Bible Diary for March 14th – 20th

March 14th

4th Sunday of Lent

1st Reading: 2 Chr 36:14-16, 19-23:
Furthermore, all the heads of the priesthood, and the people, too, were exceedingly unfaithful, following the disgusting example of the nations around them, and so they defiled the house which Yahweh himself had made holy. Yahweh, the God of their ancestors, continued to send prophets to warn his people, since he had compassion on them and on his dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, ignored his words, and laughed at his prophets, until at last the anger of Yahweh rose so high against his people that there was no further remedy.

They burned down the House of God, broke down the walls of Jerusalem, set fire to all its palaces, and destroyed everything of value in it. The survivors were deported by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon; they were to serve him and his descendants as slaves until the kingdom of Persia came to power. This is how the work of Yahweh was fulfilled that he spoke through Jeremiah, “The land will lie desolate for seventy years, to make up for its Sabbath rests that have not been observed.”

And in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, to fulfill what he had said through the prophet Jeremiah, Yahweh stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia to issue the following command and send it out in writing to be read aloud everywhere in his kingdom: “Thus speaks Cyrus king of Persia: Yahweh, the God of heaven, who has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, has ordered me to build him a house in Jerusalem, in Judah. Now, all of you who belong to his people, go there and may Yahweh your God be with you.”

2nd Reading: Eph 2:4-10:
But God, who is rich in mercy, revealed his immense love. As we were dead through our sins, he gave us life with Christ. By grace you have been saved! And he raised us to life with Christ, giving us a place with him in heaven. In showing us such kindness in Christ Jesus, God willed to reveal and unfold in the coming ages the extraordinary riches of his grace. By the grace of God you have been saved through faith. This has not come from you: it is God’s gift. This was not the result of your works, so you are not to feel proud. What we are is God’s work. He has created us in Christ Jesus for the good works he has prepared that we should devote ourselves to them.

Gospel: Jn 3:14-21:
”As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. Yes, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world; instead, through him the world is to be saved. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned. He who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

“This is how Judgment is made: Light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For whoever does wrong hates the light, and doesn’t come to the light, for fear that his deeds will be seen as evil. But whoever lives according to the truth comes into the light, so that it can be clearly seen that his works have been done in God.”

God’s presence in our lives is constant. How come we are not able to recognize His loving presence? What are our preoccupations these days? Do we really see the light of God or are we blinded by the experience of human joy brought by our comfort zones? Lord Jesus, show to us the light of your eternal joy. Unmask us with our deceptions and lies and free us from our self-centeredness and comfort zones. Amen. Go out from your comfort zones and fling yourself into the world. Cultivate the culture of truth, life and love.

March 15th

1st Reading: Is 65:17-21:
I now create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind again. Be glad forever and rejoice in what I create; for I create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people. The sound of distress and the voice of weeping will not be heard in it any more. You will no longer know of dead children or of adults who do not live out a lifetime. One who reaches a hundred years will have died a mere youth, but one who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant crops and eat their fruit.

Gospel: Jn 4:43–54:
When the two days were over, Jesus left for Galilee. Jesus himself said that no prophet is recognized in his own country. Yet the Galileans welcomed him when he arrived, because of all the things which he had done in Jerusalem during the Festival, and which they had seen. For they, too, had gone to the feast. Jesus went back to Cana of Galilee, where he had changed the water into wine. At Capernaum there was an official, whose son was ill, and when he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and asked him to come and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Jesus said, “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe!”

The official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” And Jesus replied, “Go, your son lives!” The man had faith in the word that Jesus spoke to him, and went his way. As he was approaching his house, his servants met him, and gave him the good news, “Your son has recovered!” So he asked them at what hour the child began to recover, and they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday, at about one o’clock in the afternoon.” And the father realized that that was the time when Jesus had told him, “Your son lives!” And he became a believer, he and all his family. Jesus performed this second miraculous sign when he returned from Judea to Galilee.

The account of the healing of the official’s son confronts us with the question of what faith is. We are presented with two contrasting characters: the Galileans who welcomed Jesus because of the miracles he had performed, and a desperate father worried for his dying son. The Galileans were not interested in Jesus but only in his miracles, while the desperate father who did not show initial interest in the person of Jesus, trusted in the authority of Jesus’ word.

This was a teachable moment for Jesus about true faith as he realized that the despised and the rejected believed in him more than his own people who either opposed him or refused to be interested in him beyond mere fascination for miracles. The story doesn’t teach that if we show persistence we’ll get what we want. The official, despite his position of authority could not compel Jesus to come with him but chose to trust in Jesus’ words. The story teaches us that if we trust in Jesus and believe in his word, he will take care of us as he did the official and his son. Life’s difficulties are meant to challenge us to grow in faith.

March 16th

1st Reading: Ez 47:1-9, 12:
The angel brought me, Ezekiel, back to the entrance of the temple of the LORD, and I saw water flowing out from beneath the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the façade of the temple was toward the east; the water flowed down from the right side of the temple, south of the altar. He led me outside by the north gate, and around to the outer gate facing the east, where I saw water trickling from the right side. Then when he had walked off to the east with a measuring cord in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and had me wade through the water, which was ankle-deep. He measured off another thousand and once more had me wade through the water, which was now knee-deep.

Again he measured off a thousand and had me wade; the water was up to my waist. Once more he measured off a thousand, but there was now a river through which I could not wade; for the water had risen so high it had become a river that could not be crossed except by swimming. He asked me, “Have you seen this, son of man?” Then he brought me to the bank of the river, where he had me sit. Along the bank of the river I saw very many trees on both sides.

He said to me, “This water flows into the eastern district down upon the Arabah, and empties into the sea, the salt waters, which it makes fresh.  Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live, and there shall be abundant fish, for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh. Along both banks of the river, fruit trees of every kind shall grow; their leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail. Every month they shall bear fresh fruit, for they shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary. Their fruit shall serve for food, and their leaves for medicine.”

Gospel: Jn 5:1-16:
There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes. In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked. Now that day was a Sabbath.

So the Jews said to the man who was cured, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” He answered them, “The man who made me well told me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’“ They asked him, “Who is the man who told you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” The man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there. After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him, “Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went and told the Jews that Jesus was the one who had made him well. Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus because he did this on a Sabbath.

Paralysis is a serious illness that renders a person partially or completely immobile. It can be physical, psychological, or spiritual, temporary or permanent. Affecting one’s spirit, paralysis can render the person incapable to act or even to believe. In today’s story, we are presented with a paralytic for 38 years. A numerical device is used here to help us remember the exodus event, which actually took only 2 years. Because of the Israelites lack of faith in God and in their capacity to conquer the land from the Canaanites, they spent 38 more years wandering in the desert until they were able to trust God enough to help them enter the Promised Land.

In effect, they were spiritually paralyzed for 38 years, unable to reach their goal. The paralytic’s situation is a microcosm of the exodus and our own faith journey. The paralytic had no one to support him nor did he believe that someone would until Jesus came. But he needed to express first his desire for healing and his need for help, an affirmation of the relational nature of Christian faith. In what way are we like the paralytic? What paralyzes us from living our faith?

March 17th

St. Patrick’s Day
St. Joseph of Arimathea

1st Reading: Is 49:8-15:
Thus says the Lord: In a time of favor I answer you, on the day of salvation I help you; and I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people, to restore the land and allot the desolate heritages, saying to the prisoners: Come out! To those in darkness: show yourselves! Along the ways they shall find pasture, on every bare height shall their pastures be. They shall not hunger or thirst, nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them; for he who pities them leads them and guides them beside springs of water.

I will cut a road through all my mountains, and make my highways level. See, some shall come from afar, others from the north and the west, and some from the land of Syene. Sing out, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth, break forth into song, you mountains. For the Lord comforts his people and shows mercy to his afflicted. But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.” Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.

Gospel: Jn 5:17-30:
Jesus answered the Jews: “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.” For this reason they tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God. Jesus answered and said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for what he does, the Son will do also. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything that he himself does, and he will show him greater works than these, so that you may be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes.

“Nor does the Father judge anyone, but he has given all judgment to the Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life. Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to the Son the possession of life in himself.

“And he gave him power to exercise judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation. I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me.”

Today’s gospel reminds us of the often used phrase “chip off the old block”, which generally means that a person (usually a male) behaves in the same way as his father or resembles his father. It widely refers to the relationship between father and son, and means that they are of similar character, or “made of the same stuff” so to speak. Jesus proclaims to the Jews and to us his listeners that he and the Father are “of the same stuff” when he said, “Truly, I assure you, the Son cannot do anything by himself, but only what he sees the Father do. And whatever he does, the Son also does.”

Jesus is the perfect mirror of the Father as He acts in Jesus and through him. Their father-son bond is limitless. Jesus, like the Father, is a source of life because if life is what the Father offers, so does he, the son, offer life to those who believe. Therefore our faith in the life-giving character of God in Jesus enables us to endure hardships, challenges, trials, and persecutions because we know that if we remain united with God, we are safe and secure.

March 18th

St. Cyril of Jerusalem

1st Reading: Ex 32:7-14:
The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once to your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, for they have become depraved. They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them, making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it, sacrificing to it and crying out, ‘This is your God, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ The Lord said to Moses, “I see how stiff-necked this people is. Let me alone, then, that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them. Then I will make of you a great nation.”

But Moses implored the Lord, his God, saying, “Why, O Lord, should your wrath blaze up against your own people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with such great power and with so strong a hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent he brought them out, that he might kill them in the mountains and exterminate them from the face of the earth’? Let your blazing wrath die down; relent in punishing your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, and how you swore to them by your own self, saying, ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky; and all this land that I promised, I will give your descendants as their perpetual heritage.’“

So the Lord relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people.

Gospel: Jn 5:31-47:
Jesus said to the Jews: “If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true. But there is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true. You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth. I do not accept human testimony, but I say this so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light. But I have testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf.

“But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form, and you do not have his word remaining in you, because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life. I do not accept human praise; moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you.  I came in the name of my Father, but you do not accept me; yet if another comes in his own name, you will accept him.

“How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father: the one who will accuse you is Moses, in whom you have placed your hope. For if you had believed Moses, you would have believed me, because he wrote about me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

Idolatry was one of the sins of the people of Israel that God condemned. Since the image of the relationship between God and his people was in terms of marriage, idolatry was like adultery. It was infidelity and is the worst form of betrayal. It is a perennial temptation for human beings to create a God to their image and likeness. We choose a God whom we can put in our pocket, one who will approve our ways and justify what we want to do. But this is not believing in God. This is creating an idol. When we are growing we tend to put some people we admire on a pedestal.

There is nothing wrong with this but as we grow more mature we have to put them gently one by one because if not, they will fall from their pedestal and it is not they who will suffer but we who put them there. “Thou shalt not have strange gods before me“ God reminds us. There is only one God and to this God we owe absolute and abiding fidelity. We have to get rid of the false gods, the golden calves we have created along the way and turn back to the God who is ever faithful to us and loves us with an unconditional love in spite of our infidelity.

March 19th

St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary

1st Reading: 2 S 7:4–5a, 12–14a, 16:
But that very night, Yahweh’s word came to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, this is what Yahweh says: Are you able to build a house for me to live in? When the time comes for you to rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your son after you, the one born of you and I will make his reign secure. He shall build a house for my name and I will firmly establish his kingship forever. I will be a father to him and he shall be my son. If he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod, as men do. Your house and your reign shall last forever before me, and your throne shall be forever firm.”

2nd Reading: Rom 4:13, 16–18, 22:
Brothers and sisters:
It was not through the law that the promise was made to Abraham and his descendants that he would inherit the world, but through the righteousness that comes from faith. For this reason, it depends on faith, so that it may be a gift, and the promise may be guaranteed to all his descendants, not to those who only adhere to the law but to those who follow the faith of Abraham, who is the father of all of us, as it is written, I have made you father of many nations.

He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into being what does not exist. He believed, hoping against hope, that he would become the father of many nations, according to what was said, Thus shall your descendants be. That is why it was credited to him as righteousness.

Gospel: Mt 1:16, 18–21, 24a:
Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and from her came Jesus who is called the Christ—the Messiah. This is how Jesus Christ was born: Mary his mother had been given to Joseph in marriage, but before they lived together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph, her husband, made plans to divorce her in all secrecy. He was an upright man, and in no way did he want to disgrace her.

While he was pondering over this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. She has conceived by the Holy Spirit, and now she will bear a son. You shall call him ‘Jesus’ for he will save his people from their sins.” When Joseph awoke, he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do, and he took his wife to his home.

Today as we celebrate the feast of St. Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, we are invited to reflect on the importance of the father in our lives and the lives of children, whether he is in the household or not. God deemed it important that in Jesus’ humanity, he would experience a family life that would help him grow and mature in grace and wisdom in a normal setting with the help and guidance of a father figure, a “just man” in the eyes of God and the world. In a patriarchal setting such as the Jewish culture, the role of the father is important for the identity and development of the child.

Its importance cannot be discounted in spite of patriarchy’s unjust consequences on the status of women in church and societal structures. Recent studies show that there is evidence indicating that father engagement positively affects the social, behavioral, psychological and cognitive outcomes of children. Pope Benedict XVI highlights this special role of Joseph, writing of him as “the model of the ‘just’ man (Mt 1:19), who in perfect sympathy with his spouse, welcomes the Son of God made man and guards over his human growth.”

March 20th

1st Reading: Jer 11:18-20:
Yahweh made it known to me and so I know! And you let me see their scheming: “Take care, even your kinsfolk and your own family are false with you and behind your back they freely criticize you. Do not trust them when they approach you in a friendly way.” But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. I did not know it was against me that they were plotting, “Let us feed him with trials and remove him from the land of the living and let his name never be mentioned again.” Yahweh, God of Hosts, you who judge with justice and know everyone’s heart and intentions, let me see your vengeance on them, for to you I have entrusted my cause.

Gospel: Jn 7:40-53:
Many who had been listening to these words began to say, “This is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some wondered, “Would the Christ come from Galilee? Doesn’t Scripture say that the Christ is a descendant of David and from Bethlehem, the city of David?” The crowd was divided over him. Some wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. The officers of the temple went back to the chief priests, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him?” The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man.”

The Pharisees then said, “So you, too, have been led astray! Have any of the rulers or any of the Pharisees believed in him? Only these cursed people, who have no knowledge of the Law!” Yet one of them, Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier, spoke out, “Does our law condemn people without first hearing them and knowing the facts?” They replied, “Do you, too, come from Galilee? Look it up and see for yourself that no prophet is to come from Galilee.” And they all went home.

If the debate on Jesus’ identity were to happen in the context of our postmodern world, it would be totally understandable because today, identity is no longer a given, but an open question. Yet, facts about a person’s background and origins are not enough bases in knowing a person. It takes an investment of time and openness to get to know the other, and yet we know the mystery of the other cannot be totally known. In today’s gospel, it is obvious that the people did not know the real identity of Jesus. If they knew who Jesus really was, they would not have debated on his true identity.

Without hearing out Jesus, the chief priests and the Pharisees already had a bias against him, forming a judgment of him. This proves that anyone with “an ax to grind” would not be interested in the truth but only in achieving one’s intended goals. The question of Nicodemus, “Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?” is also meant for us. How often do we tend to allow our prejudices to form false judgments about others, without truly knowing them?