Bible Diary for March 15th – 21st

March 15th

3rd Sunday of Lent

1st Reading: Ex 17:3–7:
But the people thirsted for water there and grumbled against Moses, “Why did you make us leave Egypt to have us die of thirst with our children and our cattle?” So Moses cried to Yahweh, “What shall I do with the people? They are almost ready to stone me!”

Yahweh said to Moses, “Go ahead of the people and take with you the elders of Israel. Take with you the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you on the rock at Horeb. You will strike the rock and water will flow from it and the people will drink.” Moses did this in the presence of the elders of Israel. The place was called Massah and Meribah because of the complaints of the Israelites, who tested Yahweh saying, “Is Yahweh with us or not?”

2nd Reading: Romans 5:1–2, 5–8:
By faith, we have received true righteousness, and we are at peace with God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Through him, we obtain this favor, in which we remain, and we even boast to expect the glory of God. And hope does not disappoint us, because the Holy Spirit has been given to us, pouring into our hearts the love of God.

Consider, moreover, the time that Christ died for us: when we were still helpless and unable to do any-thing. Few would accept to die for an upright person; although, for a very good person, perhaps someone would dare to die. But see how God manifested his love for us: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us;

Gospel: Jn 4:5–16, 19–26, 39–42:
He came to a Samaritan town called Sychar, near the land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well is there. Tired from his journey, Jesus sat down by the well; it was about noon. Now a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” His disciples had just gone into town to buy some food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan and a woman, for a drink?” (For Jews, in fact, have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift of God! If you knew who it is, who is asking you for a drink, you yourself would have asked me, and I would have given you living water.”

The woman answered, “Sir, you have no bucket, and this well is deep; where is your living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well; he drank from it himself, together with his sons and his cattle?” Jesus said to her, “Those who drink of this water will be thirsty again; but those, who drink of the water that I shall give, will never be thirsty; for the water, that I shall give, will become in them a spring of water, welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Give me this water, that I may never be thirsty, and never have to come here to draw water.”

Jesus said, “Go, call your husband, and come back here.” The woman then said to him, “I see you are a prophet; tell me this: Our ancestors came to this mountain to worship God; but you Jews, do you not claim that Jerusalem is the only place to worship God?” Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you shall worship the Father, but that will not be on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is even now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; for that is the kind of worshippers the Father wants.

God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit, and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah (that is the Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will tell us everything.” And Jesus said, “I who am talking to you, I am he.” In that town many Samaritans believed in him when they heard the woman who declared, “He told me everything I did.” So, when they came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and Jesus stayed there two days. After that, many more believed because of his own words, and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of what you told us; we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is the Savior of the world.”

Sometimes, God pretends to have a need of us in order to befriend us, just as Jesus relied on the Samaritan woman for His drink to quench His thirst. He could very well have gotten it Himself but He chose to appear to need her help to facilitate a connection that otherwise would have been difficult considering their difference in status. It was at first awkward though civil. The woman displayed proper courtesy albeit with a bit of apprehension. But the conversation with Jesus caught her unawares for it was actually she who was in need of quenching her deeper thirst, the thirst of the soul which was way beyond Jesus’ physical thirst.

And she believed. From a potential giver of plain water to a happy recipient of the “water of life,” she shared her newfound wealth and remained one of the best of friends of Him who was formerly a stranger but now her Lord and Master. I have many “thirsts” in this life but do I take a moment to identify and sort them out? Perhaps some are not really “life-threatening.” As a matter of fact I might be the better without it. But there are some that I have to attend to in order to grow in this life. It might be a good idea to seek and drink from the “water of life” today, and from there, try to quench the thirst of others in any way I can.

March 16th

1st Reading: 2 K 5:1–15b:
Naaman was the army commander of the king of Aram. This man was highly regarded and enjoyed the king’s favor, for Yahweh had helped him lead the army of the Arameans to victory. But this valiant man was sick with leprosy. One day some Aramean soldiers raided the land of Israel and took a young girl captive who became a servant to the wife of Naaman. She said to her mistress, “If my master would only present himself to the prophet in Samaria, he would surely cure him of his leprosy.” Naaman went to tell the king what the young Israelite maidservant had said. The king of Aram said to him, “Go to the prophet, and I shall also send a letter to the king of Israel.”

So Naaman went and took with him ten silver talents, six thousand gold pieces and ten festal garments. On his arrival, he delivered the letter to the king of Israel. It said, “I present my servant Naaman to you that you may heal him of his leprosy. When the king read the letter, he tore his clothes to show his indignation, “I am not God to give life or death. And the king of Aram sends me this man to be healed! You see, he is just looking for an excuse for war.” Elisha, the man of God, came to know that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, so he sent this message to him: “Why have you torn your clothes? Let the man come to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.”

So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and stopped before the house of Elisha. Elisha then sent a messenger to tell him, “Go to the river Jordan and wash seven times, and your flesh shall be as it was before, and you shall be cleansed.” Naaman was angry, so he went away. He thought: “On my arrival, he should have personally come out, and then paused and called on the name of Yahweh, his God. And he should have touched with his hand the infected part, and I would have been healed. Are the rivers of Damascus, Abana and Pharpar not better than all the rivers of the land of Israel? Could I not wash there to be healed?”

His servants approached him and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had ordered you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? But how much easier when he said: ‘Take a bath and you will be cleansed.’” So Naaman went down to the Jordan where he washed himself seven times as Elisha had ordered. His skin became soft like that of a child and he was cleansed. Then Naaman returned to the man of God with all his men. He entered and said to him, “Now I know that there is no other God anywhere in the world but in Israel. I ask you to accept these gifts from your servant.”

Gospel: Lk 4:24–30:
Jesus added, “No prophet is honored in his own country. Truly, I say to you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens withheld rain for three years and six months and a great famine came over the whole land. Yet, Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow of Zarephath, in the country of Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha, the prophet; and no one was healed except Naaman, the Syrian.”

On hearing these words, the whole assembly became indignant. They rose up and brought him out of the town, to the edge of the hill on which Nazareth is built, intending to throw him down the cliff. But he passed through their midst and went his way.

Everybody wants to be recognized and loved. And having encountered that, we hold on to it and defend it. The Israelite’s glory in their being the chosen race, the people beloved by God. It is therefore a shock when Jesus pointed out from their history that there were instances when God preferred the pagans over them.

They could not take this sitting down. And so the act of violence ensued. Jesus had to walk away from their pettiness and leave with his life intact. It is not Jesus whom the people should kill. It should have been their false sense of honor and pride.

March 17th

St. Patrick
St. Joseph of Arimathea

1st Reading: Dn 3:25, 34-43:
Azariah stood up in the midst of the fire and prayed aloud: Do not abandon us forever, do not reject your Covenant for your name’s sake. Do not withdraw your mercy from us, for the sake of Abraham, your friend, of Isaac, your servant, of Israel, your holy one, to whom you promised to multiply their race as the stars of heaven and the sand on the shore of the sea. Lord, see, we have become the least among the nations in all the world, and we are humiliated because of our sins. At this time, we no longer have a king, or prophet, or leader. We cannot offer you holocausts, sacrifices, offerings, or incense.

We have no place to present to you the first fruits of our crops, and so obtain your favor. But at least when we present ourselves with a contrite soul and humbled spirit may we then be acceptable to you, more than by offerings of rams and calves as holocausts, and of thousands of fat lambs. May this sacrifice of ours today obtain for us your favor, for we know that those who trust in you shall never be disappointed. And now, we serve you with our whole heart, we fear you and we seek your face. Do not leave us in our humiliation, but treat us according to your kindness and your great mercy. Free us, in keeping with your wonders, and give us the glory of your name, Lord.

Gospel: Mt 18:21-35:
Peter asked him, “Lord, how many times must I forgive the offenses of my brother or sister? Seven times?“

Jesus answered, “No, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. This story throws light on the kingdom of Heaven: A king decided to settle accounts with his servants. Among the first of them was one who owed him ten thousand pieces of gold. As the man could not repay the debt, the king commanded that he be sold as a slave with his wife, his children and all his goods, as repayment. The servant threw himself at the feet of the king and said, ‘Give me time, and I will pay you back everything.’ The king took pity on him, and not only set him free, but even cancelled his debt. When this servant left the king’s presence, he met one of his fellow servants, who owed him a hundred pieces of silver. He grabbed him by the throat and almost choked him, shouting, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ His fellow servant threw himself at his feet and begged him, ‘Give me time, and I will pay everything.’ But the other did not agree, and sent him to prison until he had paid all his debt. Now the servants of the king saw what had happened. They were extremely upset, and so they went and reported everything to their lord. Then the lord summoned his servant and said, ‘Wicked servant, I forgave you all that you owed me when you begged me to do so. Weren’t you bound to have pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ The lord was now angry. He handed the wicked servant over to be punished, until he had paid the whole debt.“

Jesus added, “So will my heavenly Father do with you, unless you sincerely forgive your brothers and sisters.“

Our constant prayer is always “Lord, have mercy on me!“ This is the substance of the prayer of Azariah in the book of Daniel in our first reading. The book of Proverbs tells us: “For a righteous man falls seven times (Proverbs 24:16).“ We have to always remember that we need to be forgiven. Daily! So we also pray the “Our Father“ and daily pray for forgiveness. The parable of the unforgiving servant in the Gospel of today reminds us that our God forgives us our trespasses over and over. In the Latin translation of the Our Father we beg forgiveness for our “debts.“

The parable tells us that our “debt“, our “utang“ is so astronomically unpayable so the Lord simply forgives us! And so, as we have been forgiven so much, so we must in turn be forgiving of the miniscule offenses of our fellow servants. The parable reminds us that the greatest ingratitude to our merciful God that we can commit is to be unforgiving of “debts“ of our fellow sinners. The warning of the Lord is very clear! Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Refuse to forgive, and you may in turn be refused forgiveness! Are you ready to forgive?

March 18th

St. Cyril of Jerusalem

1st Reading: Dt 4:1, 5–9:
And now, Israel, listen to the norms and laws which I teach that you may put them into practice. And you will live and enter and take possession of the land which Yahweh, the God of your fathers, gives you. See, as Yahweh, my God, ordered me, I am teaching you the norms and the laws that you may put them into practice in the land you are going to enter and have as your own. If you observe and practice them, other peoples will regard you as wise and intelligent.

When they come to know of all these laws, they will say, “There is no people as wise and as intelligent as this great nation.” For in truth, is there a nation as great as ours, whose gods are as near to it as Yahweh, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him? And is there a nation as great as ours whose norms and laws are as just as this law which I give you today? But be careful and be on your guard. Do not forget these things which your own eyes have seen nor let them depart from your heart as long as you live. But on the contrary, teach them to your children and to your children’s children.

Gospel: Mt 5:17–19:
Do not think that I have come to annul the law and the prophets. I have not come to annul them, but to fulfill them. I tell you this: as long as heaven and earth last, not the smallest letter or dot in the law will change, until all is fulfilled. So then, whoever breaks the least important of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be the least in the kingdom of heaven. On the other hand, whoever obeys them, and teaches others to do the same, will be great in the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus may come across as a maverick but He is not a nihilist of the Law and the Prophets. What He does is not to demolish them but to bring out their real essence. He is not therefore abolishing them. He is bringing them to their fullest sense. However people tend to stay on the literal surface meaning of the letter of the Law.

They are too lazy to sink deep into its mystery in order to have a better appreciation of it. They would rather choose the easy way. It requires hard work to really enter into the essence of the Law. And so Jesus is not only in battle with the literalist unimaginative interpreters of the Law. He is also combating their laziness so that they can truly understand its meaning.

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:
If God promised Abraham, or rather his descendants, that the world would belong to him, this was not because of his obeying the law, but because he was just, and a friend of God, through faith. For that reason, faith is the way, and all is given, by grace; and the promises of Abraham are fulfilled for all his descendants, not only for his children according to the law, but, also, for all the others, who have believed.

Abraham is the father of all of us, as it is written: I will make you the father of many nations. He is our father, in the eyes of Him, who gives life to the dead, and calls into existence, what does not yet exist, for this is the God in whom he believed. Abraham believed, and hoped against all expectation, thus, becoming the father of many nations, as he had been told: See how many will be your descendants. This was taken into account, for him to attain 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.

Joseph is the silent man of the Gospel. He never had a speaking part. Yet he played an important role in salvation history. He provided the proper lineage to Jesus as the Messiah from the roots of Jesse, a descendant from the house David. He was portrayed as “pondering over” his course of action when he found out that Mary was pregnant. He was a man prone to deep thoughts before making a decision.

This is probably the reason why Joseph was chosen to carry a ministry that God had not asked any man before. He thought before he acted. Once he was sure of what to do, he set things in motion without looking back. God is in need of a man who once convinced will not go back from his words. Silent but reliable, Joseph became the Father of the Son of God here below.

March 20th

1st Reading: Hos 14:2–10:
Return to your God, Yahweh, O Israel! Your sins have caused your downfall. Return to Yahweh with humble words. Say to him, “Oh, you who show compassion to the fatherless, forgive our debt, be appeased. Instead of bulls and sacrifices, accept the praise from our lips. Assyria will not save us: no longer shall we look for horses, nor ever again shall we say ‘Our gods’ to the work of our hands.” I will heal their disloyalty and love them with all my heart, for my anger has turned from them. I shall be like dew to Israel, like the lily will he blossom.

Like a cedar, he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow and spread. His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance, like a Lebanon cedar.  They will dwell in my shade again, they will flourish like the grain, they will blossom like a vine, and their fame will be like Lebanon wine. What would Ephraim do with idols, when it is I who hear and make him prosper? I am like an evergreen cypress tree; all your fruitfulness comes from me. Who is wise enough to grasp all this? Who is discerning and will understand? Straight are the ways of Yahweh: the just walk in them, but the sinners stumble.

Gospel: Mk 12:28–34:
A teacher of the law had been listening to this discussion and admired how Jesus answered them. So he came up and asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is: Hear, Israel! The Lord, our God, is One Lord; and you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. And after this comes a second commandment: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these two.”

The teacher of the law said to him, “Well spoken, Master; you are right when you say that he is one, and there is no other besides him. To love him with all our heart, with all our understanding and with all our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves is more important than any burnt offering or sacrifice.” Jesus approved this answer and said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.

No one can do wrong with love. It is the foundation of all other laws. However, love could be used so many times even for the wrong reasons so much so that it loses its power to inspire and ignite the heart. It becomes only a word for the lips to pronounce but bereft of its majestic weight and stature. But despite the abuses love is subjected to it never goes out of style.

After all, with proper discernment, in the many instances that love has been misused, people realize that it is the person not the love that broke someone’s heart, wounded friendship and did ill to others. The meaning of love derived from God remains valid and true. It is for this reason that some teachers of the Law found friendship with Jesus. Many might have been His enemies from their ranks, but there were always some who were not far from the kingdom of God.

March 21st

1st Reading: Hos 6:1–6:
Come, let us return to Yahweh. He who shattered us to pieces, will heal us as well; he has struck us down, but he will bind up our wounds. Two days later he will bring us back to life; on the third day, he will raise us up, and we shall live in his presence. Let us strive to know Yahweh. His coming is as certain as the dawn; his judgment will burst forth like the light; he will come to us as showers come, like spring rain that waters the earth.

O Ephraim, what shall I do with you? O Judah, how shall I deal with you? This love of yours is like morning mist, like morning dew that quickly disappears. This is why I smote you through the prophets, and have slain you by the words of my mouth. For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice; it is knowledge of God, not burnt offerings.

Gospel: Lk 18:9–14:
Jesus told another parable to some people, fully convinced of their own righteousness, who looked down on others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself, and said, ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people, grasping, crooked, adulterous, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and give a tenth of all my income to the temple.’ In the meantime the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’ I tell you, when this man went back to his house, he had been reconciled with God, but not the other. For whoever makes himself out to be great will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be raised up.”

Beauty shines most when it is not conscious of itself. This is also true in holiness. If one is not conscious of one’s virtue the more it will have the power to inspire others. For whatever is true and genuine does not need our help to promote it. It needs no justification or advertisement for it to be real. Being unselfconscious is therefore the ingredient that makes holiness holier.

And perhaps this is where our battle lies with ourselves. For after having acquired the virtue, we must protect it from our tendency to seek praise and recognition. In the end, we should not only be afraid of the devil out there who might try to rob our holiness from us. We also have to watch ourselves.