Bible Diary for January 27th – February 2ndBible Diary
St. Angela Merici
1st Reading: Neh 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10:
Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly, which consisted of men, women, and those children old enough to understand. Standing at one end of the open place that was before the Water Gate, he read out of the book from daybreak till midday, in the presence of the men, the women, and those children old enough to understand; and all the people listened attentively to the book of the law. Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that had been made for the occasion. He opened the scroll so that all the people might see it—for he was standing higher up than any of the people —; and, as he opened it, all the people rose.
Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people, their hands raised high, answered, “Amen, amen!” Then they bowed down and prostrated themselves before the LORD, their faces to the ground. Ezra read plainly from the book of the law of God, interpreting it so that all could understand what was read. Then Nehemiah, that is, His Excellency, and Ezra the priest-scribe and the Levites who were instructing the people said to all the people: “Today is holy to the LORD your God. Do not be sad, and do not weep”—for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law. He said further: “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared; for today is holy to our LORD. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!”
2nd Reading: 1 Cor 12:12-30:
As the body is one, having many members, and all the members, while being many, form one body, so it is with Christ. All of us, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, have been baptized in one Spirit, to form one body, and all of us have been given, to drink from the one Spirit. The body has not just one member, but many. If the foot should say, “I do not belong to the body for I am not a hand,” it would be wrong: it is part of the body! Even though the ear says, “I do not belong to the body for I am not an eye,” it is part of the body. If all the body were eye, how would we hear? And if all the body were ear, how would we smell? God has arranged all the members, placing each part of the body as he pleased. If all were the same part where would the body be? But there are many members and one body. The eye cannot tell the hand, “I do not need you,” nor the head tell the feet, “I do not need you.”
Still more, the parts of our body that we most need are those that seem to be the weakest; the parts that we consider lower are treated with much care, and we cover them with more modesty because they are less presentable, whereas the others do not need such attention. God, himself, arranged the body in this way, giving more honor to those parts that need it, so that the body may not be divided, but, rather, each member may care for the others. When one suffers, all of them suffer, and when one receives honor, all rejoice together. Now, you are the body of Christ, and each of you, individually, is a member of it. So God has appointed us in the Church. First apostles, second prophets, third teachers. Then come miracles, then the gift of healing, material help, administration in the Church and the gift of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Can all perform miracles, or cure the sick, or speak in tongues, or explain what was said in tongues?
Gospel: Lk 1:1-4; 4:14-21:
Several people have set themselves to relate the events that have taken place among us, as they were told by the first witnesses, who later became ministers of the word. After I, myself, had carefully gone over the whole story from the beginning, it seemed right for me to give you, Theophilus, an orderly account, so that your Excellency may know the truth of all you have been taught. Jesus acted with the power of the Spirit; and on his return to Galilee, the news about him spread throughout all that territory. He began teaching in the synagogues of the Jews and everyone praised him.
When Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, as he usually did. He stood up to read, and they handed him the book of the prophet Isaiah. Jesus then unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He has anointed me, to bring good news to the poor; to proclaim liberty to captives; and new sight to the blind; to free the oppressed; and to announce the Lord’s year of mercy.” Jesus then rolled up the scroll, gave it to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he said to them, “Today, these prophetic words come true, even as you listen.”
How does the Word of God move me? What effects does it create within me? How do I become a witness and minister to the Word in my daily life? Pray for the grace to discern and realize your mission at the service of the Word.
St. Thomas Aquinas
1st Reading: Heb 9:15, 24-28:
Christ is mediator of a new covenant: since a death has taken place for deliverance from transgressions under the first covenant, those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.
For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that he might now appear before God on our behalf. Not that he might offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters each year into the sanctuary with blood that is not his own; if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly from the foundation of the world. But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by his sacrifice. Just as it is appointed that human beings die once,
and after this the judgment, so also Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.
Gospel: Mk 3:22-30:
The teachers of the Law who had come from Jerusalem said, “He is in the power of Beelzebul: the chief of the demons helps him to drive out demons.” Jesus called them to him and began teaching them by means of stories or parables, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a nation is divided by civil war, that nation cannot stand. If a family divides itself into groups, that family will not survive. In the same way, if Satan has risen against himself and is divided, he will not stand; he is finished.
No one can break into the house of the Strong one in order to plunder his goods, unless he first ties up the Strong one. Then indeed, he can plunder his house. “Truly, I say to you, every sin will be forgiven humankind, even insults to God, however numerous. But whoever slanders the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven: he carries the guilt of his sin forever. This was their sin when they said, He has an evil spirit in him.’”
Many scholars have pondered what it means to “slander the Holy Spirit”— a sin, according to Jesus, that “will never be forgiven.” Perhaps such a sin renders us impervious to remorse or conversion, and thus puts us beyond the scope of forgiveness. In this context, however, the meaning seems clear enough. It is Jesus’ response to the shocking accusation of his enemies that he is only able to drive out demons because he is in league with Beelzebul, the chief of the demons. Over and over, Jesus has offered signs of healing power.
Where the sick are made whole, where the poor receive the good news, where the oppressed are set free— these are the signs of the Holy Spirit, the in-breaking of God’s kingdom. But because these signs do not come in some officially “church-sponsored” package, there are religious people who fail to recognize them, even dismissing them as being from the devil. This, according to Jesus, is slander against the Holy Spirit, worse even than an “insult to God.” God forbid that we should fail to perceive the presence of the Spirit in our midst. All the worse if we abuse and slander its witnesses, and thus carry the guilt of that sin forever.
1st Reading: Heb 10: 1-10:
Brothers and sisters:
Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of them, it can never make perfect those who come to worship by the same sacrifices that they offer continually each year. Otherwise, would not the sacrifices have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, once cleansed, would no longer have had any consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is only a yearly remembrance of sins, for it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats take away sins. For this reason, when he came into the world, he said:
Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you took no delight. Then I said, As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I come to do your will, O God.
First he says, Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings, you neither desired nor delighted in. These are offered according to the law. Then he says, Behold, I come to do your will. He takes away the first to establish the second. By this “will,” we have been consecrated through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Gospel: Mk 3:31-35:
Then his mother and his brothers came. As they stood outside, they sent someone to call him. The crowd sitting around Jesus told him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside asking for you.” He replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking around at those who sat there he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of God is brother and sister and mother to me.”
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus confronts a society divided by an intricate code separating the clean from the unclean, the righteous and the sinner, insider and outsider. He turns that society upside down, breaking down the codes that divide God’s family, restoring the broken and excluded to wholeness and community, inviting those outside to a place of special honor in the feast that God has prepared. This tension is displayed in the contrast between Jesus’ old family—constituted by blood kinship–and his “new family,” constituted by shared discipleship. Jesus’ relatives assume that their kinship gives them a particular claim on Jesus: he belongs to them, not to this crowd.
His response could upends the traditional code of “family values”: that “blood is thicker than water.” That challenge applies equally to the new Christian family. Do we cling to Jesus, trying to keep him to ourselves, jealous of his love for the crowd? Instead of claiming family privilege on the basis of race or blood we define the family of Jesus on the basis of doctrine. But do we believe that God’s family consists only of Christians? Heed his words: “Whoever does the will of God is my brother, my sister, my mother.”
1st Reading: Heb 10: 11-18:
Every priest stands daily at his ministry, offering frequently those same sacrifices that can never take away sins. But this one offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God; now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool. For by one offering he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated. The Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying:
This is the covenant I will establish with them after those days, says the Lord: “I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them upon their minds,” he also says: Their sins and their evildoing
I will remember no more. Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer offering for sin.
Gospel: Mk 4:1-20:
Again Jesus began to teach by the lake, but such a large crowd gathered about him that he got into a boat and sat in it on the lake while the crowd stood on the shore. He taught them many things through stories or parables. In his teaching he Jesus said, “Listen! The sower went out to sow. As he sowed, some of the seed fell along a path and the birds came and ate it up. Some of the seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil; it sprang up immediately because it had no depth; but when the sun rose and burned it, it withered because it had no roots. (…) But some seed fell on good soil, grew and increased and yielded grain; (…)” And Jesus added, “Listen then, if you have ears.” (…) (…)
Jesus said to them, “… What the sower is sowing is the word. Those along the path where the seed fell are people who hear the word, but as soon as they do, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Other people receive the word like rocky ground. As soon as they hear the word, they accept it with joy, but they have no roots so it lasts only a little while. (…) Others receive the seed as among thorns. After they hear the word, they are caught up in the worries of this life, false hopes of riches and other desires. (…) “And there are others who receive the word as good soil. They hear the word, take it to heart and produce: (…) some one hundred times as much.”
Speaking to country people like himself, Jesus often employed stories and images drawn from nature. Surely among his audience there were many who knew from first-hand the work of sowing seeds. They would know that it was a careless farmer who cast his precious seeds on rocky ground, or among thorns, or along a path. By this standard Jesus is a profligate farmer indeed—proclaiming his message to all, to the sinner as well as the righteous. What determines our capacity to receive this message?
According to Jesus the obstacle is not necessarily a matter of “sin” but lack of “depth”—the lack of a capacity for inwardness. We live on the surface of life, preoccupied by daily cares, or fantasies of success, or concerns about the future, and so fail to live in the actual moment in which we are living. Thus, when the message of Good News comes to us we are incapable of receiving it. Soil cannot literally prepare itself for the seed. But we have power over ourselves: to rein in our capacity for distraction, to safeguard space for silence, to be attentive—and so to be ready to respond when the Word of God encounters us.
St. John Bosco
1st Reading: Heb 10: 19-25:
Brothers and sisters:
Since through the Blood of Jesus we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil, that is, his flesh, and since we have “a great priest over the house of God,” let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy. We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this all the more as you see the day drawing near.
Gospel: Mk 4:21-25:
Jesus also said to them, “When the light comes, is it put under a basket or a bed? Surely it is put on a lamp stand. Whatever is hidden will be disclosed, and whatever is kept secret will be brought to light. Listen then, if you have ears!” And he also said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear. In the measure you give, so shall you receive, and still more will be given to you. For to the one who produces something, more will be given; and from him who does not produce anything, even what he has will be taken away from him.
The Good News is not something we are meant to hoard and keep for ourselves. It must bear fruit; it must be shared with the world. A lamp is not meant to be hidden under our bed; it is put on a stand so that it may illuminate our room. By the same token, the gospel is not some precious treasure to be celebrated and preserved in the church; it exists to be shared and made visible. It is meant to illuminate the world. For that reason mission is essential to the life and purpose of the church. A mission-driven church is fruitful.
On the other hand, a church that is inward-looking, concerned only with its own preservation and safety, becomes sickly; even what it has will be taken from it. This was the central message that Pope Francis shared with the conclave where he was elected pope. He described self-referentiality as the greatest danger facing the church. When Jesus knocks on the door, he said, it is not only to be let into the church—but to be let out, to go out to the margins, to pursue his mission of gathering the lost sheep. We must have the faith to open the doors and let him out! And the courage to follow.
Blessed Claretian Martyrs
1st Reading: Heb 10: 32-39:
Remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a great contest of suffering. At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and affliction; at other times you associated yourselves with those so treated. You even joined in the sufferings of those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, knowing that you had a better and lasting possession. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence; it will have great recompense. You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what he has promised.
For, after just a brief moment, he who is to come shall come; he shall not delay. But my just one shall live by faith, and if he draws back I take no pleasure in him. We are not among those who draw back and perish, but among those who have faith and will possess life.
Gospel: Mk 4:26-34:
Jesus also said, “In the kingdom of God it is like this. A man scatters seed upon the soil. Whether he is asleep or awake, be it day or night, the seed sprouts and grows, he knows not how. The soil produces of itself; first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when it is ripe for harvesting they take the sickle for the cutting: the time for harvest has come.” Jesus also said, “What is the kingdom of God like? To what shall we compare it?
It is like a mustard seed which, when sown, is the smallest of all the seeds scattered upon the soil. But once sown, it grows up and becomes the largest of the plants in the garden and even grows branches so big that the birds of the air can take shelter in its shade.” Jesus used many such stories or parables, to proclaim the word to them in a way they would be able to understand. He would not teach them without parables; but privately to his disciples he explained everything.
We often measure our success by grand achievements and quantifiable results. But the gospel applies a different standard. As Jesus observes, that measure is better taken from nature: the quiet miracle that transforms seeds into a ripened crop; the mystery that produces from the smallest mustard seed the largest plant in the garden. How do we measure our effectiveness? The results are not in our own control; perhaps another generation will reap. It is given to us to be faithful to our mission, to scatter the seeds.
Meanwhile, the power of the gospel operates in secret, whether we are awake or asleep—perhaps to bear fruit in a form we may never foresee or comprehend. Pope Francis has referred to this strategy for change when he speaks of simply setting processes in motion. As he often likes to say, time is more powerful than spaces: “We must not focus on occupying the spaces where power is exercised, but rather on starting long run historical processes… God manifests himself in time and is present in the processes of history…It requires patience, waiting.”
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
1st Reading: Mal 3:1-4:
Thus says the Lord God:
Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; And suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek, And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye. He will sit refining and purifying silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi, Refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD. Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem will please the LORD, as in the days of old, as in years gone by.
2nd 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: Lk 2:22-32:
When the day came for the purification according to the law of Moses, Joseph and Mary brought the baby up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, as it is written in the law of the Lord: Every firstborn male shall be consecrated to God. And they offered a sacrifice as ordered in the law of the Lord: a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. There lived in Jerusalem at this time a very upright and devout man named Simeon; the Holy Spirit was in him. He looked forward to the time when the Lord would comfort Israel, and he had been assured by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before seeing the Messiah of the Lord.
So he was led into the Temple by the Holy Spirit at the time the parents brought the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law. Simeon took the child in his arms and blessed God, saying, “Now, O Lord, you can dismiss your servant in peace, for you have fulfilled your word and my eyes have seen your salvation, which you display for all the people to see. Here is the light you will reveal to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.”
Mary and Joseph brought their infant Jesus to be consecrated to God in the temple in Jerusalem. Because they were poor folk they offered only two pigeons as a blood sacrifice. Yet two witnesses saw something different. The old man Simeon, who had been assured that he would not die before seeing the Messiah, took the child in his arms and delivered a prophetic discourse. The other witness is a “prophetess” named Anna who had hung around the Temple anxiously awaiting some sign of Israel’s Redeemer. Although no words are attributed to Anna, there is a similar sense of fulfillment in her story.
Beyond Jesus’ immediate family, she is the first woman to be granted such insight into the divine mystery concealed in these humble beginnings. And she is the first to proclaim this good news to those like herself—poor and of no account—who live by faith and wait in hope. We may not see the fulfillment of all God’s promises in our lifetime—a world at peace, conflict resolved, humanity no longer in conflict with the earth. But each small victory is a down payment on that day. Those who live in faith and hope must remember to celebrate such small victories.