4th Sunday in Lent
St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary
1st Reading: 1 Sm 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a:
The Lord said to Samuel: “Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen my king from among his sons.” As Jesse and his sons came to the sacrifice, Samuel looked at Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is here before him.” But the Lord said to Samuel: “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.” In the same way Jesse presented seven sons before Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any one of these.”
Then Samuel asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” Jesse replied, “There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Send for him; we will not begin the sacrificial banquet until he arrives here.” Jesse sent and had the young man brought to them. He was ruddy, a youth handsome to behold and making a splendid appearance. The Lord said, “There—anoint him, for this is the one!” Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand, anointed David in the presence of his brothers; and from that day on, the spirit of the Lord rushed upon David.
2nd Reading: Eph 5:8-14:
Brothers and sisters: You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”
Gospel: Jn 9:1-41:
As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” —which means Sent—. So he went and washed, and came back able to see. His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?”
Some said, “It is, ” but others said, “No, he just looks like him.” He said, “I am.” So they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?” He replied, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went there and washed and was able to see.” And they said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I don’t know.” They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath. So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.” So some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a sinful man do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said to the blind man again, “What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”
Now the Jews did not believe that he had been blind and gained his sight until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight. They asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How does he now see?” His parents answered and said, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. We do not know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is of age; he can speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone acknowledged him as the Christ, he would be expelled from the synagogue. For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; question him.” So a second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give God the praise! We know that this man is a sinner.” He replied, “If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.”
So they said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?” They ridiculed him and said, “You are that man’s disciple; we are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but we do not know where this one is from.” The man answered and said to them, “This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him. It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.”
They answered and said to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out. When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him. Then Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.” Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.
Yahweh chooses David to succeed Saul, who did not live up to his vocation. Paul invites all to live up to their status as children of God, by producing fruits of light. The man born blind receives both physical and spiritual light whereas the priests and Pharisees who claimed to be God’s men fail to accept the light of Christ. It is possible to be chosen by God once only to be rejected by Him later. Saul, and the priests and the Pharisees are case in point. Is God unfaithful and wrong to do so? The truth of the matter is: it is not God’s doing; but ours. We fail God’s call by our stubbornness of heart. We fall away from God’s light and truth by our selfish agenda. Like the fall of the angels. Pray for the gift of faithfulness and perseverance in faith. Recite the Profession of Faith.
1st Reading: 2 Sm 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16:
The Lord spoke to Nathan and said: “Go, tell my servant David, ‘When your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm. It is he who shall build a house for my name. And I will make his royal throne firm forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.’”
Gospel: Mt 1:16, 18-21, 24a:
Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ. Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.
The miracle stories in the Gospel of John are signs, that is, beyond the visible event or act, there is a greater spiritual reality or truth that is being taught. Thus, the 1st sign, the miracle of the water being transformed into wine at Cana was a sign of the inauguration of the “New Covenant” that Jesus was to bring about by his Passion. The 2nd miracle, the cure of the son of the Official, was a sign of the extent of the redemption Jesus was to accomplish. Previous to this miracle we have Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus (representing the Jews) and the encounter of Jesus and the Samaritan woman (representing the “lost tribes of Israel”).
With this miracle Jesus makes it clear that salvation is not only for the children of Abraham but is extended to non-Jews. The Official in this Gospel episode was probably a pagan or Roman centurion. The story is very similar to the one we read in Matthew 8:5ff. Moreover, co-relating this miracle with our first reading, we find the deeper significance of the cure of the son of the Official. Isaiah prophesies the defeat of death with the coming of the “new heavens and a new earth.” Jesus will conquer sin, sickness, death! Oh how blest are we, too, who are non-Jews to be included in Christ Jesus’ work of salvation!
1st Reading: Ez 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 façade 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 feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes. In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.
Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who was cured, “It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.” He answered them, “The man who made me well told me, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who told you, ‘Take it up and walk’?” The man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there. After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him, “Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went and told the Jews that Jesus was the one who had made him well. Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus because he did this on a sabbath.
The temple of Jerusalem had many gates. One of these was known as the Sheep Gate. It was through this gate that the Jews passed through to bring their lamb sacrifices for their sin offerings. Outside of this gate lay the pool of Bethzatha where many sick lay on pallets waiting to be healed. They believed that when the angel stirred the pool the one that goes into the water first would get healed. It was in this area that Jesus worked the 3rd sign. Again, what is the significance of this miracle? Bethzatha, the name of the pool, is translated “house of mercy.”
The people who gather around the pool are the sick. They all wait to receive some mercy from God. When Jesus cures the paralyzed man, therefore, he extends God’s mercy! Jesus, is the true “angel” or messenger of God who comes to grant mercy! This miracle cure happens by the Sheep Gate, however! It also signified that the gift of mercy will be given by the true Sheep Gate, Jesus! It will be the result, too, of the true Lamb of God who will be sacrificed on Good Friday! With this miracle, Jesus tells us that he will grant us mercy by becoming the Lamb of sacrifice! By His wounds we are healed! Praise be the Lord!
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 answered the Jews: “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.” For this reason they tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God. Jesus answered and said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for what he does, the Son will do also. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything that he himself does, and he will show him greater works than these, so that you may be amazed.
For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes. Nor does the Father judge anyone, but he has given all judgment to the Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life. Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to the Son the possession of life in himself. And he gave him power to exercise judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation. “I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me.”
One of the most painful moments in the history of Israel was their exile to Babylon. At that time they felt that Yahweh had abandoned them. The prophets, especially Isaiah, was sent to remind them that it was because they had been unfaithful to the Covenant that the Lord God had punished them. But only for a while. The anger of God is but a while. Deutero Isaiah then tells the Israelites that they will be restored to their homeland. They will have a “homecoming!”
In a beautiful hymn Isaiah sings: “Can a woman forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child of her womb?” Yes, indeed, the Lord does punish us for our sins, but in the end His mercy endures. Lent is the time when we are reminded of our sins and at the same time it is a time to remember that our God invites us back to return to Him. Lent is the favorable time for the return of prodigal sons and daughters to the Father’s house. It is time for a homecoming!
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:
Jesus said to the Jews: “If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true. But there is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true. You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth. I do not accept human testimony, but I say this so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light. But I have testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf. But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form, and you do not have his word remaining in you, because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent.
You search the Scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life. “I do not accept human praise; moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I came in the name of my Father, but you do not accept me; yet if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father: the one who will accuse you is Moses, in whom you have placed your hope. For if you had believed Moses, you would have believed me, because he wrote about me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”
No sooner had Israel entered into a Covenant with Yahweh than they turned away from the terms and conditions of the Covenant! Yahweh complains that the Israelites were a stiff necked people. The story of Israel is a story of infidelity to their covenant with Yahweh! Yet every time they would confess their sins and repent the Lord would forgive them. Always the mercy of God takes precedence over his justice. Indeed, mercy is the justice of God! But even as the Lord is merciful yet does he desire that man, the sinner begs for his mercy.
Thus, Moses, intercedes for the Israelites. Moses sort of “reminds” God of his promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And Yahweh “changed his mind” in response to the prayer of Moses! What a God we have! We have a merciful God who listens to the intercession of the good for the sake of the evil! How praiseworthy then is our prayer for sinners. So often sinners may not know the evil they do, or they may lack the strength to change. But if there are people like Moses who pray for sinners, God’s mercy is poured out on sinners. Such was the prayer and tears of St. Monica for her son, St. Augustine! Were it not for the prayers of St. Monica we would not have a St. Augustine. I am sure we have people in mind who need to be converted. We could pray, “Lord be merciful to __________. Amen.”
St. Oscar Romero
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:
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.
There were 4 important festivals the Jews celebrated in Jerusalem: (1) Passover to commemorate the liberation from Egypt, (2) Pentecost to commemorate the giving of the Torah, (3) the Day of Atonement to confess sins and beg for forgiveness, and (4) Tabernacles to celebrate in anticipation the triumph of Israel over their enemies. The episode in the Gospel today is set on the 4th festival. Jesus’ disciples seem to have gone ahead for the festival. Jesus follows some days later. The Festival of Tents was, at the time of Jesus, a time when the Jews would be praying for the victory of Israel over their enemies.
It was a time when the Jews would have been praying and expecting the Messiah who would restore the kingdom of Israel. Thus, we could understand the curiosity of the people of Jerusalem. Will this Jesus, whom some already call the “Messiah,” enter Jerusalem and declare his “messiahship?” This would have been perfect timing. Political timing, that is! But he would fulfill the Father’s plan at the proper time. As Jesus had said to his Mother in the miracle of Cana, “my time has not yet come” so John the Evangelist tells us “his time had not yet come.” In life we often have to abide by God’s timing, not our own. We have to pray “In his time, he makes all things beautiful, in his time.”
Annunciation of the Lord
1st Reading: Is 7:10-14; 8:10:
The Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying: Ask for a sign from the Lord, your God; let it be deep as the nether world, or high as the sky! But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask! I will not tempt the Lord!” Then Isaiah said: Listen, O house of David! Is it not enough for you to weary people, must you also weary my God? Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us!”
2nd Reading: Heb 10:4-10:
Brothers and sisters: It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats take away sins. For this reason, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight. Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll, behold, I come to do your will, O God.’” First he says, “Sacrifices and offerings, holocausts and sin offerings, you neither desired nor delighted in.” These are offered according to the law. Then he says, “Behold, I come to do your will.” He takes away the first to establish the second. By this “will,” we have been consecrated through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Gospel: Lk 1:26-38:
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Let us transport ourselves to the time of the Annunciation. Mary was betrothed to Joseph. They were not yet living together. Mary is asked to conceive a child in her womb by “The Holy Spirit.” When Joseph would see her already pregnant before their marriage how would she explain her pregnancy? How would Joseph react? Would Joseph conclude she had been unfaithful? Would Joseph accept her explanation that the Holy Spirit is the one responsible for her pregnancy? Difficult questions. But these all too human questions, difficult as they, are hardly the real questions.
The Lord God had made a most difficult proposition to Mary. She probably didn’t know all the implications of her “be it done to me according to your word.” Only later on, much later on, will she understand the full meaning of “Yes” to the Father’s request. Little did she know that by her Fiat she had set in motion the reason for the Incarnation, that her Son would become the sacrificial lamb on Calvary. Little did she know that by her “Yes” she was cooperating with the redemption of the world but at the cost of own soul being pierced with that of her Son.
As we honor Mary today we must ask her to teach us her faith in God. When I said my “yes” to become a priest, little did I know the many trials and difficulties I would encounter in my journey. But like Mary I have to continually say “yes” to God’s will. Like Mary, we are all part of God’s marvelous plan of redemption. It is good to cooperate with God in his work of redemption. We all can become like Mary, the mother of our Savior, as we say “yes” to the little sufferings we have to bear for our faith!