hungry? He went into the House of God, when Abiathar was High Priest, and ate; the bread of offering, which only the priests are allowed to eat, and he also gave some to the men who were with him.” Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is master even of the Sabbath.”
As Jesus travels the countryside he constantly encounters self-appointed guardians of True Religion who upbraid him for some transgression. From their point of view these are not small matters. They believe that Israel’s deliverance—the very coming of the Messiah— depends on faithful observance of the law. They seem to forget how the prophets railed against an approach to religious practice that focused on external piety and obedience while meanwhile failing to honor the highest commandments of justice and mercy. Their very punctiliousness about the Law prevented them from recognizing the presence of the Messiah in their midst.
Jesus exemplifies a different hierarchy of values. As he points out, with a reference to King David (not in every sense the best character witness), the law does not exist for its own sake, but to serve a higher purpose. Today’s guardians of True Religion sometimes miss this point. They may rail against any deviation from liturgical rules and overlook the higher commandment. As Mother Maria Skobtsova, an Orthodox nun and martyr, said, “The meaning of the liturgy must be translated into life. It is why Christ came into the world and why he gave us our liturgy.”
St. Marianne Cope
1st Reading: Heb 7:1-3, 15-17:
Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most High, met Abraham as he returned from his defeat of the kings and blessed him. And Abraham apportioned to him a tenth of everything. His name first means righteous king, and he was also “king of Salem,” that is, king of peace. Without father, mother, or ancestry, without beginning of days or end of life, thus made to resemble the Son of God, he remains a priest forever.
It is even more obvious if another priest is raised up after the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become so, not by a law expressed in a commandment concerning physical descent but by the power of a life that cannot be destroyed. For it is testified: You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
Gospel: Mk 3:1-6:
Jesus entered the synagogue. A man who had a paralyzed hand was there and some people watched Jesus: Would he heal the man on the sabbath? If he did they could accuse him. Jesus said to the man with the paralyzed hand, “Stand here in the center.” Then he asked them, “What does the Law allow us to do on the sabbath? To do good or to do harm? To save life or to kill?” But they were silent. Then Jesus looked around at them with anger and deep sadness because they had closed their minds. And he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and his hand was healed. But as soon as the Pharisees left, they met with Herod’s supporters, looking for a way to destroy Jesus.
This text offers a sharp contrast between a religiosity focused on laws, judgment, and purity codes, and the gospel of Jesus. It is wrong to regard this as a contrast between Judaism and Christianity. Jesus and his disciples were faithful Jews. By the same token, Christians are every bit as capable of ascribing limits to God’s mercy. In fact, it seems to be a congenital defect among people of all religious traditions to draw a circle that includes themselves among God’s favorites and excludes everybody else. “Stretch out your hand,” Jesus says—dramatically poking a hole in such exclusiveness.
God’s law is directed to mercy, to goodness, to saving life. That is what the Sabbath and religious law are for—not to bolster our own sense of superiority. How ironic that in this case the good religious people take this good news as a pretext for seeking to destroy Jesus. Before we smugly assume that we, as Christians, are on the right side of this story, let us ask ourselves if we are not also capable of assuming that God’s love is our special property. If so, let us shudder at the thought that Jesus is also looking with “anger and deep sadness” at our hardness of heart.
St. Francis de Sales
1st Reading: Heb 7:25 – 8:6:
Jesus is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them. It was fitting that we should have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens. He has no need, as did the high priests, to offer sacrifice day after day, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did that once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints men subject to weakness to be high priests, but the word of the oath, which was taken after the law, appoints a son, who has been made perfect forever.
The main point of what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle that the Lord, not man, set up. Now every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus the necessity for this one also to have something to offer. If then he were on earth, he would not be a priest, since there are those who offer gifts according to the law. They worship in a copy and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary, as Moses was warned when he was about to erect the tabernacle. For God says, “See that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” Now he has obtained so much more excellent a ministry as he is mediator of a better covenant, enacted on better promises.
Gospel: Mk 3:7-12:
Jesus and his disciples withdrew to the lakeside and a large crowd from Galilee followed him. A great number of people also came from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, Transjordan and from the region of Tyre and Sidon, for they had heard of all that he was doing. Because of the crowd, Jesus told his disciples to have a boat ready for him, to prevent the people from crushing him. He healed so many that all who had diseases kept pressing towards him to touch him. Even the people who had evil spirits, whenever they saw him, would fall down before him and cry out, “You are the Son of God.” But he warned them sternly not to tell anyone who he was.
Jesus is beset by such a crowd of people—many of them sick and possessed—that it seems as if he would be crushed by them. The crowd becomes so great that he has to escape to a boat and pull out from the shore. Dorothy Day, an American Catholic who has been proposed for canonization, spent her life living among the poor in the slums of New York. In her “house of hospitality,” she practiced the works of mercy, feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless. She did not romanticize this life among “the insulted and injured.”
Surrounded by the sights and smells of poverty, including drunkenness, mental illness, and constant demands on her time and attention, she sometimes experienced the temptation to flee. “Lord, there are too many of them!” Yet she found in prayer an oasis of recollection, and was able to return, restored to her mission. Jesus himself needed time away from the relentless needs of the thronging crowd. He was after all, a human being. Yet he set no boundaries or limits on his compassion. This was his mission. For that he came.
Conversion of St. Paul
1st Reading: Acts 22:3-16:
Paul addressed the people in these words: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city. At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated strictly in our ancestral law and was zealous for God, just as all of you are today. I persecuted this Way to death, binding both men and women and delivering them to prison. Even the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify on my behalf. For from them I even received letters to the brothers and set out for Damascus to bring back to Jerusalem in chains for punishment those there as well.
“On that journey as I drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.’ My companions saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who spoke to me. I asked, ‘What shall I do, sir?’ The Lord answered me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told about everything appointed for you to do.’ Since I could see nothing because of the brightness of that light, I was led by hand by my companions and entered Damascus.
“A certain Ananias, a devout observer of the law, and highly spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me and stood there and said, ‘Saul, my brother, regain your sight.’ And at that very moment I regained my sight and saw him. Then he said, ‘The God of our ancestors designated you to know his will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of his voice; for you will be his witness before all to what you have seen and heard. Now, why delay? Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away, calling upon his name.’”
Gospel: Mk 16:15-18:
Then he told them, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned. Signs like these will accompany those who have believed: in my name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”
Certain Christian fundamentalists seize literally on this gospel text, speaking in tongues, handling snakes, and effecting cures through the laying on of hands. Apart from the latter, these “signs” of faith seem not to have played a role in the community that followed Jesus, or in the early church. In contrast, the Acts of the Apostles focuses on a very different form of miraculous sign: the conversion of Saul, a zealous persecutor of the church, who as Paul will become one of its most effective missionaries. Saul had participated in the death of Stephen, the first martyr in the church.
He was on a mission to Damascus to seek out Christians for punishment when he was thrown from his horse and confronted by the voice of the Lord: “I am Jesus whom you persecute.” When he went on to proclaim the gospel, the Christians were astonished—and no doubt suspicious. But there was no doubting his faith and conviction. In the words of the famous hymn: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, and now am found, was blind and now I see.” There are signs even more marvelous—and more productive—than picking up snakes or drinking poison.
Sts. Timothy and Titus
1st Reading: Ti 1:1-5:
Paul, a slave of God and Apostle of Jesus Christ for the sake of the faith of God’s chosen ones and the recognition of religious truth, in the hope of eternal life that God, who does not lie, promised before time began, who indeed at the proper time revealed his word in the proclamation with which I was entrusted by the command of God our savior, to Titus, my true child in our common faith: grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our savior.
For this reason I left you in Crete so that you might set right what remains to be done and appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed you.
Gospel: Mk 3:20-21:
They went home. The crowd began to gather again and they couldn’t even have a meal. Knowing what was happening, his relatives came to take charge of him, “He is out of his mind.” they said.
Many of the saints had to overcome opposition from own families. When St. Clare ran off to join St. Francis and his brothers, her relatives tried to drag her back by force. When Thomas Aquinas wished to join the Dominicans, his family had him locked in the family castle. Even Pope Francis, as a young man, found it difficult to confide in his parents that he felt called to the priesthood. Parents want their children to be successful and happy—according to their own notions. They find it difficult to accept that their children want something different: to choose a path that gives them meaning, even if it is a hard path.
No doubt the disciples’ parents worried when their sons left home to follow a strange, wandering rabbi— to see “where he was staying.” How much their worries must have increased when they heard about the controversy and conflict that surrounded Jesus. Had their children been caught up in a dangerous cult? Even the relatives of Jesus feared that he was “out of his mind” and tried to take charge of him. Perhaps that is why he rejected the claims of kinship, proclaiming that those who did the will of God were his true relatives.