Bible Diary for March 3rd – March 9th

March 3rd

3rd Sunday in Lent
St. Katharine Drexel

1st Reading: Ex 20:1-17:
In those days, God delivered all these commandments: “I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall not have other gods besides me. You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them. For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their fathers’ wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation; but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth generation on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments. “You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain. For the Lord will not leave unpunished the one who takes his name in vain.

“Remember to keep holy the sabbath day. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord, your God. No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your beast, or by the alien who lives with you. In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. “Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you. You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass, nor anything else that belongs to him.”

2nd Reading: 1 Cor 1:22-25:
Brothers and sisters: Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Gospel: Jn 2:13-25:
Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, Zeal for your house will consume me. At this the Jews answered and said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?”

Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken. While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing. But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.

What are the false notions I have at present that sets me apart from becoming more loving as a person? Do I really obey God? If I have to purify myself, what is it that I would like to be cleansed with? Father, you saved us from our human frailties through Jesus. Fill us with the Spirit of your loving wisdom to see our sinfulness. Make us true stewards of the talents and abilities you gave us. Strengthen us when we are lured by the devil using the advanced technologies, and mold us to be responsible in using the social media and the internet. Amen. Take time to assess yourself and be humble to accept your human weakness or sinfulness and go for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

March 4th

St. Casimir

1st Reading: 2 Kgs 5:1-15ab:
Naaman, the army commander of the king of Aram, was highly esteemed and respected by his master, for through him the Lord had brought victory to Aram. But valiant as he was, the man was a leper. Now the Arameans had captured in a raid on the land of Israel a little girl, who became the servant of Naaman’s wife. “If only my master would present himself to the prophet in Samaria,” she said to her mistress, “he would cure him of his leprosy.” Naaman went and told his lord just what the slave girl from the land of Israel had said. “Go,” said the king of Aram. “I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman set out, taking along ten silver talents, six thousand gold pieces, and ten festal garments. To the king of Israel he brought the letter, which read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you, that you may cure him of his leprosy.”

When he read the letter, the king of Israel tore his garments and exclaimed: “Am I a god with power over life and death, that this man should send someone to me to be cured of leprosy? Take note! You can see he is only looking for a quarrel with me!” When Elisha, the man of God, heard that the king of Israel had torn his garments, he sent word to the king: “Why have you torn your garments? Let him come to me and find out that there is a prophet in Israel.” Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. The prophet sent him the message: “Go and wash seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will heal, and you will be clean.” But Naaman went away angry, saying, “I thought that he would surely come out and stand there to invoke the Lord his God, and would move his hand over the spot, and thus cure the leprosy. Are not the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be cleansed?”

With this, he turned about in anger and left. But his servants came up and reasoned with him. “My father,” they said, “if the prophet had told you to do something extraordinary, would you not have done it? All the more now, since he said to you, ‘Wash and be clean,’ should you do as he said.” So Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times at the word of the man of God. His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. He returned with his whole retinue to the man of God. On his arrival he stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.”

Gospel: Lk 4:24-30:
Jesus said to the people in the synagogue at Nazareth: “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away.

We see in the gospel that Jesus was treated with bias and antagonism instead of hospitality and generosity from his townspeople when he returned to Nazareth, leading him to exclaim, “No prophet is honored in his own country.” In their narrow-minded pride they felt slighted that Jesus, who came from their town had not worked there the wonders he had worked elsewhere. They lacked one thing—faith in Jesus and in the God who sent him. They were blinded by their sense of familiarity and entitlement.

We can easily identify with this story in our experiences of rejection especially when we fail to meet others’ expectations or when others think they know us too well that they cannot accept any change in us. The phrase, “familiarity breeds contempt” expresses our human tendency to be blinded to the value of what we have, taking for granted the goodness in us and in others. Jesus’ message seems clear. We need to have faith in a God of surprises and to be properly disposed for God to work wonders in and through us. Do we remain in God and have faith in God in good and bad times as the gospel challenges us?

March 5th

1st Reading: Dn 3:25, 34-43:
“For your name’s sake, O Lord, do not deliver us up forever, or make void your covenant. Do not take away your mercy from us, for the sake of Abraham, your beloved, Isaac your servant, and Israel your holy one, To whom you promised to multiply their offspring like the stars of heaven, or the sand on the shore of the sea. For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation, brought low everywhere in the world this day because of our sins. We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader, no burnt offering, sacrifice, oblation, or incense, no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you.

But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received; As though it were burnt offerings of rams and bullocks, or thousands of fat lambs, So let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly; for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame. And now we follow you with our whole heart, we fear you and we pray to you. Do not let us be put to shame, but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy. Deliver us by your wonders, and bring glory to your name, O Lord.”

Gospel: Mt 18:21-35:
Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.

When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt. Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”

The Lenten season is replete with readings that challenge us to put into practice the gospel teachings. Forgiveness is one of them. From today’s parable we can glean its characteristics and our difficulty as humans to practice it. God’s forgiveness is not quantifiable because of its very nature as prodigal and lavish. It is immeasurable using human standards. When Peter questioned Jesus how many times must one forgive, he was asking for a quantity, but Jesus replied with an equation that symbolizes the unquantifiability of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is not only relational but also mutual and trusting, echoing a phrase from the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We know this in principle, but often our hurts are greater than our capacity to forgive, thus we cannot forgive from the heart without God’s grace. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, condoning, or favoring what was done. Nor does it mean disregarding or excusing cruelty or injustice. Forgiveness is a decision to move forward in our relationships, to go beyond our vengeful reaction when we are hurt. It means breaking the cycle of evil that revenge perpetuates. Do we sincerely desire to forgive those who have hurt us?

March 6th

St. Colette

1st Reading: Dt 4:1, 5-9:
Moses spoke to the people and said: “Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. Therefore, I teach you the statutes and decrees as the Lord, my God, has commanded me, that you may observe them in the land you are entering to occupy. Observe them carefully, for thus will you give evidence of your wisdom and intelligence to the nations, who will hear of all these statutes and say, ‘This great nation is truly a wise and intelligent people.’

For what great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him? Or what great nation has statutes and decrees that are as just as this whole law which I am setting before you today? “However, take care and be earnestly on your guard not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live, but teach them to your children and to your children’s children.”

Gospel: Mt 5:17-19:
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”

Teenagers who go through the rebellious stage of their development would sometimes test authorities by breaking laws. Not appreciating the role of laws in life and in society, they discover that there are consequences in doing so. Laws are necessary to human society. Without them, there can only be chaos and anarchy. In today’s gospel, Jesus is referring to the Mosaic law, as summarized in the Ten Commandments. These laws are valid at all times as they are part of the natural law, consisting of factors necessary for humans to live together in society with respect, justice and peace.

Laws are intended to enhance life and their interpretation and observance are meant to be consistent with their spirit. However, a narrow interpretation of and rigid adherence to the laws can kill the spirit and will no longer promote life and right relationships. Jesus lives out the spirit of the law by personifying God’s love, the fulfillment of the law that enhances life. He is “the way, the truth, and the life,” the fullest expression of how we as humans are to respond to God’s love. As both the medium and the message, Jesus invites us to follow in his footsteps.

March 7th

Sts. Perpetua and Felicity

1st Reading: Jer 7:23-28:
Thus says the Lord: This is what I commanded my people: Listen to my voice; then I will be your God and you shall be my people. Walk in all the ways that I command you, so that you may prosper. But they obeyed not, nor did they pay heed. They walked in the hardness of their evil hearts and turned their backs, not their faces, to me. From the day that your fathers left the land of Egypt even to this day, I have sent you untiringly all my servants the prophets. Yet they have not obeyed me nor paid heed; they have stiffened their necks and done worse than their fathers. When you speak all these words to them, they will not listen to you either; when you call to them, they will not answer you. Say to them: This is the nation that does not listen to the voice of the Lord, its God, or take correction. Faithfulness has disappeared; the word itself is banished from their speech.

Gospel: Lk 11:14-23:
Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute, and when the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke and the crowds were amazed. Some of them said, “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons.” Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven. But he knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house. And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons.

If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own people drive them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man fully armed guards his palace, his possessions are safe. But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him, he takes away the armor on which he relied and distributes the spoils. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

Today’s gospel invites us to reflect on the gift and the power of speech. We are presented with two opposing images: a mute who lacks the power of speech but was able to speak again after Jesus drove out the demon from the person; and the religious people who used their power of speech to engage in rumor-mongering, spreading rumors that Jesus’ power was from Beelzebul, the “lord of the dung heap.” They did not dispute Jesus’ power to heal and to drive out demons; they wanted to discredit him by spreading a slanderous rumor about the source of his power.

Jesus used the demonic experience to confront the idiotic slanderous rumors the Pharisees had planted in people’s minds. He wanted people to realize that slander may be worse than a demon. It has the power to divide people against one another, poisoning the minds of the hearers and causing them to doubt the truth. Rumors will spread like wild fire for as long as there are rumormongers. How do we use the gift of speech that God has given us? Do we use it to affirm goodness and proclaim truth or do we use it to spread lies and half-truths?

March 8th

St. John of God

1st Reading: Hos 14:2-10:
Thus says the Lord: Return, O Israel, to the Lord, your God; you have collapsed through your guilt. Take with you words, and return to the Lord; Say to him, “Forgive all iniquity, and receive what is good, that we may render as offerings the bullocks from our stalls. Assyria will not save us, nor shall we have horses to mount; We shall say no more, ‘Our god,’ to the work of our hands; for in you the orphan finds compassion.” I will heal their defection, says the Lord, I will love them freely; for my wrath is turned away from them.

I will be like the dew for Israel: he shall blossom like the lily; He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar, and put forth his shoots. His splendor shall be like the olive tree and his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar. Again they shall dwell in his shade and raise grain; They shall blossom like the vine, and his fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon. Ephraim! What more has he to do with idols? I have humbled him, but I will prosper him. “I am like a verdant cypress tree”– Because of me you bear fruit! Let him who is wise understand these things; let him who is prudent know them. Straight are the paths of the Lord, in them the just walk, but sinners stumble in them.

Gospel: Mk 12:28-34:
One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, He is One and there is no other than he. And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

As an observant Jew, Jesus recited the traditional Jewish prayer Shema, which speaks of loving God with everything one has. But Jesus coupled this with love of neighbor and linked both commandments inseparably. For Jesus, love of neighbor is fundamental to discipleship because it is through this that one’s love for God is concretely expressed. The prayer begins with an invitation, “Hear, Israel!” — to get one’s full attention. Then it describes how to love God — with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength. The “heart” brings out the concept of our inner person, the center of our personality and true self before God.

The “soul” refers to the energy of life, animating us and enabling us to make choices and commitments to God and neighbor. The “mind” signifies our ideas, thoughts, and perspective of life, submitting these under God’s scrutiny in discerning where God is leading us. Finally, “strength” refers not only to all our gifts and capabilities but also to our faith as it matures in the crucible of life. Jesus identified the proper order: love of God, love of neighbor. Does our love of God motivate us to love our neighbor through our compassionate service to them?

March 9th

St. Frances of Rome

1st Reading: Hos 6:1-6:
“Come, let us return to the Lord, it is he who has rent, but he will heal us; he has struck us, but he will bind our wounds. He will revive us after two days; on the third day he will raise us up, to live in his presence. Let us know, let us strive to know the Lord; as certain as the dawn is his coming, and his judgment shines forth like the light of day! He will come to us like the rain, like spring rain that waters the earth.” What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? Your piety is like a morning cloud, like the dew that early passes away. For this reason I smote them through the prophets, I slew them by the words of my mouth; For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

Gospel: Lk 18:9-14:
Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity — greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

In today’s gospel, Jesus uses a parable to teach us the proper attitude and stance in prayer. The parable presents to us two characters and their attitudes and ways of praying. There is a temptation to interpret this parable in a simplistic way, like neatly dividing humanity between the righteous, law-abiding people and the sinners. In reality, it’s not a matter of black or white; it is all grey because if we are honest with ourselves, we find both characters in us. We need some degree of self-awareness to be able to identify which character predominates at certain times in our life.

The Pharisee’s prayer is full of himself, setting himself as the standard for virtues that must be emulated for having been diligent in following the Mosaic Law but not realizing that he was full of spiritual pride. This kind of attitude divides the community instead of unifying it; perpetuating prejudice and the separation between the “we” and the “they” which often happens in society and sometimes even in religious communities. We all should strive to pray like the Publican who was aware of being a sinner and nothing else before God, being totally dependent on God’s divine mercy.