Palm Sunday

Scripture Reading

Jesus stood before the governor, Pontius Pilate, who questioned him,
“Are you the king of the Jews?”
Jesus said, “You say so.”
And when he was accused by the chief priests and elders,
he made no answer.
Then Pilate said to him,
“Do you not hear how many things they are testifying against you?”
But he did not answer him one word,
so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Now on the occasion of the feast
the governor was accustomed to release to the crowd
one prisoner whom they wished.
And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas.
So when they had assembled, Pilate said to them,
“Which one do you want me to release to you,
Barabbas, or Jesus called Christ?”
For he knew that it was out of envy
that they had handed him over.
While he was still seated on the bench,
his wife sent him a message,
“Have nothing to do with that righteous man.
I suffered much in a dream today because of him.”
The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds
to ask for Barabbas but to destroy Jesus.
The governor said to them in reply,
“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”
They answered, “Barabbas!”
Pilate said to them,
“Then what shall I do with Jesus called Christ?”
They all said,
“Let him be crucified!”
But he said,
“Why? What evil has he done?”
They only shouted the louder,
“Let him be crucified!”
When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all,
but that a riot was breaking out instead,
he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd,
saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.
Look to it yourselves.”
And the whole people said in reply,
“His blood be upon us and upon our children.”
Then he released Barabbas to them,
but after he had Jesus scourged,
he handed him over to be crucified.

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the praetorium
and gathered the whole cohort around him.
They stripped off his clothes
and threw a scarlet military cloak about him.
Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head,
and a reed in his right hand.
And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying,
“Hail, King of the Jews!”
They spat upon him and took the reed
and kept striking him on the head.
And when they had mocked him,
they stripped him of the cloak,
dressed him in his own clothes,
and led him off to crucify him.

As they were going out, they met a Cyrenian named Simon;
this man they pressed into service
to carry his cross.

And when they came to a place called Golgotha
— which means Place of the Skull —,
they gave Jesus wine to drink mixed with gall.
But when he had tasted it, he refused to drink.
After they had crucified him,
they divided his garments by casting lots;
then they sat down and kept watch over him there.
And they placed over his head the written charge against him:
This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.
Two revolutionaries were crucified with him,
one on his right and the other on his left.
Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying,
“You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,
save yourself, if you are the Son of God,
and come down from the cross!”
Likewise the chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him and said,
“He saved others; he cannot save himself.
So he is the king of Israel!
Let him come down from the cross now,
and we will believe in him.
He trusted in God;
let him deliver him now if he wants him.
For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'”
The revolutionaries who were crucified with him
also kept abusing him in the same way.

From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land
until three in the afternoon.
And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”
which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Some of the bystanders who heard it said,
“This one is calling for Elijah.”
Immediately one of them ran to get a sponge;
he soaked it in wine, and putting it on a reed,
gave it to him to drink.
But the rest said,
‘Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to save him.”
But Jesus cried out again in a loud voice,
and gave up his spirit.

And behold, the veil of the sanctuary
was torn in two from top to bottom.
The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened,
and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised.
And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection,
they entered the holy city and appeared to many.
The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus
feared greatly when they saw the earthquake
and all that was happening, and they said,
“Truly, this was the Son of God!”
(Matthew 27:11-54)

Scripture Study

27:11 King of the Jews?: The Jerusalem leaders give Jesus a title with obvious political overtones. The concern is whether Jesus represents a challenge to the authority of Rome; if so, Pilate would have legal cause to execute him for sedition.

27:19 a dream: Matthew alone records this episode with Pilate’s wife. As in the Infancy Narratives, dreams are channels for divine warning and instruction (1:20; 2:12–13, 22).

27:24 a riot: The same word is translated “tumult” (Gk. thorybos) in Mt 26:5. The Jerusalem leaders originally hoped to avoid a public upheaval but now instigate one to their own advantage. washed his hands: Pilate’s vain gesture to excuse himself from the responsibility of Jesus’ death.

27:25 His blood be on us: An oath formula (cf. Josh 2:17–19). The Jerusalem mob invokes a curse upon itself, staking their lives to their decision.

27:27 praetorium: The residence of a Roman official (Pilate) in Jerusalem.

27:28 a scarlet robe: The military cloak of a Roman soldier.

27:29 King of the Jews!: A title suggested by the Sanhedrin and used mockingly by the soldiers (Lk 23:2). It is also the transcription on Jesus’ Cross (27:37). The wise men are the only figures in Matthew to use the title in a positive and honorable way (2:2). ● Allegorically: the title and articles used to slander Jesus signify his kingship and triumph over sin. The scarlet robe (27:28) represents Jesus’ defeat of Satan through his shed blood; the crown of thorns (27:29) points to the crown of glory that adorns Jesus at his Ascension; the reed (27:29) signifies the scepter of his heavenly kingdom. Through these images, Christ’s victory is paradoxically announced in the midst of his apparent defeat.

27:33 Golgotha: An Aramaic term meaning “skull”. The Vulgate translation of this word (Lat. Calvariae) is the source of the modern term “Calvary”. Golgotha lies outside Jerusalem’s walls (Jn 19:20) and probably acquired its name as a site commonly used for executing criminals.

27:34 gall: A mixture of herbs and myrrh used as a narcotic (cf. Mk 15:23). Jesus’ refusal of painkillers signifies his total acceptance of the Father’s will and the extent of his sacrificial love (cf. Jn 10:17–18; Rom 5:8).

27:35 crucified him: Crucifixion was designed to facilitate a slow and torturous death. Victims died from a combination of blood loss and asphyxiation. divided his garments: An allusion to Ps 22:18. This psalm is quoted by Jesus before his death (Mt 27:46; cf. Jn 19:24).

27:45 sixth hour … ninth hour: i.e., from noon until 3 p.m.

27:46 Eli, Eli: A mixed Hebrew and Aramaic quotation of Ps 22:1. ● Ps 22 depicts the plight of a righteous sufferer. Although innocent, he is mocked and abused by the ungodly. He thus turns to God in his distress and petitions God for deliverance. By citing the psalm’s opening line, Jesus expresses his agony as he experiences the full brunt of rejection. This evokes the entire plot of Ps 22, where the sufferer’s humiliation gives way to his vindication. Thus Jesus does not consider his Passion meaningless or a mark of failure; still less does he succumb to a sin of despair. Rather, he “trusts in God” (27:43) and surrenders his spirit to the Father (Lk 23:46). Like the innocent sufferer of Ps 22, he is confident that God will turn his misery into victory (cf. Lk 23:43).

27:51 curtain of the temple: Hung between the Temple’s two holiest chambers, the holy place and the most holy place (Ex 26:31–34). The veil was a sign that God’s infinite holiness could not be approached by sinners (cf. Heb 9:8). With Jesus’ saving death, forgiveness is secured for man, and access to heaven is reopened (Eph 2:18; Heb 10:19–22). This is announced by God himself, who tears the veil from top to bottom.

27:52 saints … were raised: Apart from Matthew’s Gospel, history is silent regarding this event and the OT personalities involved. No indication is given as to who was raised, how long they remained, or what kind of body these saints possessed; yet there would be no reason for Matthew to record it, except that witnesses from Jerusalem verified the facts (27:53). Theologically, it is essential to note that these OT saints were raised after (27:53) Easter morning, since Jesus was the first to be resurrected in glory (Col 1:18).

Scripture Reflection

Friends on this Palm Sunday we are privileged to become immersed in Matthew’s great Gospel of the Passion. There are so many ways that we could illumine this text. I will choose just one. Jesus is presented as the divine presence that has journeyed into sin in order to save us. Accordingly, all forms of human dysfunction are on display in the passion narrative. During those terrible hours, Jesus’ mission came to its fulfillment. What commenced at Bethlehem and continued at the Jordan River now comes to completion.

In contrast to the rock-hard attitude of Jesus, conforming himself to the will of his Father, we find almost all the ways that we flee the will of God. Betrayal, indifference, spiritual sloth, violence, cowardice, untruth, scapegoating, self-destruction, abuse of authority, wanton cruelty. No wonder that “darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.” At the beginning of creation, God said, “Let there be light.” But his world had become darkened in every way through sin.

But what is the simple and powerful good news? That Jesus associates with all of us sinners, in all of our dysfunction. He entered into the darkness in all of its power in order to bring the light.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Preparation

Scripture Reading

Many of the Jews who had come to Mary
and seen what Jesus had done began to believe in him.
But some of them went to the Pharisees
and told them what Jesus had done.
So the chief priests and the Pharisees
convened the Sanhedrin and said,
“What are we going to do?
This man is performing many signs.
If we leave him alone, all will believe in him,
and the Romans will come
and take away both our land and our nation.”
But one of them, Caiaphas,
who was high priest that year, said to them,
“You know nothing,
nor do you consider that it is better for you
that one man should die instead of the people,
so that the whole nation may not perish.”
He did not say this on his own,
but since he was high priest for that year,
he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation,
and not only for the nation,
but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.
So from that day on they planned to kill him.

So Jesus no longer walked about in public among the Jews,
but he left for the region near the desert,
to a town called Ephraim,
and there he remained with his disciples.

Now the Passover of the Jews was near,
and many went up from the country to Jerusalem
before Passover to purify themselves.
They looked for Jesus and said to one another
as they were in the temple area, “What do you think?
That he will not come to the feast?”
(John 11:45-56)

Scripture Study

11:47 the council: The Sanhedrin, the supreme court of the Jews. Though many reasons underlie their conspiracy against Jesus (11:53), the raising of Lazarus was particularly insulting to the Sadducees, who did not believe such a thing was possible in the first place (Acts 23:6–8).

11:48 the Romans will come: The statement is brimming with historical irony. The Romans did in fact destroy both Jerusalem and its Temple in a.d. 70, not because the Jewish authorities let Jesus continue his ministry in peace, but precisely because they condemned him to a violent death. In the end, it was not the acceptance of Jesus that threatened the city but the rejection of him that made its demise inevitable (CCC 596–97, 1753). our holy place: A reference to the Temple or to Jerusalem more generally (Acts 6:13; 21:28).

11:49 Caiaphas: The high priest of Israel from a.d. 18 to 36. As such, he was the recognized head of the Jewish “council” (11:47).

11:51 he prophesied: Caiaphas unwittingly announces that Jesus will die for the salvation of the nation. This is not his own insight, but the grace of prophecy speaking through him in virtue of his priestly office and position as chief teacher of Israel.

11:52 the children of God: Recalls the “other sheep” that Jesus promised to gather into his “one flock” (10:16). It indicates that Christ calls to himself not only Israelites living in the land of Judea, but Israelites and Gentiles who are scattered throughout the Mediterranean world and beyond (Is 43:5–7; 66:18–21; Jer 31:10). The gospel of Christ thus reunifies the human family by gathering believers from every nation into the divine family of God (CCC 706, 2793).

11:54 Ephraim: A village of uncertain location, but probably north of Jerusalem in the lower region of Samaria.

11:55 the Passover: The third mention of this feast in John (2:13; 6:4). to purify themselves: Jews underwent a process of ritual purification before the Passover, since it was forbidden to celebrate the festival in a state of ceremonial uncleanness (Num 9:9–11; 2 Chron 30:18–21).

Scripture Reflection

Since the Passover was the most solemn Jewish feast, the people used to arrive in Jerusalem some days in advance to prepare for it by washings, fasts and offerings—practices established not by the Mosaic law but by popular piety; the rites of the Passover itself, with the sacrificing of the lamb, were a rite of purification and expiation for sins. The Passover of the Jews was a figure of the Christian Pasch or Easter, for as St Paul the Apostle teaches us, our paschal lamb is Christ who offered himself once and for all to the eternal Father on the cross to atone for our sins.

Saint Josemaria Escrivá in his book Christ Is Passing By, asks us: “If the Jews prepared to celebrate the Passover with all these rites and ablutions, it would seem obvious what steps we should take to celebrate or participate in the Mass and to receive Christ—our Pasch—in the Eucharist. On this earth, when we receive an important person, we bring out the best lights, music, and formal dress. How should we prepare to receive Christ into our soul? Have we ever thought about how we would behave if we could only receive him once in a lifetime?”

As we reflect on the coming Holy Week, let us be mindful of how we prepare to meet Christ in the blessed Eucharistic celebration.

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Father and Son

Scripture Reading

The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus.
Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father.
For which of these are you trying to stone me?”
The Jews answered him,
“We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy.
You, a man, are making yourself God.”
Jesus answered them,
“Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, ‘You are gods”‘?
If it calls them gods to whom the word of God came,
and Scripture cannot be set aside,
can you say that the one
whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world
blasphemes because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?
If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me;
but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me,
believe the works, so that you may realize and understand
that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
Then they tried again to arrest him;
but he escaped from their power.

He went back across the Jordan
to the place where John first baptized, and there he remained.
Many came to him and said,
“John performed no sign,
but everything John said about this man was true.”
And many there began to believe in him.
(John 10:31-42)

Scripture Study

10:34 your law: Sometimes this expression refers to the OT in general and not just to the Pentateuch (12:34; 15:25; 1 Cor 14:34). I said, you are gods: A citation from Ps 82:6. ● The psalm is a prayer for Yahweh to punish the corrupt shepherds of Israel. These leaders, who are charged with teaching and enforcing divine Law, are called “gods” by the Psalmist because of the divine authority they wield over the people. The abuse of this power makes their corruption all the more insidious. Jesus reasons that if sinful authorities are given a divine title because of their duties, how much more is he entitled to it who is guiltless and who speaks the words of God (8:45–47).

10:35 Scripture cannot be nullified: Three implications can be drawn from this statement. (1) Scripture cannot be set aside, since its teaching is as trustworthy and true as God himself (17:17). (2) The OT, represented in this context by a psalm, has permanent authority even under the New Covenant (Mt 5:17). (3) The authority of Scripture extends even to individual words, as in this context where Jesus’ whole argument rests on the import of a single word (“gods”) from Ps 82:6.

10:36 consecrated: The Greek means to be “sanctified” or “set apart as holy”. Christ is set apart by the Father to consecrate the world in truth (17:19). ● Jesus’ words resonate against the background of the Feast of the Dedication, which celebrates the consecration of the Second Temple by the Maccabees (1 Mac 4:48), just as its predecessors, the wilderness Tabernacle (Num 7:1) and the Solomonic Temple, had been consecrated (1 Kings 9:3). These sanctuaries of old are replaced by the new and consecrated temple of Jesus’ body (2:20–21).

10:38 believe the works: The miracles of Jesus are meant to authenticate his mission in the eyes of Israel (5:36; 14:11) and to corroborate his claims to divinity (5:18; 10:33). The Jews knew that only God, who has absolute power over creation, can suspend the laws of nature in a miraculous way (3:2; 9:33) (CCC 548).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jewish leaders attempt to stone Jesus because he claimed to be the Son of God. He defended his identity, saying “If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize [and understand] that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

At the Last Supper, Jesus would further explain his intimate relationship with the Father. There he lays out for us the co-inherence that obtains at the most fundamental dimension of being, that is to say, within the very existence of God. “Lord,” Philip said to him, “show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus replied, “Philip, after I have been with you all this time, you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

How can this be true, unless the Father and the Son coinhere in each other? Though Father and Son are truly distinct, they are utterly implicated in each other by a mutual act of love. As Jesus says, “It is the Father who lives in me accomplishing his works.”

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

I AM

Scripture Reading

Jesus said to the Jews:
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever keeps my word will never see death.”
So the Jews said to him,
“Now we are sure that you are possessed.
Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say,
‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’
Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died?
Or the prophets, who died?
Who do you make yourself out to be?”
Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing;
but it is my Father who glorifies me,
of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’
You do not know him, but I know him.
And if I should say that I do not know him,
I would be like you a liar.
But I do know him and I keep his word.
Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day;
he saw it and was glad.”
So the Jews said to him,
“You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
before Abraham came to be, I AM.”
So they picked up stones to throw at him;
but Jesus hid and went out of the temple area.
(John 8:51-59)

Scripture Study

8:51 never see death: Not that Jesus exempts believers from the experience of bodily death, but that he saves their souls from spiritual death by the gift of eternal life (Rom 6:23).

8:56 to see my day: Probably a reference to the events in Gen 22:1–18. ● (1) When Abraham nearly sacrifices Isaac as a holocaust, only to receive him back alive, the patriarch witnessed a preview of the Father surrendering his Son to death and receiving him back in the Resurrection (Heb 11:17–19). (2) In response to this act of faith, Yahweh rewarded Abraham with a sworn covenant promise that one of his descendants would arise to bless all nations (Gen 22:16–18). This oath is fulfilled in the dying and rising of Jesus, who offers blessings to every nation (Mt 28:18–20; Gal 3:14; CCC 706).

8:57 not yet fifty years old: Jesus is only in his early thirties (Lk 3:23).

8:58 before Abraham was, I am: Jesus takes for himself the divine name of Yahweh, “I am” (Ex 3:14). He thus claims to be one with God (10:30), whose life in eternity has neither beginning nor end. The Pharisees hear this claim loud and clear and, thinking it outrageous, stand ready to stone him for blasphemy (8:59; Lev 24:16) (CCC 590).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today Jesus refers to himself as “I AM,” the name God revealed to Moses. So, let’s reflect on this episode from Genesis. While tending sheep in the hill country, Moses sees a strange sight. There an angel of the Lord appears to him in fire, flaming out of a bush. God sees him and calls him by name: “Moses, Moses. I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” This is a very familiar God, one who knows Moses’ ancestors.

Moses makes bold to ask, “If the Israelites ask me, ‘what is his name?’ what am I to tell them?” “God replied, ‘I am who I am.’” What does that mean? God is saying, in essence, “I cannot be defined, described, or delimited. I am not a being, but rather the sheer act of to-be itself.”

“This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you.” The sheer act of being itself cannot be avoided, and it cannot be controlled. It can only be surrendered to in faith. How shocking and strange Jesus’ listeners must have found it when Jesus took this name for himself!

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Disoriented Will

Scripture Reading

Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him,
“If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples,
and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham
and have never been enslaved to anyone.
How can you say, ‘You will become free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.
A slave does not remain in a household forever,
but a son always remains.
So if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free.
I know that you are descendants of Abraham.
But you are trying to kill me,
because my word has no room among you.
I tell you what I have seen in the Father’s presence;
then do what you have heard from the Father.”

They answered and said to him, “Our father is Abraham.”
Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children,
you would be doing the works of Abraham.
But now you are trying to kill me,
a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God;
Abraham did not do this.
You are doing the works of your father!”
So they said to him, “We were not born of fornication.
We have one Father, God.”
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me,
for I came from God and am here;
I did not come on my own, but he sent me.”
(John 8:31-42)

Scripture Study

8:31 Those Jews who believed in him: a rough editorial suture, since in Jn 8:37 they are described as trying to kill Jesus.

8:33 Have never been enslaved to anyone: since, historically, the Jews were enslaved almost continuously, this verse is probably Johannine irony, about slavery to sin.

8:35 A slave … a son: an allusion to Ishmael and Isaac (Gn 16; 21), or to the release of a slave after six years (Ex 21:2; Dt 15:12).

8:38 The Father: i.e., God. It is also possible, however, to understand the second part of the verse as a sarcastic reference to descent of the Jews from the devil (Jn 8:44), “You do what you have heard from [your] father.”

8:39 The works of Abraham: Abraham believed; cf. Rom 4:11–17; Jas 2:21–23.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today in our Gospel Jesus confronts Jewish leaders who want to kill him, telling them they are hardened in their sin. He speaks, “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.” In our tradition, sin is a kind of non-being, an illusion if you will. To live in sin is to live stubbornly in an unreal world. Our mind becomes confused, and our will disoriented. This helps explains why the devil is often referred to as the father of lies.

Theologian Henri de Lubac gives voice to this conviction when he refers to sin as cette claudication mysterieuse, this mysterious limp. It is a deformation, a corruption. All of us sinners have, to one degree or another, bought into the lie. At the heart of the lie—and we can see it in the Genesis account—is the deification of the ego. I become the center of the universe, I with my needs and my fears and my demands.

And when the puny “I” is the center of the cosmos, the tie that binds all things to one another is lost. The basic reality now becomes rivalry, competition, violence, and mistrust.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

A Complaining Lot

Scripture Reading

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.
(Numbers 21:4-9)

Scripture Study

21:4 Mount Hor The place where Aaron died.

the Red Sea The Hebrew words used here, yam suph, may be translated “Red Sea” as opposed to the literal translation, “Sea of Reeds.” to go around the land of Edom This move toward the Red Sea (or “Reed Sea,” yam suph in Hebrew) is a step backward from Arad (Num 21:1–3), and is due to the refusal of the king of Edom to let Israel pass through its land (20:14–21).

21:5 against God and against Moses The Israelites include God as the target of their complaint—one reason for the severity of the punishment. our hearts detest this miserable food The people were not starving, they simply had contempt for the provisions God gave them—manna and quail.

21:6 poisonous snakes The Hebrew verb used here, saraph, means “burn,” but the noun is commonly used for a type of snake (e.g., Deut 8:15). poisonous snakes The Hebrew noun used here, nachash, is the common word for “snake.”

21:8 Make for yourself a snake The Hebrew word used here, saraph, meaning “fiery,” likely refers to the shape after which Moses was to model the bronze serpent. Saraph occurs in Isa 14:29; 30:6, where the serpent is described as “flying.” The serpents referred to did not fly through the air; rather, the description comes from its appearance. The snake was likely a type of cobra whose upper body skin flanges were possibly thought to look like “wings.”

21:9 that person looked at the snake of bronze, he lived In the ancient Near East, serpents were widely associated with life and healing because they shed their skin. The prescientific observance of this ability led people to assume the serpent had regenerative power. Even today, the most common insignia associated with the medical profession contains two intertwined snakes.

Scripture Reflection

In the reading today, we see the people continuing to complain against Moses. But their protest is also directed against God. When they are punished, Moses once again intercedes on their behalf. How similar are these actions today in our lives? How often do we complain or direct anger towards God as we encounter challenging events in our lives?

The point that is emphasized in this story is that it was not the bronze serpent that cured the people but the mercy of God. The serpent was a sign of the salvation which God offers all men. As mentioned in the Gospel of John, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believes in him may have eternal life,” the bronze serpent is typifying Christ raised up on the cross, the cause of salvation for those who look upon him with faith (Jn 3:14–15).

When we embrace and follow the Lord’s teaching, we raise Christ above all human things. Through this action, he draws us towards himself where His saving grace and mercy pour forth. Come Lord Jesus, come!

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

Scapegoating Violence

Scripture Reading

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area,
and all the people started coming to him,
and he sat down and taught them.
Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman
who had been caught in adultery
and made her stand in the middle.
They said to him,
“Teacher, this woman was caught
in the very act of committing adultery.
Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.
So what do you say?”
They said this to test him,
so that they could have some charge to bring against him.
Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.
But when they continued asking him,
he straightened up and said to them,
“Let the one among you who is without sin
be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.
And in response, they went away one by one,
beginning with the elders.
So he was left alone with the woman before him.
Then Jesus straightened up and said to her,
“Woman, where are they?
Has no one condemned you?”
She replied, “No one, sir.”
Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.
Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
(John 8:1-11)

Scripture Study

Some ancient manuscripts of the Fourth Gospel omit this episode entirely. Other manuscripts place it elsewhere in John or even in the Gospel of Luke. According to the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century, the official canon of the Scriptures corresponds to everything included in the Latin Vulgate edition. This translation includes the episode as canonical.

8:6 to test him: The Pharisees are not seeking legal advice from Jesus. Their question in 8:5 is a trap designed to incriminate or discredit him. (1) If Jesus authorizes the stoning, the Pharisees will report him to the Romans for criminal wrongdoing, for the Jews were not permitted to administer capital punishment under Roman rule (18:31). (2) If Jesus forbids the stoning, the Pharisees will discredit him as a false messiah who contradicts Moses, for the Torah classifies adultery as a capital crime (Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22).

8:7 Let him who is without sin: Many popular interpretations of this verse are unworkable because they lead Jesus straight into the trap set by the Pharisees in 8:4–5. (1) Some argue that Jesus is overturning the death penalty for adultery prescribed in the Torah. In fact, Jesus is not addressing the status or legality of the death penalty at all; he is simply dodging the Pharisees’ trap. (2) Others argue that Jesus permits the adulteress to walk free because no witnesses are present to testify against her. This could not have been so, first, because it wrongly implies that Jesus would have been caught off guard if the witnesses who caught the adulteress in the act did come forward and, second, because it wrongly implies that Jesus would then have authorized the stoning. (3) Others argue that Jesus brings the examination to a halt because the woman’s partner is absent and so the process of incrimination cannot proceed. This could not have been so, first, because of a clear precedent in the OT where Susanna is falsely condemned for adultery without first establishing who and where her partner was (Dan 11:34–41) and, second, because it wrongly implies that Jesus would have authorized the stoning if the woman’s partner had eventually been found.

8:8 wrote … on the ground: What Jesus inscribes in the dirt is unknown but probably symbolic. ● The gesture may recall Jer 17:13, a warning that those who forsake the Lord “shall be written in the earth” because they have rejected the “fountain of living water”. ● Morally (St. Bede, Hom. in Evan.): Christ, who twice bends down to write on the ground, teaches us to bend low in humility to examine ourselves both before and after addressing the faults of our neighbor.

8:9 the eldest: i.e., the wisest, who were the first to detect the brilliance of Jesus’ reply (8:7).

8:11 do not sin again: Jesus neither condemns the woman nor condones her sins. He rather forgives her past and challenges her to live a life of purity in the future.

Scripture Reflection

Our Gospel today tells about the woman that scribes and Pharisees caught in adultery. Imagine where they were standing when they caught her in the very act. The voyeurism and perversion of these men! Then they come en masse, in the terrible enthusiasm of a mob, and they present the case to Jesus.

Now what does Jesus do in the face of this violent mob? First, he writes on the ground. The mysterious writing might indicate the listing of the sins of each person in the group. As he said in another Gospel, “Remove the plank in your own eye, and then you can see more clearly the speck in your brother’s eye.”

And then he says, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to cast a stone at her.” He forces them to turn their accusing glance inward, where it belongs. Instead of projecting their violence outward on a scapegoat, they should honestly name and confront the dysfunction within themselves. This story, like all the stories in the Gospels, is a foreshadowing of the great story toward which we are tending. Jesus will be put to death by a mob bent on scapegoating violence.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

 

Facing Down Death

Scripture Reading

Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany,
the village of Mary and her sister Martha.
Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil
and dried his feet with her hair;
it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.
So the sisters sent word to him saying,
“Master, the one you love is ill.”
when Jesus heard this he said,
“This illness is not to end in death,
but is for the glory of God,
that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
So when he heard that he was ill,
he remained for two days in the place where he was.
Then after this he said to his disciples,
“Let us go back to Judea.”
The disciples said to him,
“Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you,
and you want to go back there?”
Jesus answered,
“Are there not twelve hours in a day?
If one walks during the day, he does not stumble,
because he sees the light of this world.
But if one walks at night, he stumbles,
because the light is not in him.”
He said this, and then told them,
“Our friend Lazarus is asleep,
but I am going to awaken him.”
So the disciples said to him,
“Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.”
But Jesus was talking about his death,
while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep.
So then Jesus said to them clearly,
“Lazarus has died.
And I am glad for you that I was not there,
that you may believe.
Let us go to him.”
So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples,
“Let us also go to die with him.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus
had already been in the tomb for four days.
Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away.
And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them about their brother.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”
Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”

When she had said this,
she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying,
“The teacher is here and is asking for you.”
As soon as she heard this,
she rose quickly and went to him.
For Jesus had not yet come into the village,
but was still where Martha had met him.
So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her
saw Mary get up quickly and go out,
they followed her,
presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him,
she fell at his feet and said to him,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping,
he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said,
“Where have you laid him?”
They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”
And Jesus wept.
So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”
But some of them said,
“Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man
have done something so that this man would not have died?”

So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb.
It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him,
“Lord, by now there will be a stench;
he has been dead for four days.”
Jesus said to her,
“Did I not tell you that if you believe
you will see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone.
And Jesus raised his eyes and said,
“Father, I thank you for hearing me.
I know that you always hear me;
but because of the crowd here I have said this,
that they may believe that you sent me.”
And when he had said this,
He cried out in a loud voice,
“Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out,
tied hand and foot with burial bands,
and his face was wrapped in a cloth.
So Jesus said to them,
“Untie him and let him go.”

Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary
and seen what he had done began to believe in him.
(John 11:1-45)

Scripture Study

11:1–45. This chapter deals with one of Jesus’ most outstanding miracles. The Fourth Gospel, by including it, demonstrates Jesus’ power over death, which the Synoptic Gospels showed by reporting the raising of the daughter of Jairus (Mt 9:25 and par.) and of the son of the widow of Nain (Lk 7:12).

The evangelist first sets the scene (vv. 1–16); then he gives Jesus’ conversation with Lazarus’ sisters (vv. 17–37); finally, he reports the raising of Lazarus four days after his death (vv. 38–45). Bethany was only about three kilometres (two miles) from Jerusalem (v. 18). On the days prior to his passion, Jesus often visited this family, to which he was very attached. St John records Jesus’ affection (vv. 3, 5, 36) by describing his emotion and sorrow at the death of his friend.

By raising Lazarus our Lord shows his divine power over death and thereby gives proof of his divinity, in order to confirm his disciples’ faith and reveal himself as the Resurrection and the Life. Most Jews, but not the Sadducees, believed in the resurrection of the body. Martha believed in it (cf. v. 24).

Apart from being a real, historical event, Lazarus’ return to life is a sign of our future resurrection: we too will return to life. Christ, by his glorious resurrection through which he is the “first-born from the dead” (Col 1:18; 1 Cor 15:20; Rev 1:5), is also the cause and model of our resurrection. In this his resurrection is different from that of Lazarus, for “Christ being raised from the dead will never die again” (Rom 6:9), whereas Lazarus returned to earthly life, later to die again.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel speaks of Jesus’ conquest of death in the raising of Lazarus. What if death is not at all what God intended. Mind you, I mean death as we experience it—as something fearful, horrible, terrifying. This comes from having turned from God. Jesus came primarily as a warrior whose final enemy is death. It is easy to domesticate Jesus, presenting him as a kindly moral teacher. But that is not how the Gospels present him. He is a cosmic warrior who has come to do battle with those forces that keep us from being fully alive.

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is dealing with the effects of death and a death-obsessed culture: violence, hatred, egotism, exclusion, false religion, phony community. But the final enemy he must face down is death itself. Like Frodo going into Mordor, he has to go into death’s domain, get into close quarters with it, and take it on.

Coming to Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus feels the deepest emotions and begins to weep. This is God entering into the darkness, confusion, and agony of the death of sinners. He doesn’t blithely stand above our situation, but rather takes it on and feels it at its deepest level.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

 

In You I Take Refuge

Scripture Reading

O LORD, my God, in you I take refuge;
save me from all my pursuers and rescue me,
Lest I become like the lion’s prey,
to be torn to pieces, with no one to rescue me.

Do me justice, O LORD, because I am just,
and because of the innocence that is mine.
Let the malice of the wicked come to an end,
but sustain the just,
O searcher of heart and soul, O just God.

A shield before me is God,
who saves the upright of heart;
A just judge is God,
a God who punishes day by day.
(Psalm 7:2-3, 9-10, 11-12)

Scripture Study

7:1–2. This first petition implies that the psalmist’s enemies are trying to bring about his death. They are not identified, but they are fierce and dangerous, like a lion. From what follows, one gathers that these enemies are people who unjustly accuse him of having done evil and of having violated the rights of others.

7:6–9. The two main features of God as judge are: he is supreme judge “over all peoples and nations”, and he knows what everyone thinks and desires (he “tries minds and hearts”: cf. v. 9). Our Lord Jesus Christ too, being God, “knew what was in man” (Jn 2:25) and needed no one to inform him. “Nothing is hidden from the Lord’s sight; even our deepest secrets do not escape his understanding. Let us work, therefore, in the knowledge that He dwells within us always” (St Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Ephesios, 15, 3)

7:10-11. When the upright in heart (v. 10) make sincere appeal to God, they expect to find in him a “shield” to protect them against false accusers.

7:12. Unlike the righteous, sinners will be punished by God; images to do with warfare are used here to show that their violent deeds will rebound against them.

Scripture Reflection

This psalm is a lament by an individual who, having been accused of all sorts of wrongdoing, swears that he is innocent and asks God to punish his enemies. Confident of a favorable answer to his prayer, he thanks God.

We must remember as Christians, that when we pray the psalms, the model we have is always Jesus. During his passion, Jesus does not say anything about punishment for his persecutors; rather, he prays for them because “they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34).

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Knowing Him

Scripture Reading

Jesus moved about within Galilee;
he did not wish to travel in Judea,
because the Jews were trying to kill him.
But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near.

But when his brothers had gone up to the feast,
he himself also went up, not openly but as it were in secret.

Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said,
“Is he not the one they are trying to kill?
And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him.
Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ?
But we know where he is from.
When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.”
So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said,
“You know me and also know where I am from.
Yet I did not come on my own,
but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true.
I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.”
So they tried to arrest him,
but no one laid a hand upon him,
because his hour had not yet come.
(John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30)

Scripture Study

7:2 feast of Tabernacles: Also called the “feast of Booths” (Lev 23:33–43; Deut 16:13–16). It is a seven-day fall festival held annually in Jerusalem. The feast of Tabernacles commemorates both the completion of the autumn harvest and Yahweh’s provisions for Israel during their Exodus journey through the wilderness. Throughout the week, Jewish pilgrims dwelled in small huts made of tree branches called “booths”. Two liturgical ceremonies from this feast hang as a backdrop behind Jesus’ teaching in chaps. 7 and 8. (1) Each morning Levitical priests drew water from the pool of Siloam in the southern quarter of Jerusalem, carried it in procession into the Temple, and poured it out as a libation next to the altar of sacrifice. This is connected with Jesus’ teaching about “water” in 7:37–39. (2) Giant candelabras burned in the sanctuary (Court of Women) that illuminated the Temple courts; at the same time dancers with flaming torches processed through the Temple amid singing and music. This is linked with Jesus’ teaching about “light” in 8:12.

7:26 the authorities: Probably members of the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem.

7:27 no one will know: Two traditions regarding the birth and origin of the Messiah circulated in ancient Judaism. (1) Some expected the Messiah to grow up in obscurity and be manifested to the world only as an adult. (2) Others expected the Messiah to come from Bethlehem in accordance with the prophecy of Mic 5:2. The irony here is that both are true of Jesus: his heavenly origin in the Trinity is unknown to his audience (8:14), as is his birth in Bethlehem (Lk 2:4–7).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, the Gospel for today centers around a theme that we can never speak of enough: the divinity of Jesus. There has been a disturbing tendency in recent years—you can see it clearly in Eckhart Tolle’s bestselling book, The Power of Now—to turn Jesus into an inspiring spiritual teacher, like the Buddha or the Sufi mystics.

But if that’s all he is, the heck with him. The Gospels are never content with such a reductive description. Though they present Jesus quite clearly as a teacher, they know that he is infinitely more than that. They affirm that something else is at stake in him and our relation to him.

In our Gospel today, Jesus he plainly declares his relationship with his Father: “I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.”

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.