Lent 5th Week: March 22-27

 Mar 22nd, Monday: John 8: 1-11: 1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple; all the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?”

6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus looked up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.” USCCB video homily:
The context: The Jewish civil and criminal code considered three grave sins as punishable by death, namely idolatry, murder, and adultery. The Law (Lv 18:20; 20:10; Dt 22:22), prescribes death for both the married woman and her partner if they are caught in adultery. If the guilty woman is betrothed and she and her partner are within the city, both are to be taken outside the City gate and stoned to death (Dt 22-23). In both cases they have violated God’s sixth commandment and have destroyed the fidelity and unity of  marriage. In today’s Gospel, we find the Pharisees preparing a trap for Jesus by bringing to him a woman caught in adultery. The trap and the escape: If Jesus consented to her death by strangulation or stoning, he would be violating the Roman law which forbade killing by private citizens. In addition, he would lose his reputation as a merciful rabbi. If Jesus said “no,” he would violate the Mosaic Law. Hence, Jesus ingeniously escaped from the trap by leaving the judgment to the conscience of the accusers. St. Augustine puts Jesus’ stand as follows: “Let this woman be punished, but not by sinners; let the law be applied, but not by its transgressors.” Jesus condemned sin, but not the sinner. He gave her a stern warning not to sin, but showed her mercy, compassion and forgiveness.
Life messages: 1) We too should learn to hate sin and love the sinners showing them mercy and compassion, sympathy and acceptance, and leading them to noble ways by our own exemplary lives. 2) We should show mercy and compassion to those who sin because we ourselves are sinners in need of God’s forgiveness. 3) We have no right to judge others because we often commit the very faults we condemn, we are often partial and prejudiced in our judgment, and we do not know the circumstances which led someone to sin. (Fr. Tony) (

March 23 Tuesday: John 8:21-30: 21 Again he said to them, “I go away, and you will seek me and die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come.” 22 Then said the Jews, “Will he kill himself, since he says, `Where I am going, you cannot come’?” 23 He said to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.” 25 They said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Even what I have told you from the beginning. 26 I have much to say about you and much to judge; but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” 27 They did not understand that he spoke to them of the Father. 28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me. 29 And he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.” 30 As he spoke thus, many believed in him. USCCB video homily:;
The context: Through his teaching and healing ministry, Jesus tried to convince his listeners that he was the promised Messiah. But only a few of his followers acknowledged him as the Messiah. The pride and the prejudice of the scribes and the Pharisees prevented them from seeing anything Divine in Jesus. Hence, Jesus gave them the warning that he was going to the place where he had come from, and they would not be able to go there. They misunderstood Jesus’ statement about his going home to Heaven as planning suicide.
So, Jesus gave the Jews the warning that they would die in their sins unless they believed in him as the saving Messiah and accepted his teaching. Then Jesus clarified how he was going to save those who believed in him by referring to the story of the bronze serpent. Just as the complaining Israelites in the desert were healed and saved from the serpent bites by looking at the bronze serpent, impaled and lifted on the pole, Jesus, would be lifted on a cross to which he had been nailed, for the salvation and freedom from sin of all mankind. Jesus further explained that his cross would defeat sin and death, and that he would give everlasting life to those who believed in him as the Messiah. Jesus declared his Divinity when he said, “I am He.
 Life messages: 1) We need to be humble instruments in the hand of God, trusting in His power and goodness.  St. Augustine reminds us that God Who created us without our permission cannot save us without our active cooperation.  Hence, let us cooperate in the fulfillment of God’s plan for us with Mary’s trusting Faith and humility. 2) Like Mary who brought God to us as Jesus our Savior, we are called to carry Jesus and bring him to the lives of others around us in love, mercy, forgiveness and service. “Let the soul of Mary be in each one of you to magnify the Lord.  Let the spirit of Mary be in each one to exult in Christ.” (St. Ambrose).
 (Fr. Tony) (

March 24 Wednesday: Jn 8:1-42: 31 Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How is it that you say, `You will be made free’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not continue in the house for ever; the son continues for ever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me, because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” 39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do what Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth which I heard from God; this is not what Abraham did. 41 You do what your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. USCCB video homily:
The context: Today’s first reading, taken from the book of the prophet Daniel, tells us how King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a golden statue built and commanded all his subjects to bow down in adoration before it as a test of loyalty. Many Jews did so, fearing persecution and death. But three young Jewish men, who were favorites of the king and were employed by the King in the royal court, refused to worship the statue because of their religious belief in one God, Yahweh. Hence, they were thrown into a fiery furnace to die. There, Yahweh their God protected them, as they were ready to sacrifice their lives rather than turn their backs on Him. It was their Faith, their loyal allegiance to God and their obedience to His will that saved them.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus told the unbelieving Jews that it was such loyal Faith and obedience to his teachings that would make them his disciples. Jesus explained to them that true freedom is freedom from sin, submitting their hearts and wills to God their Father speaking through His Son Jesus. The Jews argued that they had never been slaves to foreign gods, although they had been under Persian, Babylonian, Greek and Roman rulers. They claimed they had always kept the Faith of Abraham their father. Jesus plainly told them that they were slaves of sin and the devil because they not only refused to accept him as the Son of God and obey his words but were also planning to kill him.
Life messages: 1) Let us become true disciples of Christ by believing in Christ’s teachings, studying and mediating on his words in Holy Scripture and obeying his commandment of love in our daily lives. 2) Let us seek Jesus’ help and the guidance of the Holy Spirit that we may be freed from slavery to sins, evil habits, attachments and addictions. 3) Let us grow in true Christian discipleship by freely submitting our heart, mind, and will to an all-merciful, all-loving, and all-wise God. (Fr. Tony) (

March 25 Wednesday (The Annunciation of the Lord):  (Lk 1: 26-38: 26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 ..38… USCCB video reflections: 
 The context:  Today’s Gospel tells us the story of the Annunciation, explaining how God began to keep the promise He had made to King David through the prophet Nathan, that David’s descendant would rule the world in an everlasting Kingdom.
The angel’s salutation to Mary: “Hail, full of grace,” reminds us of God’s words to Moses at the burning bush (Ex 3:12), and the angel’s salutation to Gideon, (Jgs 6:12).  Mary is described as “full of grace,” filled with God’s favor and graciousness.  She is the new Ark, a tent and temple.  God is literally and physically in her, and, thus, she is the greater House of God promised to David. Mary’s question, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” is natural.  That is why the angel reminds Mary, “Nothing is impossible with God.”  The Lord God will “empower” her (“the Spirit will come upon you“), and “protect” her (“overshadow you“). In Luke’s narrative, Gabriel points out that the Child would not only be a distant grandson of David — he would be God’s own Son:  “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.” Mary does not require confirmation but responds in Faith.  She agrees to carry out the Word Gabriel has addressed to her. Since Mary is really a true hearer and doer of the Word of God, she immediately makes a response with faith and trust. Mary thus became the virgin-mother who fulfills Isaiah 7:14 in a way that Isaiah could not have imagined. She is united with her son in carrying out the will of God (Psalm 40:8-9; Hebrews 10:7-9; Luke 1:38). The Annunciation touches both the Good News that God has become one like us so that we might become as God is, and the greater news that God, in the person of Jesus, has “paid the price” for achieving this end. When we pray the “Angelus” prayer three times a day, we gratefully remember the great gift of God’s Incarnation. When we pray the Rosary, we refer to the Incarnation fifty-three times — each time we pray the “Hail Mary” — and the first of the “Joyful mysteries” is the Annunciation, the Incarnation of Our Lord.
 Life message: 1) We need to be humble instruments in the hand of God, trusting in His power and goodness, and Mary shows how an ordinary human being can reflect God in the ordinary circumstances of life. St. Augustine reminds us that God who created us without our permission cannot save us without our active cooperation.  Hence, let us cooperate in the fulfillment of God’s plan for us with Mary’s trusting Faith and humility, through which she brought Jesus to the world, giving Him flesh and blood. Can we also bring Jesus to others in our day-to-day lives? Like Mary who brought God to us as Jesus our Savior, it is our duty to carry Jesus and bring him to the lives of others around us in love, mercy, forgiveness and service. “Let the soul of Mary be in each one of you to magnify the Lord.  Let the spirit of Mary be in each one to exult in Christ.” (St. Ambrose). (Fr. Tony) (

March 26th Friday: Jn 10:31-42: 31 The Jews took up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of these do you stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we stone you but for blasphemy; because you, being a man, make yourself God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, `I said, you are Gods’? 35 If he called them Gods to whom the word of God came (and scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, `You are blaspheming,’ because I said, `I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 39 Again they tried to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands. 40 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John at first baptized, and there he remained. 41 And many came to him; and they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42 And many believed in him there. USCCB video homily: 
The context: In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah laments over the false accusations leveled against him by his friends and enemies. In the Gospel, Jesus refutes the accusation of blasphemy and avoids the attempt at stoning him to death (the Jewish punishment for blasphemy), by giving two proofs of his Divinity and equality with God as the Son of God. Jesus was called a blasphemer when he forgave the sins of the paralytic (Matthew 9:1-8). Later during his trial before the Sanhedrin, the High Priest would do the same when Jesus solemnly confessed his Divinity.
Two arguments supporting Jesus’ Divinity: 1) The Book of Psalms, a book of Jewish Holy Scripture, reminds the Jewish judges of their high dignity and consequent responsibility saying: “You are gods, sons of the Most High” (Ps 82: 6) because they are commissioned by God to act in the place of God in promoting His Justice. (God is reprimanding unjust judges reminding them of their position and role). If they can be called sons of God, Jesus argues, his saying, “I am consecrated and sent by God (meaning, “Hence, I share the Divinity of God and claim it”), is not blasphemy but truth. 2) The truth that Jesus is the Son of God is supported also by the credentials of his miracles. Jesus claims that it is his Father who does these miracles through him. Hence, Jesus challenges his accusers to accept his deeds even if they cannot accept his claim.
Life messages: 1) By Baptism we are made children of God, heirs of Heaven and members of the Trinitarian family of God. 2) We, too, are consecrated and commissioned by our Baptism to bear witness to Jesus and his ideals.
(Fr. Tony) (

March 27 Saturday: Jn 11: 45-56: 45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him; 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council, and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on thus, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all; 50 you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they took counsel how to put him to death. 54 Jesus therefore no longer went about openly among the Jews but went from there to the country near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim; and there he stayed with the disciples. 55 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves. 56 They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast?” USCCB video homily;
The context: Today’s Gospel gives the reaction of the High Priest and his associates when the news about Jesus’ raising of Lazarus reached their ears. They convened a joint council of priests and Pharisees to discuss the reaction of the people in favor of Jesus.
Caiaphas held the High Priesthood from the year 18 to the year 36 AD. It was the popular belief that when a High Priest asked for God’s counsel for the nation of Israel, God would speak through him. God used Caiaphas to prophesy the redemptive death of Jesus for the whole world when Caiaphas said: “It is expedient for you that One Man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.” Here, Caiaphas’ words have two meanings: 1) Caiaphas meant he wanted to put Christ to death on the pretext that that would ensure the political peace and survival of Israel. 2) The Holy Spirit meant that the new Israel, the Kingdom of God, the Church, would be founded through the death of Christ on the Cross, and that His death would save not only Israel but “all the children of God who are scattered abroad.” The prophets had already announced that the future assembly of Israelites faithful to God would form the new people of Israel. These prophecies were fulfilled by the death of Christ, Who, when raised up on the cross, drew and gathered together the true people of God, composed of all believers, whether Israelites or not.
Life messages: 1) We are entering Holy Week tomorrow. It is in Holy Week that we gratefully remember how Jesus died for the whole world. 2) Hence, these are days given us that we may express our gratitude to Christ who died for our sins, by repentance, by the renewal of our lives and by our preparation to celebrate resurrection of our Lord. (Fr. Tony) (