Bible Diary for March 12th – 18thBible Diary
2nd Sunday of Lent
1st Reading: Gen 12:1-4a
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.
Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran.
2nd Reading: 2 Tim 1:8b-10
Beloved: 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 before 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.“
In the Transfiguration of Christ on Mount Tabor, some of the apostles are granted a glimpse of the brilliance of God’s holiness.
Abram was invited to leave his land and people for a new land that was yet to be shown to him. Between his leaving what he had and reaching what would be shown in future is the liminal land of the unknown and the scary. Thus, responding to God’s call involves a leap into darkness, trusting in God’s holiness. Abram did it and thus defined faith for all generations to come.
“Here I am, O Lord; I come to do your will.“
Meditate on God’s holiness and your own transience.
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
Jesus said to his disciples, “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.“
It is so much easier to see the mistakes of others than our own. We are quick to criticize others and are so slow in admitting our own faults. A beautiful poem by an anonymous poet goes:
“Oho!“ said the pot to the kettle;
“Not so! Not so!“ kettle said to the pot;
“You are dirty and ugly and black!
“Tis your own dirty image you see,
Sure no one would think you were metal,
For I am so clean – without blemish
Except when you’re given a crack.“ or blot
That your blackness is mirrored in me.“
The season of Lent is a time for self-examination. That is what the Daniel in our first reading does. He makes a confession of the sins of his people. Like Daniel we have to kneel before God and beg for forgiveness and mercy.
But so that the Lord may heed our plea for mercy we must have merciful hearts, too. Indeed, we pray that Our Father may forgive us as we forgive those who sin against us! We say to God, “Lord, if I do not forgive those who have wronged me I do not deserve to be forgiven too.“ If we beg for mercy we must be ready to give mercy as well. Mercy begets mercy.
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.“
Isaiah in the first reading addresses Judah and her rulers in a very sarcastic way. He calls them “rulers of Sodom and Gomorrah!“ He calls them and their holy city of Jerusalem no better than the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah! The Prophet warns them that if they do not repent they would be punished like Sodom and Gomorrah.
Christ, too, has stern words to the teachers of the Law in our Gospel. He criticizes them for their hypocrisy and their hardness of heart! The disciples are warned not to imitate the ways of the Pharisees and scribes who presumed that they are holier than the rest of the people. Christ tells his disciples to be humble, to honestly admit that they are sinners in need of forgiveness.
The leaders of Judah in the time of Isaiah were callously unrepentant, so, too, were the leaders of Judea in the time of Jesus self-righteous. May it not be so with us today! All, without exception must humbly kneel and beg for mercy. Bishops, priests, religious, sisters, church leaders, all of us must humble ourselves before God. Even the mighty and powerful must kneel at the confessional.
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!
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.’“
“More tortuous than anything is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it?“ Jeremiah asks today. We have to examine our hearts. No, I am not saying we go to our Cardiologists today, although you may do so, of course. But we have to examine our hearts, that is, what is it that we love? What is of value to us?
Our hearts can easily be deceived. We can fall in love with the glitter of gold. Oh so many fall into this trap! “The love of money is the root of all evil (1 Tim 6:10).“ For others it could be power! And as the British historian, Lord Acton, so aptly said “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely!“ Still for others it would be pleasures of the flesh. Any one of these cardinal temptations can so corrupt the heart that other more important values can be sacrificed. Honor, family, people can be thrown out of the window.
The rich man in today’s Gospel fell into the third trap – pleasure. He had good food! He enjoyed his food! And he forgot his neighbor. His heart had hardened.
St. Joseph of Arimathea
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.
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.
“O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-eyed monster“ sayeth Shakespeare’s Iago to Othello. Out of jealousy Iago plots the murder of his friends, and out of jealousy Othello murders his wife, Desdemona. Indeed, jealousy is a dangerous passion as it poisons the heart of man and drives him to do dastardly deeds!
The brothers of Joseph were so jealous of the him that they eventually got rid of him by selling him for 20 pieces of silver, the price of a boy slave! They were jealous of the love of their father Jacob had for Joseph. Jacob will lose his beloved son, Joseph, because of the jealousy.
Joseph’s experience was a prophecy. Jesus, the true beloved Son of the Father, would also be sold. The jealous brothers of Joseph will, in the time of Jesus, be the jealous and malicious tenants in the parable of Jesus in today’s Gospel. Out of jealousy the priests and Pharisees will plot the death of Jesus. They will be ably assisted by one of the 12, Judas, who will sell his Master for 30 pieces of silver, the price of an adult slave!
Be careful, then with the green-eyed monster called jealousy! Jealous persons can become so consumed with this green-eyed monster as to sell even their own loved ones. Beware!
St. Cyril of Jerusalem
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.
Show us your wonders.
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 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 deserve 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 returned 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.’“
Jesus told his most famous parable, the “Parable of the Prodigal Son,“ as a response to the criticism of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law that he was too friendly to tax collectors and sinners.
Jesus’ compassion for violators of the letter of law, like the prodigal son, truly deserved punishment. The younger son expected to be treated like a slave no longer as a son. The elder son expected his Father to punish this erring son, whom he no longer recognized as his brother. But the Father does the unconscionable (to the self-righteous) by forgiving the repentant sinner. The action of the Father went against the sense of justice of the elder son and the Pharisees!
The Father who has welcomed back the repentant son also invites the elder son, however, to adopt his stance of mercy. The Father demonstrates his joy at the return of the lost son! Oh the unfathomable mercy of God! How God seeks for the lost!
Jesus will reveal the full extent of that love of the Father when he would ascend his throne, the cross, and dispense mercy to the good thief in Calvary even as the other thief (the “elder son“) would fail to recognize the one who could save him! May we always have the courage to go back to the Father; may we always rejoice at the return of sinners to the Father.