- Document: Holy Scripture Readings
1.1. First Reading: The Book of the prophet Isaiah 1: 10,16-20
1.2. Gospel Reading: The Gospel of St Matthew 23:1-12
1.3. Simple Comment: Isaiah the prophet summons the people of Sodom and Gomorrah to heed God’s call for renewal; doing so they learn from their past history which in the time of Abraham’s nephew Lot these cities were completely destroyed for refusing and resisting His invitation for repentance. Jesus tells the crowd and his disciples to heed the words of their religious leaders because they speak of God’s commands, but warns them not to follow their example because they do not keep these commands. It recalls Psalm 50 where Yahweh laments: “Why do you recite my statutes and profess my covenant with your mouth, though you hate discipline and cast my words behind you?”
- Monument: The Dead Sea
2.1. The Dead Sea is the lowest place in the whole planet; it is 400 meters below sea level and its deepest portion goes down to 400 meters as well. The Jordan River feeds it from its northernmost mouth, but it has no exit. Water is lost by evaporation; in summer as much as 25 millimeters evaporate within 24 hours. To date water continues to recede to its bottom; in fact the body of water is now separated in two parts because at the lower southern portion, it has dried up and where there is still water, it is only 8 meters deep.
2.2. The sea is 76 kilometers long and 16 kilometers wide on its widest portion. The evaporation produces a concentration of all the chlorides (salts): magnesium, sodium, calcium and potassium. On a clear day, the color of the water changes as the sun rises and sets with its rays hitting the surface in different angles and exhibiting the varieties of colors of these salts.
2.3. Sodom and Gomorrah are traditionally located on its northwestern banks near to, what is more known today as, Qumran. One can recall how the wife of Lot turned into a pillar of salt when she looked back at the burning cities.
- Lenten Reflection
3.1. Shema Israel is how a Jew begins his daily prayer. It stands for “Hear, O Israel” which is the first phrase of the provisions of the Ten Commandments. Someone asked this rhetorical question: “And why do we listen?” He answered: “Because we intend to obey!” Our Scripture readings emphasize this attitude of listening to God’s instructions (Isaiah) and obeying God’s commandments not just mouthing them (Jesus).
3.2. If this is the case, no one of us can rightly call himself/herself a Teacher; only one is our Teacher and everyone else is a disciple. True to this precept, and as a consequence, we remain humble servants; we organize our life with the single intention of always following God’s instructions and obeying His holy will. Jesus, our Way, sets the example. He always asserted that He came to do the Father’s will; nothing of what he said, nothing of what he performed as a miracle came from his own bidding.
3.3. Thus, Jesus himself experienced the exaltation of the resurrection from his Father because he firmly obeyed His will even if it meant for him to die, humiliated, on the cross. For this singular Christ-event in human history, we celebrate as a feast the Exaltation of the Cross.
- Contemporary Filipino Question: Ibaba and ibabaw are opposite locations for us Filipinos. These two words have every letter in common except for an additional w in the latter. It is interesting however to realize how these opposite locales are intimately related to each other. Only what is nasa ibaba can be placed and relocated by putting it sa ibabaw. We frown at people na nagtataas ng sariling bangko because we expect God to have the prerogative in bringing people up.