Bible Diary for April 5th – 11th
St. Vincent Ferrer
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 I have not rebelled, nor have I withdrawn.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: Mt 26:14—27:66:
Jesus stood before the governor. Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “You say so.” The chief priests and the elders of the people accused him, but he made no answer. Pilate said to him, “Do you hear all the charges they bring against you?” But he did not answer even one question, so that the governor wondered greatly. At Passover, it was customary for the governor to release any prisoner the people asked for. Now, there was a well-known prisoner called Barabbas.
When the people had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Whom do you want me to set free: Barabbas, or Jesus called the Messiah?” 18 for he knew that Jesus had been handed over to him out of envy. While Pilate was sitting in court, his wife sent him this message, “Have nothing to do with that holy man. Because of him, I had a dream last night that disturbed me greatly.” But the chief priests and the elders of the people stirred up the crowds, to ask for the release of Barabbas and the death of Jesus.
When the governor asked them again, “Which of the two do you want me to set free?” they answered, “Barabbas!” Pilate said to them, “And what shall I do with Jesus called the Messiah?” All answered, “Crucify him!” Pilate asked, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted louder, “Crucify him!” Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, and that there could be a riot. He asked for water, washed his hands before the people, and said, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. Do what you want!”
And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Then Pilate set Barabbas free, but had Jesus scourged, and handed over to be cruciﬁed. The Roman soldiers took Jesus into the palace of the governor and the whole troop gathered around him. They stripped him and dressed him in a purple cloak. Then, weaving a crown of thorns, they forced it onto his head, and placed a reed in his right hand. They knelt before Jesus and mocked him, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” They spat on him, took the reed from his hand and struck him on the head with it.
When they had ﬁnished mocking him, they pulled off the purple cloak and dressed him in his own clothes, and led him out to be cruciﬁed. On the way they met a man from Cyrene called Simon, and forced him to carry the cross of Jesus. When they reached the place called Golgotha, which means the Skull, they offered him wine mixed with gall. He tasted it but would not drink it. There they cruciﬁed him, and divided his clothes among themselves, casting lots to decide what each one should take. Then they sat down to guard him. The statement of his offense was displayed above his head, and it read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” They also cruciﬁed two thieves with him, one on his right hand and one on his left.
The people passing by shook their heads and insulted him, saying, “Aha! You, who destroy the temple and in three days rebuild it, save yourself—if you are God’s Son—and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law mocked him. They said, “The man who saved others cannot save himself. Let the king of Israel come down from his cross and we will believe in him. He trusted in God; let God rescue him if God wants to, for he himself said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” Even the thieves who were cruciﬁed with him insulted him.
From midday, darkness fell over all the land until mid-afternoon. At about three o’clock, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabbacthani?” which means: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? As soon as they heard this, some of the bystanders said, “He is calling for Elijah.” And one of them ran, took a sponge and soaked it in vinegar and, putting it on a reed, gave it to him to drink. Others said, “Leave him alone, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” Then Jesus cried out again in a loud voice and gave up his spirit.
At that very moment, the curtain of the temple Sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom, the earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after the Resurrection of Jesus, entered the Holy City, and appeared to many. The captain and the soldiers who were guarding Jesus, having seen the earthquake and everything else that had happened, were terribly afraid, and said, “Truly, this was God’s Son.”
The Palm Sunday celebration is a liturgy of paradox and contrast. In the first part we celebrate the triumphant entry of Jesus to Jerusalem, while the Gospel reading in the second part talks about His passion and death. This probably reminds us of the paradoxical nature of our existence too. We are joyful as redeemed sons and daughters of God, but we experience the passion of our sinfulness which sometimes leads us to an experience of death and the loss of meaning of our existence. Today’s celebration may well remind us that triumph and defeat, joy and sadness, life and death are two concepts that are inseparable. One has little or hollow meaning without the other serving as a contrasting principle.
But Jesus Christ who bursts open everything that He touches has enriched our understanding of these dual concepts. He added a third: there is new life after death; not the same life that one had prior to dying but a renewed and transformed life afterwards. The passion of the Lord points to His passion for humanity. It might be a good day for us to reflect what we have done on behalf of humanity. There are various ways we can do to make the world a better place to live. Why don’t we start by scaling down our wants. Let us make an inventory of what we truly need in order to live meaningfully and start giving to those with nothing, that which are excesses of our legitimate needs.
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.
The High Priest who articulated the dogma of one man sacrificed for the good of many now has to contend with another, Lazarus. For it was because of him that Jews now come in droves to Jesus, driven by curiosity or genuine desire to know the truth that the teachings of the religious leaders have obscured. The people now have sensed hope.
Lazarus will be one of the collateral damages in their quest to silence Jesus and His teachings. But they could not do it by themselves. Someone from the party of Jesus must collaborate with them. And here in our Gospel, Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus was introduced with a motive to do so. He was weak in front of money. Not even the sweet perfume of Mary’s loving service to Jesus would melt his heart already led astray by Mammon.
St. John Baptist de La Salle
1st Reading: Is 49:1–6:
Listen to me, O islands, pay attention, people from distant lands. Yahweh called me from my mother’s womb; he pronounced my name before I was born. He made my mouth like a sharpened sword. He hid me in the shadow of his hand. He made me into a polished arrow set apart in his quiver. He said to me, “You are Israel, my servant, through you I will be known.” “I have labored in vain,” I thought, “and spent my strength for nothing.”
Yet what is due me was in the hand of Yahweh, and my reward was with my God. I am important in the sight of Yahweh, and my God is my strength. And now Yahweh has spoken, he who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, to gather Israel to him. He said: “It is not enough that you be my servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob, to bring back the remnant of Israel. I will make you the light of the nations, that my salvation will 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.”
Yesterday’s Gospel speaks of Judas Iscariot as being too concerned with money. He used to help himself from the common purse since it was entrusted to him. Now he will push his robbery further by planning to betray Jesus to the High Priest and his Council in exchange for a fee. We can only guess what happened to Judas along the way.
He was called by Jesus to be His disciple and was treated as a friend and brother. Yet he strayed. Not even the love of his Master was enough to set his heart right. He chose the lesser portion, and with him, all those who choose money and its derivatives above righteousness. They place their confidence on things that they can never bring when they die to console them in the next life.
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? All of them will wear out like cloth; the moth will devour them.
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.”
Matthew provides us with more details on the circumstances of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus than John’s Gospel yesterday. For instance he provides us with information on how much the agreed price was between him and the chief priests upon his handing over of Jesus to them. It was thirty pieces of silver which according to Exodus 21:32 was the ransom price of a servant.
This is how much the chief priests looked at Jesus. Insulting as it might have been, Jesus in the real sense of the word is a servant. First, to the will of the Father and second, He came to serve and not to be served. Paradoxically, the betrayal of Judas and the pittance the chief priests were willing to pay for Jesus’ arrest highlighted His mission as the Servant of God and humanity.
1st Reading: Ex 12:1–8, 11–14:
Yahweh spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt and said, “This month is to be the beginning of all months, the ﬁrst month of your year. Speak to the community of Israel and say to them: On the tenth day of this month let each family take a lamb, a lamb for each house. If the family is too small for a lamb, they must join with a neighbor, the nearest to the house, according to the number of persons and to what each one can eat. You will select a perfect lamb without blemish, a male born during the present year, taken from the sheep or goats. Then you will keep it until the fourteenth day of the month. On that evening all the people will slaughter their lambs and take some of the blood to put on the doorposts and on top of the doorframes of the houses where you eat.
That night you will eat the ﬂesh roasted at the ﬁre with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. And this is how you will eat: with a belt round your waist, sandals on your feet and a staff in your hand. You shall eat hastily for it is a Passover in honor of Yahweh. On that night I shall go through Egypt and strike every ﬁrstborn in Egypt, men and animals; and I will even bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt, I, Yahweh! The blood on your houses will be the sign that you are there. I will see the blood and pass over you; and you will escape the mortal plague when I strike Egypt. This is a day you are to remember and celebrate in honor of Yahweh. It is to be kept as a festival day for all generations forever.
2nd Reading: 1 Cor 11:23–26:
This is the tradition of the Lord that I received, and, that, in my turn, I have handed on to you; the Lord Jesus, on the night that he was delivered up, took bread and, after giving thanks, broke it, saying, “This is my body which is broken for you; do this in memory of me.” In the same manner, taking the cup after the supper, he said, “This cup is the new Covenant, in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do it in memory of me.” So, then, whenever you eat of this bread and drink from this cup, you are proclaiming 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.
This is a moving scene between the Master and His disciples. On the eve of His Passion, Jesus shared a fellowship meal with His own. He also left them with a memory of humble service. The Teacher, for the last time, taught His followers by example. Washing the feet is a menial job reserved for servants. Yet, here is the person whom they all esteemed stooping low to wash their feet.
This was too much for Peter. He dreamed of a glorious, triumphant future with his Master. Not a future of humble service and renunciation of the self. He tried to escape it but to no avail. From then on, Peter had to contend with the fact that his greatness would be measured in terms of how much he served and gave himself for others. The Last Supper would also be the last of his ambition to power according to the ways of the world.
1st Reading: Is 52:13 – 53:12:
It is now when my servant will succeed; he will be exalted and highly praised. Just as many have been horriﬁed at his disﬁgured appearance: “Is this a man? He does not look like one,” so will nations be astounded, kings will stand speechless, for they will see something never told, they will witness something never heard of. Who could believe what we have heard, and to whom has Yahweh revealed his feat? Like a root out of dry ground, like a sapling he grew up before us, with nothing attractive in his appearance, no beauty, no majesty.
He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows familiar with grief, a man from whom people hide their face, spurned and considered of no account. Yet ours were the sorrows he bore, ours were the sufferings he endured, although we considered him as one punished by God, stricken and brought low. Destroyed because of our sins, he was crushed for our wickedness. Through his punishment we are made whole; by his wounds we are healed. Like sheep we had all gone astray, each following his own way; but Yahweh laid upon him all our guilt.
He was harshly treated, but unresisting and silent, he humbly submitted. Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearer he did not open his mouth. He was taken away to detention and judgment—what an unthinkable fate! He was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for his people’s sin. They made his tomb with the wicked, they put him in the graveyard of the oppressors, though he had done no violence nor spoken in deceit. Yet it was the will of Yahweh to crush him with grief.
When he makes himself an offering for sin, he will have a long life and see his descendants. Through him the will of Yahweh is done. For the anguish he suffered, he will see the light and obtain perfect knowledge. My just servant will justify the multitude; he will bear and take away their guilt. Therefore I will give him his portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong. For he surrendered himself to death and was even counted among the wicked, bearing the sins of the multitude and interceding for sinners.
2nd Reading: Heb 4:14–16; 5:7–9:
We have a great high priest, Jesus, the Son of God, who has entered heaven. Let us, then, hold fast to the faith we profess. Our high priest is not indifferent to our weaknesses, for he was tempted, in every way, just as we are, yet, without sinning. Let us, then, with conﬁdence, approach the throne of grace. We will obtain mercy and, through his favor, help in due time.
Christ, in the days of his mortal life, offered his sacriﬁce with tears and cries. He prayed to him, who could save him from death, and he was heard, because of his humble submission. Although he was Son, he learned, through suffering, what obedience was, and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation, for those who obey him.
Gospel: John 18:1 – 19:42:
When Jesus had ﬁnished speaking, he went with his disciples to the other side of the Kidron Valley. There was a garden there. which Jesus entered with his disciples. Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, since Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas took soldiers and some servants from the chief priests and Pharisees, and they went to the garden with lanterns, torches and weapons. Jesus knew all that was going to happen to him; he stepped forward and asked, “Who are you looking for?”
They answered, “Jesus the Nazarene.” Jesus said, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, stood there with them. When Jesus said, “I am he,” they moved backwards and fell to the ground. He then asked a second time, “Who are you looking for?” and they answered, “Jesus the Nazarene.” Jesus replied, “I told you that I am he. If you are looking for me, let these others go.” So what Jesus had said came true: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”
Simon Peter had a sword; he drew it and struck Malchus, the High Priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath! Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?” The guards and the soldiers, with their commander, seized Jesus and bound him; and they took him ﬁrst to Annas. Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was the High Priest that year; and it was Caiaphas who had told the Jews, “It is better that one man should die for the people.”
Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the High Priest, they let him enter the courtyard of the High Priest along with Jesus, but Peter had to stay outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the High Priest, went out and spoke to the maidservant at the gate and brought Peter in. Then this maidservant on duty at the door said to Peter, “So you also are one of his disciples?” But he answered, “I am not.”
Now the servants and the guards had made a charcoal ﬁre and were standing and warming themselves, because it was cold. Peter was also with them warming himself. The High Priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in places where the Jews meet together, either at the assemblies in synagogues or in the temple.
I did not teach secretly. Why then do you question me? Ask those who heard me, they know what I said.” At this reply one of the guards standing there gave Jesus a blow on the face, saying, “Is that the way to answer the High Priest?” Jesus said to him, “If I have said something wrong, point it out. But if I spoke correctly, why strike me?” Then Annas sent him, bound, to Caiaphas, the High Priest.
Now Simon Peter stood there warming himself. They said to him, “Surely you also are one of his disciples.” He denied it, and answered, “I am not!” One of the High Priest’s servants, a kinsman of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you with him in the garden?” Again Peter denied it, and at once the cock crowed. Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the headquarters of the Roman governor. It was now morning.
The Jews didn’t go inside, lest they be made unclean by entering the house of a pagan, and therefore not allowed to eat the Passover meal. So Pilate came outside and asked, “What charge do you bring against this man?” They answered, “If he were not a criminal, we would not be handing him over to you.” Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your own law.” But they replied, “We ourselves are not allowed to put anyone to death.”
According to what Jesus himself had foretold, it was clear what kind of death he would die. Pilate then entered the court again, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “Are you saying this on your own initiative; or have others told you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?”
Jesus answered, “My kingship does not come from this world. If I were a king, like those of this world, my servants would have fought to save me from being handed over to the Jews. But my kingship is not of this world.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” And Jesus answered, “Just as you say, I am a king. For this I was born and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth.
Everyone who is on the side of truth hears my voice.” Pilate said, “What is truth?” Pilate then went out to the Jews again and said, “I ﬁnd no crime in this man. Now, according to custom, I must release a prisoner to you at the Passover. With your agreement I will release to you the King of the Jews.” But they insisted and cried out, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber. Then Pilate had Jesus taken away and scourged.
The soldiers twisted thorns into a crown and put it on his head. They threw a cloak of royal purple around his shoulders; and they began coming up to him and saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and they struck him on the face. Pilate went outside yet another time and said to the Jews, “Look, I am bringing him out, and I want you to know that I ﬁnd no crime in him.” Jesus then came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak, and Pilate pointed at him, saying, “Behold the man!”
On seeing him the chief priests and the guards cried out, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and have him cruciﬁed, for I ﬁnd no case against him.” The Jews then said, “We have a law, and according to the law this man must die because he made himself Son of God.” When Pilate heard this he was more afraid. And coming back into the court he asked Jesus, “Where are you from?”
But Jesus gave him no answer. Then Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, just as I have power to crucify you?” Jesus replied, “You would have no power over me unless it had been given to you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is more guilty.”
From that moment Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who makes himself a king is defying Caesar.” When Pilate heard this, he had Jesus brought outside to the place called the Stone Floor—in Hebrew Gabbatha—and sat down in the judgment seat. It was the day of preparation for the Passover, about noon. Pilate said to the Jews, “Behold your king!” But they cried out, “Away! Take him away! Crucify him!” Pilate replied, “Shall I crucify your king?” And the chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!” Then Pilate handed Jesus over to them to be cruciﬁed. They took Jesus, and led him away.
Bearing his cross, Jesus went out of the city to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew Golgotha. There he was cruciﬁed, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus in the middle. Pilate had a notice written and fastened to the cross, which read: Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews. Many Jewish people saw this title, because the place where Jesus was cruciﬁed was very close to the city; and the title was written in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. The chief priests said to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews’; but, ‘This man claimed to be King of the Jews.’”
Pilate answered them, “What I have written, I have written.” When the soldiers cruciﬁed Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one part for each of them. But as the tunic was woven in one piece from top to bottom, they said, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots to decide who will get it.” This fulﬁlled the words of Scripture: They divided my clothing among them; they cast lots for my garment. This was what the soldiers did. Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister Mary, who was the wife of Cleophas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw the mother, and the disciple whom he loved, he said to the mother, “Woman, this is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “This is your mother.” And from that moment the disciple took her to his own home.
Jesus knew all was now ﬁnished and, in order to fulﬁll what was written in Scripture, he said, I am thirsty. A jar full of bitter wine stood there; so, putting a sponge soaked in the wine on a twig of hyssop, they raised it to his lips. Jesus took the wine and said, “It is accomplished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up the spirit. As it was Preparation Day, the Jews did not want the bodies to remain on the cross during the Sabbath, for this Sabbath was a very solemn day.
They asked Pilate to have the legs of the condemned men broken, so that the bodies might be taken away. The soldiers came and broke the legs of the ﬁrst man and of the other man, who had been cruciﬁed with Jesus. When they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, so they did not break his legs. One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a lance, and immediately there came out blood and water. The one who saw that, has testiﬁed to it, and his testimony is true; he knows he speaks the truth, so that you also might believe.
All this happened to fulﬁll the words of Scripture: Not one of his bones shall be broken. Another text says: They shall look on him whom they have pierced. After this, Joseph of Arimathea approached Pilate, for he was a disciple of Jesus, though secretly, for fear of the Jews. And he asked Pilate to let him remove the body of Jesus. Pilate agreed; so he came and took away the body. Nicodemus, the man who ﬁrst visited Jesus by night, also came and brought a jar of myrrh mixed with aloes, about seventy-ﬁve pounds.
They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it in linen cloths with the spices, following the burial customs of the Jews. There was a garden in the place where Jesus had been cruciﬁed, and, in the garden, a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And therefore, because the sepulcher was nearby, and the Jewish day of preparation was coming to a close, they placed the body of Jesus there.
The arrest, passion and crucifixion of Jesus are the culmination of the ongoing enmity between Him and some of the religious and political authorities of that time. This hostility will now involve many other people, some with unwilling participation while others would be adroitly manipulated by the chief priests who sense that they now have the upper hand. On one side is the powerful, elite class of the Jewish society of that time together with their minions.
On the other side is the small circle of Jesus’ companions, the three Marys, prominent among them, His Mother Mary, and the disciple whom He loved. The others scattered like dry leaves thrown in the wind. Their fear is stronger than their love for Jesus. But these four small, insignificant and weak followers stood with firm resolve to be with Jesus till the end. Theirs is the love that fears not even death. Their courage is a testament that no matter how hopeless the situation may be, a remnant will always remain faithful to God till the end.
1st Reading: Gen 1:1–2:2:
In the beginning, when God began to create the heavens and the earth, the earth had no form and was void; darkness was over the deep and the spirit of God hovered over the waters. God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘Day’ and the darkness ‘Night’. There was evening and there was morning: the ﬁrst day. God said, “Let there be a ﬁrm ceiling between the waters and let it separate waters from waters.” So God made the ceiling and separated the waters below it from the waters above it. And so it was. God called the ﬁrm ceiling ‘Sky’. There was evening and there was morning: the second day.
God said, “Let the waters below the sky be gathered together in one place and let dry land appear.” And so it was. God called the dry land ‘Earth’, and the waters gathered together he called ‘Seas’. God saw that it was good. God said, “Let the earth produce vegetation, seed-bearing plants, fruit trees bearing fruit with seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth.” And so it was. The earth produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kind and trees producing fruit which has seed, according to their kind. God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning: the third day.
God said, “Let there be lights in the ceiling of the sky to separate day from night and to serve as signs for the seasons, days and years; and let these lights in the sky shine above the earth.” And so it was. God therefore made two great lights, the greater light to govern the day and the smaller light to govern the night; and God made the stars as well. God placed them in the ceiling of the sky to give light on the earth and to separate the light from the darkness. God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning: the fourth day. God said, “Let the water teem with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds ﬂy above the earth under the ceiling of the sky.”
God created the great monsters of the sea and all living animals, those that teem in the waters, according to their kind, and every winged bird, according to its kind. God saw that it was good. God blessed them saying, “Be fruitful and increase in number, ﬁll the waters of the sea, and let the birds increase on the earth.” There was evening and there was morning: the ﬁfth day. God said, “Let the earth produce living animals according to their kind: cattle, creatures that move along the ground, wild animals according to their kind.” So it was. God created the wild animals according to their kind, and everything that creeps along the ground according to its kind. God saw that it was good.
God said, “Let us make man in our image, to our likeness. Let them rule over the ﬁsh of the sea, over the birds of the air, over the cattle, over the wild animals, and over all creeping things that crawl along the ground.” So God created man in his image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number, ﬁll the earth and subdue it, rule over the ﬁsh of the sea and the birds of the sky, over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
God said, “I have given you every seed-bearing plant which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree that bears fruit with seed. It will be for your food. To every wild animal, to every bird of the sky, to everything that creeps along the ground, to everything that has the breath of life, I give every green plant for food.” So it was. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. There was evening and there was morning: the sixth day. That was the way the sky and earth were created and all their vast array. By the seventh day the work God had done was completed, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had done.
2nd Reading: Rom 6:3–11:
Don’t you know, that in baptism, which unites us to Christ, we are all baptized and plunged into his death? By this baptism in his death, we were buried with Christ and, as Christ was raised from among the dead by the glory of the Father, we begin walking in a new life. If we have been joined to him by dying a death like his, so shall we be, by a resurrection like his. We know, that our old self was cruciﬁed with Christ, so as to destroy what of us was sin, so that, we may no longer serve sin—if we are dead, we are no longer in debt to sin.
But, if we have died with Christ, we believe we will also live with him. We know, that Christ, once risen from the dead, will not die again, and death has no more dominion over him. For, by dying, he is dead to sin, once and for all, and, now, the life that he lives, is life with God. So you, too, must consider yourselves dead to sin, and alive to God, in Christ Jesus.
Gospel: Matthew 28:1–10:
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the ﬁrst day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to visit the tomb. Suddenly there was a violent earthquake: an angel of the Lord descending from heaven, came to the stone, rolled it from the entrance of the tomb, and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning and his garment white as snow. When they saw the angel, the guards were struck with terror.
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was cruciﬁed. He is not here, for he is risen as he said. Come, see the place where they laid him; then go at once and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead, and is going before you to Galilee. You will see him there. This is my message for you.” In fear, yet with great joy, the women left the tomb and ran to tell the news to his disciples. Suddenly, Jesus met them on the way and said, “Rejoice!” The women approached him, embraced his feet and worshiped him. But Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid! Go and tell my brothers to set out for Galilee; there, they will see me.”
This Saturday is traditionally called Black Saturday for black stands for mourning and for death. And tonight’s celebration will celebrate the passage of the Christian community’s journey from the darkness of sin, betrayal and death to the wonderful light of the resurrection, new hope and peace. Mary of Magdala and the other Mary will be the first among the followers of Jesus to see this light returning from darkness.
They will carry this light to the other disciples whose feeble and fragile faith like a dying ember will receive a jolt of hope to resurrect anew their faith in their Master whom they abandoned because of fear. This time, the dark memory of their momentary cowardice will be swept away by this marvelous news. A new day will dawn. Easter will come to them early while the world is still wrapped in darkness.