Bible Diary for April 7th – 13thBible Diary
5th Sunday of Lent
St. John Baptist de la Salle
1st Reading: Is 43:16-21:
Thus says Yahweh, who opened a way through the sea and a path in the mighty waters, who brought down chariots and horses, a whole army of them, and there they lay, never to rise again, snuffed out like a wick. But do not dwell on the past, or remember the things of old. Look, I am doing a new thing: now it springs forth. Do you not see? I am opening up a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The beasts of the land will honor me, jackals and ostriches, because I give water in the wilderness and rivers in the desert that my chosen people may drink. I have formed this people for myself; they will proclaim my praise.
2nd Reading: Phil 3:8-14:
Still more, everything seems to me, as nothing, compared with the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord. For his sake, I have let everything fall away, and I now consider all as garbage, if, instead, I may gain Christ. May I be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, that comes from the law, but with the righteousness that God gives, to those who believe. May I know him, and experience the power of his resurrection, and share in his sufferings, and become like him, in his death, and attain, through this, God willing, the resurrection from the dead!
I do not believe I have already reached the goal, nor do I consider myself perfect, but I press on till I conquer Christ Jesus, as I have already been conquered by him. No, brothers and sisters, I do not claim to have claimed the prize yet. I say only this: forgetting what is behind me, I race forward, and run towards the goal, my eyes on the prize, to which God has called us from above, in Christ Jesus.
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.”
The teacher of the law and the Pharisees were never interested to learn a lesson from Jesus. Their question was simply “to test“ Jesus, so they could have an argument against him. Instead Jesus asked them to scrutinize themselves “ if no one among them has no sin“. In the end, the woman was left alone standing before Jesus. He did not condemn her, but gave her freedom form sin. Ask the Lord to maintain his presence in your heart.
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 8:12-20:
Jesus spoke to them again, “I am the Light of the world; the one who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have light and life.” The Pharisees replied, “Now you are speaking on your own behalf, your testimony is worthless.” Then Jesus said, “Even though I bear witness to myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I have come from and where I am going. But you do not know where I came from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; as for me, I don’t judge anyone. But if I had to judge, my judgment would be valid for I am not alone: the Father who sent me is with me. In your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid; so I am bearing witness to myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness to me.”
They asked him, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You don’t know me or my Father; if you knew me, you would know my Father as well.” Jesus said these things when he was teaching in the temple area, in the place where they received the offerings. No one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.
The Pharisees question the validity of Jesus’ testimony. They consider it somehow self-serving or unusual. Somebody else, at least two, should testify for him, to make his claim valid. The witnesses must come from the same level or point of view. No human witness can verify Jesus’ claim as the light of the world coming from heaven. He too must come from heaven. When it comes to faith, our concept of testifying in court is not applicable. It is futile to use scientific method like experimentation in laboratories or data gathering or argumentation. It is “take it or leave it.”
When we come to believe that Jesus is sent by the Father, we do not have the burden to prove it. It is a gift to believe in him. Christian faith is communicated and transmitted by the apostles and early Christians and this process continues with the succeeding generations of believers. In the face of violent opposition, many Christians have chosen to die rather than renege their faith. They are recognized as martyrs. If the word martyr is translated back to Greek, it simply means to testify or to bear witness. One does not necessarily get killed for it.
1st Reading: Num 21:4-9:
From Mount Hor the children of Israel set out on the Red Sea road, to bypass the land of Edom. But with their patience worn out by the journey, the people complained against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food!”
In punishment the Lord sent among the people saraph serpents, which bit the people so that many of them died. Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned in complaining against the Lord and you. Pray the Lord to take the serpents away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people, and the Lord said to Moses, “Make a saraph and mount it on a pole, and whoever looks at it after being bitten will live.” Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, 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.
It is not easy to communicate when we are in different levels. Jesus comes from above, that is, from heaven, while the Jews come from below. They never understand each other. They can understand each other because Jesus comes down to their level. The Jews must go up to his level. But they are not willing to do it, so they are stuck in their reasoning. Faith is really a gift. It opens us to God’s mystery revealed by Jesus. We can never understand the things are God’s, if we are not willing to play with God’s rule.
We too can be like the Jews, who fail to understand the identity of Jesus and his purpose. It is consoling to note the last line. “Many believed in him.” They are Jews also who are open to the testimony of Jesus. All that is needed is to believe in him. When we believe in something, we no longer argue. We do not seek explanations but to live in that mystery, thus we understand without saying a word. St. Augustine once said, “Believe that you may understand.” Yes, if we seek to understand first, we may never come to believe.
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 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.
Truth will set you free. That is a very popular saying of Jesus. Even non-Christians quote it. Now what is truth? For Jesus, truth is he. That what he testifies is truth and it must be believed or taken as true. It must be liberating, not enslaving. Freedom is not attained by blood relations, like being descendants of Abraham. Freedom is associating with Jesus and taking to heart his teaching. Those who do not possess the truth are bent on killing Jesus. They are slaves still. They have murderous heart. They can be identified easily.
Those who possess it are identified as disciples of Jesus. They have been following him since they come to know about him. They seek to know his full story. Jesus knows them. In faith, truth is not about what is exactly said or the exact count, exact data or the one who exactly did what was actually done, subject to reconstruction or investigation. The truth that Jesus is teaching is something that pertains our salvation. It is about our relationship with him and the Father. He wants us to enter into that relationship. That is truth.
1st Reading: Gen 17:3-9:
When Abram prostrated himself, God spoke to him:
“My covenant with you is this: you are to become the father of a host of nations. No longer shall you be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a host of nations. I will render you exceedingly fertile; I will make nations of you; kings shall stem from you. I will maintain my covenant with you and your descendants after you throughout the ages as an everlasting pact, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land in which you are now staying, I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land in which you are now staying, the whole land of Canaan, as a permanent possession; and I will be their God.”
God also said to Abraham:
“On your part, you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the ages.”
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.
Whatever Jesus says is met with resistance from the Jews. Hardened unbelievers can never be convinced of whatever he says or does. They will always misinterpret it or give a different color. They are bent on eliminating Jesus. The authorities, like the spiritual leaders in the Temple, cannot reconcile their teachings with Jesus’ claims as the Son of God, existing before the time of Abraham. It is actually a hard claim, difficult to prove or to demonstrate, but Jesus speaks on a different level. Again, faith matters.
Faith is taking as true whatever Jesus says. It goes beyond reasoning or calculating. They should not be considered lies or something that is harmful to the soul. Jesus assures anyone in his speech that those who will keep his word will not die. To die here is not the same as dying of old age or from a disease. To die here means to be completely separated from God and from the community. Those who believe in Jesus understand also his language and they will be privileged to see God and supposedly their father Abraham who has gone much ahead of them.
1st Reading: Jer 20: 10-13:
I hear the whisperings of many:
“Terror on every side! Denounce! let us denounce him!” All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine. “Perhaps he will be trapped; then we can prevail, and take our vengeance on him.” But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph. In their failure they will be put to utter shame, to lasting, unforgettable confusion. O Lord of hosts, you who test the just, who probe mind and heart, let me witness the vengeance you take on them, for to you I have entrusted my cause. Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord, for he has rescued the life of the poor from the power 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.
The Jews cannot take Jesus anymore. They have become more violent. They stone him. Jesus asks why? Not because of his good works, but because he makes himself equal to God. Still they are wrong. The good works should lead them to believe in him that he is sent by the Father. There is so much trouble when people have already made up their minds. They have a set of beliefs or framework of mind that cannot be bent. They can no longer accommodate other frameworks or paradigms, even that of Jesus. They consider it as an insult to God.
They cannot be convinced otherwise. Religion can be a source of violence if it is not handled very well. When a believer is annoyed (mindless), he becomes dangerous. Anything can happen. A religious group can become a mob or a gangster. Far be it from us! Those who are fanatical. Again, faith is the key to understand what Jesus is saying. We cannot get his point if we are just there to argue with him. It is a gift. It is developed when one becomes a faithful follower, absorbing whatever comes from the mouth of Jesus.
St. Martin I
1st Reading: Ezk 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?”
When one is so concerned about preserving one’s status, he becomes paranoid. When Jesus performs many signs or miracles and many of the Jews come to believe in him, those who are in establishment interpret this as a bad sign. They multiply their unfounded fears, saying the Romans will come and get them. So it is better for him to die, says Caiaphas. Seems logical, but he has no basis for saying this. He has not done his homework. Yet death lurks on the side of Jesus.
We can waste a life of an innocent man who is supposed to help us go to heaven, if we allow ourselves to be carried by our own fallacies. It is not easy to verify and to wait, to know the truth of the matter. A just man can be condemned to die, when the process is done in haste, backed up with false premises and false witnesses. Justice is not served when there is fear. They did this to Jesus. They also do it to others. Let us remember there is time of reckoning. God vindicates the innocent and erases the wicked from the face of the earth. Where are they now?