Bible Diary for April 11th – 17th

April 11th

2nd Sunday of Easter
St. Stanislaus

1st Reading: Acts 4:32–35:
The whole community of believers was one in heart and mind. No one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but rather they shared all things in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, for all of them were living in an exceptional time of grace. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned land or houses, sold them and brought the proceeds of the sale. And they laid it at the feet of the apostles who distributed it according to each one’s need.

2nd Reading: 1 Jn 5:1–6:
All those who believe that Jesus is the Anointed, are born of God; whoever loves the Father, loves the Son. How may we know that we love the children of God? If we love God and fulfill his commands, for God’s love requires us to keep his commands. In fact, his commandments are not a burden because all those born of God overcome the world. And the victory which overcomes the world is our faith. Who has overcome the world? The one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus Christ was acknowledged through water, but also through blood. Not only water but water and blood. And the Spirit, too, witnesses to him, for the spirit is truth.

Gospel: Jn 20:19–31:
On the evening of that day, the first day after the Sabbath, the doors were locked where the disciples were, because of their fear of the Jews. But Jesus came, and stood among them, and said to them, “Peace be with you!” Then he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples, seeing the Lord, were full of joy. Again Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” After saying this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit! Those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; those whose sins you retain, they are retained.” Thomas, the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.

The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he replied, “Until I have seen in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” Eight days later, the disciples were again inside the house and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; stretch out your hand, and put it into my side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe!”

Thomas said, “You are my Lord and my God.” Jesus replied, “You believe because you see me, don’t you? Happy are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” There were many other signs that Jesus gave in the presence of his disciples, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded, so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Believe, and you will have life through his name!

Sometimes, we quarrel with God and ask if God truly is risen: “Where is God in my experience of darkness? Is He just sleeping?” Our human instinct is to seek for a sign especially when we are making decisions, having problems or in doubt. But today we are being reminded that our fraternal love is the sign that would illustrate perfectly faith in the Risen Christ among unbelievers. Lord Jesus how many times did we doubt your love for us?

Yet every time we doubted you, you also lifted us up, sending your emissary of goodwill, giving encouragement and enlightenment. Indeed, your inspiration enkindles the goodness deep within us that emboldens us to face problems and confusions. Thank you Lord for your constant support and love! Amen. Have time with your loved ones and share your deepest longings, concerns, difficulties or doubts at this stage of your journey.

April 12th

1st Reading: Acts 4:23–31:
As soon as Peter and John were set free, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard it, they raised their voices as one and called upon God, “Sovereign Lord, maker of heaven and earth, of the sea and everything in them, you have put these words in the mouth of David, our father and your servant, through the Holy Spirit: Why did the pagan nations rage and the people conspire in folly? The kings of the earth were aligned and the princes gathered together against the Lord and against his Messiah.

For indeed in this very city Herod with Pontius Pilate, and the pagans together with the people of Israel conspired against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. Thus, indeed, they brought about whatever your powerful will had decided from all time would happen. But now, Lord, see their threats against us and enable your servants to speak your word with all boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and to work signs and wonders through the Name of Jesus your holy servant.” When they had prayed, the place where they were gathered together shook, and they were all filled with Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God boldly.

Gospel: Jn 3:1–8:
Among the Pharisees there was a ruler of the Jews named Nicodemus. He came to Jesus by night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you have come from God to teach us, for no one can perform miraculous signs like yours unless God is with him.” Jesus replied, “Truly, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again from above.” Nicodemus said, “How can there be rebirth for a grown man? Who could go back to his mother’s womb and be born again?”

Jesus replied, “Truly, I say to you: No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Because of this, don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again from above.’ “The wind blows where it pleases and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. It is like that with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

In the early history of the Church, the converts were adults whose decision to become Christians was born out of sincere conviction. Baptism then was truly an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Thus they had no need for further “charismatic renewal.” “Today it is substituted instead by parents or godparents. In this situation, rarely, or never, does the baptized person ever reach the stage of proclaiming in the Holy Spirit ‘Jesus is Lord.’ And until one reaches this point, everything else in the Christian life remains out of focus and immature.” (Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM )

There are three theories vis-à-vis the word sincere: 1) sin + crescere: without growth: 2) Marble workers covered imperfections in the stone with wax; 3) Latin “sincerus” came from the Greek “akeratos” (without taint). The Greek word for wax is “law” stating that all marble purchased by the government must be “sine cera” (without wax). From this law and root comes the word sincere, which means “without deceit.” Peter’s prayer and Nicodemus’ search for truth were sincere, unfeigned. They were rewarded because their faith had “no wax.”

April 13th

St. Martin I

1st Reading: Acts 4:32–37:
The whole community of believers was one in heart and mind. No one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but rather they shared all things in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, for all of them were living in an exceptional time of grace. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned land or houses, sold them and brought the proceeds of the sale.

And they laid it at the feet of the apostles who distributed it according to each one’s need. This is what a certain Joseph did. He was a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas, meaning: “The encouraging one.” He sold a field which he owned and handed the money to the apostles.

Gospel: Jn 3:7b–15:
Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again from above.’ The wind blows where it pleases and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. It is like that with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus asked again, “How can this be?” And Jesus answered, “You are a teacher in Israel, and you don’t know these things!

“Truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and we witness to the things we have seen, but you don’t accept our testimony. If you don’t believe when I speak of earthly things, what then, when I speak to you of heavenly things? No one has ever gone up to heaven except the one who came from heaven, the Son of Man. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

The life of Nikos Kazantzakis, author of Zorba, the Greek, vacillated between love and rebellion against God. He wrote, “Struggle between flesh and spirit, rebellion and resistance, reconciliation and submission, and finally – the supreme purpose of the struggle – union with God: this was the ascent taken by Christ, the ascent which he invites us to take as well, following in his bloody tracks.” (R. Rolheiser, Wrestling with God, 2007-07-29) Buddhism teaches that one has to leave the mind empty of all greed, anger and delusion.

Mystics had experienced and taught that suffering is one of the ways to ascent to God. Jesus had to go down to his “desert of temptations,” “Gethsemane of agony” and the “Cross of Calvary” before he could ascend to “heaven of bliss.” There is no glory without sacrifice. Unless one kisses the face of the earth, he cannot kiss the face of God. “I remained, lost in oblivion; my face I reclined on the Beloved. All ceased and I abandoned myself, Leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.” (St. John of the Cross)

April 14th

1st Reading: Acts 5:17–26:
The high priest and all his supporters, that is the party of the Sadducees, became very jealous of the apostles; so they arrested them and had them thrown into the public jail. But an angel of the Lord opened the door of the prison during the night, brought them out, and said to them, “Go and stand in the Temple court and tell the people the whole of this living message.” Accordingly they entered the Temple at dawn and resumed their teaching. When the High Priest and his supporters arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin, that is the full Council of the elders of Israel. They sent word to the jail to have the prisoners brought in.

But when the Temple guards arrived at the jail, they did not find them inside, so they returned with the news, “We found the prison securely locked and the prison guards at their post outside the gate, but when we opened the gate, we found no one inside.” Upon hearing these words, the captain of the Temple guard and the high priests were baffled, wondering where all of this would end. Just then someone arrived with the report, “Look, those men whom you put in prison are standing in the Temple, teaching the people.” Then the captain went off with the guards and brought them back, but without any show of force, for fear of being stoned by the people.

Gospel: Jn 3:16–21:
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world; instead, through him the world is to be saved. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned. He who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

This is how Judgment is made: Light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For whoever does wrong hates the light, and doesn’t come to the light, for fear that his deeds will be seen as evil. But whoever lives according to the truth comes into the light, so that it can be clearly seen that his works have been done in God.

Fray Luis Ponce de León translated the Song of Songs into Spanish and criticized the Vulgate. In doing so, he was apprehended, shackled and tortured in prison. After four years of tortures, now a physically deformed professor went back to his classroom. He continued his lecture where he left off and said to his class, “Como decíamos ayer” (“as we were saying yesterday”). Suffering and imprisonment did not break down his undaunted spirit. Someone who abides in love will surely encounter animosity. Yet after going through adversities, nobody is left alone to heal the wounded soul.

A comforting angel will be there always as he was with Jesus in the desert and Gethsemane. “Only after we have let the desert do its full work in us will angels finally come and minister to us.” (T. Herriot) “Bitterness imprisons life; love releases it. Bitterness paralyzes life; love empowers it. Bitterness sours life; love sweetens it. Bitterness sickens life; love heals it. Bitterness blinds life; love anoints its eyes.” (H. E. Fosdick) Even the worst prison life can never imprison love. Paradoxically, the religious authorities were “imprisoned” by hatred, the apostles, though in jail, remained free because of love.

April 15th

1st Reading: Acts 5:27–33:
The court officers brought the apostles in and made them stand before the Council and the High Priest questioned them, “We gave you strict orders not to preach such a Savior; but you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you intend charging us with the killing of this man.” To this Peter and the apostles replied, “Better for us to obey God rather than any human authority! The God of our ancestors raised Jesus whom you killed by hanging him on a wooden post. God set him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to grant repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses to all these things, as well as the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” When the Council heard this, they became very angry and wanted to kill them.

Gospel: Jn 3:31–36:
He who comes from above is above all; he who comes from the earth belongs to the earth, and his words belong to the earth. He who comes from heaven speaks of the things he has seen and heard; he bears witness to these things, but no one accepts his testimony. Whoever does receive his testimony acknowledges the truthfulness of God. The one sent by God speaks God’s words, and gives the Spirit unstintingly. The Father loves the Son and has entrusted everything into his hands. Whoever believes in the Son lives with eternal life; but he who will not believe in the Son will never know life, and always faces the justice of God.

“Over the last few decades we have been inundated by a torrent of words … They form the floor, the walls, and the ceiling of our existence … In such a world who can maintain respect for words?… All this is to suggest that words, my own words included, have lost their creative power. Their limitless multiplication has made us lose confidence in words and caused us to think, more often than not, “They are just words.” (Henri Nouwen, The Way of The Heart) In Biblical times, people gave greater weight on words. Words spoken could not be taken back.

This is evident when Jacob deceitfully stole Isaac’s words of blessing that was meant for Esau. “Four things come not back: the spoken word, the sped arrow, the past life and the neglected opportunity.” If respect is rendered to ordinary words, there has to be greater honor when a lector proclaims, “The Word of the Lord.” We are what we receive at communion. We are what we hear at the Liturgy of the Word. An effective lector makes the Lord’s presence alive in himself/herself and in the assembly. We become the Lord’s Word that challenges and transforms the world.

April 16th

St. Bernadette

1st Reading: Acts 5:34-42:
A Pharisee in the Sanhedrin named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up, ordered the Apostles to be put outside for a short time, and said to the Sanhedrin, “Fellow children of Israel, be careful what you are about to do to these men. Some time ago, Theudas appeared, claiming to be someone important, and about four hundred men joined him, but he was killed, and all those who were loyal to him were disbanded and came to nothing. After him came Judas the Galilean at the time of the census. He also drew people after him, but he too perished and all who were loyal to him were scattered.

“So now I tell you, have nothing to do with these men, and let them go. For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.” They were persuaded by him. After recalling the Apostles, they had them flogged, ordered them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, and dismissed them. So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. And all day long, both at the temple and in their homes, they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the Christ, Jesus.

Gospel: Jn 6:1-15:
Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.”

One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people recline.”  Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.  So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.”

So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

“None are so poor that they have nothing to give and none are so rich that they have nothing to receive.” (Pope John Paul II) The little boy was poor and had a simple meal. But he was generous (Lat. gener, race, kin) with his meal and did not keep it. What makes this miracle phenomenal is the generosity of the little boy. Generosity had been originally considered a trait of an aristocrat, of noble lineage or high birth. To be generous was literally a way of saying “to belong to nobility.” It was never considered a trait of ordinary people. Children and widows were not included in the Biblical count.

They were anonymous. The boy was not of “noble birth” and not expected to be generous. The Gospel turns the world upside down. “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” (Albert Pike) This miracle story is told again and again primarily because of what Jesus did, and secondarily what the little boy shared, especially in comparison with the weak faith and little concern of the apostles for the people’s plight.

April 17th

1st Reading: Acts 6:1–7:
In those days, as the number of disciples grew, the so-called Hellenists complained against the so called Hebrews, because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So the Twelve summoned the whole body of disciples together and said, “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God to serve at tables. So, friends, choose from among yourselves seven respected men full of Spirit and wisdom, that we may appoint them to this task. As for us, we shall give ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.”

The whole community agreed and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and Holy Spirit; Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenus and Nicolaus of Antioch who was a proselyte. They presented these men to the apostles who first prayed over them and then laid hands upon them. The Word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly and even many priests accepted the faith.

Gospel: Jn 6:16–21:
When evening came, the disciples went down to the shore. After a while they got into a boat to make for Capernaum on the other side of the sea, for it was now dark and Jesus had not yet come to them. But the sea was getting rough because a strong wind was blowing. They had rowed about three or four miles, when they saw Jesus walking on the sea, and he was drawing near to the boat. They were frightened, but he said to them, “It is I! Don’t be afraid!” They wanted to take him into the boat, but immediately the boat was at the shore to which they were going.

Now that I am getting older, I made my only sister my trustee to whom my property is legally committed for my benefit, just in case I become incapacitated or unable to manage my assets. In the event of death, the beneficiary’s estate must go through probate. If the decedent leaves a will, the probate court determines if the will should be given legal effect. This trust law is needed in behalf of the beneficiary and his property. Confucius believed that rulers need weapons, food and trust. The ruler who cannot have all three must give up weapons first, then food, but never trust, because “without trust we cannot stand.” Machiavelli disagreed. For him a ruler must be both loved and feared, but if both were not possible, then, he must be feared rather than loved. (G. Hosking) Shakespeare’s Othello is tragic because of misplaced trust and false love. Evil may win over good because evil pretends to be good. Jesus encouraged his disciples to have love not fear. If you love, you must trust me. He told them, “It is I.” Complete trust is built on true love. The apostles fully trusted the Holy Spirit, because they truly loved.