Bible Diary for March 29th – April 4th
5th Sunday of Lent
1st Reading: Ezk 37:12–14:
So prophesy! Say to them: This is what Yahweh says: I am going to open your tombs; I shall bring you out of your tombs, my people; and lead you back to the land of Israel. You will know that I am Yahweh, O my people! when I open your graves and bring you out of your graves; when I put my spirit in you, and you live. I shall settle you in your land; and you will know that I, Yahweh, have done what I said I would do.”
2nd Reading: Rom 8:8–11:
So, those walking according to the ﬂesh cannot please God. Yet your existence is not in the flesh, but in the spirit, because the Spirit of God is within you. If you did not have the Spirit of Christ, you would not belong to him.
But Christ is within you; though the body is branded by death as a consequence of sin, the spirit is life and holiness. And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is within you, He who raised Jesus Christ from among the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies. Yes, he will do it through his Spirit who dwells within you.
Gospel: Jn 11:1–45:
So the sisters sent this message to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” On hearing this, Jesus said, “This illness will not end in death; rather it is for God’s glory, and the Son of God will be gloriﬁed through it.” It is a fact that Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus; yet, after he heard of the illness of Lazarus, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Only then did he say to his disciples, “Let us go into Judea again.” When Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him, while Mary remained sitting in the house.
Martha said to Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha replied, “I know that he will rise in the resurrection, at the last day.” But Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection. Whoever believes in me, though he die, shall live. Whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Martha then answered, “Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.”
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping, who had come with her, he was moved to the depths of his spirit and troubled. Then he asked, “Where have you laid him?” They answered, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. The Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “If he could open the eyes of the blind man, could he not have kept this man from dying?” Jesus, again deeply moved, drew near to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. Jesus said, “Take the stone away.” Martha said to him, “Lord, by now he will smell, for this is the fourth day.”
Jesus replied, “Have I not told you that, if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they removed the stone. Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you, for you have heard me. I knew that you hear me always; but my prayer was for the sake of these people, that they may believe that you sent me.” When Jesus had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Untie him, and let him go.” Many of the Jews who had come with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw what he did.
The death of a loved one could be a devastating experience. The sense of loss is simply hard to bear alone. But thanks to the community around who condole and mourn with those left behind for they facilitate the grieving and moving forward and provide the necessary support to ease the burden. Jesus Himself felt this sense of loss many times over. He even wept for some of them such as this death of Lazarus, His friend. This open display of emotion affirms the full humanity of Jesus at its best. But He is not only human, He is also fully divine.
He called out to Lazarus to leave the place of death and come back to the living. And thus the human plane of sadness and death was transformed into the divine plane of joy and life since Jesus was around. Knowing that death brings the pain of loss and separation, it might be a good idea to console those who grieve, not only those who have lost someone in this life but more so those who have experienced dying and death in forms other than physical death. Today let us affirm our belief in life and share that enthusiasm especially to those who experience its lack.
1st Reading: Dn 13:1–9, 15–17, 19–30, 33–62:
There lived in Babylon a man named Joakim, who was married to a very beautiful, God-fearing woman, Susanna, Hilkiah’s daughter, whose pious parents had trained her in the law of Moses. A very rich man and greatly respected by all the Jews, Joakim was frequently visited by the Jews in his house adjoining a garden. That year, two elders of the people were appointed judges, in whom this word of the Lord became true, “Wickedness has come forth from Babylon, through the elders appointed judges, who were supposed to govern the people.” These men frequented Joakim’s house, and all who had legal disputes used to come to them.
After the people had left at noon, Susanna would go into her husband’s garden for a walk. The two old men began to lust for her as they watched her enter the garden every day. Forgetting the demands of justice and virtue, their lust grew all the more, as they made no effort to turn their eyes to heaven. One day, as they were waiting for an opportune time, Susanna entered the garden, as usual, with only two maids. She decided to bathe, for it was a hot day. Nobody else was there, except the two elders watching her, from where they had hidden themselves.
She said to the maids, “Bring me oil and ointments, and shut the garden doors while I bathe.” When the maids had left, the two elders hurried to her and said, “Look, the garden doors are shut and no one sees us. We desire to possess you. If you refuse to give in, we will testify that you sent your maids away, for there was a young man here with you.” Susanna moaned, “Whatever I do, I am trapped. If I give in to your desire, it will be death for me; if I refuse, I won’t escape your persecution. I would rather be persecuted than sin in the eyes of the Lord.”
Susanna shrieked, but the old men shouted, putting the blame on her. One of them ran and opened the garden doors. Hearing the noise in the garden, the household servants rushed in by the side entrance, to see what was happening. They were taken aback when they heard the elders’ accusation, for never had anything like this been said of Susanna. The next day, a meeting was held at Joakim’s house. The two elders arrived, vindictively determined to have Susanna sentenced to death.
They ordered, before all the people, “Send for Susanna, Hilkiah’s daughter and Joakim’s wife.” They sent for her, and she came with her parents, children and all her relatives. Her family and friends, and all who saw her, wept. The two elders stood up and laid their hands upon her head. Completely trusting in the Lord, she raised her tearful eyes to heaven.
The elders started making their accusation, “We were taking a walk in the garden when this woman came in with two maids. She ordered them to shut the garden doors and dismissed them. Then a young man came out of hiding and lay with her. We were in a corner of the garden, and we saw this crime from there. We ran to them, and caught them in the act of embracing. We were unable to take hold of the man. He was too strong for us. He made a dash for the door, opened it and ran off. But we were able to seize this woman. We asked her who the young man was, but she refused to tell us. This is our statement, and we testify to its truth.”
The assembly took their word, since they were elders and judges of the people. Susanna was condemned to death. She cried aloud, “Eternal God, nothing is hidden from you; you know all things before they come to be. You know that these men have testiﬁed falsely against me. Would you let me die, though I am not guilty of all their malicious charges?” The Lord heard her, and as she was being led to her execution, God aroused the holy spirit residing in a young lad named Daniel. He shouted, “I will have no part in the death of this woman!”
Those present turned to him, “What did you say?” they all asked. Standing in their midst, he said to them, “Have you become fools, you Israelites, to condemn a daughter of Israel without due process and in the absence of clear evidence? Return to court, for those men have testiﬁed falsely against her.” Hurriedly they returned, and the elders said to Daniel, “Come and sit with us, for you also possess the gifts bestowed by God upon the elders.” Daniel said to the people, “Separate these two from one another and I will examine each of them.”
When the two elders were separated from each other, Daniel called one of them and said, “How wicked you have grown with age. Your sins of earlier days have piled up against you, and now is the time of reckoning. Remember how you have passed unjust sentences, condemning the innocent and freeing the guilty, although the Lord has said ‘The innocent and the just should not be put to death.’ Now, if you really witnessed the crime, under what tree did you see them do it?” The elder answered, “Under a mastic tree.”
Daniel said, “Your lie will cost you your head. You will be cut in two, as soon as the Lord’s angel receives your sentence from God.” Putting the ﬁrst one aside, Daniel called the other elder and said to him, “You offspring of Canaan and not of Judah, you have long allowed your-self to be perverted by lust. This is how you have dealt with the daughters of Israel, who, out of fear, have yielded to you. But here is a daughter of Judah who would not tolerate your wickedness. Tell me then, under what tree did you catch them committing the crime?” The answer came, “Under an oak.”
“Your lie has also cost you your head,” Daniel said. “God’s angel waits to cut you both in two.” The whole assembly shouted and blessed God, for helping those who hope in him. They turned against the two elders who, through Daniel’s efforts, had been convicted by their own mouths. In accordance with Moses’ law, the penalty the two elders had intended to impose upon their neighbor was inﬂicted upon them. They were sentenced to death. Thus was the life of an innocent woman spared that day.
Gospel: Jn 8:1–11:
As for Jesus, he went to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak Jesus appeared in the temple again. All the people came to him, and he sat down and began to teach them. Then the teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They made her stand in front of everyone. “Master,” they said, “this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now the law of Moses orders that such women be stoned to death; but you, what do you say?” They said this to test Jesus, in order to have some charge against him. Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with his ﬁnger.
And as they continued to ask him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who has no sin be the ﬁrst to throw a stone at her.” And he bent down, again, writing on the ground. As a result of these words, they went away, one by one, starting with the elders, and Jesus was left alone, with the woman standing before him. Then Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go away and don’t sin again.”
We are sometimes quick to condemn, driven by what we thought as righteous anger but in the end simply coming out of our pettiness. After all, we have in one way or another participated in sins we so strongly condemn in others. It is as if by projecting this sin as horrible and warranting punishment on others, we wash ourselves clean. But Jesus comes to uncover what is hidden in the deepest recesses of our hearts.
The people who brought the adulterous woman for condemnation to Jesus were also fallible, weak sinners like her. They have to be reminded of this so that they would be merciful and understanding of others who have strayed and have given in to momentary weakness. That day, it was not only the sinful woman who was rescued but some of the people who recovered their humanity because of Jesus.
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 ﬁery 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.
Misunderstanding upon misunderstanding pile up between Jesus and the religious authorities of that time. The communication breakdown between them is such that it will inevitably lead to hostility and violence. But why can’t they meet halfway? After all, both are concerned about the right way of following God. The differences they have are not that big as to represent an insurmountable obstacle to overcome. Then pride gets in the way.
The Pharisees loathe to be told that their way of righteousness has erred and is now a stumbling block to the simple and poor people who do not have the luxury and privileges they enjoy. The affairs of the spirit have become inaccessible to most. Jesus whose heart is firmly set on the vast majority who are the little ones of the Gospel, placed Himself on collision course with these spiritual elites. Terrible consequences will arise from this choice.
1st Reading: Dn 3:14–20, 91–92, 95:
King Nebuchadnezzar questioned them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden statue I have set up? If you hear now the sound of horn, ﬂute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and other instruments, will you fall down and worship the statue I made? If you won’t, you know the punishment: you will immediately be thrown into a burning furnace. And then what god can deliver you out of my hands?” Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego answered, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we need not defend ourselves before you on this matter. If you order us to be thrown into the furnace, the God we serve will rescue us. But even if he won’t, we would like you to know, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden statue you have set up.”
Nebuchadnezzar’s face reddened with fury as he looked at Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of his strongest soldiers to bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the burning furnace. Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who sent his angel to free his servants. Who, trusting in him, disobeyed the king’s order; and preferred to give their bodies to the ﬁ re rather than serve and worship any other god but their God.
Gospel: Jn 8:31–42:
Jesus went on to say to the Jews who believed in him, “You will be my true disciples, if you keep my word. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are the descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves of anyone. What do you mean by saying: You will be free?”
Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave. But the slave doesn’t stay in the house forever; the son stays forever. So, if the Son makes you free, you will be really free. I know that you are the descendants of Abraham; yet you want to kill me because my word ﬁnds no place in you. For my part, I speak of what I have seen in my Father’s presence, but you do what you have learned from your father.”
They answered him, “Our father is Abraham.” Then Jesus said, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do as Abraham did. But now you want to kill me, the one who tells you the truth—the truth that I have learned from God. That is not what Abraham did; what you are doing are the works of your father.” The Jews said to him, “We are not illegitimate children; we have one Father, God.” Jesus replied, “If God were your Father you would love me, for I came forth from God, and I am here. And I didn’t come by my own decision, but it was he himself who sent me.
The conversation Jesus has with His new followers sought to clarify their questions and put to rest their doubts and suspicions. After all, a lifetime of tradition, customs and beliefs are being rewritten by Jesus’ preaching. To say goodbye to those that had shaped their lives and faith is not an easy task. And so Jesus has to assure them of what they will get in return.
They will get to know their real Father through Him. This will be a slow, frustrating sometimes hopeless endeavor. Some of His hearers were so set in their ways that no amount of persuasion could make them embrace the teachings of Jesus Christ. But Jesus will continue anyway. This is why He was sent by the Father: to preach the Good News in and out of season.
St. Francis of Paola
1st Reading: Gen 17:3–9:
Abram fell face down and God said to him, “This is my Covenant with you: you will be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer will you be called Abram, but Abraham, because I will make you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you more and more famous; I will multiply your descendants; nations shall spring from you, kings shall be among your descendants. And I will establish a covenant, an everlasting Covenant between myself and you and your descendants after you; from now on I will be your God and the God of your descendants after you, for generations to come. I will give to you and your descendants after you the land you are living in, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession and I will be the God of your race.”
God said to Abraham, “For your part, you shall keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you, generation after generation.
Gospel: Jn 8:51–59:
“Truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never experience death.” The Jews replied, “Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died and the prophets as well, but you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never experience death.’ Who do you claim to be? Do you claim to be greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets who also died?”
Then Jesus said, “If I were to praise myself, it would count for nothing. But he who gives glory to me is the Father, the very one you claim as your God, although you don’t know him. I know him, and if I were to say that I don’t know him, I would be a liar like you. But I know him and I keep his word. As for Abraham, your ancestor, he looked forward to the day when I would come; and he rejoiced when he saw it.”
The Jews then said to him, “You are not yet ﬁfty years old and you have seen Abraham?” And Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” They then picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and left the temple.
The conversion that Jesus worked hard for His hearers came to nothing. They were not ready to give up the familiar, comfortable and reassuring brand of faith that they have received. They would not embrace anything that unsettles them. And so the discussion and debate becomes heated. A harsh word here and some strong replies there led inevitably to animosity and discord.
This culminated in the people picking up stones to throw at Jesus. There is now no use talking to one another for the lines have been drawn. From now on, Jesus will have to contend not only with their unbelief. He will also have to face their hatred.
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 him and have our revenge.” But Yahweh, a mighty warrior, is with me. My persecutors will stumble and not prevail; that failure will be their shame and their disgrace will never be forgotten.
Yahweh, God of Hosts, you test the just and 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 the wicked!
Gospel: Jn 10:31–42:
The Jews then picked up stones to throw at him; so Jesus said, “I have openly done many good works 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 for doing a good work, but for insulting God; you are only 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 word of God were called gods, and the Scripture is always true. What then should be said of the one anointed, and sent into the world, by the Father? Am I insulting God when I say, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, do not believe me. But if I do them, even if you have no faith in me, believe because of the works I do; and know that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”
Again they tried to arrest him, but Jesus escaped from their hands. He went away again to the other side of the Jordan, to the place where John had baptized, and there he stayed. Many people came to Jesus, and said, “John worked no miracles, but he spoke about you, and everything he said was true.” And many in that place became believers.
As a continuation of the theme of conflict between Jesus and His hearers, this reading fits into the picture. Yesterday, the Gospel ends with the people wanting to stone Jesus who hid Himself and left the Temple. Now we still have the strands of people picking stones to throw at Jesus, but this time, Jesus faces them and asks the reason for their violent behavior. As if Jesus does not give up easily on people. Even if the going gets rough and emotions get in the way, Jesus will not simply walk away. But then His audience have enough already. When He avoids their stones, they want to arrest Him. So Jesus has to leave. No matter how much He tries, there are some things that cannot be.
1st Reading: Ezk 37:21–28:
You will then say to them: “Thus says Yahweh: I am about to withdraw the Israelites from where they were among the nations. I shall gather them from all around and bring them back to their land. I shall make them into one people on the mountains of Israel; and one king is to be king of them all. They will no longer form two nations or be two separate kingdoms, nor will they deﬁle themselves again with their idols, their detestable practices and their sins. I shall free them from the guilt of their treachery; I shall cleanse them; and they will be for me a people, and I shall be God for them. My servant David will reign over them, one shepherd for all.
They will live according to my laws and follow and practice my decrees. They will settle in the land I gave to my servant Jacob where their ancestors lived. There, they will live forever, their children and their children’s children. David, my servant, will be their prince forever. I shall establish a Covenant of peace with them, an everlasting Covenant. I shall settle them; and they will increase; and I shall put my Sanctuary in their midst forever. I shall make my home at their side; I shall be their God and they will be my people. Then the nations will know that I am Yahweh who makes Israel holy, having my Sanctuary 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?”
And now, the enmity between Jesus and some of the Jews, especially the religious and political leaders, has reached its climax. They cannot tolerate Him further. He has to go. And so a principle has been drawn to legitimize their act of violence towards one man. He must be sacrificed for the greater good. This thought must have comforted them somehow.
They have cast their actions into something even patriotic, for the preservation of order and the survival of the nation. Funny how sometimes we too legitimize our patently bad actions by couching them with some good intent. We try to do mind games with our conscience. No matter what people do to justify themselves, sins committed will always be sins before us.