Bible Diary for March 31st – April 6thBible Diary
4th Sunday of Lent
1st Reading: Jos 5:9a, 10-12:
The Lord said to Joshua,
“Today I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you.”
While the Israelites were encamped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, they celebrated the Passover on the evening of the fourteenth of the month. On the day after the Passover, they ate of the produce of the land in the form of unleavened cakes and parched grain. On that same day after the Passover, on which they ate of the produce of the land, the manna ceased. No longer was there manna for the Israelites, who that year ate of the yield of the land of Canaan.
2nd Reading: 2 Cor 5:17-21:
Brothers and sisters:
Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.
And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
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 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.’”
It has been said that we all want judgment for others, but mercy for ourselves. For the guardians of “true religion” there is nothing more scandalous that Jesus does than show mercy to “sinners and tax collectors.” His detractors are like the “elder brother” of the parable, the one who has always done what is right and obeyed the rules, and who is scandalized by his father’s forgiveness toward his wayward brother. Yet God’s mission in Christ was to reconcile sinners. His very nature is Mercy. As Pope Francis says, God is more ready to forgive than we are to seek forgiveness. Lord, have mercy on us, and forgive us when we fail to show mercy.
1st Reading: Is 65:17-21:
Thus says the Lord:
Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind. Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness in what I create; for I create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight; I will rejoice in Jerusalem and exult in my people. No longer shall the sound of weeping be heard there, or the sound of crying; no longer shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not round out his full lifetime; he dies a mere youth who reaches but a hundred years, and he who fails of a hundred shall be thought accursed. They shall live in the houses they build, and eat the fruit of the vineyards they plant.
Gospel: Jn 4:43-54:
(…) Jesus went back to Cana of Galilee, where he had changed the water into wine. At Capernaum there was an official, whose son was ill, and when he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and asked him to come and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Jesus said, “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe!” The official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” And Jesus replied, “Go, your son lives!”
The man had faith in the word that Jesus spoke to him, and went his way. As he was approaching his house, his servants met him, and gave him the good news, “Your son has recovered!” So he asked them at what hour the child began to recover, and they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday, at about one o’clock in the afternoon.” And the father realized that that was the time when Jesus had told him, “Your son lives!” And he became a believer, he and all his family. Jesus performed this second miraculous sign when he returned from Judea to Galilee.
Jesus demands faith when asking favor from him. He can do everything if he is convinced you have faith. He can even reverse the fate of a dying loved one. When Jesus performs a miracle, he also wants a response of faith. The evangelist John mentions many times in his gospel the verb “to believe” instead of faith. John tells us whenever people hear him speak or make miracle, they are led to believe in him, though some are not. The Jews in those days were more secure with their established religion, Judaism, which was flourishing at that time.
The Temple of Jerusalem where everyone was required to go annually was imposing, something to identify with and be proud of. It was a symbol of God’s presence. Faith is recognizing Jesus of Nazareth as Son of God sent to teach the way to the Father. In some Arab countries, Christians are called Nazarenes. To believe is to take to heart the person of Jesus. It is not rejecting him. It is to engage with him. He wants to create a new culture responsive to God. We cannot demand miracles from God if we do not have faith in him.
St. Francis of Paola
1st Reading: Ezk 47:1-9, 12:
The angel brought me, Ezekiel, back to the entrance of the temple of the Lord, and I saw water flowing out from beneath the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the facade of the temple was toward the east; the water flowed down from the right side of the temple, south of the altar. He led me outside by the north gate, and around to the outer gate facing the east, where I saw water trickling from the right side. Then when he had walked off to the east with a measuring cord in his hand, he measured off a thousand cubits and had me wade through the water, which was ankle-deep. He measured off another thousand and once more had me wade through the water, which was now knee-deep.
Again he measured off a thousand and had me wade; the water was up to my waist. Once more he measured off a thousand, but there was now a river through which I could not wade; for the water had risen so high it had become a river that could not be crossed except by swimming. He asked me, “Have you seen this, son of man?” Then he brought me to the bank of the river, where he had me sit. Along the bank of the river I saw very many trees on both sides. He said to me, “This water flows into the eastern district down upon the Arabah, and empties into the sea, the salt waters, which it makes fresh.
Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live, and there shall be abundant fish, for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh. Along both banks of the river, fruit trees of every kind shall grow; their leaves shall not fade, nor their fruit fail. Every month they shall bear fresh fruit, for they shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary. Their fruit shall serve for food, and their leaves for medicine.”
Gospel: Jn 5:1-16:
(…) There was a man who had been sick for thirty-eight years. Jesus saw him, and because he knew how long this man had been lying there, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” And the sick man answered, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is disturbed; so while I am still on my way, another steps down before me.” Jesus then said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk!”
And at once the man was healed, and he took up his mat and walked. Now that day happened to be the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had just been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and the law doesn’t allow you to carry your mat.” He answered them, “The one who healed me said to me, ‘Take up your mat and walk!’” They asked him, “Who is the one who said to you: Take up your mat and walk?” But the sick man had no idea who it was who had cured him, for Jesus had slipped away among the crowd that filled the place. (…)
Aside from preaching, healing is important to Jesus. When he passes by a sick man who cannot help himself plunge into the pool when the water is stirred, he asks if he wants to be healed, the man answers “Yes.” Jesus does something unexpected. Jesus commands him instead to rise and take his mat and go home. We might think that healing can be done only by Jesus who has extraordinary powers or some people who have a gift of healing.We, too, as Christians, can heal, if only we can make ourselves available to the sick.
We can heal the broken-hearted by listening to their problems or stories. We can bring those with diseases to the clinic and pay their bills. What Jesus actually asks is, “Do you want to be made well (whole, healthy, in Greek hygies)?” It has been affirmed even in the social media that the best way to help a sick person suffering from addiction, depression or loneliness is to stay in a supportive community. A sustained healthy relationship in a family or a community can do more than prescribed medicines. One can become sick when he has no joy in his heart.
1st Reading: Is 49:8-15:
Thus says the Lord:
In a time of favor I answer you, on the day of salvation I help you; and I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people, to restore the land and allot the desolate heritages, saying to the prisoners: Come out! To those in darkness: Show yourselves! Along the ways they shall find pasture, on every bare height shall their pastures be.
They shall not hunger or thirst, nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them; for he who pities them leads them and guides them beside springs of water. I will cut a road through all my mountains, and make my highways level. See, some shall come from afar, others from the north and the west, and some from the land of Syene. Sing out, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth, break forth into song, you mountains. For the Lord comforts his people and shows mercy to his afflicted.
But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.” Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.
Gospel: Jn 5:17-30:
Jesus replied, “My Father goes on working and so do I.” And the Jews tried all the harder to kill him, for Jesus not only broke the Sabbath observance, but also made himself equal with God, calling God his own Father. Jesus said to them, “Truly, I assure you, the Son cannot do anything by himself, but only what he sees the Father do. And whatever he does, the Son also does. The Father loves the Son and shows him everything he does; and he will show him even greater things than these, so that you will be amazed.
As the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son gives life to whom he wills. (…) Whoever ignores the Son, ignores as well the Father who sent him. (…) Truly, the hour is coming and has indeed come, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and, on hearing it, will live. For the Father has life in himself, and he has given to the Son also to have life in himself. And he has empowered him as well to carry out Judgment, for he is Son of Man.(…)
One can get killed if he makes false claims. Jesus almost gets killed when he claims he is equal to God. How can he so intimately claim God as his Father? Normally it is not done by a respectable Jew. He has just made the authorities crazy when he cured a sick man on a Sabbath. And he does it in the Temple, the center of Jewish worship, where the observance of the law is foremost. Jesus justifies his “breaking the Sabbath” because his Father whom he imitates works even on a Sabbath. God works without day off. His Son Jesus, too, has the same regimen.
Whether they like it or not, he is going to seek doing the will of his Father, 24/7 non-stop. He is focused not on his personal agenda, but on his Father’s. He is not supposed to cower in fear when challenged. He has to be strong in the midst of opposition so that he can accomplish his mission as God sent to save the world. It is easy to keep quiet when we are told we are wrong. Our objectors are not necessarily correct. Never should Christians compromise truth, peace, liberation, justice and faith.
1st Reading: Ex 32:7-14:
The Lord said to Moses,
“Go down at once to your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, for they have become depraved. They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them, making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it, sacrificing to it and crying out, ‘This is your God, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ The Lord said to Moses, “I see how stiff-necked this people is. Let me alone, then, that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them. Then I will make of you a great nation.”
But Moses implored the Lord, his God, saying,
“Why, O Lord, should your wrath blaze up against your own people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with such great power and with so strong a hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent he brought them out, that he might kill them in the mountains and exterminate them from the face of the earth’? Let your blazing wrath die down; relent in punishing your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, and how you swore to them by your own self, saying, ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky; and all this land that I promised, I will give your descendants as their perpetual heritage.’” So the Lord relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people.
Gospel: Jn 5:31-47:
If I bore witness to myself, my testimony would be worthless. But Another One is bearing witness to me, and I know that his testimony is true when he bears witness to me. John also bore witness to the truth when you sent messengers to him, but I do not seek such human testimony; I recall this for you, so that you may be saved. (…) You search in the Scriptures, thinking that in them you will find life; yet Scripture bears witness to me. But you refuse to come to me, that you may live.
I am not seeking human praise; but I know that the love of God is not within you, for I have come in my Father’s name and you do not accept me.If another comes in his own name, you will accept him. As long as you seek praise from one another, instead of seeking the glory which comes from the only God, how can you believe? Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father. Moses himself, in whom you placed your hope, accuses you. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?
Bearing witness is to testify to the presence of God. John the Baptist bears witness to Jesus for him to be recognized. He points out to people that he is there in their midst. Greater than the witness of John is Jesus’ own works, which the Father entrusts to him. The Jews who oppose him rely on the Torah for light and life. They fail to interpret their sacred writings because they take glory in their own interpretations. They have devised ways to understand the Hebrew Bible. They compete with one another with regard to giving the best interpretation of the biblical verses.
Jesus tells them that if they are reading the Scriptures right, then they should be led to believe in him. The whole scriptures point to him as God’s Son and source of salvation. Interpretation of a biblical verse or passage is flawed if it is taken out of its context. Biblical verses must not be interpreted apart from the whole Bible and divine revelation. Worse happens if the Bible is taken out of the Church that has produced it, transmitted it and lived by it in their mission, prayer and liturgical life throughout the centuries.
St. Vincent Ferrer
1st Reading: Wis 2:1a, 12-22:
The wicked said among themselves, thinking not aright: “Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the Lord. To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us, because his life is not like that of others, and different are his ways. He judges us debased; he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure. He calls blest the destiny of the just and boasts that God is his Father.
Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him. For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. With revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.” These were their thoughts, but they erred; for their wickedness blinded them, and they knew not the hidden counsels of God; neither did they count on a recompense of holiness nor discern the innocent souls’ reward.
Gospel: Jn 7:1-2, 10, 25-30:
After this, Jesus went around Galilee; he would not go about in Judea, because the Jews wanted to kill him. Now the Jewish feast of the Tents was at hand. But after his brothers had gone to the festival, he also went up, not publicly but in secret. Some of the people of Jerusalem said, “Is this not the man they want to kill? And here he is speaking freely, and they don’t say a word to him? Can it be, that the rulers know that this is really the Christ?
Yet we know where this man comes from; but when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from.” So Jesus announced in a loud voice in the temple court where he was teaching, “You say that you know me and know where I come from! I have not come of myself; I was sent by the One who is true, and you don’t know him. I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me.” They would have arrested him, but no one laid hands on him because his time had not yet come.
The enemies of Jesus presume they know where the Messiah comes from. They base their knowledge on their own tentative interpretations. At this time Jesus is at large because he violated the Sabbath and claimed to be equal to God. The Jews look for him during the Feast of Tents (or Booths) which celebrates the forty-year wandering of the Hebrew people in the Sinai desert before entering the Promised Land. Every male Jew is required to attend this. They are on the look out to arrest him. They do not tolerate his grave offenses.
It is bad for their religion if he is not contained and disciplined. In the Temple, Jesus in a loud voice disproves that the authorities know about the Messiah and where he is coming from. They are all wrong. He is the Messiah, “christos“ in Greek. He comes from God. He is sent by God. He has been laying his claims on this by making signs (miracles). There is no need for further scrutiny or debate. Present authorities can be so brutal or extra careful if they are not sure of what they know or do. They will silence an innocent man for their comfort.
1st Reading: Jer 11:18-20:
I knew their plot because the Lord informed me; at that time you, O Lord, showed me their doings. Yet I, like a trusting lamb led to slaughter, had not realized that they were hatching plots against me: “Let us destroy the tree in its vigor; let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name will be spoken no more.”
But, you, O Lord of hosts, O just Judge, searcher of mind and heart, let me witness the vengeance you take on them, for to you I have entrusted my cause!
Gospel: Jn 7:40-53:
Many who had been listening to these words began to say, “This is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some wondered, “Would the Christ come from Galilee? Doesn’t Scripture say that the Christ is a descendant of David and from Bethlehem, the city of David?” The crowd was divided over him. Some wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. The officers of the temple went back to the chief priests, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him?” The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man.”
The Pharisees then said, “So you, too, have been led astray! Have any of the rulers or any of the Pharisees believed in him? Only these cursed people, who have no knowledge of the law!” Yet one of them, Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier, spoke out, “Does our law condemn people without first hearing them and knowing the facts?” They replied, “Do you, too, come from Galilee? Look it up and see for yourself that no prophet is to come from Galilee.” And they all went home.
Jesus catches the attention of each one in the Temple. They do not know how to handle him. To those who believe he is a prophet, he must be treated as such. They should be careful what to do with him. Otherwise, they will be condemning an innocent man. To those who know their little faith in him argue that he cannot be a prophet because he is a Galilean, though he can do wonderful things. To those who do not give him an inch, even a benefit of the doubt, like the elders and Sadducees, he must be arrested and eliminated.
Such person should not be allowed to disturb their peace and the status quo. Jesus can be a source of controversy. Until now, we have different views of Jesus. It depends on where we are coming from. Catholics can avoid being embroiled in useless debates if they study their faith, the scriptures and truly have a sense of belonging to the Church. We get Jesus wrong if one of these elements is absent. We can do harm to our faith and to others when we just say anything about Jesus without knowing his context.