Bible Diary for March 3rd – 9thBible Diary
St. Katharine Drexel
1st Reading: Sir 27:5-8:
The kiln tests the potter’s handiwork; a man is tested by his conversation. A well-tended tree is shown by its fruits, so a man’s feelings can be detected in what he says. Praise no one before he has spoken, since this is the acid test. If you pursue righteousness you will achieve it and wear it like a festive garment.
2nd Reading: 1 Cor 15:54-58:
When our perishable being puts on imperishable life, when our mortal being puts on immortality, the word of Scripture will be fulfilled: Death has been swallowed up by victory. Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting? Sin is the sting of death, to kill, and the law is what gives force to sin. But give thanks to God, who gives us the victory, through Christ Jesus, our Lord. So then, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, and do not be moved. Improve constantly, in the work of the Lord, knowing that, with him, your labor is not without fruit.
Gospel: Lk 6:39-45:
And Jesus offered this example, “Can a blind person lead another blind person? Surely both will fall into a ditch. A disciple is not above the master; but when fully trained, he will be like the master. So why do you pay attention to the speck in your brother’s eye, while you have a log in your eye, and are not conscious of it? How can you say to your neighbor, ‘Friend, let me take this speck out of your eye,’ when you can’t remove the log in your own? You hypocrite!
First remove the log from your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to remove the speck from your neighbor’s eye. No healthy tree bears bad fruit, no poor tree bears good fruit. And each tree is known by the fruit it bears: you don’t gather figs from thorns, or grapes from brambles. Similarly, the good person draws good things from the good stored in his heart, and an evil person draws evil things from the evil stored in his heart. For the mouth speaks from the fullness of the heart.”
It is an old saying that a tree is judged by its fruits. Someone may present a virtuous appearance. But how do they speak of others? How do they treat others? Our outward deeds reveal our inward condition. Whether we do good or bad, we draw on what is stored in our hearts. Yet we are quick to focus on what others do and say without examining ourselves. Perhaps it is our own sins and weaknesses that enable us see others’ failings with such accuracy! Lord, make clean our hearts, so that our words and deeds may glorify you.
1st Reading: Sir 17:20-24:
To the penitent God provides a way back, he encourages those who are losing hope and has chosen for them the lot of truth. Return to him and give up sin, pray to the LORD and make your offenses few. Turn again to the Most High and away from your sin, hate intensely what he loathes, and know the justice and judgments of God, stand firm in the way set before you, in prayer to the Most High God.
Who in the nether world can glorify the Most High in place of the living who offer their praise? Dwell no longer in the error of the ungodly, but offer your praise before death. No more can the dead give praise
than those who have never lived; You who are alive and well shall praise and glorify God in his mercies.
How great the mercy of the LORD, his forgiveness of those who return to him!
Gospel: Mk 10: 17-27:
Just as Jesus was setting out on his journey again, a man ran up, knelt before him and asked, “Good Master, what must I do to have eternal life?” (…) You know the commandments: Do not kill; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; do not cheat; honor your father and mother.” The man replied, “I have obeyed all these commandments since my childhood.” Then Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him; and he said, “For you, one thing is lacking. Go, sell what you have, and give the money to the poor; and you will have riches in heaven. Then, come, and follow me.”
On hearing these words, his face fell and he went away sorrowful, for he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were shocked at these words, but Jesus insisted, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! (…) It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (…) Jesus looked steadily at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God; all things are possible with God.”
If there is one gospel text that recurs with regularity in the lives of the saints, it is the story of Jesus and the “rich young man” who came looking for the deepest meaning of life. (“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”) Jesus told him, “Go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and come follow me.” He was not calling this young man to a life of misery but to a new life, richer than anything he had known before. St. Mark notes significantly that Jesus looked on the man “and loved him.”
But evidently this was both too much and at the same time not enough for him. Perhaps he would have preferred a list of “five principles,” or “ten easy steps.” He wanted “eternal life,” but not at the price of any significant change in his own life; certainly not at the expense of his wealth. And so he went sadly away. For so many of the saints this story represented the pivotal choice for their own lives. Would they respond to Jesus’ challenge and invitation or would they too, like the young man in the story, walk sadly away? Either way Jesus looks on with love. The choice is ours.
1st Reading: Sir 35:1-12:
To keep the law is a great oblation, and he who observes the commandments sacrifices a peace offering. In works of charity one offers fine flour, and when he gives alms he presents his sacrifice of praise. To refrain from evil pleases the Lord, and to avoid injustice is an atonement. Appear not before the Lord empty-handed, for all that you offer is in fulfillment of the precepts. The just one’s offering enriches the altar and rises as a sweet odor before the Most High. The just one’s sacrifice is most pleasing, nor will it ever be forgotten. In a generous spirit pay homage to the Lord, be not sparing of freewill gifts. With each contribution show a cheerful countenance, and pay your tithes in a spirit of joy. Give to the Most High as he has given to you, generously, according to your means.
For the Lord is one who always repays, and he will give back to you sevenfold. But offer no bribes, these he does not accept! Trust not in sacrifice of the fruits of extortion. For he is a God of justice, who knows no favorites.
Gospel: Mk 10: 28-31:
Peter spoke up and said, “We have given up everything to follow you.” Jesus answered, “Truly, there is no one who has left house, or brothers or sisters, or father or mother, or children, or lands, for my sake, and for the gospel, who will not receive his reward. I say to you: even in the midst of persecution, he will receive a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and lands in the present time; and, in the world to come, eternal life. Do pay attention: many who now are the first will be last, and the last, first.”
The early desert fathers were clear that simply giving up possessions meant nothing as long as the spirit of acquisition still lodged in their heart. As one of them, Abba Moses, noted, “There are those who have given away worldly wealth of gold or silver, and who are afterward agitated about a knife, a pencil, a pen, or a pin.” He scoffed at St. Peter, the onetime fisherman, and his boast to the Lord, “We have given up everything to follow you.” As Abba Moses observed, “It is clear that they had given up nothing but their miserable broken nets.”
When we relinquish an identity based on acquisition, a sense of self based on what we own and have, then our lives are rooted in a completely different scale of value. The grasping ego never has enough, and it is constantly vulnerable to loss. With open hands we have nothing to lose; we can rejoice in what we have received. This spirit of poverty allows us to rejoice in what is given to us. Thus, St. Francis embraced “Lady Poverty” as his bride—the most beautiful bride in all the world. Those who pursue this route will have their reward—but not as the world counts it.
1st Reading: Jl 2:12-18:
Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God. For gracious and merciful is he,
slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment. Perhaps he will again relent and leave behind him a blessing, offerings and libations for the Lord, your God.
Blow the trumpet in Zion! Proclaim a fast, call an assembly; gather the people, notify the congregation; assemble the elders, gather the children and the infants at the breast; Let the bridegroom quit his room
and the bride her chamber. Between the porch and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep, and say, “Spare, O Lord, your people, and make not your heritage a reproach, with the nations ruling over them! Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”
Then the Lord was stirred to concern for his land and took pity on his people.
2nd Reading: 2 Cor 5:20-6:2:
Brothers and sisters:
We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
Working together, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says: In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you. Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
Gospel: Mt 6:1-6,16-18:
Be careful not to make a show of your good deeds before people. If you do so, you do not gain anything from your Father in heaven. When you give something to the poor, do not have it trumpeted before you, as do those who want to be noticed in the synagogues and in the streets, in order to be praised by people. I assure you, they have their reward. If you give something to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your gift remains really secret.
Your Father, who sees what is kept secret, will reward you. When you pray, do not be like those who want to be noticed. They love to stand and pray in the synagogues or on street corners, in order to be seen by everyone. I assure you, they have their reward. When you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father who is with you in secret; and your Father who sees what is kept secret will reward you. (…)
The ego is sly; it finds its way into everything, even under the disguise of humility, self-sacrifice, or religious devotion. There is a form of humility that calls attention to itself: “See how humble I am!” There are outward displays of piety that are meant to be seen and noticed. All of these are a form of commerce, a type of transaction with an eye on the reward. The philosopher Simone Weil referred to such transactions as the law of “gravity.” Grace, on the other hand, defies gravity. It contradicts the law that says that every good deed must be matched by some reward.
True humility escapes detection. True religious devotion is directed only to God. True charity is a matter of giving without expectation of return—whether that takes the form of public esteem or the obsequious gratitude of those on the receiving end. To give without compensation; to pray without expectation of results; to act without the desire to be noticed—all these are forms of detachment. It requires that we focus on the good of the deed itself, the correctness of our attitude, the purity of our intention. To live in this state of consciousness is its own reward.
St. Perpetua and St. Felicity
1st Reading: Dt 30: 15-20:
Moses said to the people:
“Today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom. If you obey the commandments of the Lord, your God, which I enjoin on you today, loving him, and walking in his ways, and keeping his commandments, statutes and decrees, you will live and grow numerous, and the Lord, your God, will bless you in the land you are entering to occupy. If, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen, but are led astray and adore and serve other gods, I tell you now that you will certainly perish; you will not have a long life on the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and occupy.
I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him. For that will mean life for you, a long life for you to live on the land that the Lord swore he would give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
Gospel: Lk 9:22-25:
And he added, “The Son of Man must suffer many things. He will be rejected by the elders and chief priests and teachers of the law, and be put to death. Then after three days he will be raised to life.” Jesus also said to all the people, “If you wish to be a follower of mine, deny yourself and take up your cross each day, and follow me! For if you choose to save your life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake, you will save it. What does it profit you to gain the whole world, if you destroy or damage yourself?
Saints like Perpetua and Felicity faced death in the arena for declaring their faith in Christ. Martyrdom— bearing witness at the cost of one’s life—was the origin of the cult of saints. In laying down their lives for the sake of Christ, the martyrs showed their powerful faith in the resurrection. Their blood, as Tertullian said, “was the seed of the church.” As the era of persecution receded it became clear that there were other ways of demonstrating heroic faith—through lives of service, prayer, and selfless devotion. Nevertheless, the era of martyrdom has never passed.
Among recently beatified saints is Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, who was shot by a death squad while saying Mass in 1980. Although his killers called themselves Christians, they were motivated by hatred for the gospel as expressed through his devotion to justice and the cause of the poor. Pope Francis has recently extended the categories of holiness to recognize all those who sacrifice their lives for others. As Jesus said, “No greater love has a man than that he lay down his life for his friends.”
St. John of God
1st Reading: Is 58:1-9a:
Thus says the Lord God:
Cry out full-throated and unsparingly, lift up your voice like a trumpet blast; tell my people their wickedness, and the house of Jacob their sins. They seek me day after day, and desire to know my ways, like a nation that has done what is just and not abandoned the law of their God; they ask me to declare what is due them, pleased to gain access to God. “Why do we fast, and you do not see it? Afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?”
Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits, and drive all your laborers. Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting, striking with wicked claw. Would that today you might fast so as to make your voice heard on high! Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance: that a man bow his head like a reed and lie in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say: here I am!
Gospel: Mt 9:14-15:
Then the disciples of John came to him with the question, “How is it, that we and the Pharisees fast on many occasions, but not your disciples?” Jesus answered them, “How can you expect wedding guests to mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The time will come, when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then, they will fast.
There are religious people who make a great public display of their faith, while at the same time quarreling with family members, bickering with their neighbors, or cheating at business. As Isaiah prophesies, there is no value in fasting or putting on sackcloth and ashes if all this covers a selfish heart. What is the fast that pleases God? It is “breaking the fetters of injustice, and unfastening the thongs of the yoke, setting the oppressed free…”
A true fast is “sharing your food with the hungry,” bringing the homeless into your house. Such scriptural references were surely in Jesus’ mind when people asked him why his disciples were not fasting. Jesus and his entourage were a traveling celebration. Where he appeared the sick were healed, sinners were forgiven, and the poor heard the good news. Was this not the fast that was pleasing to God? While Jesus was with them it was not time for the disciples to mourn. That time would come. But in the meantime, he was in no hurry to hasten the day.
St. Frances of Rome
1st Reading: Is 58:9b-14:
Thus says the Lord:
If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; if you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday; then the Lord will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land. He will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails. The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake, and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up; “Repairer of the breach,” they shall call you, “Restorer of ruined homesteads.”
If you hold back your foot on the Sabbath from following your own pursuits on my holy day; If you call the Sabbath a delight, and the Lord’s holy day honorable; if you honor it by not following your ways,
seeking your own interests, or speaking with malice, then you shall delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will nourish you with the heritage of Jacob, your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Gospel: Lk 5:27-32:
After this, Jesus went out, and noticing a tax collector named Levi, sitting in the tax office, he said to him, “Follow me!” So Levi, leaving everything, got up and followed Jesus. Levi gave a great feast for Jesus, and many tax collectors came to his house, and took their places at the table with the other people. Then the Pharisees and their followers complained to Jesus’ disciples, “How is it that you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” But Jesus spoke up, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I have not come to call the just, but sinners, to a change of heart.”
The Pharisees divided everything into categories of clean and unclean, pure and impure, and, when it came to people, the righteous and sinners. For someone to consort with sinners—including tax collectors who served the Roman occupation—would be to risk becoming one of the unclean. Naturally these Pharisees were scandalized to see Jesus—a supposed holy man— visiting tax collectors like Levi in their homes and sharing the table with public sinners. This was only one of the ways that Jesus caused scandal. His willingness to love and enter into relationship with people of ill repute defied a whole religious culture.
He was turning the tables on an entire system that ranked people on the basis of their relative closeness or distance from God. Of course, in calling Levi and similar types to follow him, Jesus was not endorsing their condition or their occupations. But perhaps he found a warmer reception with those in need of healing than among the righteous people, impervious as they were to the call to conversion. It is harder to call the righteous to a change of heart. In that sense, it is sinners, seeking forgiveness, who are closer to the Kingdom of God.