Bible Diary for March 8th – 14th

March 8th

2nd Sunday of Lent
St. John of God

1st Reading: Gen 12:1–4:
Yahweh said to Abram, “Leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for the land I will show you. I will make you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you, I will curse, and in you all people of the earth will be blessed.” So Abram went as Yahweh had told him, and Lot went with him.

2nd Reading: 2 Tim 1:8–10:
Do not be ashamed of testifying to our Lord, nor of seeing me in chains. On the contrary, do your share in laboring for the gospel, with the strength of God. He saved us and called us—a calling which proceeds from his holiness. This did not depend on our merits, but on his generosity and his own initiative. This calling, given to us from all time, in Christ Jesus has just been manifested with the glorious appearance of Christ Jesus, our Lord, who destroyed death, and brought life and immortality to light, in his gospel.

Gospel: Mt 17:1–9:
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James, and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain, where they were alone. Jesus’ appearance was changed be – fore them: his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as snow. Then suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Jesus. Peter spoke up and said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

Peter was still speaking, when a bright cloud covered them with its shadow; and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, my Chosen One. Listen to him.” On hearing the voice, the disciples fell to the ground, full of fear. But Jesus came, touched them, and said, “Stand up, do not be afraid!” When they raised their eyes, they no longer saw anyone except Jesus. And as they came down the mountain, Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man be raised from the dead.

One deeply exhilarating experience of a human person is to go up and to be elevated as it points directly to his or her first attempt to get up without help from others. Just look at the joy of a baby making tentative efforts to stand on his or her own. From the floor the baby finds himself or herself standing above it. This experience is later borrowed in symbolic language to mean a meeting of the divine. In the case of Jesus, it is to disclose His divine origin.

It is not He but the Apostles who will encounter the divine in Him that they somehow overlooked when He was with them on the level and ordinary plane of life. It is sometimes a good idea to be detached from the ordinary and mundane concerns of life and climb our own mountain of prayer and good works to see the glory of God shining before us. It would be a good idea to go to a place that transports me to heights simply because it is charged with so much spiritual meaning to me. I might go to a shrine, a park or a garden that helps me focus my mind on God and allows me to see His beauty that is ever ancient yet ever new.

March 9th

St. Frances of Rome

1st Reading: Dn 9:4b–10:
I prayed to Yahweh, my God, and made this confession: “Lord God, great and to be feared, you keep your Covenant and love for those who love you and observe your commandments. We have sinned; we have not been just; we have been rebels, and have turned away from your commandments and laws. We have not listened to your servants, the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, leaders, fathers and to all the people of the land.

Lord, justice is yours; but ours is a face full of shame, as it is to this day— we, the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the whole of Israel, near and far away, in all the lands where you have dispersed us because of the infidelity we have committed against you. Ours is the shame, O Lord, for we, our kings, princes and fathers, have sinned against you. We hope for pardon and mercy from the Lord, our God, because we have rebelled against him. We have not listened to the voice of Yahweh, our God, or followed the laws which he has given us through his servants, the prophets.

Gospel: Lk 6:36–38:
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Don’t be a judge of others and you will not be judged; do not condemn and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you, and you will receive in your sack good measure, pressed down, full and running over. For the measure you give will be the measure you receive back.”

Again this is a rewording of Jesus’ exhortation to do to others what you will have others do to you. It means that the measure we give to others will be the measure given to us. More importantly, this will be the measure used in heaven to evaluate our fittingness or the lack of it to enter the house of God. This is something easy to follow. We need not memorize a long list of do’s and don’ts. We are the measure. The I for once is seen in a positive light.

March 10th

1st Reading: Is 1:10, 16–20:
Hear the warning of Yahweh, rulers of Sodom. Listen to the word of God, people of Gomorrah.” Wash and make yourselves clean. Remove from my sight the evil of your deeds. Put an end to your wickedness and learn to do good. Seek justice and keep in line the abusers; give the fatherless their rights and defend the widow.”

“Come,” says Yahweh, “let us reason together. Though your sins be like scarlet, they will be white as snow; though they be as crimson red, they will be white as wool. If you will obey me, you will eat the goods of the earth; but if you resist and rebel, the sword will eat you instead.” Truly Yahweh has spoken.

Gospel: Mt 23:1–12:
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees have sat down on the chair of Moses. So you shall do and observe all they say; but do not do as they do, for they do not do what they say. They tie up heavy burdens and load them on the shoulders of the people, but they do not even lift a finger to move them. They do everything in order to be seen by people: they wear very wide bands of the law around their foreheads, and robes with large tassels.

They enjoy the first places at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and they like being greeted in the marketplace, and being called ‘Master’ by the people. But you, do not let yourselves be called Master, because you have only one Master, and all of you are brothers and sisters. Neither should you call anyone on earth Father, because you have only one Father, he who is in heaven. Nor should you be called Leader, because Christ is the only Leader for you. Let the greatest among you be the servant of all. For whoever makes himself great shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be made great.

What makes a teacher generally effective is not so much the good content of his or her teaching but the quality of his or her personhood. But taken to extreme, the teacher will invest so much in external appearances rather than on the knowledge he or she is supposed to pass.

That is why Jesus told the crowds that in front of such teachers, better to focus on their words rather than on who they are because who they are internally and externally do not correspond to their teachings. In this case, their word has more weight than their being. They may not be exemplars of righteousness but they could still be the voice.

March 11th

1st Reading: Jer 18:18-20:
Then, they said, “Come, let us plot against Jeremiah, for even without him, there will be priests to interpret the teachings of the law; there will always be wise men to impart counsel and prophets to proclaim the word. Come, let us accuse him and strike him down instead of listening to what he says.“ Hear me, O Yahweh! Listen to what my accusers say. Is evil the reward for good? Why do they dig a grave for me? Remember how I stood before you to speak well on their behalf so that your anger might subside.

Gospel: Mt 20:17-28:
When Jesus was going to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, “See, we are going to Jerusalem. There, the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law; and they will condemn him to death. They will hand him over to the foreigners, who will mock him, scourge him and crucify him.

But he will be raised to life on the third day.” Then the mother of James and John came to Jesus with her sons, and she knelt down, to ask a favor. Jesus said to her, “What do you want?” And she answered, “Here, you have my two sons. Grant, that they may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.”

Jesus said to the brothers, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They answered, “We can.” Jesus replied, “You will indeed drink my cup; but to sit at my right or at my left is not for me to grant. That will be for those, for whom my Father has prepared it.” The other ten heard all this, and were angry with the two brothers.

Then Jesus called them to him and said, “You know, that the rulers of nations behave like tyrants, and the powerful oppress them. It shall not be so among you: whoever wants to be great in your community, let him minister to the community. And if you want to be the first of all, make yourself the servant of all. Be like the Son of Man, who came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life to redeem many.”

Have you ever been betrayed? Have you ever been accused and punished of wrongdoing you were not guilty of? If you have, and most likely we all have, congratulations! Being Christian is being open to the prospect of betrayal. Jeremiah experienced such a betrayal. He was sent to warn Jerusalem about the impending trouble that would befall Jerusalem. For all his efforts he was made to suffer. Jeremiah would complain to ­Yahweh that for all his faithfulness he had to endure terrible persecution.

Jesus, too, in the Gospel will tell his disciples that he would be betrayed. At each Eucharist we will remember that painful event as the priest says “On the night he was betrayed and entered willingly into his passion.“ This betrayal would be most painful for it would come from one of his own disciples, Judas. When, therefore, you get betrayed be consoled. You will be ha­ving the privilege of sharing the cup Jesus asked of the two brothers, James and John! And when you do get betrayed, know that Jesus knows what you have to go through!

March 12th

1st Reading: Jer 17:5–10:
This is what Yahweh says, “Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings and depends on a mortal for his life, while his heart is drawn away from Yahweh! He is like a bunch of thistles in dry land, in parched desert places, in a salt land where no one lives and who never finds happiness. Blessed is the man who puts his trust in Yahweh and whose confidence is in him!

He is like a tree planted by the water, sending out its roots towards the stream. He has no fear when the heat comes, his leaves are always green; the year of drought is no problem and he can always bear fruit. Most deceitful is the heart. What is there within man, who can understand him? I, Yahweh, search the heart and penetrate the mind. I reward each one according to his ways and the fruit of his deeds.

Gospel: Lk 16:19–31:
Once there was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen and feasted every day. At his gate lay Lazarus, a poor man covered with sores, who longed to eat just the scraps falling from the rich man’s table. Even dogs used to come and lick his sores. It happened that the poor man died, and angels carried him to take his place with Abraham.

The rich man also died, and was buried. From the netherworld where he was in torment, the rich man looked up and saw Abraham afar off, and with him Lazarus at rest. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me, and send Lazarus, with the tip of his finger dipped in water, to cool my tongue, for I suffer so much in this fire!’

Abraham replied, ‘My son, remember that in your lifetime you were well-off, while the lot of Lazarus was misfortune. Now he is in comfort, and you are in agony. But that is not all. Between your place and ours a great chasm has been fixed, so that no one can cross over from here to you, or from your side to us.’ The rich man implored once more, ‘Then I beg you, Father Abraham, send Lazarus to my father’s house, where my five brothers live. Let him warn them, so that they may not end up in this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ But the rich man said, ‘No, Father Abraham; but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced, even if someone rises from the dead.’

It is not only our deliberate acts of evil that will convict us someday but also what we have not done simply because we have not paid attention and were too immersed in our own affairs. It is thus that inattention could be deadly to our future fate. How many times do we fail to respond to the call to love not because we are heartless or evil but simply because we are not aware?

Our focus is somewhere else. Our immediate environment is neglected. We are like a sprinkler that throws water afar yet the grasses around us wither and die because no water is given them. If we focus on where we are, there are many opportunities to love. Our salvation may not be that far. It may be just right beside us.

March 13th

1st Reading: Gen 37:3–4, 12–13a, 17b–28a:
Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other children, for he was the son of his old age and he had a coat with long sleeves made for him. His brothers who saw that their father loved him more than he loved them, hated him and could no longer speak to him in a friendly way. His brothers had gone to pasture their father’s flock at Shechem, and Israel said to Joseph, “Your brothers are pasturing the flock at Shechem; come along, I’ll send you to them.” Joseph replied, “Here I am.”

The man said, “They have gone from here, for I heard them say: Let’s go to Dothan!” So Joseph went off after his brothers and found them at Dothan. They saw him in the distance and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes the specialist in dreams! Now’s the time! Let’s kill him and throw him into a well. We’ll say a wild animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what his dreams were all about!”

But Reuben heard this and tried to save him from their hands saying, “Let us not kill him; shed no blood! Throw him in this well in the wilderness, but do him no violence.” This he said to save him from them and take him back to his father. So as soon as Joseph arrived, they stripped him of his long-sleeved coat that he wore and then took him and threw him in the well. Now the well was empty, without water. They were sitting for a meal when they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, their camels laden with spices, balm and myrrh, which they were taking down to Egypt.

Judah then said to his brothers, “What do we gain by killing our brother and hiding his blood? Come! We’ll sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother and our own flesh!” His brothers agreed to this. So when the Midianite merchants came along they pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the well. For twenty pieces of silver they sold Joseph to the Midianites, who took him with them to Egypt.

Gospel: Mt 21:33–43, 45–46:
Listen to another example: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a fence around it, dug a hole for the wine press, built a watchtower, leased the vineyard to tenants, and then, went to a distant country. When harvest time came, the landowner sent his servants to the tenants to collect his share of the harvest.

But the tenants seized his servants, beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Again, the owner sent more servants; but they were treated in the same way. Finally, he sent his son, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they thought, ‘This is the one who is to inherit the vineyard. Let us kill him, and his inheritance will be ours.’

So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Now, what will the owner of the vineyard do with the tenants when he comes?” They said to him, “He will bring those evil men to an evil end, and lease the vineyard to others, who will pay him in due time.” And Jesus replied, “Have you never read what the Scriptures say? The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

This was the Lord’s doing, and we marvel at it. Therefore I say to you: the kingdom of heaven will be taken from you, and given to a people who will produce its fruit. When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard these parables, they realized that Jesus was referring to them. They would have arrested him, but they were afraid of the crowd, who regarded him as a prophet.

The truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. Here is a group of people convinced of their faithfulness to God, acclaimed and esteemed as such but only to be told by Jesus of their real standing before the God whom they served. It was too painful to accept. Hence the tendency for violence to soothe the wounded ego and pride. Some people make a career out of their holiness and will defend it tooth and nail.

They cannot see that holiness is a process and continues throughout. It does not stop at a certain point in time. Had the chief priests and the Pharisees taken the words of Jesus as a challenge rather than a condemnation, they would have changed and encountered real holiness. Instead what they had was an empty and hollow claim that they had to defend all their lives.

March 14th

1st Reading: Mic 7:14–15, 18–20:
Shepherd your people with your staff, shepherd the flock of your inheritance that dwells alone in the scrub, in the midst of a fertile land. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in the days of old, in the days when you went out of Egypt. Who is a God like you, who takes away guilt and pardons crime for the remnant of his inheritance?

Who is like you whose anger does not last? For you delight in merciful forgiveness. Once again you will show us your loving kindness and trample on our wrongs, casting all our sins into the depths of the sea. Show faithfulness to Jacob, mercy to Abraham, as you have sworn to our ancestors from the days of old.

Gospel: Lk 15:1–3, 11–32:
Meanwhile tax collectors and sinners were seeking the company of Jesus, all of them eager to hear what he had to say. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law frowned at this, muttering, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So Jesus told them this parable: Jesus continued, “There was a man with two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Give me my share of the estate.’

So the father divided his property between them. Some days later, the younger son gathered all his belongings and started off for a distant land, where he squandered his wealth in loose living. Having spent everything, he was hard pressed when a severe famine broke out in that land.

So he hired himself out to a well-to-do citizen of that place, and was sent to work on a pig farm. So famished was he, that he longed to fill his stomach even with the food given to the pigs, but no one offered him anything. Finally coming to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!

I will get up and go back to my father, and say to him, Father, I have sinned against God, and before you. I no longer de – serve to be called your son. Treat me then as one of your hired servants.’ With that thought in mind, he set off for his father’s house. He was still a long way off, when his father caught sight of him. His father was so deeply moved with compassion that he ran out to meet him, threw his arms around his neck and kissed him.

The son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ But the father turned to his servants: ‘Quick!’ he said. ‘Bring out the finest robe and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! Take the fattened calf and kill it! We shall celebrate and have a feast, for this son of mine was dead, and has come back to life; he was lost, and is found!’

And the celebration began. Meanwhile, the elder son had been working in the fields. As he re – turned and approached the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what it was all about.

The servant answered, ‘Your brother has come home safe and sound, and your father is so happy about it that he has ordered this celebration, and killed the fattened calf.’ The elder son became angry, and refused to go in. His father came out and pleaded with him. The son, very indignant, said, ‘Look, I have slaved for you all these years. Never have I disobeyed your orders.

Yet you have never given me even a young goat to celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours returns, after squandering your property with loose women, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ The father said, ‘My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But this brother of yours was dead, and has come back to life; he was lost, and is found. And for that we had to rejoice and be glad.’”

The Parable of the Prodigal Son or of the Prodigal Father is a study in contrast about what love should and should not be. The Father loved His sons to the point of prodigality. This enabled him to endure the crass disrespect of the younger son and the cold resentful obedience of the elder son. The two sons love themselves so much. The younger went far away with his inheritance to live a life of license that he thought was freedom.

Yet when he was down, he recalled his Father’s love and this was his salvation. Not so with the elder son whose self love demanded that he be pampered by the father. The father’s loving presence was not enough. He could not enjoy that which the younger son recalled from afar. Perhaps he also needed to be exiled to realize that which he had nearby but always had overlooked.