Bible Diary for February 28th – March 6th

February 28th

2nd Sunday of Lent

1st Reading: Gen 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18:
Sometime later God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he answered, “Here I am.” Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I shall point out to you,” until they came to the place to which God had directed them. He then stretched out his hand to seize the knife and slay his son. But the angel of Yahweh called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” “Do not lay your hand on the boy; do not harm him, for now I know that you fear God, and you have not held back from me your only son.”

Abraham looked around and saw behind him a ram caught by its horns in a bush. He offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son. And the angel of Yahweh called from heaven a second time, “By myself I have sworn, it is Yahweh who speaks, because you have done this and not held back your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the lands of their enemies. All the nations of the earth will be blessed through your descendants because you have obeyed me.”

2nd Reading: Rom 8:31b-34:
If God is with us, who shall be against us? If he did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not give us all things with him? Who shall accuse those chosen by God: he takes away their guilt. Who will dare to condemn them? Christ who died, and better still, rose and is seated at the right hand of God, interceding for us?

Gospel: Mk 9:2-10:
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain. There his appearance was changed before their eyes. Even his clothes shone, becoming as white as no bleach of this world could make them. Elijah and Moses appeared to them; the two were talking with Jesus. Then Peter spoke and said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say: they were overcome with awe.

But a cloud formed, covering them in a shadow, and from the cloud came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved: listen to him!” And suddenly, as they looked around, they no longer saw anyone except Jesus with them. As they came down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept this to themselves, although they discussed with one another what ‘to rise from the dead’ could mean.

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.

March 1st

1st Reading: Dn 9:4b-10:
“Lord God, great and to be feared, you keep your Covenant and love for those who love you and observe your commandments. We have sinned, we have not been just, we have been rebels, and have turned away from your commandments and laws. We have not listened to your servants, the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, leaders, fathers and to all the people of the land.

“Lord, justice is yours, but ours is a face full of shame, as it is to this day—we, the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the whole of Israel, near and far away, in all the lands where you have dispersed us because of the infidelity we have committed against you. Ours is the shame, O Lord for we, our kings, princes, fathers, have sinned against you. We hope for pardon and mercy from the Lord, because we have rebelled against him. We have not listened to the voice of Yahweh, our God, or flowed the laws which he has given us through his servants, the prophets.”

Gospel: Lk 6:36-38:
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Don’t be a judge of others and you will not be judged; do not condemn and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you, and you will receive in your sack good measure, pressed down, full and running over. For the measure you give will be the measure you receive back.

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.

March 2nd

1st Reading: Is 1:10, 16-20:
Hear the warning of Yahweh, rulers of Sodom. Listen to the word of God, people of Gomorrah.” “Come,” says the Lord, “let us reason together. Though your sins be like scarlet, they will be white as snow; though they be as crimson red, they will be white as wool. If you will obey me, you will eat the goods of the earth; but if you resist and rebel, the sword will eat you instead.” Truly the Lord has spoken.

Gospel: Mt 23:1-12:
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees have sat down on the chair of Moses. So you shall do and observe all they say; but do not do as they do, for they do not do what they say. They tie up heavy burdens and load them on the shoulders of the people, but they do not even lift a finger to move them. They do everything in order to be seen by people: they wear very wide bands of the law around their foreheads, and robes with large tassels. They enjoy the first places at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and they like being greeted in the marketplace, and being called ‘Master’ by the people.

“But you, do not let yourselves be called Master, because you have only one Master, and all of you are brothers and sisters. Neither should you call anyone on earth Father, because you have only one Father, he who is in heaven. Nor should you be called Leader, because Christ is the only Leader for you. Let the greatest among you be the servant of all. For whoever makes himself great shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be made great.”

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.”

March 3rd

St. Katharine Drexel

1st Reading: Jer 18:18-20:
Then, they said, “Come, let us plot against Jeremiah, for even without him, there will be priests to interpret the teachings of the Law; there will always be wisemen to impart counsel and prophets to proclaim the word. Come, let us accuse him and strike him down instead of listening to what he says.” Hear me, O Yahweh! Listen to what my accusers say. Is evil the reward for good? Why do they dig a grave for me? Remember how I stood before you to speak well on their behalf so that your anger might subside.

Gospel: Mt 20:17-28:
When Jesus was going to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, “See, we are going to Jerusalem. There the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the Law, and they will condemn him to death. They will hand him over to the foreigners, who will mock him, scourge him and crucify him. But he will be raised to life on the third day.” Then the mother of James and John came to Jesus with her sons, and she knelt down, to ask a favor. Jesus said to her, “What do you want?” And she answered, “Here you have my two sons. Grant that they may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.”

Jesus said to the brothers, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They answered, “We can.” Jesus replied, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right or at my left is not for me to grant. That will be for those, for whom my Father has prepared it.” The other ten heard all this, and were angry with the two brothers.

Then Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of nations behave like tyrants, and the powerful oppress them. It shall not be so among you: whoever wants to be great in your community, let him minister to the community. And if you want to be the first of all, make yourself the servant of all. Be like the Son of Man who came, not to be served but to serve, and to give his life to redeem 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.

March 4th

St. Casimir

1st Reading: Jer 17:5-10:
This is what Yahweh says, “Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings and depends on a mortal for his life, while his heart is drawn away from Yahweh! He is like a bunch of thistles in dry land, in parched desert places, in a salt land where no one lives and who never finds happiness. Blessed is the man who puts his trust in Yahweh and whose confidence is in him!

“He is like a tree planted by the water, sending out its roots towards the stream. He has no fear when the heat comes, his leaves are always green; the year of drought is no problem and he can always bear fruit. Most deceitful is the heart. What is there within man, who can understand him? I, Yahweh, search the heart and penetrate the mind. I reward each one according to his ways and the fruit of his deeds.”

Gospel: Lk 16:19-31:
“Once there was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen and feasted every day. At his gate lay Lazarus, a poor man covered with sores, who longed to eat just the scraps falling from the rich man’s table. Even dogs used to come and lick his sores. It happened that the poor man died, and angels carried him to take his place with Abraham. The rich man also died, and was buried. From hell, where he was in torment, the rich man looked up and saw Abraham afar off, and with him Lazarus at rest.

“He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me, and send Lazarus, with the tip of his finger dipped in water, to cool my tongue, for I suffer so much in this fire!’ Abraham replied, ‘My son, remember that in your lifetime you were well-off, while the lot of Lazarus was misfortune. Now he is in comfort, and you are in agony. But that is not all. Between your place and ours a great chasm has been fixed, so that no one can cross over from here to you, or from your side to us.’

“The rich man implored once more, ‘Then I beg you, Father Abraham, send Lazarus to my father’s house, where my five brothers live. Let him warn them, so that they may not end up in this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ But the rich man said, ‘No, Father Abraham; but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced, even if someone rises 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 5th

1st Reading: Gen 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:
“Listen to another example: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a fence around it, dug a hole for the winepress, built a watchtower, leased the vineyard to tenants, and then went to a distant country. When harvest time came, the landowner sent his servants to the tenants to collect his share of the harvest. But the tenants seized his servants, beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Again the owner sent more servants, but they were treated in the same way. Finally, he sent his son, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’

“But when the tenants saw the son, they thought, ‘This is the one who is to inherit the vineyard. Let us kill him, and his inheritance will be ours.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Now, what will the owner of the vineyard do with the tenants when he comes?” They said to him, “He will bring those evil men to an evil end, and lease the vineyard to others, who will pay him in due time.”

And Jesus replied, “Have you never read what the Scriptures say? The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and we marvel at it. Therefore I say to you: the kingdom of heaven will be taken from you, and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard these parables, they realized that Jesus was referring to them. They would have arrested him, but they were afraid of the crowd, who 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 6th

St. Colette

1st Reading: Mic 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.