Nizzana fortress from ruins of Byzantine Church
- Document: Holy Scripture Readings
1.1. First Reading: The Book of Genesis 37: 3-4,12-13,17-28
1.2. Gospel Reading: The Gospel of St Matthew 21: 33-43,45-46
1.3. Simple Comment: The story of Joseph is something one does not tire from reading again and again and again. Today the liturgy allows us to read it an nth time and it keeps its attraction simply because it flows within the same marvelous pattern of the ways of the Eternal as Jesus quotes the Scriptures in today’s Gospel: “the stone which the builders rejected has become the keystone to the structure. It was the Lord who did this and we find it marvelous to behold!”
- Monument: Nizzana
2.1. The road from Shechem (where Joseph was sold by his brothers) to Egypt (where Joseph was deposited by the caravan) might have probably passed the area of what later became a city called Nizzana, a flourishing trade post along the commercial route from the Gaza Mediterranean port to Egypt. This city was built late in the third century B.C. But what is more certain is that the route taken by the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in their flight from the wrath of Herod the Great in the year 6 B.C. must have passed this Nabatean city.
2.2. The Nizzana ruins today are found to be only 3-5 kilometers from the Israel-Egyptian border. Two hundred years before Christ this little post became important enough to be protected by a fort and specially in the early second century after Christ, it flourished when the Roman Emperor Trajan diverted the trade from Eilat to Damascus. The emperor Theodosius I in the later fourth century AD extended the fort to house a cavalry regiment of the Byzantine Empire.
- Lenten Reflection
3.1. The story-pattern of fictions like Beauty and the Beast or Cinderella or Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame has something in common with the historical events of the life of Joseph the eleventh son of Jacob and that of Jesus the only Son of God. It strikes the human psyche very deeply because this has been the story of God with humanity from its very origins. How the Divine so profusely loved a mere creature captures the essence of what a nearly shipwrecked sailor poetically wrote: Amazing Grace!
3.2. Jesus places his life-pattern in the perspective of God’s eternal ways: the stone rejected becomes the significant keystone. It is much like how his Father preferred Abel over the firstborn Cain, or the foolish Noah with his Ark, or the stuttering Moses of Egypt over Pharoah, or the lowly fishermen of Galilee over the high-class of Jerusalem, or Mary Magdalene experiencing first the resurrection over the Eleven, or Augustine of Hippo, or Francis of Assisi, Joseph Cupertino, Jean Marie de Vianney, Juan Diego of Guadalupe, Jacinta-Francisco-Lucia of Fatima, Karol Wojtyla, our very own escriba Lorenzo Ruiz. Marvelous indeed are God’s ways!
- Contemporary Filipino Question: The eleven million OFWs we mentioned earlier in our reflections continue to astound the world; the few hundreds whom I met astound me. In Jerusalem itself our Filipina caregivers speak Hebrew, Arabic, French, and Italian other than their heavily accented English. They are polyglots in the likes of Jose Rizal, because they have to survive in a society that speaks these languages quite widely. Living with the elderly practically 24/7, they need to comprehend their employer’s needs which become extremely vital to keep their job. And where do these kababayan come from? Mostly from places outside the big cities of Manila, Cebu and Davao: like Pagadian, Surigao, Masbate, Ifugao, and so on. In prayer meetings, these exclaim: “God is good!”