Bible Diary for February 25th – March 2nd

February 25th

2nd Sunday in Lent

1st Reading: Gn 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18:
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.” When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. 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. 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.”

2nd Reading: Rom 8:31b-34:
Brothers and sisters: If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him? Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who acquits us, who will condemn? Christ Jesus it is who died—or, rather, was raised— who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.

Gospel: Mk 9:2-10:
Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them. As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.

Do we really trust God or do we trust God just because our parents told us to? Sometimes, we take for granted our being Roman Catholic, our being Christians. We appear “devoted” but lack depth. However, our gospel for today stresses that God’s grace or presence in our lives can transform us to become who we trust, listen and follow. When then shall we allow ourselves to be transfigured in the immeasurable goodness and love of Jesus? Loving Father, you teach us the way towards communion through your Son. Inspire us with your comforting and loving presence to correct our wrong doings and ways of thinking. Make us true witnesses of love and concern that unites, liberates and empowers. Amen. Offer something special for the poor or for those who are in need. For busy parents, give your valuable presence by attending to activities of your child in school.

February 26th

1st Reading: Dn 9:4b-10:
“Lord, great and awesome God, you who keep your merciful covenant toward those who love you and observe your commandments! We have sinned, been wicked and done evil; we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and your laws. We have not obeyed your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers, and all the people of the land. Justice, O Lord, is on your side; we are shamefaced even to this day: we, the men of Judah, the residents of Jerusalem, and all Israel, near and far, in all the countries to which you have scattered them because of their treachery toward you. O Lord, we are shamefaced, like our kings, our princes, and our fathers, for having sinned against you. But yours, O Lord, our God, are compassion and forgiveness! Yet we rebelled against you and paid no heed to your command, O Lord, our God, to live by the law you gave us through your servants the prophets.”

Gospel: Lk 6:36-38:
Jesus said to his disciples: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. “Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”

Our attitudes and behavior are greatly influenced and conditioned by our environment and culture. Take for instance two people who are arguing with one another. Both want to convince the other, but no one is actually listening. Thinking that the louder one’s voice is, the more one can be heard, their argument can end up in a shouting match. But when one lowers the volume of one’s voice and speaks more calmly, the atmosphere invites the other to do likewise.

This seems to be the logic behind today’s gospel when Jesus challenges us to put on attitudes and behavior that would help us grow in mercy, forgiveness, and understanding towards others. God has already provided us with everything we could possibly need and Jesus teaches us how to act when misfortune or opportunity comes our way. Often what hurt us the most are the judgments and condemnations of others. When we act or react in the same manner, we can attract the same judgment upon ourselves. Jesus invites us to mirror in our lives God’s attitude by experiencing how God has been forgiving and understanding with us, in spite of our repeated sins and failings.

February 27th

1st Reading: Is 1:10, 16-20:
Hear the word of the Lord, princes of Sodom! Listen to the instruction of our God, people of Gomorrah! Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow. Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord: Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; Though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool. If you are willing, and obey, you shall eat the good things of the land; But if you refuse and resist, the sword shall consume you: for the mouth of the Lord has spoken!

Gospel: Mt 23:1-12:
Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’ As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

In this gospel scene, we see Jesus exercising his authority as a teacher as he had frequently done throughout his public ministry. He was well aware that to be recognized as a teacher during his time was a source of pride and power. Like many cultures, past or present, teachers have often been put on a pedestal, an enviable position that places them in a situation of power and influence over their students or disciples. Being in such position can easily feed one’s ego, especially if one is hungry for recognition and honor.

Such position can also be the source of temptation in abusing one’s power for personal advantage. We see this happening today not just in societies but also in the church. In the gospel, the teachers of the law became greedy for honor and recognition forgetting that the authority entrusted to them was to be exercised for service to others and not for self-aggrandizement. The spirit of ambition and pride, or any form of abuse of one’s position, is totally unsuited with being a disciple of Jesus who stressed the need for true humility for his followers. “Let the greatest among you be the servant of all.”

February 28th

1st Reading: Jer 18:18-20:
The people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem said, “Come, let us contrive a plot against Jeremiah. It will not mean the loss of instruction from the priests, nor of counsel from the wise, nor of messages from the prophets. And so, let us destroy him by his own tongue; let us carefully note his every word.” Heed me, O Lord, and listen to what my adversaries say. Must good be repaid with evil that they should dig a pit to take my life? Remember that I stood before you to speak in their behalf, to turn away your wrath from them.

Gospel: Mt 20:17-28:
As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the Twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something. He said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.”

Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” They said to him, “We can.” He replied, “My chalice you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The gospel challenges us to look at the ambitions that lie within us. For most of us, if we were honest, having power, honor and influence are desirable and attractive. After all, such positions come with perks. No wonder that in any human organization, people vie for positions that will accord them these privileges. Jesus is well aware of the ambitions that lie in the heart of his followers. Two were honest enough to voice out their ambitions for power, while the other ten masked their envy with anger. For Jesus, this was a teachable moment about the meaning of discipleship.

His question, “Can you drink the cup that I am about to drink?” is also meant for us. With his impending passion in mind, Jesus knew fully well that he would enter his glory through rejection, suffering and death. This was the cup he had to drink, the cup from which he is inviting us to drink. To do so means to refuse many other cups full of worldly privileges and ambitions. By drinking from his cup we are accepting that the way to becoming his true disciples is to follow him in weakness, humility and in self-giving service.

February 29th

1st Reading: Jer 17:5-10:
Thus says the Lord: Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season, But stands in a lava waste, a salt and empty earth. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord. He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit. More tortuous than all else is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it? I, the Lord, alone probe the mind and test the heart, To reward everyone according to his ways, according to the merit of his deeds.

Gospel: Lk 16:19-31:
Jesus said to the Pharisees: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’

Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’ He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.'”

The point of the parable is not so much about hell and eternal damnation but about the effects and consequences of one’s lack of compassion towards the poor and the suffering. Lack of compassion hardens the heart and renders it incapable of love. Such incapacity can deprive others of their rights and dignity as human beings. Paradoxically the dogs in the story and not the rich man with capability to help, were the ones showing more compassion by licking Lazarus’ sores and soothing his wounds. If others’ hardships touch us so that we can empathize in their pain, then our feelings to want to help will be expressed in action.

Lazarus continues to exist in hearts yearning for compassion—in refugees fleeing from injustice and violence, in children sold to slavery, in victims of natural calamities and neglect from governments, and in the millions who suffer hunger. Jesus invites us to see the link between wealth and spirituality. To love God is to use our resources to respond to the needs of the poor, and not the other way around—using God and religion to gain more money and power, as the Pharisees did, and as many still continue to do today.

March 1st

1st Reading: Gn 37:3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a:
Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age; and he had made him a long tunic. When his brothers saw that their father loved him best of all his sons, they hated him so much that they would not even greet him. One day, when his brothers had gone to pasture their father’s flocks at Shechem, Israel said to Joseph, “Your brothers, you know, are tending our flocks at Shechem. Get ready; I will send you to them.” So Joseph went after his brothers and caught up with them in Dothan. They noticed him from a distance, and before he came up to them, they plotted to kill him.

They said to one another: “Here comes that master dreamer! Come on, let us kill him and throw him into one of the cisterns here; we could say that a wild beast devoured him. We shall then see what comes of his dreams.” When Reuben heard this, he tried to save him from their hands, saying, “We must not take his life. Instead of shedding blood,” he continued, “just throw him into that cistern there in the desert; but do not kill him outright.” His purpose was to rescue him from their hands and return him to his father. So when Joseph came up to them, they stripped him of the long tunic he had on; then they took him and threw him into the cistern, which was empty and dry.

They then sat down to their meal. Looking up, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, their camels laden with gum, balm and resin to be taken down to Egypt. Judah said to his brothers: “What is to be gained by killing our brother and concealing his blood? Rather, let us sell him to these Ishmaelites, instead of doing away with him ourselves. After all, he is our brother, our own flesh.” His brothers agreed. They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver.

Gospel: Mt 21:33-43, 45-46:
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”

They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.” Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes? Therefore, I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they knew that he was speaking about them. And although they were attempting to arrest him, they feared the crowds, for they regarded him as a prophet.

Today’s gospel is an allegory that refers to real persons and incidents in Israel’s history. God is like the landowner in this story who did not receive what was due him from the wicked tenants. God has given us resources and talents, not meant for us alone, but for others as well. Like the self-serving tenants, we are tempted to keep and hoard these gifts for ourselves, rejecting God’s intention that these be shared. Thus the theme of rejection—of God and of God’s messengers—is repeated in the story’s progression to remind us of our sinful tendency to reject God and those who stand for the truth.

Human history gives testimony to the rejection of many who fight for truth and justice. Like Jesus, they suffer rejection, imprisonment and torture but eventually find themselves saving their own people. Rejection is a human reality we experience that leaves gaping wounds and marks in our psyche and spirit. Yet rejection is an essential part of the salvific process. Rejection led Jesus to the cross in fulfillment of his mission to save us from our tendency towards self-destruction. Rejection marks anyone who seeks to follow Jesus and to live his mission.

March 2nd

1st Reading: Mi 7:14-15, 18-20:
Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance, That dwells apart in a woodland, in the midst of Carmel. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old; As in the days when you came from the land of Egypt, show us wonderful signs. Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance; Who does not persist in anger forever, but delights rather in clemency, And will again have compassion on us, treading underfoot our guilt? You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins; You will show faithfulness to Jacob, and grace to Abraham, As you have sworn to our fathers from days of old.

Gospel: Lk 15:1-3, 11-32:
Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So to them Jesus addressed this parable. “A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’ So the father divided the property between them. After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation. When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine. And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any.

Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”‘ So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ But his father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly, bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’

Then the celebration began. Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. The servant said to him, ‘Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. He said to his father in reply, ‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’ He said to him, ‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.'”

The context of today’s parable is the religious leaders’ outrage over what they judged as Jesus’ way of relating with those they considered sinners. To reveal the merciful love of God, Jesus responded with yet another parable. Today we allow the parable to mirror to us who God is and God’s constant search for us, and who we are and our constant search for God. The two sons in the parable represent us; their experiences and attitudes mirror our own. Both got lost in their pursuit of fulfillment and happiness.

Paradoxically, one was lost physically while running away from home, and the other was lost spiritually while staying home. One lost all his material possessions but realized where real happiness lies, while the other enjoyed the security of material goods at home but never experienced real happiness. Instead he lost his opportunity to grow in compassion, to be like his father who was forgiving and joyful for someone who was once lost but found. At different times in our life, we can either be the one or the other. God wants us back and experience his merciful love, whether we have strayed away from home or have been lost at home.