Bible Diary for March 21st – 27th

March 21st

5th Sunday of Lent

1st Reading: Jer 31:31-34:
The time is coming—it is Yahweh who speaks—when I will forge a New Covenant with the people of Israel and the people of Judah. It will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt. For they broke my Covenant although I was their Lord. This is the Covenant I shall make with Israel after that time: I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts; I will be their God and they will be my people. And they will not have to teach each other, neighbor or brother, saying: ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the greatest to the lowliest, for I will forgive their wrongdoing and no longer remember their sin.”

2nd Reading: Heb 5:7-9:
Christ, in the days of his mortal life, offered his sacrifice with tears and cries. He prayed to him who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his humble submission. Although he was Son, he learned through suffering what obedience was, and once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for those who obey him.

Gospel: Jn 12:20-33:
There were some Greeks who had come up to Jerusalem to worship during the feast. They approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went to Andrew, and the two of them told Jesus. Then Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Those who love their life destroy it, and those who despise their life in this world save it even to everlasting life. Whoever wants to serve me, let him follow me; and wherever I am, there shall my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

“Now my soul is in distress. Shall I say, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But, to face all this, I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your Name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” People standing there heard something and said it was thunder; but others said, “An angel was speaking to him.” Then Jesus declared, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours. Now sentence is being passed on this world; now the prince of this world is to be cast down. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to myself.” With these words Jesus referred to the kind of death he was to die.

The one who is great is the one who loves! Can you still love when you are despised, persecuted, and rejected? How can you love a friend who betrayed you? Jesus had gone through all these difficulties and trials because of his obedience to the love of the Father and this love has been forged deep within our hearts – a heart that forgives and loves immeasurably. Loving Father forgive me for the many times that I have not loved because I am jealous and discontented.

Forgive me for the many times that I hate my brothers or sisters because I am so blinded by my self-determination. O my God, teach me to have the heart of Jesus, your Son, our Savior! Amen. Take time to identify people whom you have hurt and have hurt you. Gather your strength in prayer and be guided by love to be able to forgive the people that have hurt you and be able to ask forgiveness for the people whom you have hurt.

March 22nd

1st Reading: Dn 13:1–9, 15–17, 19–30, 33–62:
In Babylon there lived a man named Joakim, who married a very beautiful and God-fearing woman, Susanna, the daughter of Hilkiah; her pious parents had trained their daughter according to the law of Moses. Joakim was very rich; he had a garden near his house, and the Jews had recourse to him often because he was the most respected of them all. That year, two elders of the people were appointed judges, of whom the Lord said, “Wickedness has come out of Babylon: from the elders who were to govern the people as judges.”

These men, to whom all brought their cases, frequented the house of Joakim. When the people left at noon, Susanna used to enter her husband’s garden for a walk. When the old men saw her enter every day for her walk, they began to lust for her. They suppressed their consciences; they would not allow their eyes to look to heaven, and did not keep in mind just judgments. One day, while they were waiting for the right moment, she entered the garden as usual, with two maids only. She decided to bathe, for the weather was warm.

Nobody else was there except the two elders, who had hidden themselves and were watching her. “Bring me oil and soap,” she said to the maids, “and shut the garden doors while I bathe.” As soon as the maids had left, the two old men got up and hurried to her. “Look,” they said, “the garden doors are shut, and no one can see us; give in to our desire, and lie with us. If you refuse, we will testify against you that you dismissed your maids because a young man was here with you.” “I am completely trapped,” Susanna groaned.

“If I yield, it will be my death; if I refuse, I cannot escape your power. Yet it is better for me to fall into your power without guilt than to sin before the Lord.” Then Susanna shrieked, and the old men also shouted at her, as one of them ran to open the garden doors. When the people in the house heard the cries from the garden, they rushed in by the side gate to see what had happened to her. At the accusations by the old men, the servants felt very much ashamed, for never had any such thing been said about Susanna. When the people came to her husband Joakim the next day, the two wicked elders also came, fully determined to put Susanna to death.

Before all the people they ordered: “Send for Susanna, the daughter of Hilkiah, the wife of Joakim.” When she was sent for, she came with her parents, children and all her relatives. All her relatives and the onlookers were weeping. In the midst of the people the two elders rose up and laid their hands on her head. Through tears she looked up to heaven, for she trusted in the Lord wholeheartedly.

The elders made this accusation: “As we were walking in the garden alone, this woman entered with two girls and shut the doors of the garden, dismissing the girls. A young man, who was hidden there, came and lay with her. When we, in a corner of the garden, saw this crime, we ran toward them. We saw them lying together, but the man we could not hold, because he was stronger than we; he opened the doors and ran off. Then we seized her and asked who the young man was, but she refused to tell us. We testify to this.”

The assembly believed them, since they were elders and judges of the people, and they condemned her to death. But Susanna cried aloud: “O eternal God, you know what is hidden and are aware of all things before they come to be: you know that they have testified falsely against me. Here I am about to die, though I have done none of the things with which these wicked men have charged me.” The Lord heard her prayer. As she was being led to execution, God stirred up the holy spirit of a young boy named Daniel, and he cried aloud: “I will have no part in the death of this woman.” All the people turned and asked him, “What is this you are saying?”

He stood in their midst and continued, “Are you such fools, O children of Israel!  To condemn a woman of Israel without examination and without clear evidence? Return to court, for they have testified falsely against her.” Then all the people returned in haste. To Daniel the elders said, “Come, sit with us and inform us, since God has given you the prestige of old age.” But he replied, “Separate these two far from each other that I may examine them.”

After they were separated one from the other, he called one of them and said: “How you have grown evil with age! Now have your past sins come to term: passing unjust sentences, condemning the innocent, and freeing the guilty, although the Lord says, ‘The innocent and the just you shall not put to death.’ Now, then, if you were a witness, tell me under what tree you saw them together.” “Under a mastic tree,” he answered. Daniel replied, “Your fine lie has cost you your head, for the angel of God shall receive the sentence from him and split you in two.” Putting him to one side, he ordered the other one to be brought.

Daniel said to him, “Offspring of Canaan, not of Judah, beauty has seduced you, lust has subverted your conscience. This is how you acted with the daughters of Israel, and in their fear they yielded to you; but a daughter of Judah did not tolerate your wickedness. Now, then, tell me under what tree you surprised them together.” “Under an oak,” he said. Daniel replied, “Your fine lie has cost you also your head, for the angel of God waits with a sword to cut you in two so as to make an end of you both.”

The whole assembly cried aloud, blessing God who saves those who hope in him. They rose up against the two elders, for by their own words Daniel had convicted them of perjury. According to the law of Moses, they inflicted on them the penalty they had plotted to impose on their neighbor: they put them to death. Thus was innocent blood spared that day.

Gospel: Jn 8:1–11:
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area,  and all the people started coming to him,  and he sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery  and made her stand in the middle. They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught  in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him.

Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin  be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

In this reading we are presented with two contrasting attitudes—the cold-heartedness of the scribes and Pharisees and the compassion of Jesus. Not interested in hearing out the woman’s real story, the Pharisees were using her to trap Jesus. Taking advantage of the law against adultery that forbade women citizens to consort with or even look at other men besides their husbands, the Pharisees used the woman as collateral damage in pursuing their evil intention. In the absence of DNA tests, the law was to ensure that should a married woman get pregnant the child she was carrying was her husband’s.

All the man had to do to accuse his wife of adultery, and to doubt the paternity of the child his wife was carrying. Jesus was aware of such injustice in the application of the law, with the woman suffering from the full brunt of the law, while the man went scot-free. His challenge to the Pharisees, beginning with the elders, is also his challenge to us: to look first into ourselves before we condemn others. What we condemn in others is what sometimes we do not like in ourselves. Can we forgive and accept ourselves as Jesus has?

March 23rd

St. Turibius

1st Reading: Num 21:4-9:
From Mount Hor they set out by the Red Sea road to go around the land of Edom. The people were discouraged by the journey and began to complain against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is neither bread nor water here and we are disgusted with this tasteless manna.” Yahweh then sent fiery serpents against them. They bit the people and many of the Israelites died.

Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, speaking against Yahweh and against you. Plead with Yahweh to take the serpents away.” Moses pleaded for the people and Yahweh said to him, “Make a poisonous serpent and set it on a standard; whoever has been bitten and then looks at it shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a standard. Whenever a man was bitten, he looked towards the bronze serpent and he lived.

Gospel: Jn 8:21-30:
Again Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and though you look for me, you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.” The Jews wondered, “Why does he say that we can’t come where he is going? Will he kill himself?” But Jesus said, “You are from below and I am from above; you are of this world and I am not of this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. And you shall die in your sins, unless you believe that I am He.”

They asked him, “Who are you?”; and Jesus said, “Just what I have told you from the beginning. I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the One who sent me is truthful and everything I learned from him, I proclaim to the world.” They didn’t understand that Jesus was speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He and that I do nothing of myself, but I say just what the Father taught me. He who sent me is with me and has not left me alone; because I always do what pleases him.” As Jesus spoke like this, many believed in him.

The message of life and choice of life is strong not only in the gospels but also in the entire Bible. We are summoned to choose life and not death. For the Pharisees to insinuate that Jesus was going to commit suicide in today’s gospel is serious as it is anathema in Jewish teachings from the beginning. In effect they were accusing Jesus of going against the teaching to honor life. In their incomprehension, they conjectured that if Jesus committed suicide, he would go to a place of judgment where they would not be able to follow him.

This was such a fatal misinterpretation on their part, totally misunderstanding what Jesus said or hardheartedly rejecting him and his message out of spite and envy. Ironically, the reference to suicide could be applied to them and to us, as unbelief is like suicide in rejecting Jesus’ offer of life. When we reject God who is the source of life, we are fundamentally opting for death. During this Lenten season, God is inviting us to ask ourselves these honest questions: What is keeping us from truly believing in Jesus and his life-giving message? What is blocking our faith?

March 24th

St. Oscar Romero

1st Reading: Dn 3:14-20, 91-92, 95:
King Nebuchadnezzar said: “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you will not serve my god, or worship the golden statue that I set up? Be ready now to fall down and worship the statue I had made, whenever you hear the sound of the trumpet, flute, lyre, harp, psaltery, bagpipe, and all the other musical instruments; otherwise, you shall be instantly cast into the white-hot furnace; and who is the God who can deliver you out of my hands?”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, “There is no need for us to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us! But even if he will not, know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue that you set up.” King Nebuchadnezzar’s face became livid with utter rage against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace to be heated seven times more than usual and had some of the strongest men in his army bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and cast them into the white-hot furnace.

Nebuchadnezzar rose in haste and asked his nobles, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” “Assuredly, O king,” they answered. “But,” he replied, “I see four men unfettered and unhurt, walking in the fire, and the fourth looks like a son of God.”  Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who sent his angel to deliver the servants who trusted in him; they disobeyed the royal command and yielded their bodies rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.”

Gospel: Jn 8:31-42:
Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.  How can you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains.  So if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free. I know that you are descendants of Abraham. But you are trying to kill me, because my word has no room among you.  I tell you what I have seen in the Father’s presence; then do what you have heard from the Father.”

They answered and said to him, “Our father is Abraham.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works of Abraham. But now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God; Abraham did not do this. You are doing the works of your father!” So they said to him, “We were not born of fornication. We have one Father, God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and am here; I did not come on my own, but he sent me.”

We have heard of this adage so often, we take for granted that we know its full meaning. But it is good to come back to it once in a while to see what further insights we can gain from it. First, maybe we should dwell on how falsehood shackles us. We have seen how people, when they begin with a lie, they have to manufacture more and more lies to bolster their first lie and before they know it they are entangled in lies and can no longer distinguish what is false from what is true, what is real and what is illusion.

I have known people who have kept a secret infidelity from their spouses for years and years and then one day, the truth had to come out and it almost ended their marriage. But after some time they started to live with it and the relief that the spouse who had the secret is truly unbounded. The hurt remains especially for the aggrieved spouse but even for him/her, there grows a feeling that s/he will survive and actually felt relief because s/he admits that even before the revelation, s/he had somehow a sneaking suspicion that there was something being held back from him/ her. Now that everything is in the open, s/he has lost that feeling. Truly truth does make us free.

March 25th

Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

1st Reading: Is 7:10–14; 8:10:
Once again Yahweh addressed Ahaz, “Ask for a sign from Yahweh your God, let it come either from the deepest depths or from the heights of heaven.” But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask, I will not put Yahweh to the test.” Then Isaiah said, “Now listen, descendants of David. Have you not been satisfied trying the patience of people, that you also try the patience of my God? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: Devise a plan and it will be thwarted, make a resolve and it will not stand, for God-is-with-us.

2nd Reading: Heb 10:4–10:
Brothers and sisters: It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats  take away sins. For this reason, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight. Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll, behold, I come to do your will, O God.’” First he says, “Sacrifices and offerings, holocausts and sin offerings, you neither desired nor delighted in.” These are offered according to the law. Then he says, “Behold, I come to do your will.” He takes away the first to establish the second. By this “will,” we have been consecrated through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Gospel: Lk 1:26–38:
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent to a virgin, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. The angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But the angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a son, and you shall call him Jesus. He will be great, and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the kingdom of David, his ancestor; he will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and his reign shall have no end.”

Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the holy child to be born of you shall be called Son of God. Even your relative Elizabeth is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child; and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible.” Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the angel left her.

Today on the Feast of the Annunciation, our focus is on the person of Mary—who she is to us, who she is to the world. To ask, “who is she,” will evoke myriads of answers, depending on our perspectives of her. Today we are invited to consider her as a person of faith, standing before us in her humanity, struggling with the daily demands of her life and the meaning of the troubling words of the angel’s greeting. Yet Mary believed God’s promises even when they seemed impossible. She was open to do God’s will, even if it seemed difficult or costly.

God’s invitation is always disturbing and disruptive of our familiar routines in life. It calls us to change, to look at life with new sets of eyes and listen with new ears. Mary is showing us how to respond to God’s invitation. She is asking us to prepare our hearts for her Son and to journey with him in his mission. She invites us to participate with her in giving birth to Jesus, in raising him, in listening to him, in watching and waiting with him, in weeping and mourning for him, and in becoming his disciple.

March 26th

1st Reading: Jer 20:10-13:
I hear many people whispering,“Terror is all around!Denounce him! Yes, denounce him!”All my friends watch me to see if I will slip:“Perhaps he can be deceived,” they say;“then we can get the better of himand have our revenge.”But Yahweh, a mighty warrior, is with me.My persecutors will stumble and not prevail;that failure will be their shameand their disgrace will never be forgotten.Yahweh, God of Hosts, you test the justand probe the heart and mind.Let me see your revenge on them,for to you I have entrusted my cause.Sing to Yahweh! Praise Yahweh and say:he has rescued the poor from the clutches of thewicked!

Gospel: Jn 10:31-42:
The Jews then picked up stones to throw athim; so Jesus said, “I have openly done many goodworks among you, which the Father gave me to do.For which of these do you stone me?”The Jews answered, “We are not stoning you fordoing a good work, but for insulting God; you areonly a man, and you make yourself God.”Then Jesus replied, “Is this not written in your law:I said, you are gods? So those who received this wordof God were called gods, and the Scripture is alwaystrue. What then should be said of the one anointed,and sent into the world, by the Father?

“Am I insultingGod when I say, ‘I am the Son of God’?If I am not doing the works of my Father, do notbelieve me. But if I do them, even if you have no faithin me, believe because of the works I do; and knowthat the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”Again they tried to arrest him, but Jesus escapedfrom their hands. He went away again to the otherside of the Jordan, to the place where John hadbaptized, and there he stayed.Many people came to Jesus, and said, “Johnworked no miracles, but he spoke about you, andeverything he said was true.” And many in that placebecame believers.

Why were the religious leaders so upset with Jesus that they wanted to kill him? Doesn’t this kind of reaction remind us of our tendency to stew over one negative experience and forget the many positive experiences we might have had in the past? When someone disappoints us, we tend to see only the negative in that person and forget whatever goodness he or she might have shown us in the past. From this tendency we can understand how people can be quick to judge, condemn or kill with their words and actions.

This seems to be the case in today’s gospel. Jesus defends himself against the violent reactions of the Jews by reminding them of the good he has done before them, which his Father had given him to do. Jesus appealed to the people to believe that the work they have witnessed was his Father’s work. But in the end, his enemies, acting like children, picked up stones to throw at him because he claimed he was God. Anger can lead to violence. Jesus is appealing to us not to hold on to our anger and bitterness and to turn our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh.

March 27th

1st Reading: Ez 37:21-28:
Thus says the Lord God: I will take the children of Israel from among the nations to which they have come, and gather them from all sides to bring them back to their land. I will make them one nation upon the land, in the mountains of Israel, and there shall be one prince for them all. Never again shall they be two nations, and never again shall they be divided into two kingdoms. No longer shall they defile themselves with their idols, their abominations, and all their transgressions.

I will deliver them from all their sins of apostasy, and cleanse them so that they may be my people and I may be their God. My servant David shall be prince over them, and there shall be one shepherd for them all; they shall live by my statutes and carefully observe my decrees. They shall live on the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where their fathers lived; they shall live on it forever, they, and their children, and their children’s children, with my servant David their prince forever.

I will make with them a covenant of peace; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them, and I will multiply them, and put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling shall be with them; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Thus the nations shall know that it is I, the Lord, who make Israel holy, when my sanctuary shall be set up among them forever.

Gospel: Jn 11:45-56:
Many of the Jews who had come with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw what he did; but some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees called together the Council. They said, “What are we to do? For this man keeps on performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, all the people will believe in him and, as a result of this, the Romans will come and destroy our Holy Place and our nation.”

Then one of them, Caiaphas, who was High Priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! It is better to have one man die for the people than to let the whole nation be destroyed.” In saying this Caiaphas did not speak for himself, but being High Priest that year, he foretold like a prophet that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also would die in order to gather into one the scattered children of God. So, from that day on, they were determined to kill him.

Because of this, Jesus no longer moved about freely among the Jews. He withdrew instead to the country near the wilderness, and stayed with his disciples in a town called Ephraim. The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and people from everywhere were coming to Jerusalem to purify themselves before the Passover. They looked for Jesus and, as they stood in the temple, they talked with one another, “What do you think? Will he come to the festival?” Meanwhile the chief priests and the elders had given orders that anyone who knew where he was should let them know, so that they could arrest him.

After raising Lazarus from the dead, the Jewish leaders were so threatened; it became clear that Jesus would have to be killed because “it is better to have one man die for the people than to let the whole nation be destroyed.” Jesus’ prophetic life and signs brought threats and, in the end, execution by those who feared his power and message. The call to live one’s prophetic call has always been costly as lived by the prophets of old. We know of people who have lived their prophetic vocation faithfully to the point of imprisonment and even death.

Speaking out against injustices and inequalities, standing for the rights of the poor, acting for systemic and social change, challenging the wealthy and the powerful – all these are all difficult and costly. Yet this is what Christian discipleship implies. Today we hear many calls and attractions, which can be confusing. Many prefer to be deaf and not hear the calls afraid of facing difficulties; others, like some of the Jews, rely on external authorities to tell them how they must believe and respond. We are invited to be sensitive to the Spirit’s action and to discern where we are being led.