Bible Diary for April 10th – 16th
1st Reading: Is 50:4-7:
The Lord Yahweh has taught me so I speak as his disciple and I know how to sustain the weary. Morning after morning he wakes me up to hear, to listen like a disciple. The Lord Yahweh has opened my ear. I have not rebelled, nor have I withdrawn. I offered my back to those who strike me, my cheeks to those who pulled my beard; neither did I shield my face from blows, spittle and disgrace. I have not despaired, for the Lord Yahweh comes to my help. So, like a flint I set my face, knowing that I will not be disgraced.
2nd Reading: Phil 2:6-11:
Though he was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking on the nature of a servant, made in human likeness, and, in his appearance, found, as a man, He humbled himself by being obedient, to death, death on the cross. That is why God exalted him and gave him the name which outshines all names, so, that, at the name of Jesus all knees should bend in heaven, on earth and among the dead, and all tongues proclaim, that Christ Jesus is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Gospel: Lk 23:1-49:
The elders of the people, chief priests and scribes, arose and brought Jesus before Pilate. They brought charges against him, saying, “We found this man misleading our people; he opposes the payment of taxes to Caesar and maintains that he is the Christ, a king.” Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He said to him in reply, “You say so.” Pilate then addressed the chief priests and the crowds, “I find this man not guilty.” But they were adamant and said, “He is inciting the people with his teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to here.” On hearing this Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean; and upon learning that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod who was in Jerusalem at that time.
Herod was very glad to see Jesus; he had been wanting to see him for a long time, for he had heard about him and had been hoping to see him perform some sign. He questioned him at length, but he gave him no answer. The chief priests and scribes, meanwhile, stood by accusing him harshly. Herod and his soldiers treated him contemptuously and mocked him, and after clothing him in resplendent garb, he sent him back to Pilate. Herod and Pilate became friends that very day, even though they had been enemies formerly.
Pilate then summoned the chief priests, the rulers, and the people and said to them, “You brought this man to me and accused him of inciting the people to revolt. I have conducted my investigation in your presence and have not found this man guilty of the charges you have brought against him, nor did Herod, for he sent him back to us. So no capital crime has been committed by him. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.” But all together they shouted out, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us.”— Now Barabbas had been imprisoned for a rebellion that had taken place in the city and for murder. —
Again Pilate addressed them, still wishing to release Jesus, but they continued their shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate addressed them a third time, “What evil has this man done? I found him guilty of no capital crime. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.” With loud shouts, however, they persisted in calling for his crucifixion, and their voices prevailed. The verdict of Pilate was that their demand should be granted. So he released the man who had been imprisoned for rebellion and murder, for whom they asked, and he handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they wished.
As they led him away they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country; and after laying the cross on him, they made him carry it behind Jesus. A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’ At that time people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?”
Now two others, both criminals, were led away with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” They divided his garments by casting lots. The people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.” Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.”
Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun.
Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”; and when he had said this he breathed his last. The centurion who witnessed what had happened glorified God and said, “This man was innocent beyond doubt.” When all the people who had gathered for this spectacle saw what had happened, they returned home beating their breasts; but all his acquaintances stood at a distance, including the women who had followed him from Galilee and saw these events.
There are many details in the passion story which are striking or moving or revealing about the personality of Jesus. But perhaps one of these is the incredible gentleness of Jesus throughout the whole ordeal. For example, just when the Roman soldiers are driving nails through his hands and feet, no doubt causing him excruciating pain (the word “excruciating” itself is formed from the Latin word “crux,” which means cross”), Jesus finds a reason to exculpate them from any guilt: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” He is pleading the cause of his tormentors! He is defending these rough and cold-blooded enemy soldiers!
This should comfort us when we are weighed down by our sins and are tempted to doubt that God could ever forgive a particularly shameful action of ours. For there is no limit to Jesus’ gentleness. The moment we turn to him in sorrow for our sins, he reassures us: “Today, you will be with me in paradise!” For, as predicted by the prophet Isaiah, “a bruised reed he shall not break” (Is 42:3; Mt 12:20). Here Jesus is pleading the cause of his tormentors. And throughout his Passion he shows incredible gentleness. Let us ask for a share in the gentleness of Jesus. Let us treat everyone today with extra gentleness.
1st Reading: Is 42:1-7:
Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight. I have put my spirit upon him, and he will bring justice to the nations. He does not shout or raise his voice. Proclamations are not heard in the streets. A broken reed he will not crush, nor will he snuff out the light of the wavering wick. He will make justice appear in truth. He will not waver or be broken until he has established justice on earth; the islands are waiting for his law.
Thus says God, Yahweh, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread the earth and all that comes from it, who gives life and breath to those who walk on it: I, Yahweh, have called you for the sake of justice; I will hold your hand to make you firm; I will make you as a Covenant to the people, and as a light to the nations, to open eyes that do not see, to free captives from prison, to bring out to light those who sit in darkness.
Gospel: Jn 12:1-11:
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where he had raised Lazarus, the dead man, to life. Now they gave a dinner for him, and while Martha waited on them, Lazarus sat at the table with Jesus. Then Mary took a pound of costly perfume, made from genuine spikenard, and anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair. And the whole house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. Judas Iscariot—the disciple who was to betray Jesus— remarked, “This perfume could have been sold for three hundred silver coins, and the money given to the poor.”
Judas, indeed, had no concern for the poor; he was a thief, and as he held the common purse, he used to help himself to the funds. But Jesus spoke up, “Leave her alone. Was she not keeping it for the day of my burial? (The poor you always have with you, but you will not always have me.)” Many Jews heard that Jesus was there and they came, not only because of Jesus, but also to see Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests thought about killing Lazarus as well, for many of the Jews were drifting away because of him, and believing in Jesus.
It has often been noted that love often inspires people to do things which, seen from the angle of cold reason, are downright unreasonable. And this applies not only to romantic love, but also to the love that binds a parent to a child, a friend to a friend, a citizen to a country, a disciple to a master. In today’s gospel reading we witness such an unreasonable action inspired by pure love. In a gesture of extravagant lavishness, Mary of Bethany anoints the feet of Jesus, her beloved Master, with a costly perfume worth, in the estimation of Judas Iscariot, “three hundred silver coins,” that is, a year’s salary for an unskilled laborer—a huge sum of money.
When she is criticized by Judas for her outrageous wastefulness, Jesus defends her: she is only anticipating his impending funeral, he explains. When is the last time I did something extravagantly generous for God? Something which reasonable people would call unreasonable—but which God would warmly praise? When did I last throw caution to the winds, burn my bridges, go “all the way” for the love of God?
1st Reading: Is 49:1-6:
Hear me, O islands, listen, O distant peoples. The Lord called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name. He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm. He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me. You are my servant, he said to me, Israel, through whom I show my glory. Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God.
For now the Lord has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb, That Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him; and I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord, and my God is now my strength! It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.
Gospel: Jn 13:21-33, 36-38:
After saying this, Jesus was distressed in spirit, and said plainly, “Truly, one of you will betray me.” The disciples then looked at one another, wondering whom he meant. One of the disciples, the one Jesus loved, was reclining near Jesus; so Simon Peter signaled him to ask Jesus whom he meant. And the disciple, who was reclining near Jesus, asked him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “I shall dip a piece of bread in the dish, and he to whom I give it, is the one.” So Jesus dipped the bread in the dish and gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. As Judas took the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus then said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”
None of the others, reclining at the table, understood why Jesus had said this to Judas. As Judas had the common purse, they may have thought that Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or, “Give something to the poor.” Judas left as soon as he had eaten the bread. It was night. When Judas had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. God will glorify him, and he will glorify him very soon. My children, I am with you for only a little while; you will look for me, but as I already told the Jews, now I tell you: where I am going you cannot come. Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?”
Jesus answered, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but afterward you will.” Peter said, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I am ready to give my life for you.” “To give your life for me?” Jesus asked Peter. “Truly I tell you, the cock will not crow, before you have denied me three times.”
The Bible often celebrates the beauty of friendship. The book of Sirach, for example, has this to say about friendship: “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-giving remedy…” (Sir 6:14-16). In today’s gospel reading we see how John and Jesus show the depth of their friendship. Peter does not dare to ask Jesus who Jesus’ betrayer will be. But Peter signals John to ask Jesus, knowing that Jesus would not hide anything from his favorite disciple and best friend.
And John, who was placed next to Jesus and who was actually “reclining upon his chest” (Jn 21:20), does not hesitate to whisper to his friend, “Lord, who is it?” And does Jesus keep his secret? No, he shares it with his friend in total trust: “I shall dip a piece of bread in the dish, and he to whom I give it, is the one.” John is the only disciple who showed up at the foot of the cross, in the process taking the risk of being arrested and—who knows?—of being crucified with Jesus. Such was the friendship between John and Jesus. Could I say that Jesus is my best friend?
St. Martin I
1st Reading: Is 50:4-9a:
The Lord Yahweh has taught me so I speak as his disciple and I know how to sustain the weary. Morning after morning he wakes me up to hear, to listen like a disciple. The Lord Yahweh has opened my ear. I have not rebelled, nor have I withdrawn. I offered my back to those who strike me, my cheeks to those who pulled my beard; neither did I shield my face from blows, spittle and disgrace. I have not despaired, for the Lord Yahweh comes to my help. So, like a flint I set my face, knowing that I will not be disgraced. He who avenges me is near. Who then will accuse me? Let us confront each other. Who is now my accuser? Let him approach. If the Lord Yahweh is my help, who will condemn me?
Gospel: Mt 26:14-25:
Then one of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “How much will you give me if I hand him over to you?” They promised to give him thirty pieces of silver; and from then on, he kept looking for the best way to hand Jesus over to them. On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and said to him, “Where do you want us to prepare the Passover meal for you?” Jesus answered, “Go into the city, to the house of a certain man, and tell him, ‘The Master says: My hour is near, and I will celebrate the Passover with my disciples in your house.’”
The disciples did as Jesus had ordered, and prepared the Passover meal. When it was evening, Jesus sat at table with the Twelve. While they were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I say to you: one of you will betray me.” They were deeply distressed, and they asked him, one after the other, “You do not mean me, do you, Lord?” He answered, “The one who dips his bread with me will betray me. The Son of Man is going as the Scriptures say he will. But alas for that one who betrays the Son of Man: better for him not to have been born.” Judas, the one who would betray him, also asked, “You do not mean me, Master, do you?” Jesus replied, “You have said it.”
It is difficult to fathom the personality of Judas Iscariot. As he is presented in today’s gospel reading, he comes out in the darkest colors possible: not only is he willing to betray an exceedingly good man like Jesus to his mortal enemies, the chief priests, but he does this ignoble action for a sordid gain: thirty pieces of silver. However, the Judas whom we meet here is no doubt the result of a long and complicated spiritual evolution. When Jesus chose him to become a disciple, surely Judas was then a potential candidate for holiness, like all the other apostles.
For, if Jesus chose him, it was no doubt because Jesus could discern in Judas the seeds of greatness. Yet, at some point after that, Judas freely chose little by little to resist the call to holiness and to favor instead his fondness for money—this through a series of small and daily decisions. In all this we see that Jesus always respected Judas’ freedom. Even when he became sure that Judas would betray him, he never expelled Judas from the Twelve. God rejects no one, even those who betray his love.
1st Reading: Ex 12:1-8, 11-14:
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall stand at the head of your calendar; you shall reckon it the first month of the year. Tell the whole community of Israel: On the tenth of this month every one of your families must procure for itself a lamb, one apiece for each household. If a family is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join the nearest household in procuring one and shall share in the lamb in proportion to the number of persons who partake of it. The lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish. You may take it from either the sheep or the goats.
“You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, and then, with the whole assembly of Israel present, it shall be slaughtered during the evening twilight. They shall take some of its blood and apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel of every house in which they partake of the lamb. That same night they shall eat its roasted flesh with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. This is how you are to eat it: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you shall eat like those who are in flight. It is the Passover of the Lord.
“For on this same night I will go through Egypt, striking down every firstborn of the land, both man and beast, and executing judgment on all the gods of Egypt—I, the Lord! But the blood will mark the houses where you are. Seeing the blood, I will pass over you; thus, when I strike the land of Egypt, no destructive blow will come upon you. This day shall be a memorial feast for you, which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the Lord, as a perpetual institution.”
2nd Reading: 1 Cor 11:23-26:
Brothers and sisters:
I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.
Gospel: Jn 13:1-15:
It was before the feast of the Passover. Jesus realized that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father; and as he had loved those who were his own in the world, he would love them with perfect love. They were at supper, and the devil had already put into the mind of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray him. Jesus knew that the Father had entrusted all things to him, and as he had come from God, he was going to God. So he got up from the table, removed his garment, and taking a towel, wrapped it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel he was wearing.
When he came to Simon Peter, Simon asked him, “Why, Lord, do you want to wash my feet?” Jesus said, “What I am doing you cannot understand now, but afterward you will understand it.” Peter replied, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you can have no part with me.” Then Simon Peter said, “Lord, wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!” Jesus replied, “Whoever has taken a bath does not need to wash (except the feet), for he is clean all over. You are clean, though not all of you.”
Jesus knew who was to betray him; because of this he said, “Not all of you are clean.” When Jesus had finished washing their feet, he put on his garment again, went back to the table, and said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I, then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also must wash one another’s feet. I have given you an example, that as I have done, you also may do.
At the time of Jesus in Palestine, people wore sandals and their feet got dirty from walking on dusty or muddy roads. Hence the need to wash them or have them washed by somebody else. But this task was considered so demeaning that one could only force a foreign slave to do it. Jewish slaves could not be required to do it. However, a loving wife could perform this service for her husband or devoted children for their father. Occasionally, disciples could do it for a particularly admired and venerated teacher.
But in today’s gospel reading, we see Jesus reversing the roles: here it is the teacher who gets on his knees and washes the feet of his disciples. A stunning gesture which shocks Peter and the others. Yet, it is only an anticipated symbol of the kind of humiliation that Jesus will suffer the following day: a death as a criminal for all of us. Are we always standing on our pride? Or sometimes do we accept to humbly serve our brothers and sisters in whatever way we can? God is on his knees, washing the feet of twelve rough fisherman. Such is God’s love to us.
1st Reading: Is 52:13—53:12:
See, my servant shall prosper, he shall be raised high and greatly exalted. Even as many were amazed at him–so marred was his look beyond human semblance and his appearance beyond that of the sons of man–so shall he startle many nations, because of him kings shall stand speechless; for those who have not been told shall see, those who have not heard shall ponder it. Who would believe what we have heard? To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up like a sapling before him, like a shoot from the parched earth; there was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him.
He was spurned and avoided by people, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom people hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem. Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed. We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; but the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all.
Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth. Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away, and who would have thought any more of his destiny? When he was cut off from the land of the living, and smitten for the sin of his people, a grave was assigned him among the wicked and a burial place with evildoers, though he had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood. But the Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity.
If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life, and the will of the Lord shall be accomplished through him. Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear. Therefore I will give him his portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty, because he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked; and he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses.
2nd Reading: Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9:
Brothers and sisters:
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. In the days when Christ 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: Jn 18:1—19:42:
Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to where there was a garden, into which he and his disciples entered. Judas his betrayer also knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas got a band of soldiers and guards from the chief priests and the Pharisees and went there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen to him, went out and said to them, “Whom are you looking for?” They answered him, “Jesus the Nazorean.” He said to them, “I AM.” Judas his betrayer was also with them. When he said to them, “I AM,” they turned away and fell to the ground.
So he again asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” They said, “Jesus the Nazorean.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I AM. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill what he had said, “I have not lost any of those you gave me.” Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its scabbard. Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?” So the band of soldiers, the tribune, and the Jewish guards seized Jesus, bound him, and brought him to Annas first. He was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had counseled the Jews that it was better that one man should die rather than the people.
Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Now the other disciple was known to the high priest, and he entered the courtyard of the high priest with Jesus. But Peter stood at the gate outside. So the other disciple, the acquaintance of the high priest, went out and spoke to the gatekeeper and brought Peter in. Then the maid who was the gatekeeper said to Peter, “You are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the slaves and the guards were standing around a charcoal fire that they had made, because it was cold, and were warming themselves. Peter was also standing there keeping warm. The high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his doctrine.
Jesus answered him, “I have spoken publicly to the world. I have always taught in a synagogue or in the temple area where all the Jews gather, and in secret I have said nothing. Why ask me? Ask those who heard me what I said to them. They know what I said.” When he had said this, one of the temple guards standing there struck Jesus and said, “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. Now Simon Peter was standing there keeping warm. And they said to him, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?”
He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, said, “Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?” Again Peter denied it. And immediately the cock crowed. Then they brought Jesus from Caiaphas to the praetorium. It was morning. And they themselves did not enter the praetorium, in order not to be defiled so that they could eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and said, “What charge do you bring against this man?” They answered and said to him, “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” At this, Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law.”
The Jews answered him, “We do not have the right to execute anyone, “ in order that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled that he said indicating the kind of death he would die. So Pilate went back into the praetorium and summoned Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”
So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” When he had said this, he again went out to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in him. But you have a custom that I release one prisoner to you at Passover. Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” They cried out again, “Not this one but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a revolutionary. Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged. And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head, and clothed him in a purple cloak, and they came to him and said, “Hail, King of the Jews!”
And they struck him repeatedly. Once more Pilate went out and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you, so that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak. And he said to them, “Behold, the man!” When the chief priests and the guards saw him they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him. I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.” Now when Pilate heard this statement, he became even more afraid, and went back into the praetorium and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?”
Jesus did not answer him. So Pilate said to him, “Do you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above. For this reason the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.” Consequently, Pilate tried to release him; but the Jews cried out, “If you release him, you are not a Friend of Caesar. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” When Pilate heard these words he brought Jesus out and seated him on the judge’s bench in the place called Stone Pavement, in Hebrew, Gabbatha. It was preparation day for Passover, and it was about noon.
And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your king!” They cried out, “Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your king?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and, carrying the cross himself, he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.” Now many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.
So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that he said, ‘I am the King of the Jews’.” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four shares, a share for each soldier. They also took his tunic, but the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top down. So they said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be, “ in order that the passage of Scripture might be fulfilled that says: They divided my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots. This is what the soldiers did. Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.” There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit. Now since it was preparation day, in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath, for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one, the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken and that they be taken down.
So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may come to believe. For this happened so that the Scripture passage might be fulfilled: Not a bone of it will be broken. And again another passage says: They will look upon him whom they have pierced.
After this, Joseph of Arimathea, secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus. And Pilate permitted it. So he came and took his body. Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, according to the Jewish burial custom. Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried. So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by.
It is not always easy to speak, as the expression goes, the unvarnished truth, especially when this could turn out to our disadvantage: appearing naïve, admitting a mistake, risking to indispose other people, raising opposition against us. We can also find reasons to varnish the truth, to slightly distort it, to betray it in a thousand ways. After all, we are constantly bombarded by lies: inflated advertisements, political promises which are impossible to keep, ideological propaganda, and so on. Yet, in today’s gospel reading Jesus tells Pilate: “Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” Why? Because, as Jesus once defined himself, “I am the truth” (Jn 14:6).
He also said that he is a shepherd and that his sheep recognize his voice and follow him (Jn 10:4). Those who faithfully try to be truthful to themselves and to others are never far from the good Shepherd, whatever their religion or lack thereof. Their basic honesty is what makes them dear to the heart of God. Even we admire a truthful person (except when that person exposes our lies, of course). So much more does God.
1st Reading: Gn 1:1, 26-31a:
In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, God said: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the cattle, and over all the wild animals and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.” God created man in his image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them, saying: “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.”
God also said: “See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground, I give all the green plants for food.” And so it happened. God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good.
2nd Reading: Gen 22:1-18:
God put Abraham to the test. He called to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said: “Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you.” Early the next morning Abraham saddled his donkey, took with him his son Isaac and two of his servants as well, and with the wood that he had cut for the holocaust, set out for the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham got sight of the place from afar. Then he said to his servants: “Both of you stay here with the donkey, while the boy and I go on over yonder. We will worship and then come back to you.”
Thereupon Abraham took the wood for the holocaust and laid it on his son Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two walked on together, Isaac spoke to his father Abraham: “Father!” Isaac said. “Yes, son,” he replied. Isaac continued, “Here are the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the holocaust?” “Son,” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the sheep for the holocaust.” Then the two continued going forward. When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. Next he tied up his son Isaac, and put him on top of the wood on the altar. Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.
But the Lord’s messenger called to him from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham!” “Here I am!” he answered. “Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the messenger. “Do not do the least thing to him. I know now how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.” As Abraham looked about, he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. So he went and took the ram and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son. Abraham named the site Yahweh-yireh; hence people now say, “On the mountain the Lord will see.”
Again the Lord’s messenger called to Abraham from heaven and said: “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved son, I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants shall take possession of the gates of their enemies, and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing–all this because you obeyed my command.”
3rd Reading: Ex 14:15–15:1
4th Reading: Is 54:5-14
5th Reading: Is 55:1-11
6th Reading: Bar 3:9-15, 32–4:4
7th Reading: Ezk 36:16-17a, 18-28
Epistle: Rom 6:3-11
Gospel: Lk 24:1-12:
On the Sabbath the women rested according to the commandment, but the first day of the week, at dawn, the women went to the tomb with the perfumes and ointments they had prepared. Seeing the stone rolled away from the opening of the tomb, they entered, and were amazed to find that the body of the Lord Jesus was not there. As they stood there wondering about this, two men in dazzling garments suddenly stood before them. In fright the women bowed to the ground. But the men said, “Why look for the living among the dead? You won’t find him here. He is risen. Remember what he told you in Galilee, that the Son of Man had to be given into the hands of sinners, to be crucified, and to rise on the third day.”
And they remembered Jesus’ words. Returning from the tomb, they told the Eleven and all the others about these things. Among the women, who brought the news, were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James. But however much they insisted, those who heard did not believe the seemingly nonsensical story. Then Peter got up and ran to the tomb. All he saw, when he bent down and looked into the tomb, were the linen cloths, laid by themselves. He went home wondering.
In the liturgy we celebrate the feast or memory of various saints in the course of the liturgical year. Now, given the fact that women form half of humankind and half of the Church at any particular time, we would expect to find an equal number of women saints and men saints, would we not? But that is not the case. Among named saints, there are five times more men than women. And why is that? A good guess is because it is men who canonize, and they do not pay much attention to women saints. At the time of Jesus men had a similar low esteem for women. But not Jesus. He accepted women disciples—what no rabbi would ever have done.
And he treated women with respect and trust. In turn, they repaid him with complete devotion, following him to the cross, whereas all the men disciples had abandoned him at Gethsemane. And, in today’s gospel reading, we see these same women faithful to Jesus even beyond Jesus’ death, and concerned about his burial. No wonder that the Risen Jesus manifested himself to women first and, in fact, made them “apostles to the apostles,” as some Church Fathers wrote in a beautiful formula.